Week 1 of the NFL season was notable for the mindboggling passing statistics that began the 2011 season. You don't have to be a quarterbacking guru to realize we're currently in a golden age of gunslingers. Brady, Manning, Brees, Rodgers, Rivers, Roethlisberger, Vick, Ryan, and Schaub are all Pro Bowl caliber QBs and soon perhaps Bradford, Stafford, Freeman, and Newton will join that elite realm. At no time in league history have we seen this many quality quarterbacks up and down the league.
All of those great quarterbacks started the new season with a bang. Week 1 of 2011 went into the history books as the biggest passing week in NFL history... even including Donovan McNabb's 39 yard debut for the Vikings. All totaled, 14 quarterbacks went over the 300 yard mark. Teams averaged 245.1 yards passing per game compared to just 105.3 yards rushing per game in Week 1. Monday Night Football set an NFL record for most combined passing yards in a game with 933 between the Dolphins and Patriots. Tom Brady threw for a Patriots and MNF record 517 yards including a 99 yard TD pass to Wes Welker. Chad Henne only managed 416 yards in comparison.
In reality though, the explosive numbers through the air to start the season is only a high profile example of a continual evolution of the NFL passing game.
You know the old adage that you have to use the run to set up the pass? Championships are won via running the ball and stopping the run? Don't believe it anymore. The NFL in 2011 is a passing league, and in truth, it has been for quite some time. Is it because the league wants to gain even more fans because passing makes games more exciting? Is it because quarterbacks are being protected by the commish like delicate flowers? Is it because defenses aren't allowed to play physical coverage and hit receivers like they used to? Does the lockout have anything to do with the astronomical Week 1 numbers? All of those elements are certainly factors, but perhaps no factor is more evident than good old evolution.
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