In American football, passing, along with running (also referred to as rushing), is one of the two main methods of advancing the ball down the field. Passes are typically attempted by the quarterback, but any offensive player can attempt a pass provided they are behind the line of scrimmage. To qualify as a passing play, the ball must have initially moved forward after leaving the hands of the passer; if the ball initially moved laterally or backwards, the play would instead be considered a running play. In addition to the overall National Football League (NFL) receiving champion, league record books recognize the rushing champions of the American Football League (AFL), which operated from 1960 to 1969 before being absorbed into the National Football League in 1970.
The NFL did not begin keeping official records until the 1932 season. Since the adoption of the 14-game season in 1961, only one season (the strike-shortened 1982 season) has had a receiving touchdowns league leader record fewer than 10 touchdown catches. The record for receiving touchdowns in a season is 23, set by Randy Moss during the 2007 season; only one other player (Jerry Rice) has recorded 20 or more receiving touchdowns in a season.
Don Hutson led the league in receiving touchdowns nine times, the most of any player in league history; Jerry Rice ranks second with six league-leading seasons. Hutson also holds the record for the two longest streaks leading the league in receiving touchdowns, doing so for four consecutive seasons (1935 to 1938) and then doing it for five consecutive years from 1940 to 1944. The next longest streak is three seasons, accomplished by Rice from 1989 to 1991. The Green Bay Packers have had a player from their team lead the league in receiving touchdowns 15 times, the most of any team in the NFL; the San Francisco 49ers rank second with 12.
NFL season receiving touchdowns leaders
|Leader||The player who recorded the most receiving touchdowns in the NFL|
|Games||The number of games that the player's team played during the year[A]|
|TDs||The total number of receiving touchdowns the player had|
|^||Pro Football Hall of Fame member|
|*||The player is an active player|
|Player won the AP Most Valuable Player award in the same year|
|Player won the AP Offensive Player of the Year award in the same year|
Other receiving touchdowns leaders
|1960||American Football League||Art Powell||New York Titans||14||14|||
|1961||American Football League||Bill Groman||Houston Oilers||17||14|||
|1962||American Football League||Chris Burford||Dallas Texans||12||14|||
|1963||American Football League||Art Powell||Oakland Raiders||16||14|||
|1964||American Football League||Lance Alworth^||San Diego Chargers||13||14|||
|1965||American Football League||Lance Alworth^||San Diego Chargers||14||14|||
|American Football League||Don Maynard^||New York Jets||14|||
|1966||American Football League||Lance Alworth^||San Diego Chargers||13||14|||
|1967||American Football League||Al Denson||Denver Broncos||11||14|||
|American Football League||Otis Taylor||Kansas City Chiefs||14|||
|1968||American Football League||Karl Noonan||Miami Dolphins||11||14|||
|American Football League||Warren Wells||Oakland Raiders||14|||
|1969||American Football League||Warren Wells||Oakland Raiders||14||14|||
History of NFL career receiving touchdowns
Records are listed for the end of the season. Note that dates overlap for times when players were tied for the career record. Source:
|Season||Record after season||Record holder||Dates|
|1931||22||John "Johnny Blood" McNally||? - 29 Sep 1940|
|1940||43||Don Hutson||22 Sep 1940 - 10 Dec 1989|
|1945 - 1988||99|
|1989-91||100||Steve Largent||26 Nov 1989 - 6 Dec 1992|
|1992||103||Jerry Rice||29 Nov 1992 - present|
|2004 - present||197|
- "Beginner's Guide to Football". National Football League. Retrieved September 30, 2012.
- Brinson, Will (December 31, 2013). "NFL, Elias reviewing Daniel Clark passing record: lateral or pass?". CBS Sports. Retrieved January 7, 2014.
- "2012 NFL Record and Fact Book" (PDF). NFL.com. pp. 625–626. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
- "NFL's Passer Rating". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
- "NFL Year-by-Year Receiving Touchdowns Leaders". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
- "NFL Single-Season Receiving Touchdowns Leaders". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
- "1932 New York Giants". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
- "1933 New York Giants". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
- "1933 Pittsburgh Pirates". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
- "1933 Chicago Bears". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
- "1933 Brooklyn Dodgers". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
- "1933 Green Bay Packers". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
- "1934 Chicago Bears". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
- "NFL History by Decade: 1981-1990". NFL.com. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
- "NFL Career Receiving Touchdowns Leaders". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
- Note: records prior to 1930 are unreliable, but receiving touchdowns can be back-calculated from career totals.