Even the 24-6 lead over Kansas City was a bit of a sham. New Orleans had short touchdown drives of 19 and seven yards in the third quarter thanks to takeaways. The offense was not driving on long fields and putting points on the board.
After taking that 18-point lead, Brees finished the game two-of-nine passing for 40 yards, an underthrown interception in scoring territory, and two sacks, including one in the end zone for a safety that led to Kansas City’s game-tying drive. He missed his last seven passes.
Even worse news for the Saints: Their three opponents are 0-6 against everyone else they have played, and they next have to play at Lambeau Field against a ticked off Green Bay team. It is already time to stick a fork in Brees and the Saints this year.
Roethlisberger is playing the best of these four quarterbacks, thriving in Todd Haley’s offense. He ranks second in the league in passer rating (109.2), and has been incredible on third downs, converting 55 percent of his opportunities (56.4 percent when excluding a spike). Five of his touchdowns are on third down.
Roethlisberger has only one turnover this season, but it was a big one: Tracy Porter’s game-clinching pick six in Denver in Week 1. It marred an otherwise very good performance, which was followed with a strong win over the Jets.
But in Oakland, the Steelers wasted one of the finest performances of Roethlisberger’s career: 36 of 49 for 384 yards, four touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 123.2 passer rating. Roethlisberger became the first quarterback in NFL history to have a rating over 120 on at least 45 attempts and lose the game. Oakland scored on five consecutive drives for a 34-31 shocker.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Roethlisberger has always played differently from the other three quarterbacks in his ability to buy time and take contact. This style of backyard football might help explain why he is doing better this season, as he does not rely purely on a well-timed offense.
With replacement officials being inconsistent on allowing contact in the secondary, some of the receivers are not getting as open as they used to in these offenses, which can explain why the quarterbacks are suffering a bit. Protection calls have also been spotty. Roethlisberger was hit low and late at the knees in Oakland, but no flag was thrown. Russell Wilson got a lesser hit while scrambling outside the pocket against Green Bay, and it drew the flag.
The struggles exist beyond just these older elite quarterbacks and Rodgers.
Unexpected quarterback play and outcomes are what this season has been about. Just when you are ready to crown the San Francisco 49ers as the best team, they play their worst game yet in the Jim Harbaugh era and lose in Minnesota, falling behind the shocking Cardinals in the NFC West.
That is the kind of crazy season it has been. A total of 15 teams have started exactly 1-2; up from the total of nine in each of the last three seasons (2009-11).
Some will definitely rebound to make the playoffs, some will not. By season’s end, we may have to look back on 2012 as the end of an era of dominance for these four signal callers who have been making history for at least the last eight years. Some call it a changing of the guard.
As always, the game will move on and a new era will emerge. Let’s just hope for one that includes real referees.
Scott Kacsmar () writes for Cold, Hard Football Facts, Bleacher Report, Colts Authority, and contributes data to Pro-Football-Reference.com and NFL Network.
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