The NFL has seen the offensive side of the game explode in recent years. Records have fallen, and quarterbacks are consistently throwing for nearly 5,000 yards per season.
If someone asked which team holds the record for the highest scoring offense per game in NFL history, the common answers probably would be teams from the recent era. The New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos have all put up some amazing offensive numbers over the past few years, but those answers would be wrong.
The right answer might surprise you. While the Broncos do have the record for points scored in a season (606, 2013), it's the 1950 Los Angeles Rams that hold the record for most points per game in a season. The Rams scored 466 points in just 12 games that year, averaging 38.83 points per game for the 1950 season. Making it even more impressive is the fact that the Rams played in a "defensively dominant" era for the NFL.
The performance of the 1950 Rams is interesting to look at with the way the NFL has evolved, especially in recent years. The Patriots of 2007 put up some record numbers on offense, while the Broncos of 2013 saw Peyton Manning carve up defenses for 55 touchdowns and 5,477 passing yards. The Seattle Seahawks had a run a few years ago that saw the team score 50 points in back-to-back games, combining for 108 over a three-game span.
The offensive numbers in the NFL have steadily gotten bigger over the years, but even with that and the rules of the game trending towards the offensive side of the ball, the Rams still hold various scoring records. All of that is a testament to how good the Rams were before the game evolved into what it is today.
NFL scoring has continued to trend upwards, going to 22.8 points per game from 22.6 points in 2014. The 2013 season saw the league average 23.4 points per game, which is the highest number in the modern era. With all of that in mind, it's a surprise that the 1950 Rams still that the record for points per game in a season.
The 2007 Patriots and the 2013 Broncos are likely the best comparisons when it comes to looking at the Rams of 1950, as those teams are ranked 1-2 in all-time scoring in a season. Both of those teams set high marks in those seasons, but the Rams still hold a number of offensive records, including points per game, most 50-point games in a season (tied with the 2013 Broncos with three), as well as the most consecutive games scoring 9-plus touchdowns.
As amazing as the Broncos and Patriots were offensively in recent years, the Rams had a stretch when they scored 65 points or more in back-to-back games in 1950. The team also had a total of 165 points over a three-game span. The Rams are also the only team to score 60 or more points twice in a season, scoring 70 in one of those games, a 70-27 victory over the Baltimore Colts. Adding another record for the team, the Rams also hold the mark of most points in a third quarter all-time after scoring 41 against the Lions in 1950.
It's hard to compare teams from different eras since the schedule has more games now than back in the '50s, but by any measurement, the Rams were an offensive machine that season. One of the primary reasons for that success was quarterback Norm Van Brocklin, who still has records in the NFL history books over the likes of Brady, Drew Brees and Manning. Van Brocklin still holds the record for most passing yards in a game with 554, and many see that as surprising with the way the current NFL rules tilt towards quarterbacks.
Brees set the record for passing yards in a season, but Texans quarterback Matt Schaub is the man who is second to Van Brocklin after throwing for 527 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars in an overtime game in 2012. Van Brocklin did his record-setting work on September 28, 1951 against the New York Yanks.
The start for Van Brocklin was sparked by an injury to Bob Waterfield, and he took advantage. Van Brocklin finished the game completing 27 of 41 passes with five touchdowns. The Rams roster was a talented one in 1950 and was filled with future Hall of Famers in Van Brocklin and Waterfield, as well as receiver Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch, who ended up with nine catches for 173 yards and four touchdowns in the record-setting game.
The Rams went 9-3-0 during the 1950 season and made it to the championship game against the Cleveland Browns, where they lost 30-28. The team led the league in points that year and put up 5,240 yards of total offense with an average of 38 points per game. Van Brocklin combined with Waterfield to pass for 29 touchdowns and they both made the Pro Bowl.
Tom Fears had 1,116 yards receiving that season and scored seven touchdowns, tied with Hirsch for the team lead. The Rams lost the championship game by a close margin despite four interceptions from Waterfield, and he ended the day with 312 yards passing and one touchdown.
While the Rams did not win the championship that year, they are still remembered as one of the best offenses in NFL history. Although some of their records have fallen, the team remains the highest scoring per game offense in league history.