A Statistical Wrap-up of the 2022 NFL Season
Trinkets of interest galore, starting with quarterbacks
Patrick Mahomes has been the starting quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs for five seasons. He has quarterbacked the Chiefs to five consecutive AFC West titles and delivered Kansas City the top seed in the AFC playoffs in three of those seasons.
But Mahomes still has some work to do to catch Tom Brady, who quarterbacked New England to 17 AFC East titles – including 11 in a row from 2009-19 – and the top seed in the AFC playoff bracket seven times.
Mahomes set an NFL record for total yards (passing and rushing) this season with 5,608, which makes him the front-runner for NFL MVP honors. He led the league in both passing yards (5,250) and touchdowns (41).
Here are some other statistical trinkets from the 2022 season as I empty out my notebook:
The NFL started a record 69 quarterbacks in 2022. Two teams (Cardinals and Rams) started four quarterbacks apiece and 11 others started three quarterbacks.
Only 10 teams kept their first option at the quarterback position on the field for every game – and they posted a combined (105-63) record. Six of those teams won division titles – Buffalo (Josh Allen), Cincinnati (Joe Burrow), Jacksonville (Trevor Lawrence), Kansas City (Patrick Mahomes), Minnesota (Kirk Cousins) and Tampa Bay (Tom Brady). Two other teams captured wild-card playoff spots – the Los Angeles Chargers (Justin Herbert) and Seattle Seahawks (Geno Smith). Only two of the 10 teams suffered a losing record – Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers) and Tampa Bay (Brady), both at 8-9.
The primary starting quarterback for all 32 teams posted a combined 211-190-3 record, a winning percentage of 52.3. Those 10 season-long starters at the quarterback position won 62.5 percent of their games. Backup quarterbacks – the second, third and fourth options for teams after injuries or benchings – won only 42.3 percent of their starts, posting a combined 58-79-1 record.
The 49ers were the exception. After losing starter Trey Lance two games into the season with an ankle injury, backups Jimmy Garoppolo and Brock Purdy combined to quarterback the 49ers 12-3 the rest of the way for an NFC West title and the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. The club’s third option at quarterback, rookie Purdy, went 5-0.
Justin Fields of the Chicago Bears became only the fourth quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. His 1,143 yards in 15 starts were the second-best in history, trailing only the 1,206 yards by Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson in 2019.
There were a single-season record nine individual 100-yard rushing games by quarterbacks, including three by Fields. Jackson added two and Taysom Hill, Jalen Hurts, Daniel Jones and Kyler Murray one apiece.
The 178 yards by Fields against the Miami Dolphins on 15 carries was a regular-season record for quarterbacks, trailing only the 181-yard effort by San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick in a 2012 playoff game against the Green Bay Packers. Fields also rushed for 100 yards twice against the Detroit Lions this season.
Big Statistical Games
There were 94 individual 300-yard passing games this season, 176 100-yard receiving games and 113 100-yard rushing games. It marks the first time since 2011 that there were more 100-yard rushing games than 300-yard passing games.
Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs led the way with 10 300-yard passing games, Justin Jefferson of the Vikings led with 10 100-yard receiving games and Derrick Henry of the Titans led with nine 100-yard rushing games. Mahomes, Josh Allen and Kirk Cousins had two 400-yard passing games apiece. Jefferson and Mike Evans of the Buccaneers had 200-yard receiving games and Henry and Josh Jacobs of the Raiders turned in 200-yard rushing games.
Quarterbacks who threw for 300 yards in a game posted a 45-48-1 record — and Mahomes personally was 9-1. That leaves 36-47-1 for the rest of the league’s quarterbacks. Receivers who caught 100 yards in passes in games posted a 102-73-1 record and rushers who gained 100 yards in games posted a 75-37-1 record.
The New York Jets were the only defense that did not allow a 300-yard passer this season and the 49ers were the only defense that did not allow a 100-yard rusher. The Las Vegas Raiders allowed a league-low one 100-yard receiving game (Brandon Aiyuk of the 49ers, 101 yards on nine catches).
Only five NFL defenses managed sacks in every game this season: Baltimore, Buffalo, Carolina, Kansas City and New England. The Ravens and Bills share the longest current streak of sacks now at 21 consecutive games.
The Philadelphia Eagles led the league and set a franchise record with 70 sacks, just two short of the NFL record (1984 Bears). The Patriots had the best single game, sacking Indianapolis quarterback Sam Ehlinger nine times in a November outing. Nine other teams collected at least seven sacks in a single game: Arizona, Buffalo, Dallas, Detroit, Indianapolis, the Los Angeles Chargers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and San Francisco. The Eagles and Steelers had two seven-sack games apiece.
There were 58 defensive touchdowns this season. Teams scoring them posted a combined 45-13 record. New England safety Kyle Dugger scored three of the touchdowns on two interceptions and a fumble return. Interestingly, there were 19 fumbles returned for defensive touchdowns and the team scoring them won 18 of the games. Quarterbacks Davis Mills of the Texans and Dak Prescott of the Cowboys had three interceptions returned for touchdowns apiece.
In 1992, there wasn’t a single NFL field goal of 55 yards or longer. In 2002, there were only two. In 2012, there were eight such field goals by eight different kickers. But in 2022, there were 47 field goals of 55 yards or more by 22 different kickers. Matt Gay of the Rams and Daniel Carlson of the Raiders led the way with five apiece. In addition, five of those 47 field goals this season were from 60 yards and beyond, topped by Harrison Butker’s 62-yard boot for the Chiefs against the Bills in an October game.
For the second season in a row and third time in the last four, the Bill Vinovich crew called the fewest penalties of the NFL’s 17 crews – only 134 for 965 yards in 16 games. The Carl Cheffers officiating crew doled out 115 penalties for 1,048 yards to the road teams alone in its 16 games. The Cheffers crew was easily the toughest on road teams. The Scott Novak crew was the toughest on home teams, assessing 103 penalties for 753 yards.
For the second consecutive season, the Cheffers crew lead the league in penalties, assessing 204 for 1,800 yards. If you’re doing the math, that’s 70 more penalties for 835 more yards than the Vinovich crew in the same number of games. Cheffers was the only crew to assess 200 penalties this season – the ninth consecutive season his crew has hit the 200 mark.
Home teams posted a league-best 11-5 record in games officiated by three crews – Tra Blake, Shawn Hochuli and John Hussey. Road teams posted a league-best 10-5-1 record in games officiated by the Land Clark crew. The Clark crew, incidentally, was the only crew that did not assess 10 penalties or 100 yards in a single game to any team this season. The Clete Blakeman crew slapped 10-plus penalties on a league-high six teams this season, including twice against the Arizona Cardinals.
The NFL does not allow first-year referees to work playoff games, which is good news for the AFC South champion Jacksonville Jaguars. They drew first-year referee Tra Blake and his crew twice this season and were flagged for 13 penalties each time. Those were the only two games the Jaguars hit double-digits in penalties all season.
Fewer flags also translated into faster games. The NFL tries to keep its game inside of a three-hour window for television purposes. They want the 1 p.m. Eastern games finished in time for the slate of 4 p.m. starts. In 2021, only 88 of the NFL’s 272 games were played in under three hours. There were 13 other games that ran longer than 3 1/2 hours. But this season there were 109 games played in under three hours and only three that lasted longer than 3 1/2 hours.
The NFC captured the interconference series with the AFC with a 40-39-1 record. It was the second year and a row and the eighth time in the last 12 seasons that the NFC has prevailed. If the AFC wants to assign blame, it can point to its Southern division. Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Tennessee went a combined 3-17 against the NFC. Only three teams failed to win a game against the other conference this season – the Texans, Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who all went 0-5.
But here’s something that would make Hall of Fame AFL pioneers Lamar Hunt and Al Davis smile – since the merger of the two leagues in 1970, the AFC has won 51.5 percent of the meetings with the NFC.
There were 271 games this NFL season. The underdog won 86 of them outright. The biggest upset came in Week 7 when the Carolina Panthers were a 13 ½-point underdog at home against Tampa Bay but defeated the Buccaneers, 21-3. The Houston Texans were the biggest underdog of the season at 17 ½ points for a road game at the Cowboys in Week 14. The Texans covered the spread, losing 27-23 on a Dallas touchdown with 41 seconds remaining.
The Key Post-season Stat
Eighty-nine of the 112 teams that have reached the 56 Super Bowls finished in the Top 10 in scoring defense. Forty-eight of the 56 Super Bowl champions finished in the Top 10 in scoring defense. That’s logical – the fewer the points you allow, the better your chances of winning.
If that holds true this post-season, the next Super Bowl champion will be either Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Dallas, Philadelphia or San Francisco. Those were the only six teams in the 14-team field that ranked in the Top 10 in scoring defense. The 49ers finished first (277 points), the Bills second (286), the Ravens third (315), the Bengals fifth (322), the Cowboys sixth (342) and the Eagles eighth (344).