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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Kramer Sees an Emerging Trend in the NFL

“You have almost achieved perfection.” Thus read Michael Schoelz ’12’s fortune cookie at Chuong Garden last week. Clearly S&B News Editor Schoelz has reached a personal zenith which nears the absolute ne plus ultra of a multitalented Grinnellian. That particular fortune, however, seems like it might find even more fitting pillars of perfection in quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady. All three signal-callers posted Madden-like stats in the NFL’s opening week of the 2011 season. Playing against the New Orleans Saints on the NFL’s opening game, Rodgers led the Green Bay Packers to victory by throwing for 312 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Even more astoundingly, he did so by completing 27 of his 35 pass attempts—that’s a league-best completion percentage of 77 percent. Brees nearly led the Saints over the Packers with an incredible outing of his own, throwing for 419 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Tom Brady’s 2011 debut on Monday Night Football was probably what the fortune cookie had in mind. The Patriot (I am really pushing for this to be Brady’s nickname, unseemly Mel Gibson associations be damned) tossed 517 yards and 4 TDs with one interception in New England’s win over the Miami Dolphins.

Brady’s performance was so good even his teammates were impressed. Veteran Patriots receiver/entertainer Chad Ochocinco tweeted that “to see video game numbers put up in person was WOW.” Former Patriot “great” (I would say “good”) Tedy Bruschi immediately jumped on Ocho’s comment, basically telling the mercurial receiver to grow up and think like a professional. Bruschi response to Chad was “Stop tweeting and get in your playbook.” As a devotee of HBO’s Hard Knocks, particularly the series following the 2009 Cincinnati Bengals, I can only hope Ochocinco retorted with his trademark “Child please!” Any casual observer (a category above which even your columnist cannot in good conscience put himself) could see that Tom Brady’s play over the last decade puts him in rarified company. Do you hear a dial tone? Because Tom Brady is off the hook! Brady is emblematic of a recent spat of outbursts from high-powered passing attacks like the one Coach Bill Belichick and Brady have built in New England.

The NFL seems to have at least partially adopted the pass-happy approach that has come to dominate the college game. Spread offenses have brought unparalleled success in the last decade to programs like Cincinnati, Missouri, Hawaii, Texas Tech and even conservative-minded traditional powers Florida, Texas, Oklahoma and Auburn. The change seems to have filtered up, a bit like the Wildcat fad but more gradual and, with numbers like Rodgers’s, Brees’s and Brady’s, likely more enduring. In week one, only seven backs topped 100 yards rushing but 14 QBs threw for over 300 yds. Eighteen threw for over 250 yards and 2 touchdowns, a stat line that I think is the benchmark for a very successful game for a quarterback at this level.

Obviously one week does not make for a pattern, but I think this trend will continue. The NFL’s level of physicality means that even the best running backs are destined for short, injury-riddled careers and a lifetime of knee problems. So many teams have adopted a system which utilizes a veritable stable of running backs, some designed for power runs up the gut and others who can turn the corner for explosive plays to the outside. LaDainian Tomlinson and Shaun Alexander both went from dominant forces as every-down backs to afterthoughts in their own offenses in just a couple seasons because they wore their bodies down, but quarterbacks have much better longevity. Whether the NFL has forever become a league of perfect robot quarterbacks and committees of anonymous, seemingly interchangeable running backs remains to be seen.

Other Week One Musings:

The matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers looked like a clash of two defensive titans and bitter divisional rivals during the off-season. It ended as a blowout, with Baltimore’s defense leading the way as usual. The Ravens forced 3 interceptions out of Roethlisberger after he threw only 5 in all of the 2010 season. I think the Ravens will roll to the AFC North division title. I don’t see the Steelers making the playoffs at all after that performance, but they could get their groove back this week against listless Seattle at home.

Cameron Newton’s debut under center for the Carolina Panthers was striking. In fact, the much-maligned rookie put up stats almost as good as veterans Rodgers, Brees and Brady. The Camchise threw for 422 yards and two TDs with 64.9% completion. He also ran for a score. Newton’s fantastic debut not only proved that Steve Smith is not dead, but that new coach Ron Rivera may have something quite a team on his hands. I think Newton will cool off, but his promising debut points to a long and fruitful professional career, haters be damned.

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    Kramer J McLuckieSep 16, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Yo dudes, this version still has a couple errors.