The Norv of them! SD defies laws of physics

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 25, 2010



We mentioned Monday, in the wake of San Diego's mentally deficient 23-20 loss to the Patriots, that "the futility of Chargers football has turned into one of the biggest statistical stories of the 2010 season – and perhaps in recent football history."
 
We didn't know how right we were.
 
The Chargers, as you may know, are No. 1 in the NFL right now in both total offense (422.7 YPG) and total defense (244.3 YPG). Hell, if you look at the NFL.com team stats page, it looks like all San Diego, all the time. After all, the Chargers are also No. 1 in both passing offense (317.4 YPG) and passing defense (158.6 YPG).
 
Unbelievable. The Chargers outgain opponents by nearly 2 to 1 in both total yards and passing yards.
 
Yet as you know, San Diego has nothing to show for its statistical dominance: the team is just 2-5 and tied for last place in the AFC West behind recent division doormats Kansas City and Oakland.
 
It's only seven games into the season and a lot can change. As we noted earlier this year, sooner or later the laws of phootball physics must take over and San Diego will achieve statistical equilibrium of some kind: they'll either start winning in a manner consistent with their statistical dominance, or their curve of statistical dominance will begin to flatten. The current situation can not continue forever.
 
But, for now, what San Diego has done is a truly remarkable achievement in the annals of football: they're dominating on the stat sheet like few teams in history ... but can barely win a game. 
 
We just ran the numbers and found a mere seven teams since 1940 that finished the season No. 1 in both total offense and total defense. As you might expect, it's a pretty impressive collection of teams.
 
1942 Bears (11-0)
The 1942 Bears were the 2007 Patriots of their era: they went undefeated and utterly dominated the NFL. In fact, they remain the single most dominant regular-season team the NFL has ever produced (376 PF, 84 PA).
 
And like the 2007 Patriots, the 1942 Bears tanked in the title game, in this case falling to Sammy Baugh and the Redskins, 14-6. Still, the statistical dominance led to dominance on the field.
 
1952 Browns (8-4)
The Browns of the late 1940s and early 1950s are the greatest dynasty in pro football history. As you know, they won all four championships in the four-year existence of the AAFC (1946-49) and then played in an incredible and unmatched six straight NFL title games from 1950 to 1955.
 
The 1952 Browns couldn't quite close the deal, though, losing to Bobby Layne, Doak Walker and the star-studded Lions, 17-7 in the title tilt. But, once again, statistical dominance led to dominance on the field.
 
1953 Eagles (7-4-1)
Sparked by brilliant Hall of Fame receiver Pete Pihos, who produced one of the few 1,000-yard pass catching seasons in the NFL's first 34 years, and by Hall of Fame linebacker and Cold, Hard Football Facts favorite Chuck Bednarik (six picks in 1953), the Eagles were a statistical juggernaut.
 
They closed out the regular season by drubbing Cleveland, 42-27, and denying the 11-1 Browns a perfect season. But 7-4-1 wasn't good enough in an era when there were no playoffs and the two conference champs simply met in the NFL title game. Still a very good team.
 
1972 Dolphins (14-0)
Well, you know the story here: Miami was and remains the only team in the NFL's postseason era (since 1933) to march through an entire campaign without a single blemish. They dominated statistically like few other teams, and they dominated on the scoreboard like few other teams.
 
1973 Rams (12-2)
Chuck Knox consistently fielded great teams during his early years with the Rams, and none were better than his first club in 1973: No. 1 in scoring offense, No. 1 in total offense, No. 4 in scoring defense and No. 1 in total defense.
 
They couldn't quite pull it altogether: in fact, they went and-one-done in the playoffs, losing to the Cowboys in the divisional round (the 12-2 Rams actually played AT the 10-4 Cowboys, back before the NFL awarded homefield advantage to the team with the better record).
 
But it was still a great run for a very powerful team that won 12 of its 15 games.
 
1977 Cowboys (12-2)
The 1977 Cowboys were arguably the best in franchise history, with a 12-2 record and legends on both sides of the ball. Dallas dominated the regular season, dominated the playoffs (outscoring the Bears and Vikings, 60-13) and then dominated the Broncos in Super Bowl XII, 27-10, in a game that wasn't even as close as the score would indicate.
 
1987 49ers (13-2)
The 1987 49ers are something of a curiosity, because they dominated a strike year which featured 15 games and three of them played with replacements. Regardless, the 49ers dominated statistically and dominated on the field before being shocked by the Vikings in the divisional playoffs.
 
Here's the difference between these statistically dominant clubs of yesteryear and the statistically dominant Chargers of today: all those teams of yesteryear were good, and often great, on the scoreboard, too. All but the Eagles reached the playoffs. Four of the seven reached the title game and two of them won a championship.
 
Not one of them suffered as many losses all season – five – as the Chargers have right now through seven games.
 
So San Diego is clearly on a pace to do something nobody has ever come close to matching: and that's manage to defy logic, statistics, common sense and the Cold, Hard Football Facts, and suck on the scoreboard despite dominance on the stat sheets.
 
Meanwhile, two of those teams that finished the year No. 1 in both total offense and total defense were also No. 1  in those indicators through seven games: the 1953 Eagles and the 1977 Cowboys.
 
History offers just two other teams that were No. 1 in both indicators through seven games.
 
One was the 1952 49ers, who raced out of the gates with five straight wins and a 5-2 record through seven games. But they couldn't keep it together that year. They ended the season No. 4 in total offense and No. 3 in total defense (among 12 teams) and failed to reached the postseason with a 7-5 record.
 
The one other club to dominate statistically through seven games like the 2010 Chargers?
 
That club would be the 1958 Colts. Johnny Unitas, Raymond Berry, Gino Marchetti & Co. were 6-1 through their first seven games and ended the year with a victory over the Giants in The Best Game Ever.

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