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At the end of my Seahawks-Saints playoff preview, I came up with (what I thought was) a pretty neat bit of trivia:

New Orleans gained 4918 passing yards and allowed only 3105 passing yards. That 1813 yard difference is largest by any NFL team in history. The 1961 Oilers, led by George Blanda, Bill Groman, and Charley Hennigan, actually gained 2,001 more passing yards than they allowed, but Houston of course was an AFL team. And there’s a bit of an asterisk here because of the games played: the 1943 Bears, 1951 Rams, and 1967 Jets also had a larger passing yards differential on a per-game basis. But regardless, that puts the Saints in some pretty impressive company. The Oilers, Bears, and Rams all won their league’s championships that season, and Joe Namath’s Jets won the Super Bowl the next season. The team with the fifth largest passing yards differential on a per-game basis, prior to the Saints, was the 2006 Colts, also a Super Bowl champion.

I never ran the same numbers but for rushing yards, because I just assumed it would be dominated by the ’72 Dolphins and other similar teams.  But as it turns out, the undefeated Dolphins rank only third in net rushing yards in a single season since 1950, even on a per-game basis.  In 1972, Miami rushed for an amazing 2,960 yards, but allowed 1,548 yards on the ground to opposing teams. That comes out to a 1,412 yard difference, or a +100.9 rushing yards per game differential.

The 2001 Steelers, with Kordell Stewart, Jerome Bettis, and a suffocating defense, finished with a +98.7 differential, the fifth best differential since 1950.  The ’84 Bears, behind Walter Payton and their own dominant defense, checks in at #4 at +99.8.  The second best performance is owned by the ’76 Steelers, who finished with a +108.1 differential.  That was the year Pittsburgh allowed just 28 points over the team’s final 9 games, and Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier both hit the 1,000-yard mark (they were the second duo to do so, behind Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris on the ’72 Dolphins).

None of those teams caused me any surprise, which I guess is why I never ran the numbers until today.  But it would have taken me quite a few more guesses to come up with the number one team on the list.  That’s why I’ll give you guys some hints.

Trivia hint 1 Show

Trivia hint 2 Show

Trivia hint 3 Show

Click 'Show' for the Answer Show

I think that was a pretty fun trivia question, but more importantly, how did you guys do?

  • Got the team right away. Missed the year.

  • Got the team (Rams) after the second hint. Knew it would have been in the 70s somewhere, but got no more specific than that.

  • Michael

    “but lost its only playoff game to Dallas. SUPER USEFUL ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: THIS TEAM DID NOT PLAY IN THE LAST 20 YEARS. ”

    I don’t think you need that disclaimer considering that the Cowboys have barely won any playoff games in the last 20 years.

    • James

      I think that was the joke.

  • For kicks, I ran the numbers for adjusted rushing yards (yard + 20*td – 50*fl), and the 73 Rams came in second.

    ARY differential leaders looked like this

    1 - 1983 Redskins
    2 - 1973 Rams
    3 - 1976 Steelers
    4 - 2000 Ravens
    5 - 1948 49ers (ineligible for your list)
    6 - 1985 Bears (the 84 Bears came in 24th and were the third ranked Bears team, also trailing the 1942 version)
    7 - 1972 Dolphins
    8 - 2001 Steelers
    9 - 1958 Browns
    10 - 1998 Falcons

    When I ranked every team since 1941 by Z Scores, the 1978 Patriots, 2007 Vikings, and 1995 Chiefs all ranked very high as well.

    The worst teams were the 1950 Colts (raw score losers) and the 1974 Falcons (Z Score losers).

    I know…super exciting stuff.

  • Ryan

    2nd hint, got the rams but not the year, wish my dad still had his mccutcheon jersey