Leafing Through Pages: Analysis of Sports and Other Topics

01/11/2010

Great National Football League Season Turnarounds

Here’s a list of the best single season turnarounds in NFL history. Note that many teams improve their defense drastically in terms of points allowed and do it through turnovers in the passing game (i.e. generating sacks and more importantly getting interceptions). The list is done in order of year, then alphabetical by team.

1962 Dallas Texans: Went from 6-8 to 11-3 and won AFL Title over Houston 20-17. Defense allowed 110 fewer points and team had 3 different winning streaks of 3 games. Had 5 opponents score 10 or fewer points.

Len Dawson threw for 2,759 yards and 29 TD. Abner Haynes and Curtis McClinton combined for 1,653 yards and 15 TD. Defense had Bobby Hunt and Bobby Ply combine for 15 INT with 3 other players getting 4 INT themselves.

1963 Oakland Raiders: Went from 1-13 to 10-4 but missed AFL Title game. Offense scored 150 more points and defense allowed 88 fewer points. Went 8-0 down the stretch after a 2-4 start.

Tom Flores threw for 2,101 yards and 20 TD. Clem Daniels ran for 1,099 yards and Art Powell had 1,304 yards with 16 TD receiving. Defense had Tommy Morrow and Fred Williamson combine for 15 INT with 3 other players getting 4 INT each.

1967 Houston Oilers: Went from 3-11 to 9-4-1 and lost AFC Championship to Oakland 40-7. Defense allowed 197 fewer points and went 5-1 after a 4-3-1 start. Allowed only 2 teams to score more than 20 points against them.

Pete Beathard threw for 1,114 yards and 9 TD. Hoyle Granger ran for 1,194 yards and 6 TD. Defense had Miller Farr, Jim Norton, and Ken Houston combine for 20 INT with 6 TD off return.

1970 Miami Dolphins: Went from 3-10-1 to 10-4 and lost Divisional game to Oakland 21-14. Defense allowed 104 fewer points and went 6-0 to end the season. Allowed 6 teams to score 10 or fewer points against them.

Bob Griese threw for 2,019 yards and 12 TD. Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick combined for 1,532 yards and 12 TD. Paul Warfield had 703 yards on only 28 catches. Defense had Dick Anderson, Jake Scott, and Lloyd Mumphord combine for 18 INT and 1 TD off return.

1972 Green Bay Packers: Went from 4-8-2 to 10-4 and lost Divisional game to Washington 16-3. Defense allowed 72 fewer points and went 7-1 to end the season.

Scott Hunter threw for 1,252 yards and 6 TD. John Brockington and MacArthur Lane combined for 1,848 yards and 11 TD. Jim Hill, Ken Ellis, and Willie Buchanon combined for 12 INT and 1 TD off return.

1974 St. Louis Cardinals: Went from 4-9-1 to 10-4 and lost the Divisional game to Minnesota 30-14. Defense allowed 147 fewer points and the team started off with a 7-0 record. They allowed 7 teams to score 14 points or fewer.

Jim Hart threw for 2,411 yards and 20 TD. Terry Metcalf and Jim Otis combined for 1,382 yards rushing and Mel Gray had 770 yards receiving on just 39 catches. Norm Thompson had 6 INT and combined with Roger Wehrli to score 2 TD off returns.

1975 Baltimore Colts: Went from 2-12 to 10-4 and lost Divisional game to Pittsburgh 28-10. Offense scored 205 more points and defense allowed 60 fewer points. Went 9-0 after a 1-4 start to season including a shutout of New York Giants.

Bert Jones threw for 2,483 yards and 18 TD. Lydell Mitchell ran for 1,193 yards with 11 TD and the team had 3 receivers over 510 yards. Stan White, Jackie Wallace, and Lloyd Mumphord combined for 16 INT and 3 TD off return.

1976 New England Patriots: Went from 3-11 to 11-3 and lost Divisional game to Oakland 24-21. Defense allowed 122 fewer points and offense scored 118 more points. Went 8-1 to end the season. Allowed only 5 opponents to score more than 17 points.

Steve Grogan threw for 1,903 yards and 18 TD. Sam Cunningham, Don Calhoun, and Andy Johnson combined for 2,244 yards and 10 TD. Mike Haynes and Prentice McCray combined for 13 INT and 2 TD off return.

1981 San Francisco 49ers: Went from 6-10 to 13-3 and Super Bowl Champions. Defense allowed 165 fewer points and reeled off 7 straight wins at one point, including 3 wins by 3 points in a row over Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta. Beat the New York Giants 38-24, then came from behind to beat both the Dallas Cowboys 28-27 and Cincinnati Bengals 26-21 in the Super Bowl.

Joe Montana threw for 3,565 yards and 19 TD while WR Dwight Clark had 1,105 yards receiving. Dwight Hicks and Ronnie Lott combined for 16 INT and scored 4 TD off returns.

1988 Buffalo Bills: Went from 7-8 to 12-4 and lost the AFC Title game to Cincinnati 21-10. Defense allowed 68 fewer points and the offense scored 59 more points. Started the season off to an 11-1 record with 5 games where they allowed their opponents to score 6 points or fewer. Defeated the Houston Oilers 17-10 in the playoffs.

Jim Kelly threw for 3,380 yards and 15 TD. Thurman Thomas and Robb Riddick combined for 1,319 yards with 14 TD and Andre Reed had 968 yards receiving. The defense had 4 players with 5.0 or more sacks including 11.0 from Bruce Smith. Mark Kelso had 7 INT and 1 TD off return.

1988 Cincinnati Bengals: Went from 4-11 to 12-4 and lost Super Bowl to San Francisco 20-16. Offense scored 163 more points and defense allowed 9 teams to score 20+ points against them but had 9 games with 27+ points scored. Beat Seattle 21-13 and Buffalo 21-10 in playoffs.

Boomer Esiason threw for 3,572 yards and 28 TD. Ickey Woods and James Brooks combined for 1,997 yards and 23 TD. Eddie Brown had 1,273 yards on only 53 catches. Defense they had 3 players over 5.0 sacks and Eric Thomas, David Fulcher, and Lewis Billups combined for 16 INT with 1 TD off return.

1991 Denver Broncos: Went from 5-11 to 12-4 and lost AFC Title game to Buffalo 10-7. Defense allowed 139 fewer points and won 8 of their last 10 games, including 4 in a row. Allowed only 2 teams to score more than 20 points and beat Houston 26-24 in playoffs.

John Elway threw for 3,253 yards and 13 TD. Gaston Green ran for 1,037 yards and had 2 receivers over 600 yards. Defense had 3 players over 9.0 sacks and Dennis Smith, Steve Atwater, and Tyrone Braxton combined for 14 INT with 1 TD off return.

1991 Detroit Lions: Went from 6-10 to 12-4 and lost NFC Title game to Washington 41-10. Defense allowed 118 fewer points and beat Dallas 38-6 in the playoffs. Finished season with 6 straight wins.

Erik Kramer threw for 1,635 yards and 11 TD. Barry Sanders ran for 1,548 yards and 16 TD while the team had 3 players over 590 receiving yards. Defense had 3 players over 4.0 sacks and Ray Crockett and Terry Taylor combined for 10 INT and 1 TD off return.

1993 New York Giants: Went from 6-10 to 11-5 and lost Divisional game to San Francisco 44-3. Defense allowed 162 fewer points and won 6 straight games after a 5-3 start. Beat Minnesota in Wild Card game 17-10. Allowed only 2 teams to score more than 20 points.

Phil Simms threw for 3,038 yards and 15 TD. Rodney Hampton and Lewis Tillman combined for 1,662 yards and Mark Jackson and Chris Calloway combined for 1,221 yards receiving. Defense had 3 players over 6.0 sacks with 11.5 from Keith Hamilton. Greg Jackson and Mark Collins combined for 8 INT with 1 TD off return.

1996 Carolina Panthers: Went from 7-9 to 12-4 and lost NFC Title game to Green Bay 30-13. Defense allowed 107 fewer points and offense scored 78 more points. Ended season with 7 straight wins including a shutout of Tampa Bay. Allowed only 5 opponents to score 20+ points and beat Dallas 26-17 in the playoffs.

Kerry Collins threw for 2,454 yards and 14 TD. Anthony Johnson ran for 1,120 yards and the team had 3 receivers over 600 yards. Kevin Greene and Lamar Lathon combined for 28 sacks while Eric Davis and Chad Cota each had 5 INT.

1997 New York Jets: Went from 1-15 to 9-7 but missed playoffs. Defense allowed 167 fewer points and offense scored 69 more points. Started the season off with a 6-3 record. Shut out Tampa Bay.

Neil O’Donnell threw for 2,796 yards and 17 TD. Adrian Murrell ran for 1,086 yards and the team had 3 players over 540 yards receiving. Mo Lewis had 8.0 sacks and Otis Smith and Ray Mickens combined for 10 INT with 3 TD off return.

1999 Indianapolis Colts: Went from 3-13 to 13-3 and lost Divisional game to Tennessee 19-16. Defense allowed 111 fewer points and offense scored 113 more points. Won 11 straight games including 29-28 over Cleveland.

Peyton Manning threw for 4,135 yards and 26 TD. Rookie Edgerrin James ran for 1,553 yards with 13 TD and Marvin Harrison had 1,663 yards on 115 catches. Defense had 3 players over 5.0 sacks including Chad Bratzke with 12.0 and Tyrone Poole, Tony Blevins, and Jeff Burris combined for 7 INT with 1 TD return.

1999 St. Louis Rams: Went from 4-12 to 13-3 and won Super Bowl over Tennessee 23-16. Defense allowed 136 fewer points and offense scored 241 more points. Beat Minnesota 49-37 and Tampa Bay 11-6 in the playoffs. Started season off 6-0.

Kurt Warner, replacing injured Trent Green, threw for 4,353 yards and 41 TD. Marshall Faulk ran for 1,381 yards. Team had 4 receivers over 670 yards receiving including Isaac Bruce with 1,165 yards and 12 TD. Kevin Carter had 17.0 sacks and D’Marco Farr and Grant Wistrom combined for 15.0 sacks. Todd Lyght, Mike Jones, and Dexter McCleon combined for 14 INT and 3 TD off return.

2000 New Orleans Saints: Went from 3-13 to 10-6 and lost Divisional game to Minnesota 34-16. Defense allowed 129 fewer points and offense scored 94 more points. Went 7-1 in the middle of the season after a 1-3 start. Beat St. Louis in the Wild Card game 31-28.

Jeff Blake threw for 2,025 yards and 13 TD. Ricky Williams ran for 1,000 yards and Joe Horn had 1,340 yards on 94 catches. Defense had 3 players over 11.0 sacks including La’Roi Glover with 17.0. Sammy Knight, Darren Perry, and Alex Molden combined for 11 INT and 2 TD off return.

2000 Philadelphia Eagles: Went from 5-11 to 11-5 and lost Divisional game to New York Giants 20-10. Defense allowed 112 fewer points and team went 8-2 after a 3-3 start. Beat Tampa Bay in Wild Card game 21-3.

Donovan McNabb threw for 3,365 yards and 21 TD and ran for 629 yards. Team had 3 players over 560 yards receiving. Hugh Douglas and Corey Simon combined for 24.5 sacks and Troy Vincent, Brian Dawkins, and Bobby Taylor combined for 12 INT.

2001 Chicago Bears: Went from 5-11 to 13-3 and lost Divisional game to Philadelphia 33-19. Defense allowed 152 fewer points and offense scored 122 more points. Had 5 opponents score 6 points or fewer and 4 other opponents score 10-13 points.

Jim Miller threw for 2,299 yards and 13 TD. Anthony Thomas ran for 1,183 yards and Marty Booker had 1,071 yards on 100 catches. Defense had 3 players with 6.0 sacks or more and Mike Brown, R.W. McQuarters, and Tony Parrish combined for 11 INT and 2 TD off returns.

2001 New England Patriots: Went from 5-11 to 11-5 and won Super Bowl over St. Louis 20-17. Defense allowed 66 fewer points and offense scored 95 more points. Went 8-1 to finish season after a 3-4 start. Beat Oakland 16-13 and Pittsburgh 24-17 in playoffs. Defense allowed only 5 opponents to score 20+ points.

Tom Brady threw for 2,843 yards and 18 TD. Antowain Smith ran for 1,157 yards with 12 TD and Troy Brown had 1,199 yards on 101 catches. Defense had 3 players over 6.0 sacks and Otis Smith, Ty Law, and Terrell Buckley combined for 11 INT and 5 TD off return.

2001 San Francisco 49ers: Went from 6-10 to 12-4 and lost the Wild Card game to Green Bay 25-15. Reeled off 5 straight wins including a 1 point win over New Orleans and a 3 point win over Carolina. Defense allowed 140 fewer points and shut out Buffalo, Miami, and New Orleans during the season.

Jeff Garcia threw for 3,538 yards and 32 TD. Garrison Hearst ran for 1,206 yards and Terrell Owens had 1,412 yards receiving and 16 TD. The defense had 3 players over 4.0 sacks and Ahmed Plummer and Zack Bronson combined for 14 INT and 2 TD off returns.

2004 Pittsburgh Steelers: Went from 6-10 to 15-1 and lost AFC Title game to New England 41-27. Defense allowed 76 fewer points and offense scored 72 more points. Won 14 straight games and beat New York Jets 20-17 in playoffs.

Rookie Ben Roethlisberger threw for 2,621 yards and 17 TD. Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley combined for 1,771 yards and 14 TD. Team had 3 players over 600 yards receiving including Hines Ward with 1,004 yards. Defense had 3 players over 6.0 sacks and Troy Polamalu and Deshea Townsend combined for 9 INT and 2 TD off return.

2004 San Diego Chargers: Went from 4-12 to 12-4 and lost Wild Card game to New York Jets 20-17. Defense allowed 128 fewer points and offense scored 133 more points. Went 9-1 down the stretch after a 3-3 start to the season including a shutout of Cleveland.

Drew Brees threw for 3,159 yards and 27 TD. LaDanian Tomlinson ran for 1,335 yards with 17 TD. Antonio Gates had 964 yards receiving and 13 TD. Steve Foley had 10.0 sacks and Donnie Edwards, Drayton Florence, and Jerry Wilson combined for 12 INT with 1 TD off return.

2005 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Went from 5-11 to 11-5 and lost Wild Card game to Washington 17-10. Defense allowed 30 fewer points. Finished season 6-2 after a 5-3 start.

Chris Simms threw for 2,035 yards and 10 TD. Rookie Cadillac Williams ran for 1,178 yards and Joey Galloway had 1,287 yards with 10 TD. Simeon Rice had 14.0 sacks and Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly combined for 9 INT.

2006 Baltimore Ravens: Went from 6-10 to 13-3 and lost Divisional game to Indianapolis 15-6. Defense allowed 98 fewer points but the offense scored 88 more points. Went 9-1 over their last 10 games, including allowing just 7 points in 2 games against Pittsburgh. Allowed only 4 teams to score 20+ points, all in a row.

Steve McNair threw for 3,050 yards and 16 TD. Jamal Lewis ran for 1,132 yards with 9 TD and the team had 3 receivers with more than 750 yards. On defense, the team had 4 players with 9.5 sacks or more and Chris McAlister, Ed Reed, and Dawan Landry combined for 16 INT with 4 TD off return.

2006 New Orleans Saints: Went from 3-13 to 10-6 and lost NFC Title game to Chicago 39-14. Started season off 6-2 and beat Philadelphia in Divisional game 27-24.

Drew Brees, signed as a FA, threw for 4,418 yards and 26 TD. Deuce McAllister and rookie Reggie Bush combined for 1,622 yards and 16 TD. The team had 4 players over 670 yards receiving. Defense had 3 players over 5.5 sacks including Will Smith with 10.5. Had 4 players with 2 INT each.

2007 Cleveland Browns: Went from 4-12 to 10-6 but missed playoffs. Offense scored 164 more points. Did not have a winning streak longer than 3 games. Allowed only 4 opponents to score 17 points or fewer.

Derek Anderson threw for 3,787 yards and 29 TD. Jamal Lewis ran for 1,304 yards and Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow Jr combined for 2,395 yards and 21 TD. Defense they had 4 players with 4.0 sacks or more and Leigh Bodden and Sean Jones combined for 11 INT.

2008 Atlanta Falcons: Went from 4-12 to 11-5 and lost the Wild Card game to Arizona 30-24. Defense allowed 89 fewer points but the offense scored 132 more points. Did not have a winning streak longer than 3 games. Won 4 of their games by just 4 points or less including a 22-20 win over Chicago.

Rookie Matt Ryan threw for 3,440 yards and 16 TD. Michael Turner, signed as a FA, ran for 1,699 yards and 17 TD. Roddy White had 1,382 yards receiving and 7 TD. John Abraham got 16.5 sacks while Erik Coleman and Chris Houston combined for 5 INT and 1 TD off return.

2008 Miami Dolphins: Went from 1-15 to 11-5 and lost Wild Card game to Baltimore 27-9. Defense allowed 120 fewer points and offense scored 78 more points. Went 9-1 to finish the season after a 2-4 start. Allowed 9 opponents to score 17 or fewer points.

Chad Pennington threw for 3,653 yards and 19 TD. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams combined for 1,575 yards and 14 TD. Team had 5 receivers over 450 yards. Joey Porter had 17.5 sacks and Andre’ Goodman, Renaldo Hill, and Will Allen combined for 11 INT and 1 TD off return.

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