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NFL 2015 Season in Review
Many close games and great comeback victories &ellips; new teams making the playoffs and winning divisions &ellips; consistent teams excelling once again &ellips; records falling &ellips; young players making their mark &ellips; and so much more!
The 2015 NFL regular season really did have it all, including a fantastic finish.
Week 17 came right down to the wire as 11 of the 16 games scheduled for the final day of the regular season had playoff implications for at least one of the teams involved. Sunday's excitement was due in part to having 16 divisional games played on the season's final day, a tradition instituted in 2010.
The 2015 season featured a trend of many exciting games with close finishes, as nearly 55 percent were decided by one score -- 140 of 256 games were decided by eight or fewer points, the most of any season in NFL history.
Each of the 12 teams still in Super Bowl 50 contention can look back at the wild ride that was the 2015 regular season and appreciate how challenging the road to the playoffs was.
The CAROLINA PANTHERS (15-1) secured the No. 1 seed throughout the NFC playoffs and became just the seventh team in NFL history to win 15 games in a season.
"I'm an optimist, but even 15-1 is a lot," says Panthers head coach RON RIVERA about advancing to the postseason after the team posted the league's top regular-season record. "This is very satisfying but we still have a lot of work to do. I am proud of what this football team is becoming."
Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before. Four teams that missed the postseason in 2014 -- KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-5), MINNESOTA VIKINGS (10-5), HOUSTON TEXANS (9-7) and WASHINGTON REDSKINS (9-7) -- accomplished the feat this year.
"I feel very proud to be associated with this team," says Texans head coach BILL O'BRIEN, whose team clinched the AFC South division title with a win in Week 17. "Now the second season starts and that's exciting. It is also really exciting that we didn't back in to the playoffs. We won our way in and that is pretty cool."
The Chiefs won 10 consecutive games to finish the regular season and are the only team in NFL history with a 10-game winning streak and a five-game losing streak in the same season. Kansas City finished with an 11-5 record, the best in NFL history by a team that suffered five consecutive losses during a season.
"I love every one of these wins, our team loves every one of them and we cherish every one of the wins," says Chiefs head coach ANDY REID about the team's winning streak heading into the postseason. "Any time you can win in the National Football League, it is a major accomplishment. I'm just talking about one game, let alone all of them in the streak we had."
The GREEN BAY PACKERS (10-6 in 2015) earned the 750th total victory in franchise history this season. The Packers are 751-567-37 and joined the Chicago Bears as the only teams in NFL history to reach 750 total wins. The Redskins (9-7 in 2015; 601-583-27 all-time) reached 600 total victories.
The 2015 season also proved that consistency is difficult, but not impossible, to maintain in the NFL. The NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS won their seventh consecutive AFC East division title (2009-present), which ties the 1973-79 Rams for the most consecutive division championships in NFL history. The Patriots, who finished with a 12-4 record, became the second team in NFL history with at least 12 wins in six consecutive seasons.
The NFL is never short on surprises, and that leads to the excitement we witnessed in 2015:
Games continued to be this close, as more than half of all games were decided by one score.
|8 or Fewer||140 of 256||54.7%|
|7 or Fewer||131 of 256||51.2%|
|3 or Fewer||59 of 256||23.0%|
This NFL season, 140 of 256 (54.7 percent) were decided by eight or fewer points, the most of any season in NFL history.
In 2015, 131 of 256 games (51.2 percent) were decided by seven or fewer points, also the most of any season in NFL history.
Sixty-eight percent of games (174 of 256) were within one score in the fourth quarter. The 174 games are tied for the third-most of any season in NFL history.
Twenty-one games were decided in overtime this season, tied for the fourth-most in a season since overtime was instituted in 1974.
The most overtime games in a season since 1974:
Games continued to have a flare for the dramatic, as comebacks were a frequent theme.
In 2015, there were 67 comeback victories in which a team was trailing at some point in the fourth quarter, tied for the third-most in a single season in NFL history.
The most wins after trailing at some point in the fourth quarter:
Washington (9-7) clinched the NFC East division title, which marked the 12th time in the past 13 seasons that one or more teams went from last or tied for last place to a division championship the following year.
The teams to go from "worst-to-first" in their division since 2003:
|(Source: NFL) *Tied for last place ** Won Super Bowl|
|2005||New York Giants||11-5||6-10*|
Since realignment in 2002, Carolina (15-1) is the first NFC South team to win the division title in three consecutive seasons.
A total of 11,680 points were scored during the 2015 season, the second-highest total all-time (11,985 points in 2013). Games averaged 45.6 points per game, the second-highest average since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger (46.8 points per game in 2013). In all, 1,318 total touchdowns were scored, also the second-most all-time (1,338 in 2013).
Nine teams scored at least 400 points this season -- Carolina (500), Arizona (489), New England (465), Pittsburgh (423), Seattle (423), the New York Giants (420), Cincinnati (419), New Orleans (408) and Kansas City (405) -- tying the 2008, 2012 and 2014 seasons for the second-most all-time. Those nine teams combined for a .667 winning percentage, and seven qualified for the playoffs.
NFL QBs put together a historically proficient and prolific year in 2015.
The league-wide completion percentage (63.0), league-wide passer rating (90.2) and league-wide touchdown pass totals (842) were at historic levels, topping the previous records set in 2014 (62.6 completion percentage; 88.9 passer rating; 807 TD passes).
The league-wide interception percentage of 2.38 percent was the lowest of any season in NFL history, surpassing the previous mark of 2.52 in 2014.
Games averaged 705.3 total net yards per game, the best mark in NFL annals (697.0 in 2013). Explosive passing offenses fueled that trend, with an average of 487.7 net passing yards per game, an all-time high (473.6 in 2014).
The league-wide yards per attempt average of 7.25 was the highest in the Super Bowl era, topping the previous record of 7.21 yards per attempt in 2014.
There were 59 individual performances with three touchdown passes without an interception in 2015, the most of any season in NFL history (58 in 2014).
There were 11 individual games with five or more TD passes this season, tied for the most in a single season in NFL history (2004).
An NFL-record 11 quarterbacks had 30+ touchdown passes -- TOM BRADY (36), BLAKE BORTLES (35), ELI MANNING (35), CAM NEWTON (35), CARSON PALMER (35), RUSSELL WILSON (34), DREW BREES (32), DEREK CARR (32), MATTHEW STAFFORD (32), RYAN FITZPATRICK (31) and AARON RODGERS (31) -- surpassing the previous high of nine in 2014.
Denver quarterback PEYTON MANNING (71,940) surpassed BRETT FAVRE (71,838) for the most career passing yards in NFL history.Manning also registered his 186th career regular-season win as a starting quarterback, tied with Favre for the most wins by a starting quarterback in NFL history.
DREW BREES and TOM BRADY both climbed higher on the all-time list for career passing yards and touchdowns. Brees ranks fourth in passing yards (60,903) while Brady is fifth (58,028). Brady and Brees each have 428 touchdown passes, tied for the third-most in NFL history.
Brees has passed for at least 30 touchdowns in eight consecutive seasons, extending his NFL-record streak.
New England quarterback TOM BRADY led the league with 36 touchdown passes, joining Peyton Manning (four) as the only players in NFL history with at least 35 touchdown passes in four different seasons.
New Orleans quarterback DREW BREES finished the season with 4,870 passing yards, his NFL-record sixth consecutive season with at least 4,500 yards. Brees has seven career 4,500-yard passing seasons, the most in NFL history.
Brees' 4,870 passing yards were the most in the NFL this season and he is the first player to lead the league in passing yards six times. Pro Football Hall of Famers SONNY JURGENSEN and DAN MARINO each accomplished the feat five times.
Brees had two 400-yard passing games in 2015. In 15 seasons, Brees has 13 career 400-yard passing games, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino for the second-most such games in NFL history and one shy of the NFL record held by Peyton Manning (14).
Brees had 10 300-yard passing games in 2015. Brees' 96 career 300-yard passing games are the most in NFL history.
Pittsburgh quarterback BEN ROETHLISBERGER had 21 touchdown passes and has now thrown 10 or more touchdown passes in each of his first 12 seasons, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer WARREN MOON for the third-longest streak to start a career in NFL history.
Jacksonville quarterback BLAKE BORTLES, who is 23 years old, had a single-season franchise record 35 touchdown passes and joined Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino and MATTHEW STAFFORD as the only players in NFL history with at least 35 touchdown passes in a season at age 23 or younger.
Indianapolis quarterback MATT HASSELBECK became the third quarterback in the Super Bowl era to win four consecutive starts after turning 40 years old.
RUSHING & RECEIVING
Several running backs enjoyed historic seasons in 2015:
Six players registered at least 10 rushing touchdowns in 2015 -- Atlanta's DEVONTA FREEMAN (11), Cincinnati's JEREMY HILL (11), Minnesota's ADRIAN PETERSON (11), Pittsburgh's DE ANGELO WILLIAMS (11), St. Louis' TODD GURLEY (10) and Carolina's CAM NEWTON (10).
Seven players registered at least 1,000 rushing yards this season -- Peterson (1,485), DOUG MARTIN (1,402) of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gurley (1,106), DARREN MC FADDEN (1,089) of the Dallas Cowboys, CHRIS IVORY (1,070) of the New York Jets, LATAVIUS MURRAY (1,066) of the Oakland Raiders and Freeman (1,061).
Minnesota's ADRIAN PETERSON finished the season with an NFL-best 1,485 rushing yards and tied for the league lead with 11 rushing touchdowns. Peterson is just the third player in NFL history to lead the league in rushing yards after his 30th birthday.
With 11 rushing touchdowns in 2015, Peterson joined Pro Football Hall of Famer EMMITT SMITH (eight) and LA DAINIAN TOMLINSON (nine) as the only players in NFL history to rush for 10 touchdowns in at least eight different seasons.
St. Louis running back TODD GURLEY led all rookies with 1,106 rushing yards. Gurley had five games with at least 125 rushing yards, trailing only Pro Football Hall of Famer ERIC DICKERSON (seven in 1983) for the most ever by a rookie.
Seven players registered at least 100 receptions in 2015 -- Pittsburgh's ANTONIO BROWN (136), Atlanta's JULIO JONES (136), Houston's DE ANDRE HOPKINS (111), Miami's JARVIS LANDRY (110), Arizona's LARRY FITZGERALD (109), the New York Jets' BRANDON MARSHALL (109) and Denver's DEMARYIUS THOMAS (105) -- the second-most in a season (nine in 1995).
Four players recorded at least 1,500 receiving yards in 2015 -- Jones (1,871), Brown (1,834), Hopkins (1,521) and Marshall (1,502) -- tied for the most in a season (1995 and 2014).
Pittsburgh wide receiver ANTONIO BROWN and Atlanta wide receiver JULIO JONES tied for the NFL lead with 136 receptions, the second-most in a single season in NFL history (MARVIN HARRISON, 143 in 2002).
Brown, who led the league with 129 catches in 2014, has 265 total receptions over the past two seasons, surpassing Harrison (252 in 2001-02) for the most catches in any two-season span in NFL history.
Brown (136 catches for 1,834 yards) and Jones (136 catches for 1,871 yards) are the first players in NFL history to have at least 125 catches and 1,800 yards in a season.
Brown had four 185-yard receiving games in 2015, the most in a single season in NFL history.
Jones' 1,871 receiving yards are the second-most in a single season (CALVIN JOHNSON, 1,964 in 2012).
Three players reached the 1,000-catch mark this season -- Dallas' JASON WITTEN (1,020), Arizona's LARRY FITZGERALD (1,018) and San Francisco's ANQUAN BOLDIN (1,009) -- marking the first time in NFL history three players recorded their 1,000th career reception in the same season.
ANQUAN BOLDIN of the 49ers had 69 receptions this season, the 13th consecutive season he has caught 50+ passes since entering the league in 2003. Boldin's streak is the most consecutive seasons with 50+ receptions to begin a career.
Arizona wide receiver LARRY FITZGERALD (109 receptions) had more than 50 catches for the 12th consecutive season, the second-longest such streak to begin a career.
New York Giants wide receiver ODELL BECKHAM, JR. had 96 receptions for 1,450 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2015. Beckham, who had 1,305 receiving yards as a rookie last season, has 2,755 career receiving yards, surpassing RANDY MOSS for the most receiving yards through a player's first two seasons NFL history.
New York Jets wide receiver BRANDON MARSHALL had a franchise-record 109 catches this season and is the first player in NFL history with six 100-catch seasons.
Marshall and Jets teammate ERIC DECKER each had a touchdown catch in nine games in 2015, the most such games by teammates in the same season in NFL history.
Houston wide receiver DE ANDRE HOPKINS had a career-high 1,521 receiving yards this season. In three seasons, Hopkins has amassed 3,533 receiving yards, joining Randy Moss as the only players in NFL history to record 3,500 receiving yards before the age of 24.
Jacksonville wide receiver ALLEN ROBINSON (22 years, 132 days), who had 80 receptions for 1,400 yards and a franchise record 14 touchdown catches, became the youngest player in NFL history to register at least 1,400 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns in a single season.
Detroit's GOLDEN TATE (90 receptions), CALVIN JOHNSON (88) and THEO RIDDICK (80) became just the fifth trio on the same team to each record at least 80 catches in a season.
Dallas tight end JASON WITTEN brought his career receiving yard total to 11,215. Witten is the second tight end in NFL history to reach 11,000 career receiving yards (TONY GONZALEZ, 15,127).
ANTONIO GATES (104) of the San Diego Chargers joined Tony Gonzalez (111) as the only tight ends with 100 career touchdown receptions.
Carolina quarterback CAM NEWTON had seven games with both a touchdown pass and a rushing score. Newton has 31 career performances with a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown in the same game, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer STEVE YOUNG for the most in NFL history. Newton reached the mark in his 78th career game while Young played 169 games in his NFL career.
Newton finished the season with 35 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns and is the only player in NFL history with at least 30 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns in a single season.
Seattle quarterback RUSSELL WILSON passed for a franchise-record 4,024 yards and 34 touchdowns in 2015. He also added 553 rushing yards and is the first player in NFL history to record 4,000 passing yards, 30 touchdown passes and 500 rushing yards in a single season.
Seattle rookie wide receiver-return specialist TYLER LOCKETT had six touchdown receptions, a kickoff-return touchdown and a punt-return touchdown in 2015, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer GALE SAYERS (1965) as the only rookies in NFL history to have at least five touchdown receptions, a kickoff-return touchdown and a punt-return touchdown in a season.
Philadelphia's DARREN SPROLES had a punt-return touchdown (89 yards) and a rushing touchdown (one yard) in Week 3, which marked the second time in his career in which he had both a punt-return touchdown and a touchdown run in the same game (November 10, 2014). Sproles became the fourth player in NFL history to record multiple games with both a punt-return touchdown and a rushing touchdown, joining OCKIE ANDERSON, CURLY ODEN and Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers.
Sproles is also the only player in NFL history with at least 25 receiving touchdowns (28), 20 rushing touchdowns (20) and five punt-return touchdowns (seven).
ADAM VINATIERI (2,253) of the Colts surpassed JASON HANSON (2,150) for third place on the all-time scoring list. With 107 points this season, Vinatieri became the only player in NFL history to score 100+ points in 18 different seasons.
Vinatieri (503) also joined MORTEN ANDERSEN (565) and GARY ANDERSON (538) as the only players with 500 career made field goals.
New England kicker STEPHEN GOSTKOWSKI led the NFL in scoring for the fifth time in his career with 151 points, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer DON HUTSON (five) and GINO CAPPELLETTI (five) as the only players to lead the league in points scored at least five times.
Oakland kicker SEBASTIAN JANIKOWSKI, who converted four 50+ yard field goals in 2015, tied Jason Hanson (52) for the most 50-yard field goals in NFL history.
With all that offense, defenses were heard from as well. Four of the top five NFL teams in total defense qualified for the playoffs -- Denver (283.1), Seattle (291.8), Houston (310.2) and Arizona (321.7). Those four clubs had a combined winning percentage of .688.
The top four teams in turnover margin all advanced to the postseason and won at least 10 games each -- Carolina (+20), Kansas City (+14), Cincinnati (+11) and Arizona (+9). Those four clubs had a combined .797 winning percentage.
Houston defensive end J.J. WATT, who led the league with 17.5 sacks in 2015, joined Pro Football Hall of Famer REGGIE WHITE as the only players with at least 15 sacks in three of their first five NFL seasons since the statistic became official in 1982.
Houston linebacker WHITNEY MERCILUS recorded 3.5 sacks in two different games in 2015 and joined Pro Football Hall of Famers MICHAEL STRAHAN (2001), Reggie White (1986) and CHRIS DOLEMAN (1998) and KARL MECKLENBURG (1985) as the only players to accomplish the feat since the statistic became official in 1982.
The Houston Texans (J.J. WATT, 17.5; WHITNEY MERCILUS, 12) and Cincinnati Bengals (CARLOS DUNLAP, 13.5; GENO ATKINS, 11) were the only teams with two players who each had double-digit sacks.
Oakland safety CHARLES WOODSON had five interceptions and tied KEN RILEY (65) for fifth on the all-time interceptions list.