As many of you likely remember from last season, offenses went wild in Week 1 through the air. Four quarterbacks topped 400 yards passing: Tom Brady (517), Cam Newton (422 and a rookie debut record), Drew Brees (419) and Chad Henne (416 for the Dolphins). These quarterbacks combined for 11 TDs and only 3 INTs. Merely saying that they put on a show doesn't cover how exciting Week 1 was to watch...unless you play defense.
Considering last summer's NFL Lockout seemingly gave the offensive units an upper hand, I held out hope that the 2012 Week 1 would see the defensive response. Hopeful that with a full off-season, defenses would get the preparation time needed to scheme against these now juggernaut aerial assaults. Defenses around the league did not disappoint as they countered the aggressive passing with aggressive interceptions. Those interceptions just didn't appear for the Vikings as Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert remained spotless in the INT column.
I added up all the TDs and INTs from Week 1 of 2011, only including quarterbacks with 10 pass attempts or more and I found that there were 54 TDs thrown in comparison to 23 INTs. That fares very well for an offense aimed at passing the ball. The opportunities were there, the QB just needed to take advantage.
In Week 1 of 2012, the story comes out much different. I want you to keep in mind that I've added all but the two up-coming Monday Night Football games, leaving the body of work from 28 teams. The TDs totaled 46, down 8 from 2011, while the INTs totaled 34, up 11.
Now, I realize this could mean a number of things and like any stat, there are factors. For starters, there were a record 5 rookies starting at QB in 2012, as opposed to 2 in 2011. Obviously, this gives more room for error. Speaking of error, Brandon Weeden (Browns) and Michael Vick (Eagles) each threw 4 picks with Vick throwing 2 TDs, but they are just a piece of the stats. Surmise what you want from the notable difference between the two years, however I'm taking the approach that says: "Defense is back" and I'm looking forward to it after watching what amounts to a real-life version of Madden last year.
I discovered a few more interesting tidbits about the opening weekend of 2012. 17 quarterbacks threw interceptions. Blaine Gabbert did not. Let that sink in. Gabbert stood as one of the QBs that took care of his throws. You can admit it, it's refreshing. The fun part is that we can further boost Gabbert away from the NFL norm.
Including Kevin Kolb (Cardinals) and Matthew Hasselbeck (Titans) who played as reserves, 13 QBs did not throw interceptions. Of those, only Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Alex Smith, Matt Ryan, Robert Griffin III and Blaine Gabbert threw for multiple TDs. Matt Ryan topped them all with three. So, Gabbert was only a bump down from Ryan at the top of TD to INT ratios for this group.
Overall, that's outstanding company to be in for Gabbert and any reason of hope that you may have for the 2012 version of Blaine Gabbert easily heads into Week 2 justified. There is no reason to doubt capability at this point. If you need proof then simply watch the replay of Gabbert to Cecil Shorts III for the 39 yd game-changing touchdown where both players stepped up at crunch time. I realize that the Jaguars lost a heartbreaker, but Gabbert took a major step in becoming reliable and all Jaguars fans should sleep easy tonight if only for that reason.