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Most Passing Yards in an NFL Game

In 1951, Rams QB Norm Van Brocklin broke the record held by Johnny Lujack.

Norm Van Brocklin’s Passing Record

In 1951, one of the most famous records in pro football history was set in Week 1 of the NFL season. The game was played on a Friday night, in late September. The Los Angeles Rams easily beat the New York Yanks, 54-14, but the game’s remembered for a long-standing NFL passing record.

Norm Van Brocklin threw his way into the NFL record book by throwing for a record 554 yards that game. That record still stands going into the 2021 NFL season. Van Brocklin threw five touchdowns in that game, four of them to Elroy Hirsch.

There are a lot of interesting facts about that particular NFL season opener. Although Van Brocklin threw five touchdowns, he almost had six. His receiver was pulled down at the one-yard line. Another interesting note is that Van Brocklin also added a rushing touchdown in the game.

Record-Setting Game Not Quite Perfect

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PHOTO OF NORM VAN BROCKLIN. Note the white football often used for televised night games.

Van Brocklin was far from perfect that night, however. He threw two interceptions. He also assisted on one of the Yanks’ two touchdowns when he tossed a pitch out that was nabbed by a defender and ran back for a touchdown.

Another interesting fact is that Norm Van Brocklin wasn’t the only Rams player to throw the ball that day. The Rams tried a trick play with end Tom Keane throwing the ball. That play ended up an interception.

Most Offensive Yards in an NFL Game

Norm Van Brocklin’s passing record wasn’t the only record set during the game. As a team, the Rams racked up 735 yards and that is a single-game record that still stands going into the 2021 season. (NOTE: some stat books state the Rams gained 722 yards, still a record.) The two teams combined for a league record of 1,133 yards, which still stands as a regular season record. The total stood as an all-time record for any game until the Eagles and Patriots combined to break that record in Super Bowl 52. The Rams also set a record for most first downs in a game with 34 that has since been broken. But all of that happened in the NFL’s season opener on a Friday. All the other games that week were played that Sunday.

You might wonder how many passing yards Norm Van Brocklin had that year. He only ended up with 1,775 passing. The most yards he had in a game the rest of the season was 167 yards against San Francisco. He threw for 162 yards in a rematch against the New York Yanks that season. The reason for Van Brocklin comparatively low season total is that he split time at quarterback with another Hall of Famer, Bob Waterfield. Waterfield missed the first game due to an injury, but he was already back playing at quarterback the next week.

Van Brocklin’s record, incredibly, turns 70 years old at the start of the 2021 NFL season.

1951 Los Angeles Rams Won the NFL Championship

The Rams won the 1951 NFL Championship Game. The New York Yanks folded after the season was over.

One last nugget of information about the game: The Yanks’ starting quarterback in that game was John Rauch, who also was head coach of the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl II.

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