Wednesday, December 4, 2013
By ARNIE STAPLETON The Associated Press
The NFL's mighty scoring machine roars on.
Teams have combined for 1,556 points so far, the most ever for a two-week span.
"I guess it's good for people's fantasy teams," said Detroit Lions defensive end Cliff Avril.
Last year there were 1,502 points scored over the first two weeks on the heels of the lockout that ended just in time for a crash course in training camp. This year teams had all offseason, if fewer padded practices, to gel. Not that it's paid off for defenses.
The rules and regulations that govern pro football have long tilted toward offense, resulting in aerial offenses that are good for ratings -- for television networks as well as quarterbacks.
Add to that an eruption this season of spread offenses and the no-huddle and you get exhausted pass-rushers and smaller defenders trapped on the field to face towering tight ends and bigger receivers who no longer think twice about going over the middle, certain of a catch or a penalty.
Delivering those passes are ever sharper quarterbacks. Six passers own a completion percentage of 70 percent or better, led by Minnesota's Christian Ponder at 75.8 percent.
The overall completion percentage so far is 62.6 percent. The NFL record for a season is 61.2 percent, set in 2007, according to STATS LLC.
"What this league has turned into is a spread 'em out passing league," said New York Jets defensive lineman Mike DeVito.
Three yards and a cloud of dust is out. Now it's more like 15 yards and move the chains.
"That's what fans want to see: 'Oh my God, he had 187 receiving yards.' They don't want to see, 'Man, the defense held them to 67 yards the whole game,' " said Chiefs cornerback Stanford Routt. "They want to see running backs and wide receivers dancing in the end zone."
Defenses simply got too good for their own good.
"The three yards and a cloud of dust philosophy is much harder to make work because you can put guys in the box and make it really hard to get those three yards," Chiefs Coach Romeo Crennel said.
"So offenses are saying, 'Rather than beat our heads against the wall, let's spread it out where maybe I can get a matchup that's more space for one guy to work against another guy, and now if I make a play, that three yards becomes 15.' "
With four receivers running downfield and six men blocking, "the quarterback has all day to throw," Broncos safety Mike Adams said.
When receivers are covered downfield, the quarterback is checking down to the running back who used to make a living pounding the ball between the tackles but now catches a break sometimes by hauling in the short, high-percentage passes for bigger gains and less punishment.
The proliferation of points really starts with the almighty dollar, suggests former NFL player and head coach Herm Edwards, now an ESPN analyst.
"You're not going to pay a quarterback $15 million and tell him to turn around and hand the ball off," Edwards said. "You're not going to pay the left tackle $8 million to run block.
"So let's not lose sight of the math."
Or the replacement officials, for that matter.
There have been 45 pass interference flags thrown so far, compared with 31 through two weeks last year, 24 in 2010 and 18 in 2009, according to STATS LLC. So drives are staying alive.
Even though they're throwing plenty of flags, the replacements are also letting a lot of contact go, Edwards said.
"It's great. I love watching it because they're letting them play football," he said. "They're hitting receivers downfield a little longer, they're holding onto to them, the receivers are pushing, corners grabbing a little bit. That's how the game used to be played."
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