A List of the NFL Single-Season Passing and Receiving Records Broken This Year

If you paid any attention to professional football in December you know that 2011 was a historic year for quarterback productivity.

Here is a list of the many passing and receiving records that were broken or tied during the 2011 NFL season:

Most passing yards in a single season

  • Old record: 5,084—Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins, 1984
  • Record breakers: 5,476—Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints; 5,235—Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Highest single-season quarterback rating

  • Old record: 121.1—Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts, 2004
  • Record breaker: 122.5—Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Most passing yards in a single season for a rookie

  • Old record: 3,739—Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts, 1998
  • Record breaker: 4,051—Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

Most receiving yards in a single season for a tight end

  • Old record: 1,290—Kellen Winslow, San Diego Chargers, 1980
  • Record breakers: 1,327—Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots; 1,310—Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints

Most touchdown receptions in a single season for a tight end

  • Old record: 13—Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers, 2004 and Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers, 2009
  • Record breaker: 17—Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

Most net passing yards surrendered in a single season

  • Old record: 4,541—Atlanta Falcons, 1995
  • Record breakers: 4,796—Green Bay Packers; 4,703—New England Patriots

Most 500-yard passing games in a single season

  • Old record: 1 (1951, 1962, 1982, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1996, 2000, 2006, 2009)
  • New record: 2 (Matthew Stafford, 520 in Week 17; Tom Brady, 517 in Week 1)

Most 4,000-yard passers in a single season (tie)

  • Old record: 10—2009 (Schaub, P. Manning, Romo, Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Roethlisberger, Rivers, Favre, E. Manning)
  • Tied record: 10 (Brees, Brady, Stafford, E. Manning, Rodgers, Rivers, Romo, Ryan, Roethlisberger, Newton)

Most 5,000-yard passers in a single season

  • Old Record: 1—1984 (Dan Marino) and 2008 (Drew Brees)
  • New Record: 3 (Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Matthew Stafford)

Most 3,000-yard rookie passers in a single season

  • Old Record: 1—1998 (Peyton Manning), 2008 (Matt Ryan), and 2010 (Sam Bradford)
  • New Record: 2 (Cam Newton and Andy Dalton)
Drew Brees shattered records this year with the help of his sentient Muppet football.

There’s your list. I’ll leave it to someone with more football expertise than myself to explain why all of these records went down in a single season. But I would caution you not to write off all these record-breaking performances as a consequence of rule changes to protect quarterbacks and defenseless receivers. While passing numbers have been on an upward trend since the first of these rules was put in place in the 1970s, there isn’t a single 2011 rule change that accounts for all of these records—some of which have stood since the early 1980s—falling this year.

Moving the kick-off to the 35-yard line has not had a substantial effect on starting field position. (Drew Brees’ average starting position this year was his 28.24-yard line; last year he started from the 28.64.) While the league has put a premium on player safety and banned “launching,” it has also eased roughing-the-passer rules so that a player is not penalized for grazing a quarterback’s helmet with his hand. This latter rule should have resulted in more pressure on quarterbacks.

It is also interesting that all of this happened in a year when one of the most prolific passers in league history—Peyton Manning—didn’t play and when Matt Schaub, one of the most prolific passers during the last several seasons, suffered a season-ending injury in November.

About the Author

Josh Tinley

Josh Tinley writes the Away From The Action column at Midwest Sports Fans, covering all aspects of sport aside from what actually happens on the field, court, or track. Josh grew up in Indianapolis and graduated from the University of Evansville and Vanderbilt Divinity School. He is the author of Kneeling in the End Zone: Spiritual Lessons From the World of Sports and the managing editor of LinC, a weekly curriculum for teens that explores the intersection of faith and culture. Josh lives outside Nashville with his wife, Ashlee, and children, Meyer (7), Resha Kate (5), and Malachi (3). He will not allow himself to die before the Evansville Purple Aces make another trip to the NCAA Tournament. Follow him on Twitter @joshtinley or send him an e-mail.