Most flags thrown in an NFL game are 37 between the Cleveland Browns and the Chicago Bears. The teams committed 21 and 16 penalties each back in 1951.
The NFL in its long history has seen many records being set and broken every year or in a couple of years. The record for the most penalties in a game is not a record that any team would want to achieve.
There are several teams that have played the entire game without giving away any penalties even if the other team did commit one or more. There are a few instances in which neither team gave away a single penalty in a game.
A matchup without a penalty in modern NFL games is a rare sight since the game is so fast and physical and involves so many rules and regulations. As a result, the team is penalized yards.
The Seattle Seahawks were penalized 1,415 yards for the penalties they committed in 2013. It is the most in the NFL and is a record.
According to Pro Football Reference, the Offensive Holding (OH) penalty was the most issued penalty in 2022 with 581 committed and penalized for 5.579 yards in the NFL. False Start penalty was issued 578 times with 2,843 penalty yards.
The Chicago Bears are without a doubt the most penalized team in NFL history. They have led the league in 16 seasons as the team with the most penalties.
Most Penalties In NFL Game
The record for the most penalties in an NFL game is 37. The Cleveland Browns (21) and Chicago Bears (16) contributed to set the NFL record for a single game.
The Browns and the Bears went head-to-head in Week 9 of the 1951-1952 season at the Cleveland Municipal Stadium on November 25. The Browns had a good run of form coming into the game as they had a 7-1 record and the Bears had a 6-2 record.
Although the match had plenty of fouls during the game, the Browns emerged victorious with a 42-21 scoreline. The match started with a scoreless first quarter and the Browns scored 14 in each of the remaining quarters.
As a result of the penalties, both teams gave away quite a number of penalty yards in the process.
Most Penalty Yards In An NFL Game
The NFL record for the most penalty yards in a game is 374. The Cleveland Browns (209) and the Chicago Bears (165) combined for the most penalized yards.
The fouls committed in the game by the team mainly result in the opposition gaining yards. The yard increment also varies from the type of foul committed starting from 5-yards up to 15-yards.
The Browns and the Bears had already set the record for the most penalties in a game and set another for the most yards penalized in the very same game.
The Cleveland Bears had committed 21 fouls and were penalized 209 penalty yards. The Chicago Bears on the other hand had 16 offenses and gave away 165 penalty yards.
Most Penalties By A Single Team
The Oakland Raiders committed 23 penalties on October 30, 2016. It is an NFL record for the most penalties by a single team.
The Raiders gave away 200 yards for the 23 fouls they committed in the match against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccanneers only had 6 penalties for 64 yards.
Although the Buccaneers were a disciplined side, they were on the losing end as the Raiders won with a 30-24 scoreline.
The Oakland Raiders also hold another NFL record for the most penalties by a team in a single season with 163 penalties in the year 2011.
The single-game record for the most yards penalized by a team is 212 by the Tennessee Titans on October 10, 1999. It was against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Titans who were playing away from home had recorded 15 penalties for 212 penalty yards in the game. The Ravens had only 9 penalties for 81 yards but lost the game 11-14.
Most Penalties In A College Football Game
The most penalties in a college football game is 42. It is the NCAA record set in 1986 in a game between North Carolina Central and St. Paul's.
The Division I record for the most penalties committed in a single game is 39. Similarly, the FBS record is 36 penalties in a college game. That too took place in 1986 when San Jose State and Fresno State faced each other.
The next game that came close to the record was back in 2017 when USF and Illinois had committed 26 penalties in the very first half of the game. The match ended with 31 penalties and only a few shy of setting or equaling the record.
Syracuse averaged 8.7 penalties per game in the 2022 season and currently averages 9.0 penalties in the 2023-2024 season. The Boston College Eagles have the highest average in 2023 with 14.0 penalties per game.
The top 10 college teams with the highest penalties per game in 2022 are:
- Syracuse Orange - 8.7
- Utah St. Aggies - 8.3
- Alabama Crimson Tide - 8.3
- Eastern Michigan Eagles - 8.1
- Massachusetts Minutemen - 8.0
- Rutgers Scarlet Knights - 8.0
- Auburn Tigers - 7.9
- Houston Cougars - 7.8
- Maryland Terrapins - 7.8
- Tennessee Volunteers - 7.7
Average Number Of Penalties In An NFL Game
The average number of penalties in an NFL game by teams is Atlanta Falcons (4.0), Los Angeles Rams (4.5), Chicago Bears (4.7), Baltimore Ravens (4.8), and more.
The Cardinals recorded the most number of penalties in 2022 having committed 118 and are followed by the Broncos who had 113 penalties last season. Super Bowl winners Kansas City Chiefs had only 87 penalties the entire season.
|NFL Team||Average Penalties per Game|
|Los Angeles Rams||4.5|
|Kansas City Chiefs||4.9|
|Los Angeles Chargers||4.9|
|Green Bay Packers||5.2|
|New York Jets||5.4|
|San Francisco 49ers||5.6|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||5.7|
|New Orleans Saints||5.8|
|New York Giants||5.9|
|New England Patriots||6.1|
|Las Vegas Raiders||6.6|
The record holders for committing the most penalties in a game are still averaging 6.6 penalties per game as of the 2022 season. The Cardinals average the most number of penalties and the Falcons with the least.
Jacksonville Jaguars have had the least penalties per game in 2023 with 3.0 followed by the Jets with 3.5. Baltimore Ravens who were fourth in the penalties per game record are currently the team with the highest as they average a whopping 9.5 in 2023.
NFL Game Without Penalties
NFL games without a single penalty are:
- Brooklyn Dodgers vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (1934)
- Brooklyn Dodgers vs. Boston Redskins (1936)
- Cleveland Rams vs. Chicago Bears (1938)
- Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Philadelphia Eagles (1940)
Brooklyn Dodgers vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (1934)
The first game in the history NFL that was completed without a penalty committed by any team. The game was played at the home of the Dodgers at Ebbets Field on October 28.
The two teams faced each other during the Week 8 matchup and was quite a dull game. The Dodgers scored 7 and the Pirates scored 3 in the first quarter. The next two quarters were scoreless and the Dodgers picked up the pace in the final quarter scoring 14 to win the game 21-3.
Although the game was not so exciting, they did manage to create history as they were the first teams to be part of the game that did not have any penalties.
Brooklyn Dodgers vs. Boston Redskins (1936)
The second football game without a penalty also took place at Ebbets Field during the Week 3 game between the Boston Redskins and the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was played on September 27.
The Dodgers and Ebbets Field were witnessing history for the second time two years after the first instance. The Redskins won the low-scoring game 14-3 and the Dodgers only managed to score in the first quarter.
Cleveland Rams vs. Chicago Bears (1938)
The third game that had no penalties committed by any of the teams was played on October 9 at Shaw Stadium. The game was part of the Week 5 matchups and the Rams defeated the Bears with a 14-7 scoreline.
The Bears only scored in the 3rd quarter and the Rams in the first and third.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Philadelphia Eagles (1940)
The Week 10 match played at the Forbes Field witnessed the last game without any penalties committed on November 10. The Eagles had not registered any win going into the match and once again ended on the losing side.
The Steelers won the game 7-3 and the only touchdown came in the third quarter. The game was played over eight decades ago and since then every game has had at least one penalty.