Does 2014 Already Have the Most Comebacks in NFL History?
Down 28-3 with less than three minutes remaining, the Cleveland Browns had to have their doubts. Who wouldn’t. They can feed the media lines like, “No matter what the scoreboard says the guys on offense are really good at just focusing on the job we have to do and the task at hand” if they want to, but I don’t buy it. Some players on the Browns sideline had to be thinking about seeing their families after the game, or who they were playing the next week. Even after they scored before halftime to make it 28-10, there had to be Browns players hunched over in the locker room, staring at the floor, despondent.
Silly Browns – no lead is safe in 2014. Everyone knows that. The Browns, by the way, would go on to win the game, completing the 25 point-comeback to win 29-28. They even had time to spare, 1:09 still on the clock when they took the lead. It was the biggest road comeback in NFL history. Perhaps equally remarkable? The Browns hadn’t won a road game since September of 2013. But hey, the Browns are used to comebacks this season, on the road and at home. And so is everybody else.
In 2014, no lead seems safe. Sixteen teams have rallied from 10 or more points to win. Nine teams have rallied from deficits of 13 or more points. And five teams have come back down 17 or more points. The Eagles rallied from deficits of 17, 14 and 10 to win their first three games. Before the Browns squashed the Titans on Sunday, the Cowboys had the biggest comeback so far this season, beating the Rams after trailing by 21 points. Clearly, everyone’s getting in on the fun.
But is this the most comebacks in NFL history through Week 5?
Not quite. And it’s the not too distant past that has this year beat. Two-thousand-eleven, it turns out, set some pretty impressive records for comebacks. Through Week 5 in 2011, there were 18 comebacks from double digits, and 11 from a deficit of 14 or more. And get this – there were four rallies down 20 points or more. All those numbers either shattered or equaled previous season totals for comebacks, and they were only in the first five weeks.
What does this mean? Pretty much the same things it did in 2011. First, as the season progresses, these numbers will likely normalize, as they did in 2011. Second, much to the NFL’s delight, parity is alive and well, even if a team has the misfortune of trailing by two touchdowns. Third, as the rules get stricter for defenders and more relaxed for receivers, quarterbacks are becoming more successful at marching the football down the field. Fourth, as passing numbers go up and running becomes de-emphasized in offenses, teams have a harder time preserving a lead by running the ball.
So, if 2014 is anything like 2011, these comebacks will likely be a flash in the pan. Still, records are only records until they aren’t – since 2011, both the passing yardage and touchdown records have fallen. Maybe 2014 is the Year of The Comeback.