NFL

What is the record for most NFL penalties in a game?

The number of penalties in Thursday's game between the Raiders and the Cowboys is high, but it doesn’t come close to the record set exactly 70 years before.

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What is the record for most NFL penalties in a game?
skynesher Getty Images

Thanksgiving’s game between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Dallas Cowboys saw an inordinate number of yellow flags, but it doesn’t come close to the league record. And interestingly enough, the highest number of penalties in professional football history was racked up exactly 70 years before Thursday’s matchup.

The Cowboys’ heartbreaking 36-33 loss to the Raiders was riddled with infractions, with 14 being called for each team. The total of 28 penalties for 276 yards set some records, but they were not league-high numbers.

70th anniversary

On Nov. 25, 1951, the Cleveland Browns demolished the Chicago Bears 42-21, and the game set two records along the way. The Bears received 16 penalties for 165 yards, while the Browns got 21 for 209.

The combined number of 37 is the record for penalties in a single professional football game, and so was the total of 374 yards.

45 years ago

However, there is another record worthy of note. The most penalized game in modern NFL history, marked by the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, was held on Oct. 17, 1976 between the Seattle Seahawks and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The referees called a total of 39 penalties for 310 yards, but two of the penalties were declined and two others offset each other. The official tally at the end of the game was 35 penalties- 20 for the Buccaneers and 15 for the Seahawks.

Flag-throwing spree for the Raiders

The Buccaneers were also part of another record-setting game for penalties. On Oct. 30, 2016 the Bucs lost 30-24 in overtime to the Oakland Raiders, who set the record for the most number of penalties (23 for 200 yards) by one team in a single game.

This number of yards is the third-highest in NFL history, trailing the 1951 Browns record of 209 which is at second place, and the Tennessee Titans who sit at the top with a tally of 212.