EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets throws a pass against the Dallas Cowboys in the first half during their NFL Season Opening Game at MetLife Stadium on September 11, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Was your favorite team's pass defense horrid yesterday? Fear not, because MOST NFL pass defenses were horrible yesterday.
Eleven quarterbacks threw for over three hundred yards yesterday, including the likes of Rex Grossman, Cam Newton, and Mark Sanchez. Just about everyone got in on the action (except the Vikings, who couldn't pass a salt shaker). Last year, only three QBs passed for that many yards in Week 1. In 2009, the number was seven. In 2008, the number was four. Ditto 2007 with four, three in 2006, two in 2005, four in 2004, two in 2003 and you get the idea. In fact, I checked every year going back to 1970 (as far as NFL.com allows) and no other opening weekend had as many 300-yard passers, and we haven't even played all the games yet. It's a record. A RECORD I TELL YOU!
Now, passing yards is a misleading stat that is often driven by game situations, and there were certainly a few lopsided contests yesterday. And certainly there's always going to be some variation in the numbers from year to year. But consider some of the defenses that got shredded over the past three days: Green Bay, Pittsburgh, the Jets, the Giants. Five of last year's top ten pass defenses got torn to pieces. Why? Does this coincide with the trend of shotgun spread offenses proliferating in the NFL this century? Is it dumb luck? Or does it signal short term effects of the lockout on defenses?
We saw a lot of busted coverages yesterday. But opposing offenses were able to get their act together in time to start the season, so it's a bit odd that pass defenses couldn't do likewise.
You can't chalk it up to new coaching changes, because only one team (Carolina) got strafed with a new coach in charge. Many of the teams that got victimized were teams that already had their coaches and defensive systems in place.
So either they all got fat, or they all got complacent or, more likely, the results are proof that, of all elements of the game, coverages need a full offseason of rehearsal, regardless of coaches or personnel. Because just one mistake back there leads to some pretty big plays, especially when teams are more pass happy than ever. Week one was proof of that. And if defenses don't get their act together soon, it'll be more of the same next time around.