All hail the Chiefs.
With their 42 point destruction of New England’s defense on Thursday night, Kansas City — led by their oft-doubted QB, Alex Smith — were alone this week in putting on a truly impressive offensive display. All in all, this was the lowest scoring opening weekend in the NFL since 2010. An average of just 37 points per game were scored on Sunday (and 39 when we take Thursday into account), compared with 45 last year and 46 the year before that.
The league’s mid-tier QBs simply didn’t show up in the way many of us expected. The Titans’ Marcus Mariota put up 255 yards, but no TDs; Cam Newton looked pedestrian; and Kirk Cousins, who was sacked no less than four times, struggled to find any rhythm, going 23-40 with one pick and a TD. None of this even compared to the abject display offered-up by the Bengals’ Andy Dalton who threw four interceptions en route to a humiliating shutout loss to the Ravens.
Et tu, Roethlisberger?
Even the elite signal-callers struggled to get going on Sunday. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense will be disappointed to put up just 21 on a re-building Browns team that managed to keep the game within a field goal. But if Roethlisberger was prosaic, Eli Manning was atrocious. Making his 200th straight start for New York, the Giants QB put up dreadful numbers in the first half against Dallas, and managed to set his team up for just a single field goal in the second. The absence of Odell Beckham Jr. isn’t an excuse. Eli had Brandon Marshall on the field and connected with him just once.
But perhaps most significant was Russell Wilson’s performance against the Packers. The Seahawks QB looked uncomfortable against a Green Bay defense that wasn’t projected to be fear-inducing. Although Wilson’s box score told much of the story — 14-27 for 158 yards (no picks, no TDs) — his strip sack on Seattle’s 6 yard line was symbolic of a dire evening for the Seahawks offense. To add to Wilson’s woes, the run game was non-existent (Wilson led the team in rushing with 40 yards), and the offensive line looks unimproved. (No doubt Richard Sherman had something to say post-game). If Seattle is going to meet expectations and secure a berth in the Super Bowl, they will once again be heavily reliant on their now-aging defense.
A lot of last night’s offensive difficulties can perhaps be put down to a lack of preseason reps. However, the anemic displays witnessed in week one could just as easily be the product of a new reality we’re slowly getting used to: offensive line play in the NFL has deteriorated significantly.
Fourth and goal
Throughout this season you might find me using the “final thought” section of my column to keep an eye on the New York Jets, and their endeavour to land a franchise Quarterback — so I’ll start this term as I mean to go on.
Week one went well for Mike Maccagnan and co. Facing the Buffalo Bills on the road was potential banana skin for the Jets — it was a race-to-the-bottom style game I could see them winning by mistake. Thankfully, Josh McCown’s two interceptions were enough to allow the Bills to take over the game, and Todd Bowles’ decision to punt on the Jets’ own 44 yard line (two scores down and with 4 minutes to go) was a thing of tanking beauty. Sam Darnold — you can start packing your bags for New York now!