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Chart Party: Exploring 'scoragami,' the art of inventing new final scores

Thursday night, the Seahawks won a game 36-16, which no NFL team had ever done. Inventing brand-new final scores is a lost art, but it isn't dead yet.

Scoragami is a word I just invented, and it refers to the act, and art, of producing a final score in a football game that has never happened before. A final score of, say, 108-0 would certainly count as NFL scoragami, but I think it's far more interesting to look numbers that are more reasonable in quantity while remaining eminently weird in shape.

A perfect example of this is Thursday night's Seahawks-Packers game, which Seattle won 36-16. It was the first 36-16 game in NFL history, including the regular season and playoffs. This game so easily could have been a 34-17 game, which of course has happened dozens of times. All it takes, really, is one little weird-ass thing.

scoragami

Scoragami only really works in the sport of football, and it works because there are relatively few scoring events, and those events could result in two or three or six or seven or eight points, and those events completely change a team's decision-making with regard to future scoring events. Scoring in football is like having a conversation in a few different languages at the same time. It's like counting by switching from decimal to hexidecimal to binary to decimal again, depending on what you feel like.

The safety threw the Seahawks' score, which was previously a perfectly reasonable 20 points, completely off its train tracks. Then the Packers went off the rail in pursuit. They scored a touchdown to cut the deficit to 13. An extra point would have made the eventual final score 36-17, which has happened several times in the last decade. But since they want to get within 11 points -- a touchdown, 2-point conversion, and field goal away -- they try for two, and they fail. One aberration inspired another, and together they created a sporting mutation the NFL had never seen.

That is scoragami. There is a finite amount of it to be created.

1

Some of these results completely make sense. Finishing with four points is vastly unlikely in American football, and that whole row lines up green, indicating that no NFL team has ever finished with four points on the scoreboard.

Others are stranger. There's never been a 32-22 NFL game? Like, ever? Using Pro-Football-Reference's Play Index, I sifted through an archive of over 26,000 NFL games. 32-22 does seem a little exotic, but it was wild to find out that not a single game has ended that way.

Scoragami isn't a dead art, but it's certainly dying. Just about all the scores that could plausibly be scored were scored decades ago. Thanks to the advent of the two-point conversion in the 1990s, teams have claimed most of the weird variations.

Practicing scoragami in the modern NFL requires a master of the art. That master is Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.

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This is Carroll's fifth year in Seattle. Exactly once per season, he's produced a work of scoragami.

  • 2010: Seahawks 36, Cardinals 18
  • 2011: Seahawks 36, Giants 25
  • 2012: Seahawks 58, Cardinals 0
  • 2013: Seahawks 43, Broncos 8 (Super Bowl XLVIII)
  • 2014: Seahawks 36, Packers 16

None of those final scores had ever happened before. To produce even one work of scoragami in one's career would be quite an achievement. To do it five times in as many years is sorcery. What's important to remember about scoragami is that you also have to incentivize your opponent to start scoring all silly, and Carroll does it better than anyone.

This week, the Seahawks play the Chargers in San Diego. They will score H points.