By Joe M. ’21
Last Sunday, the Buffalo Bills blew out the Miami Dolphins 56 to 26. The Bills look like a Super Bowl contender, and this loss ended up eliminating the Dolphins from playoff contention. To get to 56 points, the Bills scored a stunning eight touchdowns and kicked an extra point every time. The Dolphins kicked two field goals, scored a touchdown and a subsequent kick, then scored a touchdown but failed on their two-point conversion attempt to end up with 26 points. Both these scores are pretty unorthodox… in fact, they are so unorthodox that this was the first game in NFL history to end with the exact score of 56 to 26. To repeat: In the entire 101 year history of the NFL, no game had ever finished with that exact score.
This concept of “unique final scores” is referred to as Scorigami. Originally started by SB Nation’s Jon Bois, Scorigami has captured the hearts of many football fans. The original YouTube video about the concept has over 2.3 million views, and there also exists an entire website that tracks all the scores that have ever happened that update as NFL games progress. There is even a popular Twitter account that provides Scrogami updates during NFL games that has over 180 thousand followers. Some people even go so far as to claim they watch games purely in hopes of watching a Scorigami.
It may seem strange that after a century of games, there are still unique scores out there. Football is a very unique sport in that there are five different scoring blocks worth odd amounts. In other sports, you can only score points in increments less than five. In baseball, you can score one, two, three or four points at a time. In basketball, you can score one, two, three, four or even five points. Then in soccer and hockey, you can get only one point at a time. Thus, in these sports a “Scorigami” concept is nowhere near as intriguing as it is in football. Though a score of fifteen to four may be unique if it were to happen in the game of soccer, it is only interesting due to magnitude. Interesting scores unrelated to magnitude cannot be created with intervals of just one. Football is not like this. In football, you can score two, three, six, seven or eight points at a time. It is thus possible to create unique scores without blowing teams out.
Quickly, I’ll describe how a team scores each of these amounts. A safety is worth two points, and this happens when the offensive team is tackled or commits a penalty in their own endzone. These are pretty rare. To score three points, the offensive team kicks a field goal. A touchdown is worth six points, and after a touchdown a team can either attempt a short kick to get one extra point (referred to as a PAT), or try an offensive play from the two yard line. If they get in the endzone, they get two additional points. If the short kick is missed or the offensive play is unsuccessful, they gain no additional points. Usually teams opt to just kick instead of the risky offensive attempt.
While a 20-17 football game is very orthodox (it is actually the most common score in NFL history), taking away just one touchdown and the PAT from the losing side makes the score slightly less common. There have been more than half as few games ending 20-10 as 20-17. Then, say at one point early in the game the losing side had decided to go for two, and got it. But nothing else changes. The final score would be 20-11… which is a unique score.
Technically, there are an infinite amount of unique scores possible. Nothing in the rules disallows a team from scoring 100 in a game, or even 1,000. Granted, it is impossible considering the amount of time in a typical game and length of the field and laws of physics, but not technically illegal. In reality, however, Scorigami is an exhaustible resource. One day we may reach a stage where there are no more reachable unique scores left.
Now, let’s take a look at the board tracking all Scorigami. At first glance, it may appear like there are a lot of holes. But keep in mind that only one game in NFL history has ever seen both teams score more than 50 points, and there have been less than 45 games in the entire 100+ year history where both teams scored more than 40 points. High scoring games are included on the board, but they are unlikely to be reached anytime soon. You may then notice that the entire “one” row is blank, which seems weird. “Isn’t it impossible to score just a singular point?” you may ask. You would be wrong! It actually is possible. It would take a safety 98 yards in the wrong direction on a two point attempt, but it is technically possible. It is pretty difficult to imagine such a scenario, but I suppose if the snap were to go way over the quarterback’s head, and then both teams fail to recover and the ball squirts free and keeps rolling, an offensive player could end up landing on the ball in their own endzone. In other words, a play a little bit like this. It has never happened though, and I doubt it ever will. And even if it were to happen, a team would have to stay at this score all game for it to be a Scorigami.
Looking at the board, the most reachable Scorigami currently out there is 8 to 7. It is not hard to imagine a rainy or snowy game where offense is virtually impossible, and field goals are not an option. One team scores a touchdown early, and takes a seemingly insurmountable 7-0 lead. Then, as the game is in its waning minutes, the losing team scores a miraculous touchdown, and decides to go for the throat and gets a two-point conversion to win the game.
Next time that you are watching an NFL game, keep an eye out for Scorigami. If you see a safety, or a two-point conversion, or even the hollowed one-point safety for the defense, you may be seeing an NFL game take a path it has never taken before.