Big Game Data

We use Qlik Sense to analyze every NFL championship scoring play.

Every year since 1967, the NFL season has culminated with a championship that pits the league’s conference champions against each other. The popularity of the game has exploded over the years. For example, during the initial game broadcast, a 30 second TV commercial cost $42K.

For this year’s game, the price tag is $5.01 million. As we start the countdown for the kickoff of this year’s game, I thought it would be interesting to look back to see how every point was scored in each of the 50 big games.

As is always the case, data is the key. I went to my favorite source for football data pro-football and I combed through the box score for each game and created a file that includes game number, quarter, scoring team, type of score, scoring player, passer (for passing scores), yardage (where available), and points awarded for the score. According to the data, there have been a total of 663 scores. These include touchdowns (Offensive/Defensive/Special Teams), extra points, field goals, 2-point conversions, safeties, etc.

As I started analyzing the data, I was taken back to my first memories of watching the big game. It was January 20th 1980. The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Los Angeles Rams 31-19. I can’t remember where I watched the game, but I remember Terry Bradshaw’s 74-yard touchdown pass to John Stallworth. Through additional analysis of the data, I discovered that it was the last of his 9 career touchdown passes in the championship game. Some additional discoveries included the following:

Total Points Scored

Joe Montana (76) and Tom Brady (76) have accounted for the most points scored in the championship. Both are credited for 13 touchdowns, Montana had 11 passing and 2 rushing. Brady’s touchdowns were all passing touchdowns.

The #NFL championshp game is coming up: who has the most TDs? FGs? Just ask #QlikSense!

Interesting fact: Kicker Adam Vinatieri rounds out the top 10 scoring accumulating 34 points.

Passing TD Combos

The leading passing touchdown combo in big game history is Joe Montana to Jerry Rice. The pair hooked up a total of 4 times. There are 5 other QB-WR combinations that have connected 3 times over their careers.

Interesting fact: Jerry Rice appears in top 4 of this list twice, at #1 with his 4 touchdown catches from Joe Montana and at #4 with his 3 touchdowns from Steve Young.

Passing Distribution

Tom Brady tops the list with 11 different receivers catching touchdown passes from him. Roger Staubach (7) and Joe Montana (6) round out the top three.

Interesting fact: The two pass catchers who have caught more than one touchdown from Tom Brady are Mike Vrabel (2) and David Givens (2).

Overall Scoring Stats

Scoring by Type

In the history of the big game, not surprisingly, extra points are the most common scoring type (245), followed by Passing TD (147), Field Goals (129), and Rush TD (92). There have also been 14 interception returns and 10 kickoff returns.

Interesting fact: Once in championship game history was there ever more than one kickoff return in a single game. It was in year 35 where the Giants' Ron Dixon returned a kickoff 97 yards to be quickly followed up by the Ravens' Jermaine Lewis who took the ensuing kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown.

Scores by Game and Type

It was game number 29 which saw the highest number of scores (21). Game 29 also saw the most touchdowns scored (10). There were 7 Passing TDs, 2 Rushing TDs, and a kickoff TD.

Interesting Fact: Only 3 games did not have a Rushing TD (10, 15, 23) while 4 games did not include a Passing TD (3, 8, 28, 50)

Some additional interesting facts:

  • Longest TD: Jacoby Jones (108 yards) kickoff return in the 3rd quarter of game 47.
  • Longest TD Run: Willie Parker (75 yards) in the 3rd quarter of game 40.
  • Longest TD Pass: Mushin Muhammad / Jake Delhomme (85 yards) in the 4thquarter of game 38.
  • Longest Interception Return TD: James Harrison (100 yards) in the 2nd quarter of game 43.
  • Longest Fumble Return TD: Mike Bass (49 yards) in the 4th quarter of game 7.
  • Longest Field Goal: Steve Christie (54 yards) in the 1st quarter of game 28.
  • Most Rush TD: Emmitt Smith (5) in games 27 (1), 28 (2), and 30 (2).
  • Most Receiving TD: Jerry Rice (8) in games 23 (1), 24 (3), 29 (3), and 37 (1)
  • Most Passing TD: Tom Brady (13) in games 36 (1), 38 (3), 39 (2), 42 (1), 46 (2), and 49 (4)
  • Passing TD Distribution: Tom Brady (11 different receivers)
  • Receiving TD Distribution: Jerry Rice (3 different quarterbacks)
  • Most Active Scoring Quarter: 2nd quarter (193 scores)
  • Most Scores by Type: Extra Point (245 times)
  • Most Scores in a Single Game: San Francisco 49ers vs. San Diego Chargers (21 scores)

As you can see, there are so many angles that you can analyze within the data. Feel free to use these interesting facts to impress your friends and family on game day.


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