Packers Lead Way as NFL Sets Scoring Record

Amazingly, the Packers were involved in 10 games of at least 50 total points. The 32 teams set an NFL scoring record, and the average per game was the highest since 1965. Len Pasquarelli has the national story and Bill Huber adds perspective from Lambeau Field.

Like most of his teammates, Tampa Bay strong safety Sean Jones was hurriedly dressing Sunday night, probably to escape the scene of the crime, when a reporter noted to him that the Bucs had surrendered the most points in the NFL.

"Wow," said the eight-year veteran. "That seems like a lot of points."

Four hundred and ninety-four points, to be exact, a dubious total topped only by the 2008 Detroit Lions (517) since the 2002 realignment. But then again, the NFL was all about points — usually scoring them in bunches, and not necessarily surrendering them in gobs in the generous manner of the hapless Bucs — in 2011.

Overshadowed by the lookahead to the playoffs, in which five of the 12 participants averaged 25.0 points or more, is the fact the league established a modern-day record for scoring this season. The 32 teams combined for 11,356 points, an average of 44.36 per game. That topped the 44.07 points per game that the league averaged last season. The only season higher was when games averaged 46.12 points in 1965, before the merger, and prior to the Super Bowl era.

"The game has changed," Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said on Monday. "Obviously, anybody that's been involved with the game for any period of time, you've seen the change. Part of that is the rule changes and you see a group of very good quarterbacks now combined with good receivers. So, you're seeing a lot more yardage, you're seeing a lot more scoring."

This season marked the third time in the past four years that the NFL established a scoring high.

Said Atlanta wide receiver Roddy White after Sunday's 45-24 victory over the Bucs: "Defenses are still good, man, don't get me wrong ... but it's very definitely swung to an offensive game."

The NFL saved its best for the last weekend of the regular season, with Green Bay's 45-41 win in the shootout with the Lions the highest-scoring game of the year. But there were three games among the 256 contests played during the 2011 regular season that featured 80-plus points, and the Packers and Lions were each involved in two of them.

There was some sense at the outset of the season that the new kickoff rule — which moved the kickoff up to the 35-yard line and resulted in more touchbacks and worse field position — might negatively impact scoring. But the rule, actually designed to promote safety and not to put a damper on scoring, was easily offset by the record passing season and the resultant offensive explosion.

Touchdowns easily trumped touchbacks.

In all, there were 79 games — more than 30 percent of the regular-season matchups — in which 50 or more points were scored. Thirty-four games featured 60 points or more, 10 had 70 points, and three had 80 points.

The Packers, who averaged 35.0 points per game, were involved in a stunning 10 of the 50-point games. Incredibly, the Packers were involved in half of those 70-point games: 76 against the Saints, 72 against the Broncos, 83 against the Chargers, 73 against the Giants and Sunday's 86 against the Lions.

From the offensive perspective came this from Packers tight end Jermichael Finley: "In this offense, you could put a good quarterback back there and something's going to happen. We've got great ones, so big things happen."

And from the defensive perspective came this from Packers cornerback Charles Woodson, who talked exclusively to Packer Report on Monday: "Watching that defense was a little hard."

Added Capers, whose defense — with Woodson and Clay Matthews getting the day off — allowed 520 passing yards to earn the dubious distinction of being the worst pass defense in NFL history: "Everybody we're going to play now is going to have some difference-makers, and a big part of your success is how well you can limit those difference-makers. That's just the nature of our game nowadays. These receivers, running backs, tight ends, you've got to try to limit their big plays. As I look at our team, if we take the big play away, we're hard to score points on. Take yesterday. When they scored points yesterday there was a big play on the drive. So, that'll be one of our focal points."

There was at least one 50-point game in all 17 weeks of the regular season. All but three weeks of play featured at least one 60-point game.

"You've got to get the ball in the end zone," New Orleans wide receiver Marques Colston noted a week ago, after the Saints had smoked the Falcons, 45-16. "It's the name of the game."

Not surprisingly, the high-powered New Orleans offense finished second in the NFL in scoring, with 547 points, behind only the Packers (560). Green Bay finished as the second highest-scoring team in history, the Saints as the fourth highest-scoring. New England (513) was the third team to score 500-plus points in 2011.

By comparison, since 2002, there had never been a season in which more than one club had scored 500 points. In fact, since the realignment, only four franchises had managed the feat.

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Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.

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