Monday, November 14, 2005

30-point types

XXX? Aie-yai-yai!

With two minutes left in Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens, Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Mike Peterson intercepted a pass and ran it back 26 yards for a touchdown. The touchdown -- which I will not refer to as a "pick six," and neither should you -- pushed the final score to Jaguars 30, Ravens 3, which means Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio can finally move beyond the question that has haunted his dreams: "When are you guys going to score more than 30 points?"

The Jags had gone an astounding 58 straight games, more than three full seasons, without cracking 30 points. The last time they put up 30 or more was in Week 11 of the 2001 season, when they beat Minnesota 33-3. Tom Coughlin was still the Jaguars' coach then, and Mark Brunell was still their quarterback. Byron Leftwich was in his second year as a starter ... at Marshall. The Patriots hadn't won any Super Bowls. The Texans didn't exist. It was a long time ago, is what I'm saying. The Cardinals were still awful, though.

How long was the Jaguars' streak? After it ended, the team with the longest such stretch was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at just 14 games -- since a 35-3 victory over the always-good-for-ails-you 49ers in Week 11 last year. The Buccaneers would hold the distinction of having the longest sub-30 streak for less than three hours; they beat the Redskins 36-35 later Sunday.

Jacksonville's streak was truly remarkable. It's not easy to go a full season without scoring 30 points, let alone three and a half seasons. Last year's 49ers, who went 2-14 and weren't even as good as their record would indicate, topped 30 points twice, as did the 2-14 Bengals of 2002 and the 1-15 Chargers of 2000. Even the 1-15 Panthers of 2001 did it once. In the five-year period 2000-04, there were 158 teams to play a full season. Fifteen, fewer than one in 10, failed to score 30 in a game. The Jaguars had three of those seasons, as did the Bears. (Others: Cowboys 2, Cardinals 2, Texans 2, Browns 1, Giants 1, Lions 1.)

So who will reporters start bothering next? Who's got the longest streak of scoring less than 30? Glad you asked:

Browns 14
Texans 14
Bills 11
Jets 11
Ravens 9

The next challenge for Del Rio and his boys is to score 40 points. After all, it's been nearly five years since a Jaguars team did that, one of the longest such stretches in the NFL. The Houston Texans have never scored 40, but they've only been in the league since 2002. This chart (damn, I love charts!) shows the teams, besides Houston, that have gone the longest without scoring 40. Listed are the year, week, opponent and score of the last 40-point game (SB=Super Bowl):

(Don't ask me why this blank space is here. I've rebuilt the table several times, and it keeps appearing.)

Bears1993 4 Buccaneers 47-17
Cardinals 2000 10Lions 45-38
Jaguars 2000 15Cardinals 44-10
Panthers 2002 14Bengals 52-31
Buccaneers2002 SBRaiders 48-21

That isn't a misprint. Chicago hasn't scored more than 40 points in a game in more than a decade. No team comes within seven years of that mark. When we say that the Bears have been cursed with weak quarterbacking, we aren't just talking about the last few years. This didn't start with Kyle Orton (or Jonathan Quinn or Craig Krenzel or Steve Stenstrom or Cade McNown or Shane Matthews or Moses Moreno or Steve Walsh or any of the hundred other stiffs the Bears have thrown under center). One thing that doesn't show up in the chart above: The Cleveland Browns scored 48 points in a game last year, their most since they returned to the league in 1999. And yet it came in a loss to the Bengals, 58-48. That's what it means to be the Browns nowadays.

There's one more milestone to consider, and that's the elusive 50-point mark. All but three teams have scored 50 in a game. Those that haven't are the Texans (only 3 years old), the Ravens (9 years old), and the Buccaneers, who are close to 30 years old but who seem to hold most marks for historical futility. Aside from those three, what team has gone the longest? You might be surprised. This chart ranks teams in order of how recently they've scored 50 (SB=Super Bowl; PO=playoffs):

Redskins 2005 7 49ers 52-17
Packers 2005 5 Saints 52-3
Colts 2004 13Titans 51-24
Bengals 2004 12Browns 58-48
Chiefs 2004 7 Falcons 56-10
49ers 2003 14Cardinals50-14
Panthers 2002 14Bengals 52-31
Raiders 2002 4 Titans 52-25
Rams 2000 5 Chargers 57-31
Jaguars 1999 PODolphins 62-7
Vikings 1998 16Jaguars 50-10
Falcons 1998 5 Falcons 51-23
Lions 1997 14Bears 55-20
Eagles 1995 POLions 58-37
Dolphins 1995 1 Jets 52-14
Cowboys 1992 SBBills 52-17
Bills 1991 2 Steelers 52-34
Titans 1990 14Browns 58-14
Browns 1989 1 Steelers 51-0
Giants 1986 16Packers 55-24
Jets 1986 3 Dolphins 51-45
Chargers 1986 1 Dolphins 50-28
Steelers 1984 13Chargers 52-24
Patriots 1984 12Colts 50-17
Seahawks 1983 13Chiefs 51-48
Bears 1980 14Packers 61-7
Saints 1976 11Seahawks 51-27
Cardinals1963 4 Vikings 56-14
Broncos 1963 4 Chargers 50-34

When a team racks up 50 points, it often says as much about the opponent as it does about the team itself. A team that gives up 50 isn't necessarily a bad team. It's a team that's been overwhelmed, a team that falls so far behind so early that it gives up trying to stop the bleeding and just hopes to get out of the game in one piece.

So to Jack Del Rio and the Jacksonville Jaguars, relax for a week. Revel in your 30-point Sunday. Then get cracking on a 40-point game. Or kill two birds with one stone with a 50-pointer. Keep chopping wood, fellas.

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