Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 11/28/12
Despite the fact that the 1978 Buffalo Bills were not a very good team, they hold a prestigious modern-day NFL team record (essentially by default).  The Chuck Knox-coached Bills finished 5-11, with opposing teams licking their chops in anticipation of pounding the ball against the porous Bills rushing defense; that season, Buffalo allowed an average of 201.8 rushing YPG, and allowed 23 opposing rushers to reach the end zone.  The Bills, who allowed 309 rushing yards against Cleveland and 285 against Miami, held just one opponent under 100 yards on the ground.In fact, teams had so much fun running against the Bills that they forgot about the passing game.  As a result, Buffalo set a modern-day (16-game schedule) record for fewest passing yards allowed in a season: 1,960 total yards or 122.5 YPG.  Right on their heels, though, were the ’78 Los Angeles Rams, who allowed the second-fewest passing yards ever (2,048 / 128 YPG).  In fact, 11 other teams in that 1978 season were within 435 yards of the Bills in terms of fewest passing yards allowed.It’s no coincidence that the record for fewest passing yards was set in the same season that the New England Patriots set the league mark for most rushing yards (3,165).That Buffalo record is still on the books, and it doesn’t look like it will be broken any time soon.Even more impressive than setting the record for fewest passing yards in the season of the run, with multiple teams within close range as well, was what Tampa Bay accomplished the following year.The 1979 Buccaneers defense held opposing teams to 2,076 passing yards (which was 117 more yards than the Bills’ record of the prior year), but what was so impressive about Tampa’s accomplishment was that they were so much better than any team in the rest of the league.  In fact, the next-closest team to the Bucs in terms of fewest passing yards allowed wasn’t even close – Detroit allowed 2,442 passing yards, or 366 more yards than Tampa.  That differential between the top-ranked team and the next-closest team was one of the best in modern league history.     Biggest differentials in passing yardage (between No. 1 & No. 2 in rankings)     *since 1978 - excluding the strike-shortened 1982 / second-ranked team in parentheses489 yards – 2009 New York Jets 2,459 yards (Buffalo 2,948)427 yards – 2002 Tampa Bay 2,490 yards (Indianapolis 2,917)364 yards – 2008 Pittsburgh 2,511 yards (Baltimore 2,875)307 yards – 1991 Philadelphia 2,413 yards (New Orleans 2,720)243 yards – 1987 San Francisco 2,484 yards (LA Raiders 2,727)THROUGH ELEVEN GAMES THIS SEASON, Pittsburgh has the top-rated passing defense in the league, followed by San Francisco and Seattle.           Pittsburgh        1,823 yards / 165.7 YPG        San Francisco   2,060 yards / 187.3        Seattle            2,208 yards / 200.7The Steelers currently have a 237-yard lead over the 49ers, with five games remaining.  In order to surpass the Jets’ 2009 differential of 489 yards, the Steelers will have to average 50.6 fewer passing yards allowed per game than the 49ers.Pittsburgh has allowed just one 300-yard passing game in the regular season since Nov. 14, 2010 – a span of 34 games; Baltimore’s Joe Flacco hit 300 exactly in a Week 9 win in 2011, throwing the game-winning TD pass with :14 left.Dick LeBeau returned to the Steelers at the start of the 2004 season, taking on defensive coordinating duties for a team that had gone 6-10 the year before.  After allowing Rich Gannon to pass for 300 yards in Week 1, the Steelers allowed only 3 300-yard games over the next 63 games (Tom Brady twice & Drew Brees).From 2008-2011 (64 games), the Steelers allowed 6 300-yard games (Brett Favre, Bruce  Gradkowski, Aaron Rodgers, Brees, Brady & Flacco).Summary:  In the past 138 games (8+ seasons), the Steelers have allowed only 9 300-yard passing games.  In contrast, in that same time span, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has posted 22 300-yard games.     It must be noted that Tim Tebow’s game-winning 80-yard TD pass on the first play from scrimmage in OT in a 2011 wild-card playoff game against Pittsburgh gave Tebow 316 passing yards in that postseason game.In 14 Pittsburgh playoff games since 2004, the Steelers have allowed 4 passers to surpass 300 yards: Tebow, Aaron Rodgers in Super Bowl XLV (2010), Kurt Warner in SB XLIII (2008) and Phillip Rivers in 2008. The Steelers have gone 2-2 in those 4 games.The Steelers have not allowed a passer to throw for more than 177 yards in a game since Week 6 (Tennessee), and have allowed just 3 200-yard games this season (Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer and Matt Hasselbeck).STAT STUFFERSDeja vuThe “Cleveland Debacle” this past weekend surely brought back some bad memories for Pittsburgh fans of a game in this rivalry a couple decades ago that also featured 8 Steelers turnovers – but a much different final score.On Sunday, the Steelers fumbled the ball 8 times (losing 5) and tossed 3 interceptions in a 20-14 loss to the Browns that immediately brought to mind the 1989 season opener between the same two teams.Those Bubby Brister-led Steelers coughed up the ball 8 times in an utterly humiliating 51-0 home loss to their arch-rivals – the worst loss in Steelers history.  The Steelers recorded just 5 first downs and 53 total yards, and the Browns scored 3 defensive TDs (including a fumble return by the original Clay Matthews).Incidentally, that 1989 season ended in the same way for both teams, as Pittsburgh fell to Denver in the divisional playoff round, and Cleveland lost to the Broncos in another AFC Championship Game.Passing fancyPhiladelphia rookie Nick Foles threw the ball 46 times in first career start in Week 12, completing 21 passes.  How does that compare with the number of passes other active QBs threw in their first career starts?Cam Newton (CAR) was 24-for-37 against Arizona in Week 1 of 2011Peyton Manning (IND) was 21-for-37 against Miami in Week 1 of 1998Eli Manning (NYG) was 17-for-37 against Philadelphia in Week 10 of 2004Joe Flacco (BAL) was 15-for-29 against Cincinnati in Week 1 of 2008Tom Brady (NE) was 13-for-23 against Indianapolis in Week 2 of 2001Aaron Rodgers (GB) was 18-for-22 against Minnesota in Week 1 of 2008Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) was 12-for-22 against Miami in Week 2 of 2004Drew Brees (SD) was 15-for-19 against Cincinnati in Week 1 of 2002Matt Ryan (ATL) was 9-for-13 against Detroit in Week 1 of 2008
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