NFL Football

I ask this question not because I am a trivia buff, or because I’m into rhetorical questions, but because I genuinely want information. Here goes:

Has there ever been an NFL game where the winning team scored 3 or fewer points?


BEARS: 3 (Field Goal)
RAMS: 2 (Safety)



Fewest Points, Shutout Victory, Game
2 Green Bay vs. Chicago Bears, Oct. 16, 1932
Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay, Sept. 18, 1938

So we have the records of two 2-0 scores. I’m sure there were a few 3-0 scores also in those days.

In the early '80’s, New England beat Miami 3-0 in the famous “Snow Plow” field goal.

Also, I remember seeing on one of the sports shows some years ago that the the last time a game ended in a scoreless tie was in the '40’s. But it did happen!

Fewest Points, Shutout Victory, Game
2 Green Bay vs. Chicago Bears, Oct. 16, 1932 Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay, Sept. 18, 1938

Green Bay vs Chicago is the longest running, and one of the best, rivalries in the NFL.

What about the largest number of downs in a drive? Since penalties can result in an automatic first down, there is no max.

There is a maximun number of downs per drive and the number is 40 (so close to the meaning of life!). You have 4 chances to gain 10 yards to keep the ball. Maximum distance to score is 100 yards. 100/10*4=40. Penalties make no difference, as in most cases the down is repeated. Satrting at your own goal line, and getting precisely 10 yards every 4 downs, the 40th play results in a score. Get less than 10 yards on any set of 4 downs and you lose possession.

Having said that, the number of snaps on any given drive, while not infinite, could be large. A penalty on either team after each snap would reult in 1st down being played over and over, ad nauseum, until time expired in that half.

Lessee, the clock starts on the opening kickoff, assume the ball is kicked out of the end zone, and the play consumes 6 seconds. The drive starts at 14:54 of the 1st quarter. Assume a running play every snap, stopped at the line of scrimmage, with offsetting holding penalties each play. each play takes an average of 4 seconds, the clock stops on the penalty and does not restart until the next snap. That gives us an upper limit of about 224 snaps in one drive (894 seconds in the half after kickoff/4 seconds per play). The drive nets no yardage and the down is always 1st and 10. The second half begins with a kickoff and results in a new drive.

Gee, that was fun!

The overwhelming majority of people have more than the average (mean) number of legs. – E. Grebenik

Doc: I’m used to seeing a team gaining no yards, being a Giant fan and all…

Yer pal,

Doctor Jackson, I disagree. Your contention relies on the assumption that there is no way to get a first down without travelling 10 yards. However, are there not penalties which result in an automatic first down which also include a yardage penalty of either no yards or less than ten yards?

Assuming this is true, you could be 2d and 8 on the 2. Penalty as described above. Then you have 1st and 10 on the 2. And so on. This could result in more than 40 downs to reach the goal line.

Plunging like stones from a slingshot on Mars.

Martin runs the ball from the Jet 20 to the Jet 22. Second and Eight.
Mirer gets sacked back at the 15. Third and Fifteen.
Johnson mauled by a defender as Mirer overthrows Ward. Defensive holding. Five yards and an automatic First Down. At the 20.

The only thing that makes this scenario unrealistic is that it means the Jets get a first down.

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

This is from the rules digest on

Here’s another way you could get to more than 40 downs – Suppose the offense has proceed they way you’ve descibed to the 50 yard line. Then, the QB is sacked for a 15 yard loss. On 3d and 20, the defense is penalized for defensive holding, 5 yards from the line of scrimmage, resulting in an automatic first down. But the offense is still on the 50 yard line. Assuming the scenario after this set of downs proceeded as you described, the offense would have played 43 downs.

Plunging like stones from a slingshot on Mars.

Well, Manhattan, great minds think alike.

As a Dolphins fan, I have two comments.

  1. At least the Mirer overthrowing (insert Jet receiver name here) part of your example is accurate/likely.

  2. Ha ha.

Also, I like your sig.

Plunging like stones from a slingshot on Mars.

OK, OK, I forgot about defensive holding after a sack. I’ll watch extra ESPN University shows as penance. Somebody else will have to figure out the upper limit for downs in a drive.

I stick by the maximum snaps in a drive theory.

The overwhelming majority of people have more than the average (mean) number of legs. – E. Grebenik

After the opposing team puts the kickoff out of bounds, the Jets elect to take the ball at their own 35. No time has expired. (Timekeeping begins when the receiving team touches the ball)

Jumbo Elliot, preoccupied with his coming trial for beating up a girl, goes on to commit encroachment on the next 1,500 snaps. Each time, he jumps and the flag is thrown before the ball snaps, so no time expires.

There’s no one to yank him from the game, as the entire coaching staff had aneurisms about three snaps in. After the first 6 penalties, the Jets are at their own five.

The next 1,494 times, the poor ref has to move the ball half the distance to the goal line. The game ends when the ref realizes the philosophical implications of this and his head explodes.

So 1,500 is the largest number of snaps that can occur in a half. Or a game.

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

Oh, and Frank, thanks. Your sig rocks too.

But not as much as Doctor Jackson’s. I think his sig is best on the board, with the possible exception of Gaudere.

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine