NFL's newest trend no passing fancy

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looks to pass against the Giants at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro,...

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looks to pass against the Giants at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., Sep. 1, 2011. (Elsa/Getty Images/AFP)

SCOTT GARBARINI, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 6:36 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA - Those old enough to remember the days of the American Football League, a creation that spawned such future immortals as Joe Namath, Len Dawson, Lance Alworth and George Blanda, will recall a product that in many ways was well ahead of its time. By offering a far more fast-paced and pass-oriented approach than its entrenched NFL competition, the league not only gradually caught on with an originally skeptical public, but ultimately helped lay the foundation for the modern-day game that's become a weekly staple in households all across the land.

Forty years later, fans of this generation are paying witness to a new revolution of football, one which has made the once wide-open AFL more akin to the Wing-T by comparison. Yards and points are being accumulated at record clips, quarterbacks are operating at unforeseen levels of efficiency, and defenses have been left gasping for breath by the furious tempo of today's spread offenses and relentless no-huddle attacks.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the golden age of passing in the NFL.

The first two weeks of this 2011 season have been the most prolific in league history, having generated a grand total of 1,502 points, 172 touchdowns and 15,771 passing yards that all stand as new high-water marks for that time period. There have already been 23 individual 300-yard passing efforts by quarterbacks thus far, as well as 22 occasions in which one has achieved a passer rating of at least 100 -- also an NFL landmark for the first two games.

Tom Brady is currently on track to finish the year with an unbelievable 7,520 passing yards. The reigning NFL MVP's 940 yards through the first two weeks shattered a league record that was about two hours old, when Carolina wunderkind Cam Newton racked up 854 over his initial pair of starts as a professional.

Defenses that have been undeniably adversely affected, both schematically and from a conditioning standpoint, by the reduced practice and training sessions created by the lockout simply haven't been able to keep up with the aerial onslaught, forcing players and coaches to resort to questionable alternative methods in an attempt to level the field. There's been a lot of hubbub in recent days over teams such as the Giants and Chargers feigning injuries with the intent of slowing down enemy offenses. But who really can blame them from resorting to such supposedly diabolical measures, when defenses have been put at such a disadvantage by the rule changes and circumstances of the offseason?

That's not to say teams can't survive having heaps of yardage piled upon them, as Newton's early case study with the still-winless Panthers has presented. However, it's more apparent now than ever than in order to win consistently in this league nowadays, having a quarterback who's proficient in his performances is an absolute must.

Need proof? Well, there are seven clubs that presently sit at 2-0 after the first couple of weeks, and five of them are armed with field generals ranked in the top 10 in quarterback rating, with Washington (Rex Grossman, 15th) and the New York Jets (Mark Sanchez, 17th) the lone exceptions.

Conversely, of the seven 0-2 teams at the moment, only Carolina (Newton, 16th) is led by a quarterback not in the bottom eight of that category.

So, is this era of video-game statistics and back-and-forth shootouts good for the game? Well, beauty's always in the eye of the beholder. But judging by the soaring TV ratings (last Sunday's Eagles-Falcons thriller crushed FOX's broadcast of the Emmys in viewership) and the fans' swift forgiveness of the havoc caused by the work stoppage, it's safe to say the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

It may not be your father's NFL any more. But like it or not, this sleek and polished newfangled brand of football is here to stay.


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