If Sunday's opening games are any indication, this is going to be the year of the bomb in the National Football League, as long as most of the quarterbacks stay healthy.
On a day when Pittsburgh's David Woodley (concussion) and Denver's John Elway (badly bruised throwing shoulder) sustained injuries that could sideline them for at least one game, 40 touchdown passes were thrown in 12 games.
No game had fewer than two touchdown passes, and only five teams -- the Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings, Los Angeles Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts -- failed to throw a scoring pass.
Many of the scores were spectacular, too. Woodley and Louis Lipps of Pittsburgh teamed on an 80-yard score. Dan Marino and Mark Duper of Miami, and Jack Thompson and Gerald Carter of Tampa Bay, teamed on 74-yard scores. Phil Simms and Byron Williams of the New York Giants, and Steve Grogan and Stephen Starring of New England, combined on 65-yard scoring plays. Alfred Jackson caught a 50-yard touchdown pass from Steve Bartkowski for Atlanta.
Woodley, who was acquired by the Steelers to replace the retired Terry Bradshaw, had completed 11 of 17 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns in a little more than two quarters against the Kansas City Chiefs when he suffered a concussion. After spending the night in Divine Providence Hospital, Woodley was released yesterday, but has been listed as doubtful for Thursday night's game against the New York Jets. (A spokesman for the Steelers said it also appeared doubtful that injured linebacker Jack Lambert and wide receiver Calvin Sweeney would be able to play Thursday. Lambert dislocated the big toe of his left foot during the game, and Sweeney injured a hamstring muscle.)
Woodley was replaced by Mark Malone, who completed 11 of 24 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown to give their team 478 yards passing.
Elway was forced out of Denver's 20-17 victory over Cincinnati with his team leading, 13-3, having been sacked by Ross Browner early in the third period.
Denver team physician Roger Greenberg said he was uncertain if Elway would be able to play in Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears. The injury was first diagnosed as a separated shoulder. "It's basically a bad bruise," Greenberg said. "If somebody wants to call it a separation, you can call it a first-degree separation, which means a bad bruise."
Elway, who had completed eight of 13 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown, said he was scrambling, trying to get out of bounds, when Browner caught him.
"It was a clean hit," said Elway. "I thought I could get around the corner and all of a sudden I felt about 300 pounds on my back. I thought I could go back in the game. Throwing didn't hurt, but it hurt to bring my arm up."
Elway was relieved by Gary Kubiak, who completed 10 of 16 for 79 yards and threw the game-winning touchdown pass to tight end Clarence Kay midway though the fourth quarter.
Among the quarterbacks who stayed healthy, Marino had the biggest day, completing 21 of 28 for 311 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions and no sacks against the Redskins. But a number of other quarterbacks, including Simms and Dan Fouts of the San Diego Chargers, also hit it big on opening day.
Simms, starting his first game for the New York Giants since 1981, threw for 409 yards and four touchdowns in a 28-27 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Simms had missed much of the 1981 season with a separated shoulder, sat out the 1982 season with a knee injury and fractured his thumb last year after losing the starting job to Scott Brunner. But Sunday he joined Y.A. Tittle as the only quarterbacks in Giants history to pass for more than 400 yards in a game.
Fouts completed 21 of 28 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns in 2 1/2 quarters in the Chargers' 42-13 victory over Minnesota, and Cincinnati's Ken Anderson completed 25 of 49 for 323 yards in the loss to Denver.
Some new quarterbacks performed with varying degrees of success.
Among them, the winners were Todd Blackledge of the Kansas City Chiefs and Pat Ryan of the New York Jets. The losers included Warren Moon of Houston and Richard Todd of New Orleans.
Blackledge, who didn't start a game and threw only 34 passes in his rookie season last year, is Kansas City's starting quarterback now because of a preseason injury to Bill Kenney. Blackledge responded by completing 19 of 36 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown and had no interceptions in his team's 37-27 victory over the Steelers.
Ryan was given the call as the Jets' starter because Todd was traded to New Orleans and Ken O'Brien spent so much time in court defending himself against an assault charge that he never learned the offense. Ryan threw two touchdowns passes to tight end Mickey Shuler in a 23-14 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
Todd had his troubles in the Superdome. After beating out Ken Stabler and Dave Wilson for the starting job, he threw two touchdown passes, but also three interceptions as the Saints lost to the Falcons, 36-28.
Moon, the highest-paid player in the league, had a modest 12-for-29 day for 209 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, but Houston lost to the Los Angeles Raiders, 24-14.
A number of wide receivers also had big games Sunday.
Lipps, the Steelers' No. 1 draft choice from Southern Mississippi, caught six passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns, and teammate John Stallworth caught eight for 167 yards, to become Pittsburgh's all-time leader in receiving yards.
Duper caught six for 178 yards and two touchdowns, Mike Quick of Philadelphia eight for 147 and Cris Collinsworth of Cincinnati 10 for 141.
Simms' favorite targets were two relatively unheralded wide receivers, Bobby Johnson and Williams. Johnson, a free agent from Kansas, had eight catches for 137 yards and two scores and Williams, a second-year player from Texas-Arlington, caught five for 167 yards and a score.