The regular season is in the books and the first 18-week schedule delivered plenty of crazy moments and NFL stats for fans to enjoy this season.
Surprisingly, the introduction of a 17th game to every team’s schedule didn’t result in any new individual single-season records. Tom Brady fell 161 yards short of Manning’s yardage record (5,477), no quarterback even cracked 45 touchdown passes, Jonathan Taylor finished 22nd in single-season rushing yards (1,811) and Cooper Kupp failed to reach the single-season receptions (149) or receiving yards (1,947) marks.
While history wasn’t made in a ton of record books this season, there are plenty of NFL stats that are wild to see.
Aaron Rodgers TD-INT ratio holds its own tier in record books
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers holds the NFL records for career touchdown-interception ratio (4.83) and is the single-season leader (12.5-1) among passers with 500-plus attempts in a season. But the future Hall of Fame selection proved once again in 2021 why no other quarterback is on the same tier as him in this regard.
- Aaron Rodgers stats (2021): 4,115 passing yards, 37 passing touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 68.8 QBR
He got off to a slow start, throwing two interceptions and zero touchdowns in a Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Across his next 503 attempts, Rodgers tossed only two picks. The 38-year-old’s 37-4 TD-INT ratio is the third-best in NFL history among quarterbacks with 500-plus attempts and he holds the six highest single-season marks in that category.
The 2021 season also marked the third time he threw 35-plus touchdowns with five or fewer interceptions and every other quarterback in NFL history has combined for one season with that feat. One more stat, Matthew Stafford thew more INTs this season (17) than Rodgers (15) did in his last 64 games.
Indianapolis Colts record without a 100-yard game from Jonathan Taylor
The Indianapolis Colts traded a first-round pick and spent more than $24 million on Carson Wentz this season. Despite the massive investment into the quarterback, Indianapolis operated a run-heavy offense in 2021 with the fifth-highest rushing play rate (47.43%) in the NFL. It resulted in a great season for Taylor, but things went horribly when he fell short of the 100-yard mark.
- Jonathan Taylor stats: 2,171 scrimmage yards, 20 total touchdowns on 372 touches
Indianapolis finished the season with a 9-8 record, missing out on the playoffs because of a stunning Week 18 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. In that defeat, Taylor finished with just 77 rushing yards and never found the end zone. In the seven games Taylor finished under 100 rushing yards, the Colts posted an 0-7 record. Needless to say, they will be evaluating their quarterback options this spring.
T.J. Watt, Robert Quinn recorded more sacks in fewer games than the Atlanta Falcons
T.J. Watt tied the NFL’s single-season sack record (22.5), hitting the milestone in one fewer game than Michael Strahan. In the NFC, Robert Quinn set the Chicago Bears franchise record for sacks in a season (18.5) and he only played in 16-of-17 games.
Let’s compare that to the Atlanta Falcons. Opponents attempted 577 passes against Atlanta’s defense in 17 games, considerably dropbacks than Watt and Quinn saw when they took the field. Despite that, the Falcons finished a 17-game season with only 18 combined sacks. Keep in mind, they paid Dante Fowler Jr. more than $10 million this season to finish with just 4.5 sacks. It’s evident what position the front office must address in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Seven linemen scored more receiving touchdowns than Kenny Golladay
Kenny Golladay entered NFL free agency last offseason with a limited market. While teams were interested in signing him, inconsistency and durability issues led many general managers to make low-ball offers. Along came Dave Gettleman, signing Golladay to a $72 million contract to be the New York Giants No.1 receiver.
It may prove to be one of the worst free-agent signings in recent memory. In a pass-heavy league, 178 NFL players recorded a receiving touchdown this season and Golladay didn’t find the end zone once despite receiving 76 targets in 14 games.
- Kenny Golladay stats (2021): 37 receptions, 521 receiving yards and zero touchdowns
Of those 178 players, seven were linemen with six of those playing on the offensive line. Among that special group with more touchdown dances than Golladay, Giants’ left tackle Andrew Thomas. It’s not all Golladay’s fault. He saw just two targets from inside the 10-yard line, fewer than the likes of Byron Pringle, Laquon Treadwell and Devonta Freeman.
Tom Brady’s dominance in his 40s
Everyone recognizes Tom Brady as the best player in NFL history. It’s certainly deserved considering there are strong arguments his career could be broken up into thirds and each stretch would warrant a Hall of Fame selection. Coming off an age-44 season that saw Brady lead the NFL in passing yards (5,316) and touchdowns (43), it’s worth looking at his absurd numbers in his 40s.
Tom Brady stats (age 40-44 season): 22,938 passing yards, 168 passing touchdowns, 98.6 passer rating
Let’s compare those totals to career stats from some iconic quarterbacks. Troy Aikman (165 touchdowns) and Roger Staubach (153 touchdowns) finished below 40s Brady in touchdown passes. The greatest quarterback ever will also pass Andrew Luck (171), Joe Namath (173), Steve McNair (174), Otto Graham (174), Ron Jaworski (179) and Ken Stabler (194) next season.
As for passing yards, the king of defying Father Time already has more passing yards between ages 40-44 than career totals from Marc Bulger (22,814), Staubach (22,700), Michael Vick (22,464), Sammy Baugh (21,886) and Jared Goff (21,416). Brady will be a 45-year-old quarterback next season and you can bet he’ll be among the NFL stats leaders.
One stat highlights Dallas Cowboys stunning turnaround
Everyone thought the Dallas Cowboys might compete for a playoff spot this season, but concerns regarding their defense kept them out of the Super Bowl conversation. Drafting Micah Parsons and hiring Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator changed everything. Heading into the NFL Playoffs.
- Dallas Cowboys stats: 64 total touchdowns (1st), 407 total yards per game (1st), 21.1 ppg allowed (7th)
According to ESPN’s Mike Clay, the Cowboys boasted the highest scoring differential improvement (+250) from 2020 to 2021. To put that number in perspective, no other NFL team cleared 200 and the Eagles finished with the fourth-best improvement at 143. It’s a credit to a defense that led the NFL in takeaways (34) and allowed the fourth-lowest scoring rate (32.5%) in the NFL this season.
Derrick Henry’s place among NFL stats leaders
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry is a force. He leads the NFL in 200-yard games since 2019 and many expected a 2,000-yard season in 2021 after he topped the mark (2,027) a year prior). Before breaking a bone in his foot in the first quarter in Week 8, Henry was the leading rusher in the NFL by a wide margin.
- Derrick Henry stats (2021): 937 rushing yards, 10 rushing touchdowns, 117.1 ypg
The All-Pro runner never returned to the field in the regular season. It was especially costly for a player who became more effective as the weather got colder, averaging 4.0 ypc in September, 4.28 ypc in October, 5.6 ypc in November and 5.5 ypc in December. Despite missing Tennessee’s last nine games, Henry still finished with the ninth-most rushing yards, sixth-most rushing touchdowns and 10th most carries in the NFL. He’ll be healthy for the playoffs and that should worry AFC opponents.
Las Vegas Raiders set NFL record at the buzzer in historic season
Everyone tuning in for the last regular-season game of the season was treated to an NFL classic. The Las Vegas Raiders could have passed on a field-goal attempt, with kneeling out the clock allowing both them and the Los Angeles Chargers to make the playoffs. But after a clutch run in the final minute, Daniel Carlson took the field for a game-winning attempt.
- 2021 NFL stats: 46 games decided on game-winning score in final minute of regular or overtime (fifth-most)
Carlson delivered and made NFL history in the process. It was his four game-winning kicks this season. Las Vegas now holds the NFL record with five last-second victories. Fittingly, it also capped off a historic 2021 season with 32 games decided by a score on the final play, also an NFL record. The league couldn’t ask for a better conclusion on Sunday Night Football.