Indianapolis running back Jonathan Taylor was one of just seven players to rush for more than 1,000 yards, tying the record for fewest in a season. Michael Conroy/Associated Press

The NFL’s steady increase in offensive production took a step back this season.

The average points per game for teams dropped from a record 24.8 in 2021 to 23 this season as improved defense, some quarterback-related COVID absences, more holding calls and visiting teams dealing with crowds likely made an impact.

The drop of 1.8 points per game per team was the second biggest single-season decline since the merger, behind only the 2.0 points per game from 1976 to 1977. The scoring across the league was more back in line in what it was before the pandemic-impacted 2020 season. The NFL averaged 22.8 points per game per team from 2013-19.

Passer rating leaguewide dropped from 93.6 to 90.8, the 5.43 yards per play were the second-lowest in eight seasons.

But the biggest impact might have been with penalties, which increased 18% per game for offenses this season as teams were penalized 36% more often per game for holding and nearly 10% more often for false starts.

In other regular-season numbers:

• Because of injuries, COVID-19 absences and teams relying more on the pass than ever, only Jonathan Taylor, Nick Chubb, Joe Mixon, Najee Harris, Dalvin Cook, Antonio Gibson and Ezekiel Elliott topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark this season. That tied the previous low from a 16-game season of seven 1,000-yard rushers in 1991 and 2015.

• The season ended with the Raiders winning their record-tying fourth overtime game on a walk-off field goal by Daniel Carlson, 35-32 win over the Chargers. That was the record 34th game decided by a game-winning score on the final play this season with the Raiders accounting for a record six of them. The 49 games with a game-winning score in the final minute of regulation or in overtime tied the 2013 and 2015 seasons for the most ever.

• In Tampa Bay, Tom Brady, at age 44, led the NFL in yards passing (5,316) and touchdowns (43), breaking Drew Brees’ record with 485 completions. Brees had 471 in 2016. Brady had his second 5,000-yard passing season, joining Brees as the only players to do that more than once. Brees did it five times. Receiver Mike Evans became the first player to top the 1,000-yard receiving mark in his first eight seasons and Rob Gronkowski had his 32nd career 100-yard game, breaking the mark for tight ends held by Tony Gonzalez.

• The Eagles became the eighth team in the past 20 seasons to get into the playoffs despite failing to win a single game against another playoff team. Philadelphia lost all six games against playoff teams, while going 9-2 the rest of the season.

RAMS: Eric Weddle’s agent says the veteran NFL safety is coming out of retirement to rejoin the Los Angeles Rams for the playoffs.

David Canter made the announcement Wednesday morning. A person with knowledge of the deal confirmed the Rams plan to re-sign Weddle, who turned 37 last week and hasn’t played since the 2019 season, to fill their glaring need at safety. Jordan Fuller is out for the playoffs with a right ankle injury and fellow starting safety Taylor Rapp is in the concussion protocol.

The NFC West champion Rams (12-5) play the Arizona Cardinals (11-6) on Monday night.

Weddle retired in February 2020 after one season with the Rams and one year left on his contract. The Los Angeles-area native spent his first 11 NFL seasons with the San Diego Chargers and the Baltimore Ravens before joining the Rams and making 108 tackles for Wade Phillips’ defense.

PACKERS: Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith is practicing again, raising hopes the 2020 Pro Bowl selection could return for the playoffs after missing nearly the entire regular season.

Smith, who recorded a combined 26 sacks for the Packers from 2019-20, participated in the Packers’ practice Wednesday as they begin postseason preparations. The Packers (13-4) own the NFC’s No. 1 seed and lone first-round playoff bye, so they won’t play until Jan. 22 or 23.

Smith hasn’t played since the season opener due to a back issue. He was on the field for just 18 snaps during that opening game, a 38-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

CARDINALS: J.J. Watt, a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, is trying to complete an unlikely comeback from a serious shoulder injury in an effort to help the Cardinals’ defense when they travel to face the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night in the wild-card round.

The idea Watt could return seemed absurd in late October. The injury was reportedly serious and the 11-year veteran confirmed most of the details Wednesday, including a dislocated shoulder, torn rotator cuff, torn labrum and capsule. He also dislocated his biceps tendon and had surgery on Nov. 3.

Doctors told Watt a normal expectation for a return was four to six months. A little over two months later, he could be back.

There are no guarantees he’ll actually be on the field against the Rams. He has tested the shoulder against offensive linemen in simulated situations, but a real practice Thursday is the next step.

BEARS: The Chicago Bears interviewed former Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson and Cleveland Browns executive Glenn Cook for their vacant coach and general manager jobs.

The positions opened Monday when the Bears fired former coach Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace on the heels of a 6-11 season.

Pederson led Philadelphia to the franchise’s lone Super Bowl championship. He was 42-37-1 with two division championships and three playoff appearances before going 4-11-1 in 2020 and getting fired.

Pederson and Nagy are friends from their time working under Andy Reid in Philadelphia and Kansas City.

Cook has spent six years in Cleveland’s front office. He was the Browns’ assistant director of pro scouting from 2016 to 2019 and their vice president of player personnel the past two seasons, working with executive vice president of football operations and GM Andrew Berry. Cook also served as a scouting assistant with Indianapolis (2011-12) and a pro scout with Green Bay (2012-15).

TV RATINGS: An extra week of games, close finishes and a non-election year helped propel the NFL to its highest regular-season ratings in six years. The 272 regular-season games averaged 17.1 million viewers across television and digital platforms, that is a 10% increase over 2020 and is the league’s highest average since 2015.

It was expected that the audience would increase after the 2020 season was played in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, with empty stadiums presenting a strange viewing dynamic, and many people’s viewing habits changing. The first half of that season also occurred in the midst of a presidential campaign, when many were watching cable news channels.

This was also the first season when the league played 17 regular-season games. Despite the extra games, there were not many blowouts. According to the league, 64% of all games this season were within one score in the fourth quarter.

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