No less than five games out of the 17 played during the opening week of the NFL season were won by teams that plundered their foes for 40 points or more.
According to the good folks at the Elias Sports Bureau, you have to go all the way back to the 1950s – 1954 to be exact – to find a like performance during the first week of the season. For a little context, that was the year that Bill Haley and His Comets topped the newly formed “Rock and Roll” charts with “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock” and Cousin Brucie was manning the wheels of steel.
The commissioner's office tells us that the average career of an NFL player is anywhere between 3.5 to 6 years. Using that as a sample we unearth the following numbers for teams scoring 40 or more points during the past few seasons:
Clearly – as if you needed to be told this – the NFL is a passing league and you can expect to see scores like these become more and more commonplace.
The pass happy, go for it on fourth down always “John Madden Football” gamers and the fantasy football players whose very lives seem to be pinned on their quarterback and wide receiver play helped shape this culture. As a topic, the passing game dominates the sports radio call-in shows.
But there’s another reason for this phenomenon: player injuries.
Time was a team would run a back 40 to 50 plays per game. But that style of play wreaked havoc on not only the running back but the people tackling him, too.
The cry from the stands is always for “DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE!” I can’t ever recall a time I’ve heard the fans chant “OFFENSE! OFFENSE!” But the writing was on the wall when the NFL instituted the “in the grasp” rule for quarterbacks in 1991. The rash of concussions, particularly among high profile quarterbacks like Steve Young and Troy Aikman, made it a…well…no brainer.
And as players became bigger and stronger each year, injuries and concussions grew in lockstep. This has led to great concern among players and parents, who are increasingly keeping their kids off the Pop Warner fields.
The game has progressed since the early 1900s when people used to actually die due to trampling during a “flying wedge” play (since been outlawed). Talk about points? The Chicago Bears crushed the Washington Redskins in the 1940 championship, 73-0. The Bears rushed for 382 yards and their starting quarterback only attempted 4 passes the entire game.
Well that day is done. Forty is the new 20 folks and if you ask me, we’re all the richer for it.
(c) King Features Syndicate, 2012