NFL passing games struggled in least productive opening week in years
NFL passing games struggled to get off the ground in Week 1.
Whether it was because of quarterbacks being rusty from a lack of preseason action, wet weather that impacted several games or improved defense, this was one of the worst opening weekends for passing in years no matter the measurement.
Nineteen of the 32 teams failed to reach even 200 yards of net passing in their openers, the first time that has happened in any week of the season since Week 3 in 2008.
In all, teams combined for just 194.5 net yards passing per game for the lowest total in Week 1 of a season since 2006. The average of 6.3 yards per attempt was the lowest for the opening week since 1996 and the 9.8 yards per completion were the lowest on records that go back to 1940.
It’s a stark reversal from the recent trend that tilted the field to more passing thanks to rules changes and an influx of dynamic quarterbacks. But the drop-off from Week 1 just four years ago was stark with teams throwing for nearly 85 fewer yards per game, and yards per attempt dropping by 1.5 yards per pass.
Four teams failed to reach even 100 yards passing with some notable statistics of futility.
Seattle had minus-8 yards passing and 12 yards of offense in the second half of a loss to the Rams — the fewest in an opener in 24 years. The expansion Browns had minus-7 yards of offense in the 1999 opener against Pittsburgh.
Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow celebrated his new contract by going 14 for 31 for 82 yards in a loss to Cleveland, while getting sacked twice for 15 yards. The 67 net yards passing were the fewest in an opener in the past 30 years — a mark that stook only a few hours.
Because in the night game Sunday, the Giants finished with just 63 net yards passing in a 40-0 loss to Dallas.
The other team that failed to reach 100 yards passing was the Atlanta Falcons, who had 91 in a 24-10 win over Carolina.
One of the few passing bright spots in Week 1 came from Miami, where Tua Tagovailoa threw for 466 yards in a win over the Chargers for the fourth best output ever in Week 1. Only Norm Van Brocklin (554 yards in 1951), Tom Brady (517 in 2011) and Dan Marino (473 in 1994) threw for more in an opener.
Tyreek Hill had 215 of those yards for the third best Week 1 receiving output behind only Frank Clarke (241 in 1962) and Anquan Boldin (217 in 2003).
Week 1 didn’t go well for the five coaches beginning tenures with new teams.
Denver’s Sean Payton, Indianapolis’ Shane Steichen, Carolina’s Frank Reich, Houston’s DeMeco Ryans and Arizona’s Jonathan Gannon all lost their season openers.
This marked just the third time in NFL history that there were at least five new coaches to begin a season and they all lost in Week 1, according to Sportradar. It also happened in 2018 when first-year coaches went 0-7 and in 2001 when they went 0-6.
Three of those coaches lost with rookie quarterbacks: Bryce Young of the Panthers, C.J. Stroud of the Texans and Anthony Richardson.
Young was the ninth straight No. 1 pick who started the season opener as a rookie and didn’t win. The last victorious one was David Carr on the expansion Texans in 2002, with Kyler Murray getting a tie for the Cardinals in 2019.
Richardson became the fifth rookie QB to record at least one TD passing and rushing, joining Archie Manning (1971), Chris Weinke (2001), Cam Newton (2011) and DeShone Kizer (2017).
The talk before the season was about the discrepancy in quality between the NFC and AFC, with the AFC home to a majority of the top quarterbacks and Super Bowl contenders.
But for one week, the NFC came out on top.
Led by cross-conference wins from last season’s NFC title game participants Philadelphia (25-20 vs. New England) and San Francisco (30-7 over Pittsburgh), the NFC went 4-0 against the AFC. Detroit beat Super Bowl champion Kansas City 21-20 and New Orleans beat Tennessee in the other two interconference games.
This is the third time since the merger that one conference went undefeated in four more games against the other in Week 1 with the NFC also going 4-0 in 2012 and 1989.
It was a big weekend for special teams play capped by Xavier Gipson becoming the third player ever to return a punt for a touchdown in overtime to lead the New York Jets to a 22-16 win over Buffalo.
The only other players to do it were Patrick Peterson, who did it in 2011 for Arizona against the Rams, and Tamarick Vanover, who did it in 1995 for Kansas City against the Chargers.
In other notable special teams performances, the Saints and Titans combined for a Week 1 record eight field goals and San Francisco rookie third-round kicker Jake Moody had a perfect day with three made field goals and three extra points. The last rookie to do that in the opener was Justin Tucker for Baltimore in 2012.
New Orleans quarterback Derek Carr got off to a good start with his new team, winning the season opener over Tennessee 16-15. It was a reversal from his the with the Raiders when he went 3-48 when his team scored 16 or fewer points.
That led to many losses over nine years and has Carr in position to set a record he’d rather avoid. Carr has started in losses against 30 of the 32 teams in the NFL. He has never faced the Raiders and won both starts against Carolina.
Carr and the Saints face the Panthers on Monday night when he could become the first QB ever to lose to 31 teams. Oother quarterbacks have lost to 30 teams: Drew Beldsoe, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Matt Hasselbeck, Jon Kitna, Carson Palmer, Matt Ryan and Alex Smith.
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