Tuesday, February 14, 2017
NFL’s Most Dominant Wins of 2016
Each year, I like to have a record of the most dominant wins (and most humiliating losses) in the NFL that season, before the games slip from memory. In the past, I've included lists in late-season power rankings, but this year, I'm expanding a little bit. We'll count down the top 12 most dominant wins of the 2016 season.
12] Week 12: New Orleans Saints 49, Los Angeles Rams 21
555 yards to 247; 28-21 at halftime
This wasn't really a blowout until the second half, and it's tied for the most points allowed in any of the dominant victories in the top 12. But the Saints' 308-yard advantage was the second-largest in any game this season. Doubling your opponents' yardage and first down totals (27-13), while winning the turnover battle (+2), is pretty dominant. Drew Brees passed for 310 yards, 4 touchdowns, and a 139.6 rating.
11] Week 1: San Francisco 49ers 28, Los Angeles Rams 0
320 yards to 185; 14-0 at halftime
The Rams are lucky this was the latest start for any game this season — 10:20 PM Eastern on Monday night — so that many fans went to bed and didn't see them blown out and shut out on national television. We also didn't understand at the time just how bad the 49ers were. In hindsight, a 28-0 loss to a team that went 0-14 against everyone else might be the worst defeat for any team all season.
10] Week 14: Atlanta Falcons 42, Los Angeles Rams 14
286 yards to 312; 21-0 at halftime
This is the only game on the list in which the losing team gained more yardage. That's just because the Falcons took their foot off the gas pedal when they entered the fourth quarter with a 42-0 lead. That's the largest lead any team had at the end of the third quarter in 2016. Was it a less dominant win because Atlanta chose not to run up the score? I suppose so, but it was still an ugly, embarrassing performance by the Rams. Head coach Jeff Fisher was fired after the game.
9] Week 17: Arizona Cardinals 44, Los Angeles Rams 6
344 yards to 123; 16-6 at halftime
This was a capital beatdown, tied for the largest margin of victory in the 2016 season, and the highest ratio of yards-gained-to-yards-allowed (2.80). It drops a little on this list because it was hidden away in Week 17, with fans focused on the playoffs and both teams out of contention, which made it slightly less embarrassing for the Rams. I also fudged the order a little to get all four Rams games in a row.
8] NFC Championship Game: Atlanta Falcons 44, Green Bay Packers 21
493 yards to 367; 24-0 at halftime
A runaway from the beginning, in the third-most-watched game of the season. The Falcons played their best football on the biggest stage, and the Packers chose the worst possible time to choke. Atlanta took its foot off the gas pedal late, but the first half stats show 325 yards to 127, a 20-6 edge in first downs, and that 24-0 scoreboard. The Packers outscored Atlanta in the second half (21-20), but it was academic; the Falcons were in control the whole way.
7] Week 2: Arizona Cardinals 40, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7
416 yards to 306; 24-0 at halftime
A game defined by turnovers. The Cardinals were +5, including Marcus Cooper's 60-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter. Carson Palmer passed for 300 yards, 3 TDs, and a 124.1 rating. Jameis Winston threw 4 interceptions and lost a fumble.
6] Week 13: Seattle Seahawks 40, Carolina Panthers 7
534 yards to 271; 23-7 at halftime
This was a Sunday night game, so a huge audience got to see Seattle avenge its loss in the previous NFC Championship Game. This was the game in which Cam Newton was benched for the first play and the Panthers threw an interception. The Seahawks rushed for 240 yards and 3 touchdowns, and gained 29 first downs (to Carolina's 14).
5] Week 13: Baltimore Ravens 38, Miami Dolphins 6
496 yards to 277; 24-0 at halftime
An ugly end to the Dolphins' six-game win streak. Including the postseason, there were 267 games played this season, and three of the 12 games listed here were played in Week 13. This was one of three games all season in which a team won by at least 30 points and outgained the opponent by over 200 yards. The others were Cardinals/Rams in Week 17 (#9) and Seahawks/Panthers this same week (#6).
4] Week 13: Indianapolis Colts 41, New York Jets 10
421 yards to 250; 24-3 at halftime
Maybe this should rank higher. In my Week 13 Power Rankings, I called Indianapolis "maybe the most dominant of any team all season," and wrote of the Jets, "As ugly a game as you could ask for. From the opening play, they looked sloppy and unmotivated." The Jets rushed for 36 yards and a 2.6 average, with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Bryce Petty combining for 3 interceptions. Andrew Luck tossed 4 TDs with zero interceptions.
3] Week 15: Indianapolis Colts 34, Minnesota Vikings 6
411 yards to 282; 27-0 at halftime
A devastating loss for Minnesota, which was 7-6 and fighting for a playoff spot, but totally failed to show up, scoring a season-low 6 points against a bottom-10 defense. In Adrian Peterson's return from injury, the Colts out-rushed them 161-34. Peterson had six carries for 22 yards (3.7 avg), 1 catch for 1 yard, and a lost fumble.
Apart from the two games listed here, the Colts went 6-8 and got outscored 376-336.
2] Week 16: New England Patriots 41, New York Jets 3
325 yards to 239; 27-0 at halftime
Tied for the largest margin of victory in 2016, and the most dominant ratio of points-scored-to-points-allowed (excluding shutouts). It's also tied for the second-largest halftime lead. Bryce Petty went 0-for-3 with an interception, then got hurt. Ryan Fitzpatrick went 8-of-21 with 2 INTs and a 21.2 rating off the bench. The Patriots led 41-0 halfway through the fourth quarter.
1] Week 4: Pittsburgh Steelers 43, Kansas City Chiefs 14
436 yards to 357; 29-0 at halftime
This one got out of hand as quickly as any game all season. The Steelers led 22-0 after the first quarter, the largest first-quarter lead all season. They led 29-0 at halftime, the largest halftime lead all season. They led 36-0 after three quarters, the second-largest lead. This was a national showcase on Sunday Night Football.
* * *
Honorable Mention: Week 3 — Eagles 34, Steelers 3.