Fifty-point outings are pretty rare in the NFL. When teams do break the half-century barrier, it’s usually the result of an exceptional individual performance; in 26 of the NFL’s 36 50-point games since 2006,Total QBR data.">1 the high-scoring team’s primary passer2 posted a score of 90 or better on Total QBR’s 0-to-100 scale, where 50 is average.
Only twice in the past decade has a team dropped 50 or more on an opponent despite its quarterback having a QBR below league average. The first was a mediocre Jay Cutler game from 2012, in which Cutler had a QBR of 43.8 — not horrendous, though also not what you think of when you envision a 50-point offensive outburst. The second happened Sunday, in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ out-of-nowhere 51-16 romp over the tailspinning Indianapolis Colts. Because, despite his team’s huge scoring output, Jags QB Blake Bortles posted an impossibly low 3.8 QBR for the game:
Since 2006, Bortles’s QBR was easily the worst by the QB on a team that scored at least 50 points. Or 45. Or even 40. Among teams scoring 30 or more points, only Eli Manning’s microscopic 0.2 QBR in this 38-21 win against the Buffalo Bills was worse. (Naturally, Eli followed up that stinker with a near-upset of the 15-0 New England Patriots and then won four straight games, including the Super Bowl.) The average sub-5.0-QBR game yields a shade under 9.9 points. Overcoming that kind of performance, much less stacking another 40 points of production on top of it, requires something remarkable.
In Manning’s case, it was two long rushing touchdowns and two defensive touchdowns. For Jacksonville, it was a couple of return touchdowns — a fumble and a punt — plus a dangerous Bortles pass to Allen Hurns that was nearly intercepted but instead turned into an 80-yard touchdown. The latter was likely scored as a bad pass despite its good result, which is one of the selling points for QBR — that its individual inputs and charting make it a better representation of play than traditional QB rating (which put Bortles at 114.6). But then, the black-box mechanics of QBR can also lead to wacky results; the formula, with all its credit-splitting and other arcana, undeniably makes more sense on a season-long scale than in single games.
Even so, outliers as extreme as Bortles’s win don’t come along every week — or every decade. Fifty-point games are rare, but ones in which the quarterback is so immaterial to the product are all but non-existent.