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With NFL Going To 17 Games, Will Someone Finally Break Randy Moss' Touchdown Record?

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- Over the weekend, Adam Schefter reported something that's been expected all offseason: the 17-game NFL schedule is inevitable. Owners will need to approve it, but according to Schefter, it's happening.

While that development is sure to generate various discussions on a number of different topics, I am bravely here to bring up the most important one: Randy Moss' single-season touchdown record.

Namely, now that every NFL receiver will have an extra game, will somebody finally make a run at unseating Moss as the single-season touchdown king?

It's been incredible, really, to see passing games absolutely explode over the past decade-plus in the NFL, without anyone really coming close to the 23 touchdowns that Moss scored in 2007 with the Patriots. We've seen Peyton Manning throw for 55 touchdowns in a single season. Patrick Mahomes has tied Tom Brady's 50-mark. Aaron Rodgers just capped off a 48-TD season. We've seen a QB throw 39 or more touchdowns in a season 16 times since 2007.

Just how much has passing exploded in the NFL, you ask? Why let me tell you: Of the top 25 seasons in passing yards by quarterbacks, all but two of them have come since 2008. We've seen the likes of Matthew Stafford and Jameis Winston crack the previously unfathomable 5,000-yard mark. We've seen Drew Brees top 4,800 yards seven times, and top 5,000 yards five times. Throwing the football has never been easier in the NFL than it has been in the past decade-plus.

And yet ... Moss' record remains untouched.

When Moss set that record in 2007, it was significant. Passing Jerry Rice on any all-time list is a remarkable achievement, as NFL receiving records tend to involve Rice at the top in his own stratosphere, and then everybody else battling it out for second place. (Rice has 5,400 yards over Larry Fitzgerald in receiving yards, and he has 41 more TDs over Moss. And he did all of that in the era before the NFL was complete mayhem for passing games. It's comical. ANYWAYS.)

Moss, of course, barely set the record. He needed two touchdowns on a cold night at Giants Stadium in Week 17 to tie and then pass Rice in the record books. The second one was hilarious, because Moss had just burned his man up the sideline on the previous play, but Brady didn't complete the pass. Moss trotted back to the huddle and had enough wind to burn his man even worse on the next play. Brady didn't miss, and the two Hall of Famers set their single-season records together.

Tom Brady & Randy Moss - 2 Records, 1 Play (2007) by WWECenaManiaTV on YouTube

One might imagine that, given the uptick in passing, someone would have moved past Moss long ago. But here are the top seasons for receiving touchdowns since Moss did that in 2007.

1. 2007 Randy Moss, 23
2. 2020 Davante Adams, 18
3. 2011 Rob Gronkowski, 17*
T-4. 2014 Dez Bryant, 16
T-4. 2013 Jimmy Graham, 16
T-6. 2018 Antonio Brown, 15
T-6. 2010 Dwayne Bowe, 15
T-8. Five players with 14

*Gronkowski scored 18 touchdowns that year, but one of his receptions came on what was later ruled to have been a lateral, thus costing him a receiving touchdown.

Adams was the apple of Rodgers' eye in 2020, but even in a season where Rodgers set a personal career high for touchdown passes, that wasn't enough to even flirt with Moss' record. Adams did miss two games due to a hamstring injury, so it's possible that he could have scored five or six more touchdowns. But it wouldn't have been particularly likely.

Surely, some single-season passing stats are in trouble. Manning's 55-TD season is safe for now, but it feels like it's only a matter of time before Mahomes takes that crown. It's likewise only a matter of time before Manning's yardage record of 5,477 falls. If Jameis Winston can throw for 5,100 yards in a season in the modern NFL, that record changing hands soon is inevitable.

And yet, on the receiving mark ... I'm not so sure.

It's remarkable, really, that even as scoring and passing stats have risen exponentially, nobody's even turned in a 20-touchdown season. The only two to ever catch 20 in a season are still Rice and Moss.

It speaks to how insanely talented and rare those two receivers are, obviously. But now with an even greater advantage being given to the current-day players, it will be fascinating to see if any of them can at least come close to matching or breaking Moss' record.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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