2011 NFL season

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This article is about the American football season in the United States. For the Gaelic football season in Ireland, see 2011 National Football League (Ireland).
2011 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 8, 2011 – January 1, 2012
Playoffs
Start date January 7, 2012
AFC Champions New England Patriots
NFC Champions New York Giants
Super Bowl XLVI
Date February 5, 2012
Site Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana
Champions New York Giants
Pro Bowl
Date January 29, 2012
Site Aloha Stadium, Halawa, Honolulu, Hawaii
National Football League seasons
 < 2010 2012 > 

The 2011 NFL season was the 92nd regular season of the National Football League. It began on Thursday, September 8, 2011, with the Super Bowl XLV champion Green Bay Packers defeating the Super Bowl XLIV champion New Orleans Saints 42–34 at Lambeau Field and ended with Super Bowl XLVI, the league's championship game, on February 5, 2012, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis where the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots 21–17.

Due to a labor dispute between league owners and players, a lockout began on March 11 and ended on July 25, lasting 18 weeks and 4 days (130 days). Although it initially threatened to postpone or cancel the season, the only game that was canceled was the August 7 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.

The 2011 season saw an unprecedented amount of passing offense: Four of the six highest passing yardage totals of all time were established: No. 1 Drew Brees (5,476), No. 2 Tom Brady (5,235), No. 5 Matthew Stafford (5,038) and No. 6 Eli Manning (4,933).[1]

Further cementing the modern NFL's reputation as a "passing league"[2][3][4] was the fact that, for the second consecutive year, the league overall set a record for most average passing yards per team per game, with 229.7, breaking 2010's record by more than eight yards per game.[5] (For comparison, the league-wide average rushing yards total finished the 2011 season at 57th all-time.)

A subplot of the 2011 season was determining who would have the worst record, and therefore "earn" the right to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft. Stanford senior quarterback Andrew Luck was seen as the best quarterback prospect in years. Fans of some teams that started the season with numerous losses (notably Indianapolis) were openly rooting for their teams to "Suck for Luck."[6][7]

Labor dispute[edit]

Main article: 2011 NFL lockout

In May 2008 the owners decided to opt out of the 1993 arrangement and play the 2010 season without an agreement in place.[8] Some of the major points of contention included openness of owners' financial books, the rookie pay scale, a proposed 18 percent reduction in the players' share of revenues, forfeiture on bonus payments for players who fail to perform, players' health and retirement benefits, details of free agency, the cost and benefit of new stadiums, players' salaries, extending the regular season to 18 games, and the revenue-sharing structure.[8] By March 2011, the NFLPA and the NFL had not yet come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement, thus failing to resolve the labor dispute. Accordingly, the NFLPA informed the league and the clubs that the players had voted to have the NFLPA renounce its bargaining rights.[9] After the renunciation of collective bargaining rights, quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees joined seven other NFL players and filed an antitrust suit to enjoin the lockout.[10][11][12]

Following the settlement of the Brady et al. v. NFL antitrust suit on July 25, 2011, a majority of players signed union authorization cards approving the NFL Players Association to act as their exclusive collective bargaining representative.[13] The NFL officially recognized the NFLPA’s status as the players’ collective bargaining representative on July 30.[14] The NFL and NFLPA proceeded to negotiate terms for a new collective bargaining agreement, and the agreement became effective after ratification by the players on August 4.[15] The new collective bargaining agreement runs through 2021.[16]

Schedule[edit]

The preseason schedule was released April 12, 2011. The Hall of Fame Game, had it been played, would have featured the Chicago Bears against the St. Louis Rams in only the second time since 1971 that the game would have featured two teams from the same conference.[17] Instead, the preseason began with the San Diego Chargers hosting the Seattle Seahawks on August 11; the remainder of the preseason and all other games was played as originally scheduled (with the exception of the preseason Jets-Giants game, which was postponed two days due to Hurricane Irene).

The 2011 season began on Thursday, September 8, 2011 at Lambeau Field, with the Super Bowl XLV champion Green Bay Packers hosting the New Orleans Saints in the kickoff game; the last regular season games were held on Sunday, January 1, 2012. The playoffs started on Saturday, January 7, 2012, and ended with Super Bowl XLVI, the league's championship game, on February 5, 2012 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Under the NFL's scheduling formula, intraconference and interconference matchups were:

Intraconference

Interconference


When the league was arranging the schedule in spring 2011, it added some cushion in case the labor dispute lasted into September and the planned start of the regular season. For example, every contest in Week 3 had teams which shared the same bye week later in the season, which would have allowed these games to be made up on what were originally the teams' byes. Weeks 2 and 4 were set up so that there were neither any divisional rivalry games nor teams on bye in those weeks, and every team with a home game in Week 2 was on the road in Week 4 and vice versa. This would have kept the season as fair as possible if those games had to be canceled.[18] These scheduling changes, along with eliminating the week off before the Super Bowl and moving the Super Bowl back a week, would have allowed the NFL to play a 14-game schedule beginning in mid-October while still having the Super Bowl in mid-February.

In a scheduling quirk, the NFC North's Chicago Bears played all four of their interconference games in consecutive weeks: San Diego in Week 11, Oakland in Week 12, Kansas City in Week 13 and Denver in Week 14.

This season's International Series game featured the Chicago Bears and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley Stadium in London on October 23, with the Buccaneers serving as the home team.[19] The Bears won 24–18.[20] This marks the Bears' second game played outside the United States in as many years, as they were a part of the Bills Toronto Series in 2010. The Buccaneers previously appeared in the International Series in 2009. One week later on October 30, the Buffalo Bills defeated the Washington Redskins in the Bills' annual game at Rogers Centre in Toronto by a score of 23–0. Although this was within the bounds of the 2011 CFL season, neither of the two Southern Ontario CFL teams were playing on the same day, and both played away games that weekend. The 2011-12 season also happened to mark the 20th anniversary of the Bills and Redskins meeting in Super Bowl XXVI.

The Detroit Lions hosted their first Monday Night Football game since 2001, when they faced the Chicago Bears on Columbus Day/Canadian Thanksgiving (the Detroit-Windsor market straddles the U.S.-Canadian border).[21] Detroit defeated Chicago 24–13 for the team's fifth straight win, the most Lions wins to start a season since the team's glory years in the 1950s, continuing a streak that has been seen as a pleasant surprise for Lions fans, after over a decade of mediocrity.[22]

The 2011 Thanksgiving Day slate featured the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers winning 27–15 on the road against Detroit and the Cowboys coming back to defeat the Miami Dolphins 20–19 at home. The Thanksgiving nightcap on the NFL Network showed the Baltimore Ravens defeating the San Francisco 49ers 16–6 at home; this was the first Thanksgiving game for the 49ers since 1972, the first ever for the Ravens, and a game that put first-year 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh against his brother, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh.

Christmas Day fell on Sunday. The league's general policy when this happens is to hold the majority of its games during the day on Christmas Eve and hold over one or two feature games for Sunday night; in the case of 2011, it was one game. The Green Bay Packers defeated the Chicago Bears 35–21 on Christmas evening on NBC.

New Year's Day 2012 consequently also fell on a Sunday, and the NFL played its entire Week 17 schedule that day. The major College Bowl games usually played on New Year's Day, as well as the NHL Winter Classic, were instead played on Monday, January 2. For the second straight year, Week 17 only featured divisional matchups.

The New York Giants visited the Washington Redskins on September 11, 2011, the first Sunday of the regular season, to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks in which Washington, D.C. and New York City were both targeted, as well as the first such anniversary since the killing of Osama bin Laden.[23] Due to the close proximity of Baltimore with Washington as well as the close proximity of Pittsburgh with the site where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed, the Pittsburgh Steelers visited the archrival Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. It marked the first time the two teams played in a season-opening game since 2003, as their heated rivalry usually prompts their games to be scheduled later in the season. There had been some speculation that the Giants and their same-city rival, the New York Jets, could have played each other that day since the two were scheduled to play each other in 2011; the Jets were the designated home team at MetLife Stadium in the matchup which had been predetermined due to the NFL's scheduling formula.[24] However, the Jets instead hosted the Dallas Cowboys.[25]

Scheduling changes[edit]

The following regular season games were moved either by way of flexible scheduling, severe weather, or for other reasons:

  • Week 10: The LionsBears game was moved from 1:00 pm EST to 4:15 pm EST.[26]
  • Week 11: The TitansFalcons game was moved from 1:00 pm EST to 4:15 pm EST.[27]
  • Week 13: The ColtsPatriots game was moved from the 8:20 pm EST time slot on NBC Sunday Night Football to 1:00 pm EST on CBS. The Lions–Saints game, originally scheduled at 1:00 pm EST on Fox, was flexed into the 8:20 pm slot on NBC, in place of the originally-scheduled Colts–Patriots game. The RavensBrowns game was changed from 1:00 pm EST to 4:05 pm EST. The BroncosVikings game was changed from 4:05 pm EST to 1:00 pm EST, and aired on Fox instead of CBS because Fox had only two games in the early time slot. This was the first time that the league moved an interconference telecast to the home team's Sunday afternoon regional broadcaster.[27][28]
  • Week 14: The RaidersPackers game was moved from 1:00 pm EST to 4:15 pm EST.[29]
  • Week 17: By way of flexible scheduling, the following games were moved due to playoff implications during the final week of the regular season: The CowboysGiants game, originally scheduled at 1:00 pm EST on Fox, was selected as the final NBC Sunday Night Football game. The Buccaneers–Falcons, Ravens–Bengals and Steelers–Browns game were all moved from 1:00 pm EST to 4:15 pm EST.[30]

Regular season standings[edit]

Playoff seeds are marked in parentheses and shaded in green

AFC East
Team W L T PCT PF PA  
(1) New England Patriots 13 3 0 .813 513 342 Details
New York Jets 8 8 0 .500 377 363 Details
Miami Dolphins[a] 6 10 0 .375 329 313 Details
Buffalo Bills 6 10 0 .375 372 434 Details
AFC North
Team W L T PCT PF PA  
(2) Baltimore Ravens[b] 12 4 0 .750 378 266 Details
(5) Pittsburgh Steelers 12 4 0 .750 325 227 Details
(6) Cincinnati Bengals[c] 9 7 0 .563 344 323 Details
Cleveland Browns 4 12 0 .250 218 307 Details
AFC South
Team W L T PCT PF PA  
(3) Houston Texans 10 6 0 .625 381 278 Details
Tennessee Titans 9 7 0 .563 325 317 Details
Jacksonville Jaguars 5 11 0 .313 243 329 Details
Indianapolis Colts 2 14 0 .125 243 430 Details
AFC West
Team W L T PCT PF PA  
(4) Denver Broncos[d] 8 8 0 .500 309 390 Details
San Diego Chargers[e] 8 8 0 .500 406 377 Details
Oakland Raiders 8 8 0 .500 359 433 Details
Kansas City Chiefs 7 9 0 .438 212 338 Details
NFC East
Team W L T PCT PF PA  
(4) New York Giants 9 7 0 .563 394 400 Details
Philadelphia Eagles[f] 8 8 0 .500 396 328 Details
Dallas Cowboys 8 8 0 .500 369 347 Details
Washington Redskins 5 11 0 .313 288 367 Details
NFC North
Team W L T PCT PF PA  
(1) Green Bay Packers 15 1 0 .938 560 359 Details
(6) Detroit Lions 10 6 0 .625 474 387 Details
Chicago Bears 8 8 0 .500 353 341 Details
Minnesota Vikings 3 13 0 .188 340 449 Details
NFC South
Team W L T PCT PF PA  
(3) New Orleans Saints 13 3 0 .813 547 339 Details
(5) Atlanta Falcons[g] 10 6 0 .625 402 350 Details
Carolina Panthers 6 10 0 .375 406 429 Details
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4 12 0 .250 287 494 Details
NFC West
Team W L T PCT PF PA  
(2) San Francisco 49ers[h] 13 3 0 .813 380 229 Details
Arizona Cardinals 8 8 0 .500 312 348 Details
Seattle Seahawks 7 9 0 .438 321 315 Details
St. Louis Rams 2 14 0 .125 193 407 Details


Tie-breakers[edit]

  • a Miami finished in third place in the AFC East based on a head-to-head sweep over Buffalo.
  • b Baltimore clinched the AFC North title based on a head-to-head sweep over Pittsburgh.
  • c Cincinnati clinched the AFC 6 seed instead of Tennessee based on a head-to-head victory.
  • d Denver clinched the AFC West title instead of San Diego or Oakland based on record versus common opponents (5–5 to San Diego's and Oakland's 4–6).
  • e San Diego finished ahead of Oakland in the AFC West based on better conference record (7–5 to 6–6).
  • f Philadelphia finished in second place in the NFC East based on a head-to-head sweep over Dallas.
  • g Atlanta clinched the NFC 5 seed instead of Detroit based on a head-to-head victory.
  • h San Francisco clinched the NFC 2 seed instead of New Orleans based on better conference record (10–2 to 9–3).

Postseason[edit]

Playoff seeds
Seed AFC NFC
1 New England Patriots (East winner) Green Bay Packers (North winner)
2 Baltimore Ravens (North winner) San Francisco 49ers (West winner)
3 Houston Texans (South winner) New Orleans Saints (South winner)
4 Denver Broncos (West winner) New York Giants (East winner)
5 Pittsburgh Steelers (wild card) Atlanta Falcons (wild card)
6 Cincinnati Bengals (wild card) Detroit Lions (wild card)
For details on the NFL playoff format, see National Football League playoffs#Current playoff system.

Bracket[edit]

                                   
Jan. 8 – MetLife Stadium   Jan. 15 – Lambeau Field          
 5  Atlanta  2
 4  N.Y. Giants  37
 4  N.Y. Giants  24     Jan. 22 – Candlestick Park
 1  Green Bay  20  
NFC
Jan. 7 – M.B. Superdome  4  N.Y. Giants  20*
Jan. 14 – Candlestick Park
   2  San Francisco  17  
 6  Detroit  28 NFC Championship
 3  New Orleans  32
 3  New Orleans  45   Feb. 5 – Lucas Oil Stadium
 2  San Francisco  36  
Wild Card Playoffs  
Divisional Playoffs
Jan. 7 – Reliant Stadium  N4  N.Y. Giants  21
Jan. 15 – M&T Bank Stadium
   A1  New England  17
 6  Cincinnati  10 Super Bowl XLVI
 3  Houston  13
 3  Houston  31     Jan. 22 – Gillette Stadium
 2  Baltimore  20  
AFC
Jan. 8Sports Auth. Field  2  Baltimore  20
Jan. 14 – Gillette Stadium
   1  New England  23  
 5  Pittsburgh  23 AFC Championship
 4  Denver  10
 4  Denver  29*  
 1  New England  45  


* Indicates overtime victory

Rule changes[edit]

The following are rule changes that were passed at the league's annual owners meeting in March. All changes went into effect once the labor dispute was resolved.

  • Changes were made regarding kickoffs to limit injuries. First, kickoffs will be moved from the 30 back up to the 35-yard line, repealing a 1994 rule change. In addition, players on the kickoff coverage team cannot line up more than 5 yards behind the kickoff line, minimizing running starts and thus reducing the speed of collisions.[31] Other changes were also proposed, but a number of players and coaches expressed concern they would actually significantly reduce, if not eliminate, the number of kickoff returns.[32][33] Proposals that would have brought touchbacks out to the 25 instead of the 20, and eliminated all wedge blocks were not adopted.[31] Despite this rule, the Bears kicked off from the 30-yard line twice in their preseason game against the Bills.
  • All replay reviews of scoring plays during the entire game can now be initiated by the replay booth official. Coaches will no longer have to use one of their challenges if a scoring play occurs outside of the two-minute warning.[31][32] Because the play is now "unchallengable" by coaches, attempting to do so will result in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which several coaches were flagged for during the season.
  • Nicknamed the "Boise State Rule", all playing fields must remain green, and not be in another color like the blue turf at Boise State's Bronco Stadium, unless approval is granted by the league. This was passed in response to a few sponsors who requested to change the colors in a few stadiums.[34]

The following rule changes were adopted at the NFL Owners' Meeting on May 24, 2011:

  • Hits to the head of a passer-by an opponent’s hands, arms or other parts of the body will not be fouls unless they are forcible blows, modifying the existing rule that any contact to a passer's head, regardless of the reason, is penalized as a personal foul (15 yards).
  • Players will be prohibited from "launching" (leaving both feet prior to contact to spring forward and upward into an opponent or using any part of the helmet to initiate forcible contact against any part of the opponent’s body) to level a defenseless player, as well as "forcibly hitting the neck or head area with the helmet, facemask, forearm or shoulder regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the defenseless player by encircling or grasping him.", and lowering the head and make forcible contact with the top/crown or forehead/"hairline" parts of the helmet against any part of the defenseless player’s body. Offenders will be penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness and ejected from the game if the contact is deemed flagrant.

A "defenseless player" is defined as a:

  • Player in the act of or just after throwing a pass.
  • Receiver attempting to catch a pass or one who has not completed a catch and hasn’t had time to protect himself or hasn’t clearly become a runner. If the receiver/runner is capable of avoiding or warding off the impending contact of an opponent, he is no longer a defenseless player.
  • Runner whose forward progress has been stopped and is already in the grasp of a tackler.
  • Kickoff or punt returner attempting to field a kick in the air.
  • Player on the ground at the end of a play.
  • Kicker/punter during the kick or return.
  • Quarterback any time after a change of possession (i.e. turnover).
  • Player who receives a "blindside" block when the blocker is moving toward his own end-line and approaches the opponent from behind or the side.[35]

The league has instructed game officials to "err on the side of caution" when calling such personal foul penalties, and that they will not be downgraded if they make a mistake so that they will not hesitate on making these kinds of calls.[36]

Game-day testing[edit]

  • Game-day testing for performance-enhancing drugs. The NFL is adding game-day testing for performance-enhancing substances but not recreational drugs this season under the new collective bargaining agreement.[37]

Media[edit]

This was the sixth season under the current television contracts with the league's television partners: CBS (all AFC afternoon away games), Fox (all NFC afternoon away games), NBC (17 Sunday Night Football games and the kickoff game), ESPN (17 Monday Night Football games over sixteen weeks), NFL Network (eight late-season games on Thursday night and Saturday nights), and DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket package. These contracts run through at least 2013. ESPN extended its contract for Monday Night Football on September 8, during the opening week of the season. The new contract extended the rights for eight seasons, giving the network rights until 2021. The new deal, valued between $14.2 billion and $15.2 billion, also gave them rights to expanded highlights, international and digital rights, the Pro Bowl beginning with the 2015 installment, and possibly a Wildcard playoff game.[38] Also, the league announced a nine-year extension with CBS, Fox and NBC on their current contracts starting with the 2014 season.[39]

The 2011 NFL season version of "musical chairs" brought some changes. At CBS, Dick Enberg officially retired (he now does San Diego Padres games for Fox Sports San Diego and its predecessor, 4SD), and Marv Albert replaces him, coming over from Westwood One radio. Gus Johnson has also departed CBS and will begin calling play-by-play for Fox, mostly college games as well on FX. ESPN lost both of their sideline reporters from 2010: Michele Tafoya to NBC, where she replaced the departing Andrea Kremer, and Suzy Kolber reduced the number of games she covers to work on ESPN2's new NFL32 show, which she is hosting. ESPN, who had reduced the roles of its sideline reporters in recent years in response to NFL rule changes, used only one sideline reporter for each game of the 2011 season; among the rotating reporters include Kolber, Wendi Nix, Ed Werder, Sal Paolantonio, and Rachel Nichols.

On December 22, 2010, the league announced that its national radio contract with Westwood One, which was acquired by Dial Global in the 2011 offseason, had been extended through 2014.[40] The league also extended its contract with Sirius XM Radio through 2015.[41] In addition to these contracts, and in a first for an NFL team, the Dallas Cowboys signed a deal to allow for nationwide broadcasts of all of its home and away games broadcast on Compass Media Networks, in addition to its existing local radio network. Compass also acquired exclusive national broadcast rights to both the International Series and Toronto Series contests.[42]

The league did not announce plans to compensate their media partners had the season been shortened or canceled as a result of the work stoppage. NBC had ordered several low-cost reality television shows for the 2011–12 TV season in the event that Sunday Night Football could not be played, but other networks had not made public any contingency plans in the event NFL games could not be televised (in the case of CBS and Fox, the Sunday afternoon time slots could have been left unfilled and turned over to the affiliates, likely to be used for time buys by minor and extreme sports organizations, or locally-programmed infomercials or movies as they are during the offseason). A work stoppage could have potentially cost these networks billions of dollars in ad revenue and other entertainment platforms that depend on the games being played. (Under the NFL's television contracts, the networks must still pay the league a rights fee regardless of whether or not the league plays any games; a March 2 ruling states that this money must be put into escrow and not be spent.)[43] Meanwhile, the United Football League had set aside a portion of their television contract for their 2011 UFL season, as a potential package of replacement programs for the networks;[44] while CBS and Fox briefly negotiated with the UFL regarding the package, neither network committed to carrying the games, forcing the UFL to postpone its season by a month.

Stadiums[edit]

The following stadiums received new naming rights:

  • On April 27, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, home of the Oakland Raiders, was renamed Overstock.com Coliseum, and later shortened to O.co Coliseum. The Raiders' home field has undergone several name changes in its history, including Network Associates Coliseum (1998–2004) and McAfee Coliseum (2004–2008).[45]

In addition, the San Diego Chargers' home field, Qualcomm Stadium, was temporariy renamed "Snapdragon Stadium" for a ten-day period from December 16-25, which included the team's Week 15 home game vs. the Baltimore Ravens, as a marketing tie in for Qualcomm's Snapdragon brand.[50]

Uniforms[edit]

The first Sunday of the season fell on the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. To commemorate that event players, coaches, game officials and sideline personnel all wore a special stars and stripes ribbon bearing the dates "9/11/01" and "9/11/11" as a patch or pin. Players were also allowed to wear special red, white and blue gloves and shoes.[51]

The Buffalo Bills introduced redesigned uniforms on June 24, 2011. Early rumors fueled by a Madden NFL 12 trailer featuring a Bills throwback uniform had indicated the team would be adopting the uniforms the team wore between 1975 and 1983;[52] the final product indeed resembled those uniforms, with some minor adjustments.[53] The new uniforms (which marked the first redesign since 2002) were unveiled at a fan appreciation event at Ralph Wilson Stadium.[54] The Bills wore their white "away" uniforms in their week nine home game against the New York Jets as part of a whiteout promotion; the last time the team had worn their white uniforms at home was in 1986.[55]

The New England Patriots' uniforms bore a patch bearing the initials "MHK" in honor of team owner Robert Kraft's wife Myra Kraft who died of cancer in July.[56] The Patriots wore their red throwback uniforms in their week five game against the New York Jets. They wore their white throwback jerseys at home against the Dallas Cowboys in week six, thus forcing the Cowboys to use their navy jerseys for the only time all season and the first time since 2009.[57] As per tradition, the Cowboys wore their throwbacks on Thanksgiving Day (November 24) at home against the Miami Dolphins.[57]

The St. Louis Rams wore their throwback uniforms in week 8 against the New Orleans Saints; the date was determined by fan voting.[58]

The Baltimore Ravens wore their black alternative jerseys twice in 2011: with black pants against the Jets and with white pants against the 49ers.[59]

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers wore their orange throwback uniforms during week 13 against Carolina.[60]

The Oakland Raiders wore stickers featuring "AL" on their helmets after owner Al Davis died on October 8, 2011.[61]

This season was the last in which the Denver Broncos wore their navy blue jerseys as their primary jersey, as the team has designated their orange jerseys—the team's alternate home jersey since 2002—as their new primary home jersey color, beginning with the 2012 season. The move was made due to overwhelming fan support to return to using orange as the team's primary home jersey color, which harkens back to the days of the Orange Crush Defense, as well as John Elway's return to the organization as the team's executive vice president of football operations. The team had considered making the switch for the 2011 season, but were too late to notify the NFL of the changes.[62] The team's navy blue jerseys, which had been their primary home jersey since they were first introduced in 1997, will become the alternate jerseys which will be worn in one or two home games each year.[63]

This season was the last in which the Seattle Seahawks wore their pacific blue (or "Seahawks blue") jerseys as the team's home jersey, as the team changed their home jersey color to dark navy for the 2012 season.[64]

End of the Reebok Era[edit]

This was the last season that Reebok exclusively supplied uniforms and sideline caps along with performance and fan apparel for all 32 teams in the league, as Nike and New Era now have the rights to manufacture on-field uniforms and fan apparel, with Nike handling uniforms and performance apparel, and New Era with on-field caps. For Reebok, this ends a 10-year exclusivity association that began in 2001.[65]

Coaching changes[edit]

Pre-season[edit]

The uncertain labor issues and the possibility of a lockout were speculated to have a minimizing effect on coaching changes prior to the 2011 season, with owners predicted to be more hesitant than usual to hire a high-price, high-profile head coach.[66] Nevertheless, eight coaches were fired either during or immediately after the 2010 NFL season, compared to three in the year prior; only one of the new hires (John Fox) had ever been a head coach in the NFL prior to their hirings or promotions. However, Leslie Frazier, and Jason Garrett did get some experience as interim coaches during the 2010 season, with Garrett being successful in his debut season, going 5–3 in his tenure, improving the 1–7 Cowboys to a 6–10 season.

Team: 2010 head coach:
at start of season
2010 interim head coach: 2011 replacement: Reason for leaving: Story/Accomplishments:
Dallas Cowboys Wade Phillips Jason Garrett Fired Phillips, son of former NFL head coach Bum Phillips, was fired on November 8, 2010, following a 45–7 Week 9 loss against the Green Bay Packers, leaving Dallas with a 35–24 (.593) record. Phillips was later hired as defensive coordinator of the Houston Texans. On January 5, 2011, Jason Garrett, the team's offensive coordinator and presumptive head coach in waiting, was named the Head coach for the 2011 season.
Minnesota Vikings Brad Childress Leslie Frazier Fired Childress was fired on November 22, 2010, following a Week 11 loss against the Green Bay Packers, 31–3. The Vikings entered week 12 with a 3–7 record, second-to-last in the NFC North after a 12–4 season a year ago. Childress also faced controversy by releasing Randy Moss without the approval of owner Zygi Wilf and lost control over the locker room.[67] Childress amassed a record of 40–37 (.519) record during his time in Minnesota. Frazier, the Vikings' defensive coordinator since 2007, was named head coach following the end of the 2010 season.
Denver Broncos Josh McDaniels Eric Studesville John Fox Fired McDaniels was fired on December 5, 2010, following a 10–6 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 13. After a 6–0 start in the 2009 season, the Broncos lost 17 of their next 22 games, and became subject to a videotaping scandal.[68] McDaniels's record was 11–17 (.393) as coach of the Broncos. McDaniels was later hired by the St. Louis Rams to be their offensive coordinator.[69]
San Francisco 49ers Mike Singletary Jim Tomsula (retained as defensive line coach) Jim Harbaugh Fired Singletary compiled a record of 18–22 (.462) during his 2½ years as head coach of the 49ers and was criticized for his lack of focus on the team's offense.[70][71] Singletary is now the Linebackers coach for the Minnesota Vikings.[72]

Harbaugh, a former NFL quarterback, came from the Stanford Cardinal football team, where he led the Cardinal to a 12–1 record in 2010 behind the arm of top quarterback prospect Andrew Luck, culminating in a victory in the Orange Bowl. (Luck was expected to declare for the 2011 NFL Draft if Harbaugh left, but decided to stay at Stanford.)

Carolina Panthers John Fox Ron Rivera Expired contract The Panthers announced on December 31, 2010, two days before the final game of the 2010 season, that his contract will not be renewed for 2011.[73] Fox spent nine seasons with Carolina, including an appearance in Super Bowl XXXVIII, and leaves Carolina with a total record of 78–76 (.506).

Rivera had spent the previous three seasons as defensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers.

Cleveland Browns Eric Mangini Pat Shurmur Fired The Browns announced on Monday January 3, 2011, the day after the end of the 2010 regular season that Eric Mangini will not be returning to coach the Browns.[74] Mangini led the Browns to back to back 5–11 seasons and an overall record of 10–22 (.313), the second-worst in Browns history.[75] Mangini is currently an analyst for ESPN. On January 13 Browns announced that they hired Pat Shurmur, a career assistant coach who spent the last two seasons on the staff of the St. Louis Rams and from 1999–2008 on the staff of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Oakland Raiders Tom Cable Hue Jackson Expired contract The Raiders announced on Tuesday January 4, 2011, that they will not exercise the option on Tom Cable's contract. He finishes with a 17–27 (.386) record, which included an 8–8 record in 2010, while going undefeated against division rivals, being the first team to go 6–0 against division opponents and miss the playoffs. On January 17, the Raiders announced that Hue Jackson, their previous offensive coordinator will replace Cable, who was later hired as the Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line Coach for the Seattle Seahawks.
Tennessee Titans Jeff Fisher Mike Munchak Resigned On January 27, it was formally announced by the Tennessee Titans that Jeff Fisher would not return to coach the team in 2011,[76] following a dispute with quarterback Vince Young. Fisher, whose time with the team dated back to when it was still the Houston Oilers, had the longest tenure as head coach with one team among active head coaches in the league at the time of his dismissal. In 17 years with the Oilers and Titans, Fisher compiled a record of 147–126 (.538) and led the Titans to Super Bowl XXXIV. Mike Munchak, who joined the Oilers in 1982 and has remained with the team as a player or coach every year since (serving most recently as offensive line coach), was promoted to the head coach position as Fisher's replacement.

In-season[edit]

The following head coaches were replaced in-season:

Team: 2011 head coach: Interim head coach: Reason for leaving: Story/Accomplishments:
Jacksonville Jaguars Jack Del Rio Mel Tucker Fired Del Rio was fired after compiling a 69–73 (.486) record (including postseason games) in 8¾ seasons as head coach; the team has not made the playoffs since 2007. Del Rio was fired at the same time that Wayne Weaver, the owner of the Jaguars, announced his intentions to sell the team to Pakistani-American automotive parts builder Shahid Khan.[77]
Kansas City Chiefs Todd Haley Romeo Crennel Fired Haley compiled a 19–27 (.413) record, including one postseason loss, in nearly 3 seasons with the Chiefs. Team ownership cited inconsistent play and a lack of progress in their decision; Haley was also cited for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in what turned out to be his final game. Crennel had previously served as head coach of the Cleveland Browns from 2005 to 2008. Crennel won his first game as the interim head coach of the Chiefs on December 18, 2011 against the then undefeated Green Bay Packers 19-14, which was significant as Crennel snapped the Packers' 19-game winning streak ended their hopes for a perfect season. Crennel finished his stint as interim head coach with a 2-1 record. On January 9, 2012 Crennel was named the team's permanent head coach.
Miami Dolphins Tony Sparano Todd Bowles Fired Sparano compiled a 29–33 (.468) record, including one postseason loss, in nearly 4 seasons with the Dolphins. Ongoing speculation regarding Sparano's future in Miami prompted Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to dismiss Sparano prior to the end of the season instead of letting the speculation become a further distraction. The Dolphins intend on hiring someone from outside the organization in the 2012 offseason.[78]

Records and milestones[edit]

  • Most points in the Kickoff Game, single team: 42, Green Bay (vs. New Orleans, September 8, 2011)
  • Most points in the Kickoff Game, total: 76, Green Bay (42) and New Orleans (34) — September 8, 2011
  • Longest kick return (tie): 108 yards, Randall Cobb (Green Bay vs. New Orleans — September 8, 2011)
  • Longest field goal (tie): 63 yards, Sebastian Janikowski (Oakland vs. Denver — September 12, 2011)[79]
  • Most combined passing yards in a single game, broken twice:
  • Most yards thrown by a rookie quarterback in his first game: 422, Cam Newton (Carolina vs. Arizona)[80]
  • Most passing yards, rookie, season: 4,051, Cam Newton, Carolina
  • Most yards thrown by a quarterback, first two games of the season, broken twice:
    • 854 yards, Cam Newton (September 18, 2011), Carolina, stands as record for a rookie[81]
    • 940 yards, Tom Brady (September 18, 2011), New England Patriots[81]
  • Most consecutive second-half drives to end in touchdowns: 5, Buffalo (vs. Oakland, September 18, 2011)[82]
  • Largest point margin prior to a successful comeback in consecutive games, modern era, broken twice:
  • Most field goals of 50 or more yards, single game (tied twice):
  • Highest net punting average for a season: 43.99 yards, Andy Lee, San Francisco[85]
  • Longest game-winning punt return touchdown in overtime: 99 yards, Patrick Peterson, Arizona (vs. St. Louis, November 6, 2011)[86]
  • Most punt returns in a season for touchdown (tied): 4, Patrick Peterson, Arizona
  • Most punt return yards by a rookie in a season: 699, Patrick Peterson, Arizona
  • Most field goals in a season: 44, David Akers, San Francisco
  • Most points in a season without a touchdown: 166, David Akers, San Francisco[85]
  • Most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a season: 14, Cam Newton, Carolina
  • Most passing yards in a season: 5,476, Drew Brees, New Orleans.[87]
    • Tom Brady, New England (5,235) and Matthew Stafford, Detroit (5,038) also passed for more than 5,000 yards marking the 4th and 5th times an individual has reached that milestone in NFL history, and the first time more than one person has done it in a single season.
  • Fewest turnovers in a season (tied): 10, San Francisco[85]
  • The 2011 Saints broke many offensive records on January 1, 2012:[88]
    • Most net yardage of offense in a season: 7,474
    • Most net yards passing: 5,347
    • Most completions: 472
    • Highest completion percentage (team) for the season: 71.3
    • Fewest fumbles in a season: 6
    • Most first downs for the season: 416
    • Most passing first downs in a season: 280
    • Most kick-offs resulting in a touchback, season: 62
    • Highest third down conversion percentage: 57.9%
  • The 2011 Raiders also broke a few records:
    • Most penalties, season: 163
    • Most yards penalized, season: 1,358
  • Most all purpose yards in a season: 2,696, Darren Sproles, New Orleans
  • Most receiving yards by a tight end in a season, broken twice:
  • Most games, 300+ yards passing, season: 13, Drew Brees, New Orleans
  • Most consecutive 300+ yards passing games: 7, Drew Brees, New Orleans
  • Punt return touchdowns, career: 12, Devin Hester, Chicago
  • Most consecutive games, 100+ passer rating, season: 12, Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
  • Highest passer rating, season: 122.5, Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
  • Most field goals of 50 or more yards, season, all teams: 90
  • Highest field goals of 50 or more yards percentage, season, all teams: 63.8
  • Highest completion percentage (individual), season: 71.2, Drew Brees, New Orleans
  • Longest pass completion (tied twice):
    • 99, Tom Brady, New England (vs. Miami, September 12, 2011)
    • 99, Eli Manning, New York Giants (vs. New York Jets, December 24, 2011)
  • Most consecutive games, 2+ touchdown passes (tied): 13, Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
  • Most times finished in the first place: 23, New York Giants

Playoff records & milestones[edit]

  • Most offensive yards in a single playoff game: 627, New Orleans (vs. Detroit, Wild Card January 7, 2012)
  • First quarterback to reach 400+ yards in two consecutive postseason games: Drew Brees, New Orleans (First time: 2010 vs. Seattle; 2nd time: 2011 vs. Detroit – both Wild Card games)
  • Most first downs (tie): 34, New Orleans (vs. Detroit, Wild Card January 7, 2012)
  • Most receiving yards in a playoff debut: 210, Calvin Johnson, Detroit (vs. New Orleans, Wild Card January 7, 2012)
  • Most consecutive playoff games lost (tie): 7, Detroit Lions
  • Tim Tebow's game-winning pass to Demaryius Thomas for Denver (vs. Pittsburgh, Wild Card January 8, 2012) set several records:
    • Longest scoring play in a playoff overtime: 80 yards
    • Shortest time of a drive in regular and postseason overtime: 11 seconds
    • Quickest win in overtime: 11 seconds
  • Most playoff appearances: 31, New York Giants
  • Most completions to start a super bowl: 9, Eli Manning
  • Most touchdown passes in a single playoff game (tie): 6, Tom Brady, New England
  • Most league championship game appearances: 19, New York Giants
  • Most Super Bowls Started as QB (tie): 5, Tom Brady
  • Record for most yards per completion (31.6) in a NFL playoff game Tim Tebow
  • 3rd player in NFL playoff history to pass for 300 yards, and rush for 50 yards. Tim Tebow
  • Most Super Bowls lost (tie): 4, New England Patriots
  • Most playoff games won starting QB (tie): 16, Tom Brady

Awards[edit]

Players of the Week/Month[edit]

The following were named the top performers during the 2011 season:

Week/
Month
Offensive
Player of the Week/Month
Defensive
Player of the Week/Month
Special Teams
Player of the Week/Month
AFC NFC AFC NFC AFC NFC
1 Tom Brady[89] Aaron Rodgers[90] Terrell Suggs[89] Brian Urlacher[90] Sebastian Janikowski[89] Ted Ginn, Jr.[90]
2[91] Tom Brady Tony Romo Antonio Cromartie Roman Harper Josh Cribbs Jason Hanson
3 Darren McFadden[92] Eli Manning[93] Ray Lewis[92] Ronde Barber[93] Rian Lindell[92] Dan Bailey[93]
Sept.[94] Ryan Fitzpatrick Aaron Rodgers D'Qwell Jackson Sean Lee Sebastian Janikowski Jason Hanson
4 Arian Foster[95] Aaron Rodgers[95] Jarret Johnson[96] Brian Orakpo[97] Ryan Succop[98] Devin Hester[99]
5 Ben Roethlisberger[100] Adrian Peterson[101] George Wilson[100] Patrick Willis[101] Sebastian Janikowski[100] Mason Crosby[101]
6 Rashard Mendenhall[102] Ahmad Bradshaw[103] Darrelle Revis[102] Kurt Coleman[103] Jacoby Ford[102] Devin Hester[103]
7 Arian Foster[104] Drew Brees[105] Brandon Flowers[104] Lance Briggs[105] Josh Scobee[104] Mason Crosby[105]
8 Ben Roethlisberger[106] LeSean McCoy[107] Derrick Johnson[108] Cliff Avril[107] Brandon Tate[109] Robert Quinn[107]
Oct. [110] Arian Foster Aaron Rodgers LaMarr Woodley Jared Allen Joe McKnight Devin Hester
9 Matt Moore[111] Aaron Rodgers[112] David Harris[113] Mathias Kiwanuka[112] Eddie Royal[114] Patrick Peterson[112]
10 Michael Bush[115] Larry Fitzgerald[116] Andre Carter[115] Roman Harper[116] Marc Mariani[115] Devin Hester[116]
11 Torrey Smith[117] Kevin Smith[118] Von Miller[117] Chris Clemons[118] Julian Edelman[117] Kealoha Pilares[118]
12 Chris Johnson[119] Drew Brees[120] Terrell Suggs[119] DeAngelo Hall[120] Sebastian Janikowski[119] Patrick Peterson[120]
Nov. [121] Tom Brady Aaron Rodgers Connor Barwin Julius Peppers Sebastian Janikowski Patrick Peterson
13 Ray Rice[122] Cam Newton[123] Colin McCarthy[124] David Hawthorne[123] Antonio Brown[125] Tim Masthay[123]
14 Rob Gronkowski[126] Matt Ryan[127] Terrell Suggs[128] Jason Pierre-Paul[127] Matt Prater[129] Doug Baldwin[127]
15 Reggie Bush[130] Calvin Johnson[131] Antwan Barnes[132] John Abraham[131] Ryan Succop[133] Andy Lee[131]
16 Tom Brady[134] Drew Brees[135] Robert Mathis[134] Jason Pierre-Paul[135] Richard Seymour[134] David Akers[135]
17 Ray Rice[136] Matt Flynn [137] Troy Polamalu[138] Curtis Lofton[139] Richard Goodman[140] David Akers[141]
Dec.[142] Tom Brady Drew Brees Terrell Suggs Jason Pierre-Paul Matt Prater David Akers
Week FedEx Air
Player of the Week[143]
(Quarterbacks)
FedEx Ground
Player of the Week[143]
(Running Backs)
Pepsi
Rookie of the Week[144]
1 Tom Brady (NE) LeSean McCoy (Phi) WR Randall Cobb (GB)
2 Matthew Stafford (Det) Fred Jackson (Buf) WR Denarius Moore (Oak)
3 Joe Flacco (Bal) Darren McFadden (Oak) OL Stefen Wisniewski (Oak)
4 Aaron Rodgers (GB) Matt Forté (Chi) QB Cam Newton (Car)
5 Aaron Rodgers (GB) Adrian Peterson (Min) LB Aldon Smith (SF)
6 Aaron Rodgers (GB) Frank Gore (SF) LB Aldon Smith (SF)
7 Aaron Rodgers (GB) DeMarco Murray (Dal) RB DeMarco Murray (Dal)
8 Ben Roethlisberger (Pit) LeSean McCoy (Phi) DE Marcell Dareus (Buf)
9 Aaron Rodgers (GB) Willis McGahee (Den) QB Andy Dalton (Cin)
10 Tony Romo (Dal) Michael Bush (Oak) WR Denarius Moore (Oak)
11 Matthew Stafford (Det) Kevin Smith (Det) WR Torrey Smith (Bal)
12 Drew Brees (NO) Beanie Wells (Ari) QB Andy Dalton (Cin)
13 Aaron Rodgers (GB) Ray Rice (Bal) LB Colin McCarthy (Ten)
14 Matt Ryan (Atl) Marshawn Lynch (Sea) QB T. J. Yates (Hou)
15 Drew Brees (NO) Reggie Bush (Mia) QB Cam Newton (Car)
16 Drew Brees (NO) C. J. Spiller (Buf) QB Cam Newton (Car)
17 Matt Flynn (GB ) Ray Rice (Bal) DB Sterling Moore (NE)
Month Rookie of the Month
Offensive Defensive
Sept.[94] Cam Newton Ryan Kerrigan
Oct.[110] Andy Dalton Aldon Smith
Nov.[145] DeMarco Murray Von Miller
Dec.[142] Julio Jones Aldon Smith

Regular Season Awards[edit]

Further information: 1st Annual NFL Honors
Award Winner Position Team
AP Offensive Player of the Year Drew Brees Quarterback New Orleans Saints
AP Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs Linebacker Baltimore Ravens
AP Coach of the Year Jim Harbaugh Head coach San Francisco 49ers
AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Cam Newton Quarterback Carolina Panthers
AP Defensive Rookie of the Year Von Miller Linebacker Denver Broncos
AP Comeback Player of the Year Matthew Stafford Quarterback Detroit Lions
AP Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers Quarterback Green Bay Packers
Pepsi Rookie of the Year Cam Newton Quarterback Carolina Panthers
Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Eli Manning Quarterback New York Giants

Team Superlatives[edit]

Offense[edit]

  • Most points scored: Green Bay, 560 (35.0 PPG)
  • Fewest points scored: St. Louis, 193 (12.1 PPG)
  • Most total offensive yards: New Orleans, 7,474
  • Fewest total offensive yards: Jacksonville, 4,149
  • Most total passing yards: New Orleans, 5,347
  • Fewest total passing yards: Jacksonville, 2,179
  • Most rushing yards: Denver, 2,632
  • Fewest rushing yards: New York Giants, 1,427

[146]

Defense[edit]

  • Fewest points allowed: Pittsburgh, 227 (14.2 PPG)
  • Most points allowed: Tampa Bay, 494 (30.9 PPG)
  • Fewest total yards allowed (defense): Pittsburgh, 4,348
  • Most total yards allowed (defense): Green Bay, 6,585
  • Fewest passing yards allowed: Pittsburgh, 2,751
  • Most passing yards allowed (defense): Green Bay, 4,796
  • Fewest rushing yards allowed (defense): San Francisco, 1,236
  • Most rushing yards allowed (defense): Tampa Bay, 2,497

[147]

All-Pro Team[edit]

Offense
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia
Fullback Vonta Leach, Baltimore
Wide receiver Calvin Johnson, Detroit
Wes Welker, New England
Tight end Rob Gronkowski, New England
Offensive tackle Jason Peters, Philadelphia
Joe Thomas, Cleveland
Offensive guard Carl Nicks, New Orleans
Jahri Evans, New Orleans
Center Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh
Defense
Defensive end Jared Allen, Minnesota
Jason Pierre-Paul, N.Y. Giants
Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, Baltimore
Justin Smith, San Francisco
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, Baltimore
DeMarcus Ware, Dallas
Inside linebacker Patrick Willis, San Francisco
NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco
Derrick Johnson, Kansas City
Cornerback Charles Woodson, Green Bay
Darrelle Revis, N.Y. Jets
Safety Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh
Eric Weddle, San Diego


Special teams
Kicker David Akers, San Francisco
Punter Andy Lee, San Francisco
Kick returner Patrick Peterson, Arizona

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External links[edit]