Best NFL offense of all-time
Page 2 staff

Previously, Page 2 has listed the best and worst NFL teams of all time. Now we're going to be a bit one-sided and present our top 10 NFL offenses.

1. St. Louis Rams (2000)
St. Louis Rams
St. Louis averaged 33.8 points per game in 2000, about a point more than in 1999, when the Rams were also an offensive powerhouse, and a couple more than in 2001. Those three years together guarantee the Kurt Warner-Marshall Faulk offense a permanent place in NFL history, but what makes the 2000 season stand out is that the offense did it with relatively little help from the D, which was the worst in the NFL. In their first six games, the Rams averaged 43.7 points a game. Then they were thrown for a bit of a loop when Warner missed five games with a broken pinky.

But Warner, who played only 11 games, averaged 9.9 yards per pass attempt, and his backup, Trent Green, played eight games that would have been, statistically, the envy of just about any other NFL starter. Together, the two QBs combined for 5,492 yards in the air. Faulk, meanwhile, scored 28 touchdowns; he ran for 1,359 yards, averaging 5.4 yards per carry; he also caught 81 passes for 830 yards, averaging 10.2 yards a catch. Wide receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce each caught 80-plus passes.

The key here is the Rams' 2000 offense remained great despite Warner's injury and despite the fact every NFL defense knew what was coming. "The Rams created a mystique last year with how explosive they were," said Panthers safety Eugene Robinson late in the season. "Their defense could give up 35 points, and they'd put up 50 points. Everybody was like, 'Oh, man, they're the greatest thing since sliced bread.' Rightfully so. Now, all you need to do is have a very good defense, play sound ball, keep things in front, and don't give up the big play."


2. Washington Redskins (1983)
Washington Redskins
The '83 'Skins scored 541 points during the regular season, the second-highest total in NFL history, and, except for their 38-9 Super Bowl loss to the Raiders, never scored fewer than 23 points in a game. How'd they do it? Joe Theismann, John Riggins and the Hogs. Theismann completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,714 yards and 29 TDs. Riggins carried 375 times, bulldozing his way to 1,347 yards and 24 TDs. They had some help, too -- from Joe Washington, who rushed for 772 yards, an average of 5.3 per carry, and caught 47 passes; from wide receiver Charlie Brown, who caught 78 passes for 1,225 yards and eight TDs; from Art Monk, who played only 12 games but caught 47 passes; and from kicker Mark Moseley, who booted 161 points through the uprights.

3. Minnesota Vikings (1998)
Minnesota Vikings
The 15-1 Vikings broke Washington's offensive scoring mark (see above) in 1998, putting 556 points on the board -- an average of almost 35 per game. Defensive backfields had nightmares before playing the Vikings, having spent the week trying to figure out how to stop both Cris Carter and Randy Moss. They couldn't cheat because running back Robert Smith was a threat on the ground, running for 1,187 yards, an average of 4.8 yards per carry. QB Randall Cunningham completed 61 percent of his passes, throwing 34 TD passes while being picked off only 10 times (backup QB Brad Johnson threw for another seven TDs). And the kicker? Gary Anderson had a perfect season, and the best season by a kicker, nailing all 35 of his field-goal attempts and every extra-point attempt, for a total 164 points.

The Vikings offense was, simply put, explosive. Eighty-five plays went for 20-plus yards. "They've got an awful lot of weapons," said Vince Tobin, who was the 1985 Bears' defensive coordinator. "It's hard to spot a weakness you can really hone in on. They set all those records, and they didn't do it with mirrors."

4. Miami Dolphins (1984)
Miami Dolphins
Two words can tell the tale of Miami's offense in 1984: Dan Marino. The smart mammals scored an average of 32 points per game, and almost all the credit goes to Marino's arm. He passed for an NFL-record 5,084 yards and an NFL-record 48 touchdowns. But let's be fair: The receivers were no slouches, and the offensive line provided superb protection. Wide receivers Mark Clayton and Mark "Super" Duper were a formidable duo. Eighteen of Clayton's 73 receptions were for TDs, an NFL record; he averaged 19 yards a catch. Duper caught 71 balls for 1,306 yards and eight TDs. Tony Nathan had 61 catches coming out of the backfield. And Marino was sacked only 14 times in the 18 games leading up to the Super Bowl.

"I've never seen a team that could pass the way they do, week in and week out," said Steelers coach Chuck Noll after the Dolphins rolled over Pittsburgh 45-28 in the AFC championship game. "It's like a writer winning the Pulitzer Prize every week."

5. San Diego Chargers (1981)
San Diego Chargers
San Diego averaged 30 points a game in 1981, thanks to the strength of Dan Fouts' arm. He threw 609 times, completing 360 passes for 4,802 yards -- all NFL records. The Chargers also set a record for total yards, traveling almost four miles on the football field (6,744 yards, to be exact). Obviously, Fouts didn't do it alone. All-Pro tight end Kellen Winslow caught 89 passes for 1,290 yards to lead the league, Charlie Joiner had 70 catches for 1,188 yards, and Wes Chandler added 52 grabs for 857 yards.

Meanwhile, Chuck Muncie kept defenses honest by rushing for 1,144 yards and 19 TDs. When, in 1984, the Chargers went up for sale for $70 million, ESPN golf announcer Gary McCord made an on-air offer: "Tell owner Gene Klein I'll pay him $35 million for them, and he can keep the defense."

6. Los Angeles Rams (1950)
The 1950 L.A. Rams, featuring future Hall of Fame QBs Norm Van Brocklin and Bob Waterfield and future HOF receivers Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch and Tom Fears, hold the NFL record for points per game -- they averaged 38.8 during the regular season. One week, the Rams beat the Colts 70-27. The next week, they beat the Lions 65-24, scoring 41 points in the third quarter.

The Rams offense set 22 records in 1950, including most passing yards and most total yards. Fears caught a remarkable 84 passes for 1,116 yards in the 12-game season, including a record 18 against the Packers; he also caught seven passes for 198 yards in the divisional playoff. The Rams featured three 1950 All-Pro linemen -- Dick Huffman, Bob Reinhard and Fred Naumetz -- paving the way for an excellent running game, with 1946 Heisman winner Glenn Davis, 1950 All-Pro Dick Hoerner and Paul Barry.

7. San Francisco 49ers (1994)
San Francisco 49ers
Steve Young set an NFL record with a 112.8 QB rating. Translated into real numbers: Young completed more than 70 percent of his passes for 3,969 yards, throwing for 35 TDs. His main target was, of course, Jerry Rice, who caught 112 passes for 1,499 yards and 13 TDs. Meanwhile, Ricky Watters caught 66 passes out of the backfield, and Brent Jones snagged another 49 from the tight end slot. The 49ers, who had nine current or former Pro Bowlers on offense, scored 505 points in 1994, averaging 32 a game. Then came the postseason: Watters set an NFL playoff record with five TDs as the Niners beat the Bears 44-15 in the divisional matchup; the 49ers won the NFC title game over the Cowboys, 38-28; and then, in the Super Bowl, the Niners beat the Chargers 49-26 behind Young's six TD passes. Average postseason points per game: 44.

8. New York Giants (1963)
New York Giants
Remember that great photo of Y.A. Tittle kneeling on the field, blood streaming down his face? That's what it took in the early 1960s NFL, if you wanted to put points on the board the way his Giants did. Tittle, on his way to becoming MVP, led the NFL's highest scoring offense (448 points in 14 games, despite being shut out by the Steelers in the second game of the season), completing 60 percent of his passes for 3,145 yards and 36 touchdowns. Protecting Tittle: Hall of Fame tackle Roosevelt Brown. Tittle's favorite targets: Wide receiver Del Shofner, who caught 64 passes for 1,181 yards, an average of 18.5 yards per catch, and Hall of Famer Frank Gifford, who caught 42 passes for 657 yards and seven TDs from the flanker slot.

9. Chicago Bears (1941)
Chicago Bears
The Bears went 10-1 in 1941, scoring 396 points, an average of 36 per game. George McAffee was second in the NFL in rushing, carrying the ball 65 times for 474 yards and 12 touchdowns, tops in the NFL. Norm Standlee was fourth in rushing, with 414 yards. Sid Luckman led all QBs by completing 57.1 percent of his passes. And they did this all outdoors.

10. Green Bay Packers (1962)
Green Bay Packers
When you can power sweep your way to almost 30 points a game, you've got yourself a ground game. Fullback Jim Taylor, behind one of the greatest offensive lines of all time (tackle Forrest Gregg, guards Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston and center Jim Ringo, All-Pros all), led the league in rushing with 1,474 yards, and scored an NFL record 19 TDs. Bart Starr led the NFL in passing, completing 62.5 percent of his passes for 2,438 yards. Meanwhile, the Packers outscored opponents 415-148.

Also receiving votes:

  • Houston Oilers (1961)
  • Dallas Cowboys (1966, 1968)
  • Baltimore Colts (1958)
  • St. Louis Rams (2001)
  • Los Angeles Rams (1951, 1952, 1953)
  • San Diego Chargers (1982)
  • Kansas City Chiefs (1966)
  • San Francisco 49ers (1987)


    The Readers' List: Worst college football teams of all time

    The Readers' List: Best college football teams of all time

    The List: Worst sports movies ever

    The List: Best sports movie actresses

    The List: Best sports movie moments

    The List: Best actors in a sports movie

    The Readers' List: Greatest NFL teams of all time

    The Readers' List: Worst NFL teams of all time

    The Readers' List: Worst baseball deadline trades of all time

    The Readers' List: Most shocking moment in NFL history

    The Readers' List: Most shocking moment in baseball history

    The Readers' List: Greediest owners in sports

    The Readers' List: Worst sports innovations

    The Readers' List: Overpaid baseball players

    The Readers' List: Greatest U.S. women's sports moments

    The Readers' List: Most painful losses in baseball history

    The Readers' List: Best NBA Finals performances

    The Readers' List: Biggest chokes in Stanley Cup playoff history

    The Readers' List: Biggest cheaters in baseball history

    The Readers' List: Dirtiest professional team players

    The Readers' List: Worst championship teams

    The Readers' List: Best NHL playoff performances

    The Readers' List: Most overpaid NBA players

    The Readers' List: Most disappointing teams of past year

    The Readers' List: All-time clutch performers

    The Readers' List: Worst choke artists of all-time

    The Readers' List: Big-game college hoops coaches

    Readers' list: Worst teams to be a fan of

    Email story
    Most sent
    Print story

    espn Page 2 index