The yards have never come easier in the NFL. They’re up to 705.4 a game this season, which would be an all-time high if it holds. And yet the record for most yards by both teams in one contest, 1,133, was set in 1950 — on this very day, in fact — and has somehow survived all the rule changes favoring the offense and even the institution of overtime. Go figure.
Of course, the clubs involved, the Los Angeles Rams and New York Yanks, had the two most explosive attacks in the league. Indeed, that Rams team, with its two Hall of Fame quarterbacks (Bob Waterfield and Norm Van Brocklin) and two Hall of Fame receivers (Crazylegs Hirsch and Tom Fears) has never been given its proper due. Just last year a major website told its readers that Waterfield made it to Canton “possibly because he had the good sense to wife up to Jane Russell, the Megan Fox of her day.”
It would be a great line if it were true, but it doesn’t even come close. Waterfield, you see, wasn’t just a QB, he was one of the most multi-talented players in NFL history. Check out his 1946 season:
● Threw 17 touchdown passes (tying him for the league lead).
● Made 6 of 9 field-goal tries (giving him the highest success rate — 66.7 percent — and tying him for second in field goals).
● Averaged 44.7 yards a punt (third in the league).
● As a defensive back, intercepted 5 passes (tying him for fourth in the league).
goes, alas, for players of that vintage. Their feats are often dismissed by the young Plutarchs of today, even though the competition in the 12-team era was probably fiercer than it is now.
The ’50 Rams scored 466 points in a 12-game season, an average of 38.8. That’s more than the Broncos averaged last year (37.9) when they totaled a record 606 in 16 games. The Rams racked up 70 against the Baltimore Colts, 65 against the Lions, 51 against the Packers — they were a veritable force of nature. They also came within a last-minute field goal of winning the title (which they won the next season).
The ’50 Yanks didn’t have nearly the star power — save for Buddy Young, their Hall of Fame running back. QB George Ratterman did top the league with 22 TD passes, though, and end Dan Edwards was fifth with 775 receiving yards.
Anyway, when the teams met at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 19, 1950, they put on a show — 1,133 yards’ worth (Rams 636, Yanks 497) — as the Rams won 43-35. The Brooklyn Eagle’s headline read thusly:
Both teams scored five TDs, which made the three field goals booted by the versatile Waterfield the difference. Individually, nobody went too wild, though two receivers (L.A.’s Hirsch and New York’s Art Weiner) and one running back (the Rams’ Dick Hoerner) went over 100 yards.
“The crowd of 43,673 had difficulty keeping track of the pigskins the Rams tossed in the air in the first half — 32 in all, “ the Eagle reported. “But after the intermission they varied their attack, dusting off the old Statue of Liberty play successfully twice.”
Yanks coach Red Strader, meanwhile, called the Rams “a tough team to play against. Speed on the gridiron is always hard to beat — one mistake and they’re away.”
In the 64 years since, only 13 NFL games have come within 50 yards of that 1,133-yard figure. The most serious challenge to the record came in the 2011 season finale between the Packers and Lions, who combined for 1,125. Logic tells you that, the way things are going, the mark is bound to fall at some point. But amazingly, it has endured for more than six decades — and could well last a few more.