The Seventy-Point Games
By Chris Lawton
If you were watching the NFL games this Sunday then you saw something truly remarkable happening in the Week 3 game between the Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos. That is because the Dolphins posted 70 points in a game. A feat so rare it hasn’t been seen in an NFL game since 1966.
In fact, there have only ever been four games in which a team has scored 70 points or more. Three came in the regular season, and the most famous one of all came in the 1940 NFL Championship game.
In honour of a historic game from the Dolphins setting a franchise record for scoring, I thought it would be fun to look back at the 70-point games. So, let’s look at them in historical order from first to latest.
Chicago 73 Washington 0 December 8th, 1940
The most one-sided score in NFL history came in a championship game and changed the way the game was played on offense.
The Bears had actually gone into the 1940 title match 8-3, scoring less and allowing more points than their 9-2 opponents that day. So, what happened & why were they so dominant in this game?
It’s all about the T-formation and the development of the quarterback position. Ironic really as Redskins passer slingin’ Sammy Baugh led the league in passing that year too. (With 1,367 yards – the NFL has changed somewhat over the years!).
The Bears won the toss and received the ball. They returned the ball to the 25. A slice of luck came when the ball was knocked loose but went out of bounds.
Chicago wanted to know if Washington would employ the same D as last time out. They had three scripted plays to see to start out with to test just that.
The first play was an 8-yard gain from McAfee. Luckman saw the same 5-3-3 D from their 7-3 defeat to Washington earlier in the season and called the next play accordingly. Halas called an off-tackle play to Osmanski, George Wilson threw a great block and Osmanski ran 68 yards to open the scoring.
The home crowd had something to cheer on the ensuing kickoff as it was brought back 62 yards to the Chicago 32 before Osmanski made the tackle. Three and out and a missed Field Goal followed. Which pretty much proved to be the high point for Washington.
The Bears predominantly ran out of the T, gaining 406 yards on the ground, and 507 yards overall. They scored 11 unanswered touchdowns in all, and by the end of the game were running or passing for extra points so as not to lose any more balls kicked into the stands.
You can read a fantastically detailed account of the title game over at goldenrankings.com.
Los Angeles Rams 70 Baltimore 27 October 22nd, 1950
It took a decade for another team to hit the 70-point mark, and this one came in the regular season. The 1950 Rams were an explosive team that still hold the NFL record for most points scored per game (38.8) which they managed by accruing 466 points in an 11-game season – which they finished 8-3.
Going into their contest with the Colts the Rams were 2-2 and coming off a 56-20 drubbing away at the Eagles. They would respond by winning seven of their next eight games and scoring 43 points or more in five of them.
Los Angeles’s 466 points scored in 1950 were the most scored by any team in the 1950s, and more than 70 points more than the next-closest team. Which, as it turned out, was the 1951 Rams! The Greatest Show on Turf clearly had a Hollywood predecessor.
The Rams racked up 535 yards of offense, 347 through the air, and 188 on the ground whilst scoring 5 passing TDs, 4 rushing TDs, and one by return.
These Colts were not today’s Colts. The Baltimore Colts came over from the AAFC in 1950 and promptly went 1-11 and folded after one season. A new Baltimore Colts team was established in 1953 and controversially moved to Indianapolis before the 1984 season.
So did the Rams score this many points because these Colts were so bad? You could argue that, but remarkably, the following week the Rams beat the Detroit Lions 65-24, meaning they had racked up 135 points in just two games!
They would make the 1950 NFL championship game but lose 30-28 to another AAFC ‘invader’ that had merged into the NFL, the Cleveland Browns.
Washington Redskins 72 NY Giants 41 November 27th,1966
Prior to the Dolphins’ barrage against the Broncos this week, this was the last 70-point game for an NFL team. It remains the highest-scoring game in NFL history.
Washington jumped to a 13-0 lead after one quarter and never relinquished the lead. Although that first quarter hardly heralded what was to come. Washington scored 21, 14, and 24 points in the next three quarters while the Giants tallied 14, 14, and 13!
Unlike the Bears and Rams before them, this 70-point team did not make the NFL title game. In fact, they finished 7-7 and well out of the playoffs. This game was an astonishing anomaly as the most they scored the rest of the season was 34 points.
In this one, they had 3 passing TDs, 4 rushing TDs and had 2 pick-sixes, and a return TD along the way.
Miami Dolphins 70 Denver Broncos 20 September 24th, 2023
Prior to this week, the highest-scoring performance of the 21st Century in the NFL had come from the New Orleans Saints when they outscored the Indianapolis Cots 62-7 in October 2011. That year the Saints finished 13-3 and put up 547 points.
As stated above the Dolphins set a franchise record in this game with their 70-point outburst. They also became the first team to have 5 passing and 5 rushing touchdowns in the same game in NFL history. All 10 touchdowns came on offense on this occasion.
The Dolphins now stand at 3-0 and have scored 130 points in three games. Dolphins’ fans are no doubt extremely excited right now, but a note of caution. Aside from the 1940 Bears who were legitimising the T-Formation none of these 70-point teams went on to win a championship.
For now, however, we have all seen history being made in Week 3 of the 2023 NFL season – and that is something we all should be grateful for witnessing (unless you support the Broncos).
Chris originally started following the NFL with the ‘first wave’ of fans when it was shown on Channel 4 in the 1980’s. He has been a keen supporter of the Miami Dolphins since 1983. Chris first encountered the CFL in 2016 and instantly fell in love with the Canadian game. He has been writing about the CFL 2017. Chris has a degree in history, postgraduate degree in librarianship and can be found on twitter as @CFLfanUK