The New Orleans Saints touchdown-fest against the New York Giants looked to have all the ingredients needed for a shootout, but no one ever thought we would see the third-highest scoring game in NFL history.
Giants/Saints combined for 101 points, tied for 3rd-most in an NFL game Record: 113– Redskins 72, Giants 41 in 1966
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 1, 2015
13 TD passes in Giants-Saints is the most combined TD passes in a game in NFL history.
— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) November 1, 2015
Not only would it be a solid victory for the Saints, it would be a time-warp game for quarterback Drew Brees.
Brees took advantage of a porous Giants defense early in the first half, starting with a flea flicker for a 34-yard touchdown strike to Willie Snead, tying the game at 7-7.
It wouldn’t stop there. Brees, who completed seven of nine passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns in the game’s first 15 minutes, had 300 yards and four touchdowns by halftime. The only possession where the Saints did not score a touchdown was their first.
Drew Brees has 300 yards passing and 4 TD. It's only HALFTIME! pic.twitter.com/SYFivHUCbk
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 1, 2015
Brees would end the game with 511 yards and seven touchdowns, just the 16th game since the merger to feature a quarterback with at least 500 passing yards. The last such game was just a few weeks ago when Philip Rivers threw for 503 yards against the Green Bay Packers.
There have been just two other games in which a passer has thrown for seven touchdowns: Nick Foles and Peyton Manning both did it in 2013, eight weeks apart.
This would be the first game where a quarterback threw for 500 yards and had seven touchdowns.
But as impressive as the performance was, once you adjust for the era in which it occurred, it loses a bit of its luster.
For example, teams are averaging 7.3 yards per pass attempt this season, the highest rate ever since 1965. So 500 yards today is less impressive than even five years ago, when teams average 7.0 yards per pass.
Using adjusted yards per pass attempt, which gives a bonus for touchdowns while penalizing for interceptions, this performance by Brees would rank seventh out of the 10 games with at least 400 yards and six touchdowns, with 251 adjusted yards per pass over average — much less than Joe Namath’s monster game on Sept. 24, 1972.
To further illustrate how this game by Brees isn’t as rare as it looks, Eli Manning threw for 350 yards and six touchdowns without an interception in the same game and lost.
That’s not to take away from Brees’s place in the record books. But before folks start throwing around superlatives when we see eye-popping performances like this, it is always good to have some context before labeling it “best ever.”