NFL: 3 Games With the Most Penalties in History

Tony Romo talks to an official

Elsa/Getty Images

If it feels like we’re beating a dead horse by continuing to talk about Sunday’s disastrous game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys, good. That’s the point. We honestly don’t think it’s possible to emphasis how truly terrible this game was on the eyes.

If you’re a Cowboys fan, then you’ve probably spent the entire day trying to figure out how your team is going to survive the next few weeks without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. If you’re a Philly fan, well, you’re probably just trying to figure out whether or not the Eagles will be able to survive the rest of the 2015 season. At this point, your guess is as good as ours.

However, if you’re one of those people who was forced to endure this terrible mess of a rivalry showdown, and you don’t have any skin in the game, then we feel equally bad for you. Because we checked the numbers and, yes, the contest really was that awful. Especially from a penalties standpoint.

According to the team stats collected by ESPN, these two teams combined for 26 penalties. The Cowboys, alone, were called for 18 infractions, which in turn cost the team 142 yards. What’s more interesting, is that we thought there were even more penalties on the afternoon; that’s how often we saw yellow flags being thrown. And while this game happened to be the one that stood out for us, this wasn’t the only contest where it felt like a lot of penalties were being called.

Of course, after taking a look at the numbers, it turns out that none of these 2015 games have seen as many penalties called as some of those contests in the past. Therefore, in order to keep you informed, here’s a look at the three games with the most combined penalties in NFL history.

3. October 4, 1998: San Francisco 49ers 21 at Buffalo Bills 26

Steve Young throws the ball against the Colts


  • Total combined penalties: 34

When the San Francisco 49ers traveled to Buffalo on October 4, 1998 to take on the Bills, no one could’ve predicted the numbers of flags that would be thrown on that particular day. The Bills, who would go on to win the game by a score of 26-21, were penalized 12 times for 106 yards, while the visiting Niners would be hit with 22 penalties, costing the club 178 yards.

Although the two teams would combine for 34 penalties, at least the Bills could say they didn’t commit any turnovers on the afternoon. The San Francisco 49ers, on the other hand, gave the ball away on four separate occasions. Not exactly the best way to win on the road.

2. October 17, 1976: Seattle Seahawks 13 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10

Buccaneers defense makes a play

Allen Steele/Getty Images

  • Total combined penalties: 35

On October 17,1976, the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers met in an affair of two teams that would combine to win just twice during the 1976 NFL season. Unfortunately for Bucs fans, neither of those victories belonged to the team in Tampa Bay, as they would finish the year with a 0-14 record.

In the end, while Seattle may have defeated Tampa Bay on this particular occasion 13-10, as far as penalties go, both of these teams were major losers. Seattle committed 15 penalties that cost the club 120 yards, while Tampa Bay was penalized 20 times for a total of 190 penalty yards. These two franchises may wish to forget they combined for 35 penalties during this game, however, history will not be as forgiving.

1. November 25, 1951: Chicago Bears 21 at Cleveland Browns 42

Cleveland Browns against the Chicago Bears during the preseason

Jonathan Daniel/Allsport/Getty Images

  • Total combined penalties: 37

When is a loss not a loss? That’s a trick question — it’s always a loss. However, on November 25, 1951, when the Chicago Bears played against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, the road team managed to win one battle: the penalty battle.

While the Bears would suffer defeat by a score of 42-21, their 16 penalties for 165 yards was nothing compared to the 21 penalties for 209 yards committed by their opponents. By their miscues combined, the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns would set an NFL record for the most total penalties in a single game with 37.

We dare any two NFL teams today to top that mark. Seriously, get on that. We think it would be hilarious.

All statistics are courtesy of, and