Norm Van Brocklin
Norm Van Brocklin

1951 Opening Day: The Dutchman Goes Wild!

Los Angeles Rams Hall of Fame quarterback Norm "The Dutchman" Van Brocklin entered the 1951 season entrenched in a duel for the starting position with veteran Bob Waterfield.

A Waterfield injury sidelined the incumbent quarterback prior to the season opener against the New York Yanks on September 28, and opened the door for Van Brocklin to show his worth.

Norm Van Brocklin took advantage of the opportunity to produce the most prolific passing performance in NFL history.

Van Brocklin threw for an NFL record 554 yards in a 54-14 rout of the Yanks at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback tossed five touchdowns and completed 27 of 41 passes.

The mark still stands as the greatest single passing effort in National Football League history.

"It's the finest exhibition of passing I've ever seen," said Rams Coach Jimmy Phelan after the game. "Van Brocklin was hitting them in the eye practically every time he threw the ball." Van Brocklin, who passed away at the age of 57 in 1983, remained subdued about the performance. "Everything I threw seemed to be caught and run for a long gain," he said.

The Rams' Tom Fears averaged 23.1 yards on his seven catches and Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch averaged 19.2 on nine receptions. Los Angeles amassed an NFL record 735 total yards and 34 first downs.

"They don't need me out here anymore," said Waterfield after the game. The two quarterbacks would split time for the rest of the season as the Rams captured the 1951 NFL Championship.

Van Brocklin's record has stood for over 60 years.

Quarterbacks Matt Schaub and Warren Moon have come the closest to breaking Van Brocklin's mark.

In 2012, Schaub, then with the Houston Texans, passed for 527 yards against Jacksonville on November 18, while Moon had a 527-yard day for the Houston Oilers against Kansas City on December 16, 1990.

NFL QB's Who've Thrown for 500 Yards in a Single Game


Best Game Performances: Most Yards Passing by Level

Level Quarterback Date Performance
Source: NFL
High SchoolWill Grier, Davidson Day, NCNov 9, 2012837 yards vs. Harrells Christian, NC
High SchoolDavid Koral, Pacific Palisades, CASep 22, 2000764 yards vs. Grant, CA
NCAA Div IIISam Durley, EurekaSep 1, 2012736 yards vs. Knox
NCAA Div IIIZamir Amin, MenloOct 7, 2000723 yards vs. Cal Lutheran
NCAA Div IIJ.J. Harp, Eastern New MexicoSep 12, 2009695 yards vs. Southeastern OK
NCAA Div IIAndrew Webb, Fort LewisNov 16, 2002660 yards vs. Mesa St.
NCAA Div I-AA (FCS)Taylor Heinicke, Old DominionSep 22, 2012730 yards vs. New Hampshire
NCAA Div I-AA (FCS)Robert Kent, Jackson St.Oct 6, 2001668 yards vs. Alabama St.
NCAA Division I-A (FBS)Connor Halliday, Washington St.Oct. 4, 2014734 yards vs. California
NCAA Division I-A (FBS)Patrick Mahomes, Texas TechOct. 22, 2016734 yards vs. Oklahoma
NCAA Div I-A (FBS)David Klingler, HoustonDec 2, 1990716 yards vs. Arizona St.
Arena FootballClint Dolezel, HoustonMay 14, 1999479 yards vs. Milwaukee
CFLMatt Dunigan, WinnipegJul 14, 1994713 yards vs. Edmonton
NFL Norm Van Brocklin, LA RamsSep 28, 1951554 yards vs. NY Yanks


Best Passing Performances on Opening Day

QB Game Date Yards Attempts Complete TD INT
Source: NFL
Norm Van BrocklinL.A. Rams vs. N.Y. Yanks9/28/51554412752
Dan MarinoMiami vs. New England9/4/94473422351
Kurt WarnerSt. Louis vs. Denver9/4/00441352533
Drew BledsoeNew England vs. Miami9/4/94421513242
Glen FoleyN.Y. Jets vs. San Francisco9/6/98415305831
Pete BeathardHouston vs. Kansas City9/9/68413482323
Phil SimmsN.Y. Giants vs. Philadelphia9/2/84409302340
Johnny UnitasBaltimore vs. Atlanta9/17/67401322221


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NFL Football Records: "Best Quarterback Performances Past & Present"