Alex Smith came out and threw four touchdown passes against the Patriots in Thursday’s win. As it turned out, that was the offensive highlight game of the week. If Sunday was a potential glimpse of the future, then the future will feature less offense and be more offensive.
Teams combined to throw 29 touchdown passes so far in week 1, as we await the two Monday night contests. That is the lowest “touchdown pass per game” average in opening week since 2006. At right are the totals from the last decade on the season’s showcase opening week.
Where have you gone, Peyton Manning? Four years ago saw a record-setting explosion, including Manning’s 7-touchdown opener. Twenty-one quarterbacks threw multiple touchdowns that year in week 1. We are at seven so far this year.
Two journeymen were benched in week 1. Scott Tolzien threw two touchdowns to the wrong team and facilitated a beat down so hard his coach forgot the opponent. Tolzien might get the distinction of having his last NFL start be in a season opener.
In Houston, Bill O’Brien went with Tom Savage over rookie DeShaun Watson. That experiment lasted one half as Savage threw for 62 yards and was sacked repeatedly. Watson led one touchdown drive in the second half, but he’s not ready to play. He’s still the best option for the Texans.
Andy Dalton melted down with four interceptions in the opener and the Bengals got shut out by the Ravens at home. Carson Palmer threw three (with a pick-six) and struggled after David Johnson left with an injury, with Arizona leading 17-9.
The rest of the placeholder brigade turned in games that weren’t as horrible, but which nevertheless signal a dearth of quality. Brian Hoyer managed to lead San Francisco to only 3 points, Mike Glennon averaged 5.3 yards per attempt, and Josh McCown put up a line to which Jets fans should get accustomed (187 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions).
Other quarterbacks who, through draft status or paycheck, were expected to carry offenses also had an off day. Marcus Mariota averaged 6.2 yards per attempt and had no touchdown passes as the Titans expected breakout thudded against the Raiders at home. Kirk Cousins got battered and beaten by the Eagles all day and averaged 6.0 yards per attempt. Eli Manning could do nothing with Odell Beckham out. Russell Wilson totalled 158 passing yards against the Packers.
It was a day with so many substandard performances that no one noticed that Blake Bortles transformed from the Garbage Time King and someone with more pick-sixes than wins, into Brock Osweiler. Bortles finished with an inspiring 11 for 21, 125 passing yard game, and now the Jaguars will be without Allen Robinson.
All told, the 13 starting quarterbacks on Week 1 losing teams averaged 5.9 yards per attempt and threw 4 touchdown passes-total. The losing teams averaged a paltry 12.4 points scored.
The last time teams averaged 1.1 passing touchdowns per game was 1991. Rushers only averaged 3.6 yards per rush this opening week as well. Teams are averaging 5.9 net yards per pass, which is back to pre-2006 levels after the offensive explosion of the last decade. It’s one week, and we will find out how much of an anomaly it is over the next several, but if it’s not, the NFL may be getting a glimpse of its future as several star quarterbacks age out of the league.