Toughest Single Season NFL Records to Break

John RozumCorrespondent IFebruary 1, 2013

Toughest Single Season NFL Records to Break

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    We go into every NFL season anticipating at least a few records to get broken.

    Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions stole the show throughout 2012, as he shattered Jerry Rice's single season record with 1,964 receiving yards.

    There are, however, records that are virtually impossible to break.

    One of the more recent set this century is from Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. In addition, we'll rewind all the way back to the 1952 NFL season with Dick "Night Train" Lane.

    Records can only stand for so long, but the following are the most difficult to surpass.


    Note: Full view of all records courtesy of

Passing Touchdowns

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    Tom Brady tossed 50 touchdown passes in 2007.

    That's an average of 3.12 touchdowns per game.

    Now, unsurprisingly, Brady did attempt the second-highest number of passes that season as well. But in throwing a mere eight interceptions and finishing with a 68.9 completion percentage—which was No. 1—Brady's dominance was surreal.

    Obviously the downside came from failing to win the Super Bowl, but his regular season was one to remember. And although pro football is a pass-first league right now, we're also beginning to see a reemergence of the ground attack even in pass-oriented offenses.


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    Dick "Night Train" Lane is known as one of the most frightening tacklers in NFL history.

    Planting numerous big hits on receivers and running backs, Lane was arguably better at generating turnovers.

    Well, as a rookie in 1952 with the Los Angeles Rams, Lane picked off 14 interceptions and returned them for 298 yards and two scores.

    Repeat: As a rookie.

    Not to mention, the NFL played only a 12-game season in 1952 and he capitalized on every single opportunity provided.

    Lane immediately proved his instincts and athleticism were far beyond his era. And although the NFL relies more on the passing game now, 14 interceptions is virtually incomprehensible.


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    Marvin Harrison of the Indianapolis Colts had a ridiculously consistent career.

    Certainly much of Harrison's reliability credited to Peyton Manning, but No. 88 was unstoppable against any coverage scheme.

    In the 2002 regular season, Harrison hit an unforeseen level of dependability that shattered the previous receptions record: Herman Moore of the Detroit Lions with 123 receptions in 1995.

    Harrison totaled 1,722 receiving yards and scored 11 touchdowns on 143 receptions.

    The entire campaign was a work of art, because no defense had an answer to completely contain Harrison.  Since the feat, Wes Welker has come the closest with 123 catches in 2009.

    So, it's going to be a while.


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    Jared Allen and J.J. Watt flirted with Michael Strahan's sack record, but maintaining that level of consistency will be extremely difficult.

    After amassing 22.5 sacks in 2001, Strahan only hit above 15 sacks one more time.

    Not only does that mean blocking schemes were geared toward him, but offenses adapted to Strahan's skills by utilizing quicker developing plays. Factor opponents running a bit more and the same will occur to Watt, Von Miller and Aldon Smith next season.

    Offensive lines will start adding double-teams, sending a running back their direction for extra protection and making the tight ends chip-block upon releasing downfield.

    This simply comes with the territory of establishing oneself as an elite pass-rusher.

    Without question, Watt, Miller and Smith each possess the potential to surpass Strahan, although 2013 will be a major adjustment year from opposing offenses.

Rushing Yards

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    Yes, Adrian Peterson nearly broke Eric Dickerson's record of 2,105 rushing yards.

    But much like the sack record for J.J. Watt and Co., Peterson will become an even greater emphasis for opponents in 2013.

    Plus, in an interview with Dan Patrick via Kevin Cusick of the Pioneer Press:

    "I set the mark for 2,500," Peterson said during an appearance on Dan Patrick's radio show Thursday, Jan. 31, in New Orleans. "If you reach for the stars and fall short, you're still there."

    So, that just gives defenses more incentive to stuff Peterson next season and stack the box. Include a history of the 2,000-yard running backs slowing down the following season and Peterson's odds are slim.

    Check out every 2,000-yard rusher prior to Peterson and then their subsequent campaign.

    Player 2000-Yard Season Subsequent Season
    O.J. Simpson 2,003 yards in 1973 1,125 in 1974
    Eric Dickerson 2,105 yards in 1984 1,234 in 1985
    Barry Sanders 2,053 yards in 1997 1,491 in 1998
    Terrell Davis 2,008 yards in 1998 211 yards in 1999
    Jamaal Lewis 2,066 yards in 2003 1,006 in 2004
    Chris Johnson 2,006 yards in 2009 1,364 in 2010

    For certain, Peterson proved to be the NFL's best back in 2012 after a disappointing finish to 2011. However, dancing with 2,100-plus from hereafter will be a colossal challenge.