The 10 Most Telling Stats to Come Out of the 2021 NFL Season
From Joe Burrow's sacks (70) to Sean McVay's age (36), these figures sum up the '21 season and the game that ended it on Sunday
Following a 79-yard drive that saw LA Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford and top target Cooper Kupp play pitch and catch all the way to end zone and a 23-20 lead, Aaron Donald was able to break through the line of the Bengals and force second-year star Joe Burrow into a desperate heave that went nowhere on a fourth-and-1 with 43 seconds left in Super Bowl LVI, giving the Rams the win and officially closing the book on 2021 NFL season.
And, from Tom Brady retiring to Antonio Brown losing his mind to Aaron Rodgers being Aaron Rodgers, what a season it was. Below, we attempt to chart the biggest storylines of the Super Bowl and the season that preceded it via 10 of the most surprising, salient and sometimes suspicious statistics that were recorded since the season kicked off last August.
The number of years Rams head coach Sean McVay has been alive. At 36 years and 20 days old, McVay became the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl in NFL history, surpassing Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who won Super Bowl XLIII at 36 years, 323 days old. McVay’s counterpart on the Bengals, Zac Taylor, is just 38. Rams offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, 40, was the oldest player to take the field in in Super Bowl LVI and was the oldest offensive lineman to ever start a Super Bowl.
The number of consecutive penalty calls that were made to keep the Rams’ eventual game-winning drive alive. Although all three calls were questionable, the most egregious was the defensive holding call that was made on Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson on third-and-goal with just 1:48 left to play in the game.
The number of times Burrow was sacked in the 2021 regular season and postseason, the third most in NFL history. Of those 70 sacks, seven came in Sunday’s championship game, tying a Super Bowl record. Donald had two of those sacks and Von Miller had two of his own. Only David Carr (76 while playing for Houston in the first year of the Texans expansion franchise in 2002) and Randall Cunningham (72 in 1986) were sacked more than Burrow, who suffered a torn ACL as a rookie and also injured his knee during the Super Bowl.
The number of dollars players on the Rams took home after beating the Bengals in the Super Bowls. Players for the losers collected $75,000 checks. Players for both the Rams and Bengals earned $150,000 in playoff bonuses from their victories leading up to the big game. Following the first Super Bowl in 1967, winners received $15,000 each and the losers walked away with $7,500.
The number of quarterback sacks Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt had for the Pittsburgh Steelers to tie Michael Strahan’s single-season record despite missing nearly four games with injuries. Watt had an NFL-best 15 sacks last season but lost out on DOPY honors to Donald.
The number of NFL franchises that have yet to win a Super Bowl. The Bengals could have changed that number to 11 if they had won on Sunday in the club’s third Super Bowl appearance. Appearing in the Super Bowl for the first time in 33 years, the Bengals were the fifth team to have a rookie (Ja’Marr Chase) lead them in receiving yards (1,455 yards) and reach the Super Bowl. All five teams lost the Super Bowl.
The number of first-place Aaron Rodgers received to bring home the NFL MVP award. Brady (10) and Kupp (one) were the only other players to receive votes. The MVP award was the fourth for Rodgers and his second in a row. While leading the Packers to a 13-4 record, Rodgers threw for 4,115 yards and 37 touchdowns with four interceptions. While guiding the Bucs to a 13-4 record, Brady threw for 5,316 yards and 43 touchdown with 12 interceptions. Kupp became just the fourth receiver ever to win the triple crown (most receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns), and first since Steve Smith in 2005.
The number of catches Kupp had during the 2021 regular season and postseason combined, an NFL record. Randy Moss scored an NFL-record 24 receiving touchdowns combined during the 2007 regular season and postseason. Kupp had 22 this season and was named the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year.
The number of interceptions Dallas cornerback Trevon Diggs had in 16 games for the Cowboys this season. Diggs was the first player in the past 40 years to record at least 11 interceptions, joining former Cowboy Everson Walls, who accomplished the feat in 1981. Last season, Diggs only had three picks in 12 games for Dallas.
The number of consecutive playoff games the Rams won to capture the championship. Last season’s champs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, also did not benefit from a first-round bye week, and had to win four in a row to lock up the title. During the regular season, the Rams also had a four-game winning streak as well as a five-game winning streak, a three-game winning streak and a three-game losing streak.
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