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Which NFL Records Can Never Be Broken?
The Dallas Cowboys, in a picture taken in Texas Stadium on Dec. 14, 2008, during a game against the New York Giants.
Credit: Ken Durden | Dreamstime

In professional sports , records are made to be broken.

There are, however, a few marks considered so untouchable they appear unbreakable. Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game is an NBA record that has stood for 48 years, and the closest anyone has come to matching it was Kobe Bryant, with 81 points in a 2006 game. Baseball player Cy Young's 511 pitching victories are an even greater statistical anomaly. Considering the nature of modern-day baseball, it is virtually inconceivable that any MLB pitcher will ever come close to this mark.

Unlikely though it may be, it remains possible that those records could fall. Tony Dorsett's 99-yard touchdown run, however, is another matter.

On Monday, Jan. 3, 1983, the Dallas Cowboys great and later pro football Hall of Famer ran his way into the NFL record books for all time with the longest run from scrimmage in league history.

Dorsett's 99-yard record run can never be broken. This is because NFL rules call for the game to be played on a field 100 yards long. The yardage begins with the one-yard line, not the zero. Therefore, the longest run possible in the NFL is 99 yards in length.

The closest that anyone could come to breaking the record would be to tie Dorsett and share the mark with him. Unless the league changes one of the fundamental parts of the game the 100-yard field Tony Dorsett's name will always be found in the pro football record book.

It's important to note the difference between Dorsett's record for the longest run from scrimmage and the longest play, period. The NFL's longest play was a 109-yard missed field goal return by Antonio Cromartie in 2007. That length was possible because, when a play includes a kickoff, punt, interception or fumble return, officials measuring the length of the play take into account how far back a player is in the end zone (which is 10 yards long), according to league rules.

That rule does not apply for offensive plays started from scrimmage, such as running or passing plays , so records for those plays will always remain at 99-yards.

In NFL history , 99-yard passing plays are more common than 99-yard running plays. There have been 11 passing plays of that length, the most recent in 2008. But Dorsett's mark remains the only run to go that long, making it a singularly unique achievement.

In the book "Run It! And Let's Get the Hell Out of Here! The 100 Greatest Plays in Pro Football History" (Globe Pequot, 2007), Dorsett described his famous gallop, which came during Monday Night Football in Minnesota against the Vikings.

"I just saw a lot of green," Dorsett said. "When I came to the sideline, [Cowboys player personnel director] Gil Brandt said, 'I think that was an NFL record .'"

What's even more impressive about the run is that Dorsett saw all that open space despite the fact his team was missing one player on the field. The Cowboys fullback had mistakenly stayed on the sideline, so Dallas only had 10 men on the field for the historic play. Turns out, it didn't matter.

Dorsett's one regret from that night? "I should've kept the ball."

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