1981 NFL season
The 49ers playing against the Bengals in Super Bowl XVI.
The 1981 NFL season was the 62nd regular season of the National Football League. The season ended with Super Bowl XVI when the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21 at the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan.
Major rule changes
- It is illegal for any player to put adhesive or slippery substances such as the product "stickum" on his body, equipment or uniform. This rule is known as both the "Lester Hayes Rule" and the "Fred Biletnikoff Rule" since both players were notorious for using sticky substances to make it easier for them to intercept/catch passes.
- An offensive player who comes into the game wearing an illegal number for the position he takes must report to the Referee before the start of the next play.
- The penalty for an ineligible receiver who touches a forward pass is a loss of down.
- The penalty for illegal use of hands, arms, or body (including holding) is reduced from 15 yards to 10 yards.
- The penalty for intentional grounding is modified: loss of down and 10 yards penalty from the previous spot, or if the foul occurs more than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage, loss of down at the spot of the foul.
Regular Season games not broadcast by Network TV
W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PCT = Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against
- Baltimore finished ahead of New England in the AFC East based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
- San Diego finished ahead of Denver in the AFC West based on better division record (6–2 to Broncos' 5–3).
- Buffalo was the second AFC Wild Card based on head-to-head victory over Denver (1–0).
- Detroit finished ahead of Green Bay in the NFC Central based on better record against common opponents (5–5 to Packers' 4–6).
- * Indicates overtime victory
|Points scored||San Diego Chargers (478)|
|Total yards gained||San Diego Chargers (6,744)|
|Yards rushing||Detroit Lions (2,795)|
|Yards passing||San Diego Chargers (4,739)|
|Fewest points allowed||Philadelphia Eagles (221)|
|Fewest total yards allowed||Philadelphia Eagles (4,447)|
|Fewest rushing yards allowed||Detroit Lions (1,623)|
|Fewest passing yards allowed||Philadelphia Eagles (2,696)|
|Most Valuable Player||Ken Anderson, Quarterback, Cincinnati|
|Coach of the Year||Bill Walsh, San Francisco|
|Offensive Player of the Year||Ken Anderson, Quarterback, Cincinnati|
|Defensive Player of the Year||Lawrence Taylor, Linebacker, NY Giants|
|Offensive Rookie of the Year||George Rogers, Running back, New Orleans|
|Defensive Rookie of the Year||Lawrence Taylor, Linebacker, NY Giants|
- Most Passes Attempted, Season, 709
- Minnesota Vikings
- Chicago Bears
- Most Yards, Punt Returns, Both Teams, Game, 282
- Los Angeles Rams (219) vs Atlanta Falcons (63), Oct 11, 1981
- Most Touchdowns, Passing, Single Team, Game, 7
- San Diego Chargers (vs Oakland Raiders) Nov 22, 1981
- Most Touchdowns, Punt Returns, Single Team, Game, 2
- Los Angeles Rams (vs Atlanta Falcons) Oct 11, 1981
Baltimore Colts Defense
The 1981 Baltimore Colts were one of the worst defenses in NFL history; they set five dubious defensive records:
- Most Points Allowed, Season, 533
- Most Touchdowns Allowed, Season, 68
- Most First Downs Allowed Season, 406
- Most Yards Allowed, Season, 6,793
- Fewest Punt Returns, Season, 12
- NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
- NFL History 1981–1990 (Last accessed December 4, 2005)
- Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)