Carolina led the league in points scored this season with an even 500. That is nothing to be ashamed: over the previous 15 seasons, the average points scored leader has put up 517 points, but six of those teams failed to hit the 500-points barrier. That is not an overwhelmingly high total, but it’s not really an outlier, either.
What is an outlier is just about everything else on the Panthers offense, at least among teams that led the league in scoring since 1970. Let’s start with the traditional metric used to rank offenses: total yards. Here, Carolina ranked just 11th overall. How unusual is it for a team to lead the NFL in points scored but rank outside of the top 10 in yards? Well, it’s never happened before, so I guess that qualifies as pretty unusual. The 1980 Dallas Cowboys, led by Danny White in his first season as a starter, ranked 9th, representing the previous low:
Total yards, of course, is no perfect measure of offensive efficiency. Let’s move on to Net Yards per Attempt, where Carolina ranked… well, only 10th in the league. [[Update: It appears 3 passing yards were reduced from Atlanta’s season-ending total; this change, from 4382 to 4379, was enough to jump Carolina from 10th to 9th.]] This is the single most basic measure of passing efficiency: take how many yards a team passed for (at the team level, passing yards is net of sack yards lost), and divide it by how many dropbacks the team had. A 10th-place ranking, though, is the worst by any league-leading scoring team since the merger. The previous cellar-dweller? Those 1980 Cowboys.
Carolina led the NFL in rushing attempts this season. In the modern NFL, that makes them pretty unusual. Yes, the 2012 Patriots led the league in points and finished 2nd in rushing attempts, but New England operated as a super high pace and finished 4th in passing attempts, too. Carolina is the first team since Washington in 1991 to lead the NFL in both points and rushing attempts:
Prior to that, just four other teams had pulled off this feat: Washington in ’83, Oakland in ’77, and Miami in both ’72 and ’73.
Carolina ranked 27th in pass attempts, which is also a severe outlier. Just the ’02 Chiefs and the ’88 Bengals (in a 28-team league) led the NFL in points scored and ranked 27th in pass attempts; no team ranked lower.
Carolina was a run-heavy team that didn’t throw often or efficiently, at least compared to other top-scoring teams, and the disproportionate yards gained ranking is a huge outlier, too. But one chart that Panthers fans will enjoy is where the team also ranks in points allowed. While not a big outlier, Carolina is second-highest ranked team in this metric since 2000, behind only the ’07 Patriots.
Finally, let me close with a listing of each team that has led the league in points scored since 1970.
|1970||San Francisco 49ers||352|
|1973||Los Angeles Rams||388|
|1981||San Diego Chargers||478|
|1982||San Diego Chargers||288|
|1985||San Diego Chargers||467|
|1987||San Francisco 49ers||459|
|1989||San Francisco 49ers||442|
|1992||San Francisco 49ers||431|
|1993||San Francisco 49ers||473|
|1994||San Francisco 49ers||505|
|1995||San Francisco 49ers||457|
|1996||Green Bay Packers||456|
|1999||St. Louis Rams||526|
|2000||St. Louis Rams||540|
|2001||St. Louis Rams||503|
|2002||Kansas City Chiefs||467|
|2003||Kansas City Chiefs||484|
|2006||San Diego Chargers||492|
|2007||New England Patriots||589|
|2008||New Orleans Saints||463|
|2009||New Orleans Saints||510|
|2010||New England Patriots||518|
|2011||Green Bay Packers||560|
|2012||New England Patriots||557|
|2014||Green Bay Packers||486|