The 2004 NFL season was the 85th regular season of the National Football League.
With the New England Patriots as the defending league champions, regular season play was held from September 9, 2004 to January 2, 2005. Hurricanes forced the rescheduling of two Miami Dolphins home games: the game against the Tennessee Titans was moved up one day to Saturday, September 11 to avoid oncoming Hurricane Ivan, while the game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, September 26 was moved back 7½ hours to miss the eye of Hurricane Jeanne.
The playoffs began on January 8, and eventually New England repeated as NFL champions when they defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 24-21 in Super Bowl XXXIX, the Super Bowl championship game, at ALLTEL Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida on February 6.
Major rule changes
- Due to several incidents during the 2003 NFL season, officials are authorized to penalize excessive celebration. The 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty will be marked off from the spot at the end of the previous play or, after a score, on the ensuing kickoff. If the infraction is ruled flagrant by the officials, the player(s) are ejected.
- Due to several instances during the 2003–04 playoffs, officials are instructed to strictly enforce illegal contact, pass interference, and defensive holding.
- Timeouts can be called by head coaches.
- In addition to the numbers 80–89, wide receivers will now be allowed to use numbers 10–19.
- A punt or missed field goal that is untouched by the receiving team is immediately dead once it touches either the end zone or any member of the kicking team in the end zone. Previously, a punt or missed field goal that lands in the end zone before being controlled by the kicking team could be picked up by a member of the receiving team and immediately run the other way.
- Teams will be awarded a third instant replay challenge if their first two are successful. Previously, teams were only limited to two regardless of what occurred during the game.
- The one-bar facemask was officially outlawed. The few remaining players who still used the one-bar facemask at the time were allowed to continue to use the style until they left the league under a grandfather clause.
2004 NFL Changes
Final regular season standings
W = Wins, L = Losses, PCT = Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against
Clinched playoff seeds are marked in parentheses and shaded in green. No ties occurred this year.
- a Indianapolis clinched the AFC #3 seed instead of San Diego based on better head-to-head record (1–0).
- b N.Y. Jets clinched the AFC #5 seed instead of Denver based on better record in common games (5–0 to 3–2).
- c St. Louis clinched the NFC #5 seed instead of Minnesota or New Orleans based on better conference record (7–5 to Minnesota's 5–7 to New Orleans' 6–6).
- d Minnesota clinched the NFC #6 seed instead of New Orleans based on better head-to-head record (1–0).
- e N.Y. Giants finished ahead of Dallas and Washington in the NFC East based on better head-to-head record (3–1 to Dallas' 2–2 to Washington's 1–3).
- f Dallas finished ahead of Washington in the NFC East based on better head-to-head record (2–0).
Within each conference, the four division winners and the two wild card teams (the top two non-division winners with the best overall regular season records) qualified for the playoffs. The four division winners are seeded 1 through 4 based on their overall won-lost-tied record, and the wild card teams are seeded 5 and 6. The NFL does not use a fixed bracket playoff system, and there are no restrictions regarding teams from the same division matching up in any round. In the first round, dubbed the wild-card playoffs or wild-card weekend, the third-seeded division winner hosts the sixth seed wild card, and the fourth seed hosts the fifth. The 1 and 2 seeds from each conference then receive a bye in the first round. In the second round, the divisional playoffs, the number 1 seed hosts the worst surviving seed from the first round (seed 4, 5 or 6), while the number 2 seed will play the other team (seed 3, 4 or 5). The two surviving teams from each conference's divisional playoff games then meet in the respective AFC and NFC Conference Championship games, hosted by the higher seed. Although the Super Bowl, the fourth and final round of the playoffs, is played at a neutral site, the designated home team is based on an annual rotation by conference.
The Miami Dolphins were the first team to be eliminated from the playoff race, having reached a 1-9 record by week 11.
- * Indicates overtime victory
The following teams and players set all-time NFL records during the season:
||Previous Record Holder
|Longest Interception Return
||Ed Reed, Baltimore (106 yards)
||November 7, at Cleveland
||Tied by 2 players (103)
|Most Touchdown Passes, Season
||Peyton Manning, Indianapolis (49)
||Dan Marino, Miami, 1984 (48)
|Highest Passer Rating, Season
||Peyton Manning, Indianapolis (121.1)
||Steve Young, San Francisco, 1994 (112.8)
|Most Interception Return Yards Gained, Season
||Ed Reed, Baltimore (358)
||Charlie McNeil, San Diego, 1961 (349)
|Most First Downs by a Team, Season
||Kansas City (398)
||Miami, 1994 (387)
|Most Consecutive Games Won
||October 24, vs. N.Y. Jets
||Chicago, 1933–34 (17)
|Most Passing Touchdowns by a Team, Season
||Miami, 1984 (49)
The Colts led the NFL with 522 points scored. The Colts tallied more points in the first half of each of their games of the 2004 NFL season (277 points) than seven other NFL teams managed in the entire season. Despite throwing for 49 touchdown passes, Peyton Manning attempted fewer than 500 passes for the first time in his NFL career. The San Francisco 49ers record 420 consecutive scoring games that had started in Week 5 of the 1977 season ended in Week 2 of the season.
||Adam Vinatieri, New England (141 points)
||Shaun Alexander, Seattle (20 TDs)
|Most field goals made
||Adam Vinatieri, New England (31 FGs)
||Daunte Culpepper, Minnesota (4717 yards)
||Peyton Manning, Indianapolis (49 TDs)
||Peyton Manning, Indianapolis (121.1 rating)
||Curtis Martin, New York Jets (1,697 yards)
||LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego (17 TDs)
||Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City (102)
||Muhsin Muhammad, Carolina (1,405)
||Eddie Drummond, Detroit (13.2 average yards)
||Willie Ponder, New York Giants (26.9 average yards)
||Ed Reed, Baltimore (9)
||Shane Lechler, Oakland (46.7 average yards)
||Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis (16)
|Most Valuable Player
||Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Indianapolis
|Coach of the Year
||Marty Schottenheimer, San Diego
|Offensive Player of the Year
||Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Indianapolis
|Defensive Player of the Year
||Ed Reed, Safety, Baltimore
|Offensive Rookie of the Year
||Ben Roethlisberger, Quarterback, Pittsburgh
|Defensive Rookie of the Year
||Jonathan Vilma, Linebacker, New York Jets
|NFL Comeback Player of the Year
||Drew Brees, Quarterback, San Diego
- ↑ "An 0-10 start will do that to you". USA Today.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- ↑ "Records". 2005 NFL Record and Fact Book. NFL. 2005. ISBN 978-1-932994-36-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- ↑ Numbelivable!, p.35, Michael X. Ferraro and John Veneziano, Triumph Books, Chicago, Illinois, 2007, ISBN 978-1-57243-990-0
- ↑ Numbelivable!, p.146, Michael X. Ferraro and John Veneziano, Triumph Books, Chicago, Illinois, 2007, ISBN 978-1-57243-990-0