It turns out that NFL quarterbacks didn’t need an offseason’s-worth of practices, after all, to work on their timing with receivers or fine-tune the precision of the passing game. Across the league, many offenses have begun the new season far ahead of defenses, and quarterbacks have led the way.
Tom Brady’s career-best, 517-yard passing performance Monday night for the New England Patriots at Miami was the highlight of an opening weekend when nearly half the league’s starting quarterbacks surpassed 300 yards passing.
The Post Sports Live crew discusses Rex Grossman's impressive performance against the Giants and singles out rookie Chris Neild and tight end Fred Davis for their strong outings.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw for a team-record 517 yards and four touchdowns, including a 99-yarder to Wes Welker, in a 38-24 win in Miami Monday. Dolphins QB Chad Henne passed for a career-high 416 yards in defeat. (Sept. 13)
Three other quarterbacks — Carolina’s Cam Newton, Drew Brees of New Orleans and Miami’s Chad Henne — topped 400 passing yards. Another 10 passers threw for more than 300 yards. Together, the 14 of them set a record for any week of an NFL season, not merely an opening weekend, as did the 7,842 net passing yards league-wide (a figure adjusted to include negative yards for sacks).
It was not exactly what had been expected after an offseason without minicamps or organized team activities, thanks to the NFL lockout, and it might have been a preview of another season of record-setting offensive exploits.
“I’m definitely surprised,” said former NFL quarterback Tim Hasselbeck. “I’d talked to a bunch of quarterbacks and they’d all said, ‘It’s going to be brutal. We’re going to be seeing blitz looks that we haven’t seen before and have no plan for.’ You usually go to the first practice of training camp and the defense is way ahead of the offense, playing in the offensive backfield while the offense is trying to get situated.”
Brady faced blitzes Monday night from the Dolphins, yet passed for the fifth-most yards ever in an NFL game. Newton also withstood Arizona Cardinals blitzes Sunday as he passed for 422 yards, the most ever by a rookie in a season opener.
“I thought he was very impressive,” former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann said of Newton, the top overall selection in the NFL draft in April. “He showed a lot more accuracy than he’d shown previously [during the preseason].”
Newton’s passing display was part of a weekend when offenses largely did as they pleased and defenses mostly had no answers. With Henne throwing for 416 yards, the Dolphins and Patriots combined for 1,110 yards of total offense Monday night, the second most ever and the most in an NFL game in 61 years. Brady and Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker teamed to match the league record for the longest play from scrimmage with a 99-yard touchdown.
Returners also flourished, with three touchdowns on kickoff returns and five more on punt returns. The eight return scores were the most ever in a single weekend of NFL games.
But quarterbacks played the leading roles and they posted their big numbers even with four-time league most valuable player Peyton Manning out of the Indianapolis Colts’ lineup for the first time in 14 seasons. The season started last Thursday night with Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers throwing three first-quarter touchdown passes, and slowed little from there.