Fab Five: Rookie quarterbacks continue to shine
You knew it was going to be an experiment with an unprecedented five rookie quarterbacks starting in Week 1, but Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and Russell Wilson have continued to show enough progress to keep their jobs, and most are thriving halfway through the season.
Sunday’s marquee showdown between Luck and Tannehill was historic in many ways. Assuming both have long-term success, it will be looked back on as a classic first meeting between the two in the AFC, and with historic results.
It was the first time rookie quarterbacks with winning records met this late in the season. We knew that going on. Coming out, the game produced the most prolific rookie quarterback duel in NFL history. Luck had the record 433 yards, and Tannehill answered with 290 yards for a grand total of 723 passing yards.
What was the previous high? Try 592 yards in a 1987 replacement game between Ed Rubbert (Redskins) and Shawn Halloran (Cardinals). Wow. They sure do not make rookie quarterbacks like they used to.
The 2012 rookie class has produced nine individual games of 300 or more yards passing, which is already the most by any rookie class in NFL history. Luck has had four of the games, tying Peyton Manning (1998) for the record.
Like Luck, Tannehill has already passed for over 430 yards in a game this season, and he has not thrown an interception in his last four games. Weeden is the oddity in that he’s 29 years old, but he has thrown for two touchdowns in four games, and has three games with a passer rating over 90.0. Despite their 2-7 record, Cleveland’s been competitive all season.
The 2012 rookie quarterback class is on pace for the most starts, wins, passes, completions, yards, and touchdowns in NFL history by any rookie class.
While it is true that it may never be easier to adapt to the NFL out of college than right now, the reason for that is the players are much more seasoned and ready for the move. Rookies starting and producing immediately will become the norm.
Saints sinking without Sean Payton
Clearly this was going to be a difficult season for the New Orleans Saints with the season-long suspension of coach Sean Payton, and suspension for interim coach Joe Vitt who only just returned last week.
But most still believed Drew Brees, the NFL’s highest-paid player, was going to be able to lead the team to a winning record and the playoffs.
The offense has been spotty, including one of the very worst performances of the Brees era in Denver in Week 8. But Brees is still putting up decent numbers with 22 touchdown passes in eight games. He is still on pace for 5,098 passing yards.
The Saints are the first defense in NFL history to allow at least 400 yards in each of their first seven games. The minimum has been 421, and three times they have allowed over 500 yards.
Starting 0-3 was a real catastrophe, especially when you consider the opponents: Washington (3-6), Carolina (2-6) and Kansas City (1-7). Each team won their first game of the season against New Orleans. Carolina’s only other win is over Washington.
Worse, the Chiefs have not led in regulation once this season, but beat the Saints in overtime after coming back from a 24-6 deficit in the second half in New Orleans.
The season has been a mess at 3-5, and with so much talent on offense, high draft picks on defense, and many of the coaches retained from Payton’s staff, the Saints have been the most disappointing team of 2012.
With two games remaining against undefeated Atlanta, and tough matchups with the Giants and 49ers, it may only get worse for the Saints as they look to host the Super Bowl in a season they have virtually no shot of making the postseason for.
Doug Martin: Do not forget the factor back
He was the second running back taken in the 2012 draft, but Boise State’s Doug Martin was 28 spots behind Alabama’s Trent Richardson, who went No. 3 to Cleveland, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers chose to pair him up with LeGarrette Blount.
Remember when Blount said in August that he and Martin could be the best pair of backs in the league? Well, maybe Blount was right, but it’s mostly been Martin playing the role of Batman to Blount’s Burt Ward-like portrayal of Robin with his 121 rushing yards this season.
Anymore, 121 yards for Martin sounds like a good half.
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.
The 486 yards from scrimmage are the most for a rookie running back in consecutive games in NFL history.
Martin, coming home to Oakland, rushed for a team-record 251 yards and four touchdowns on Sunday. That was even after losing 14 yards on his final three carries to kill the clock. The only other player to ever hit those totals (251 rushing yards, four touchdowns) was Denver’s Mike Anderson (also a rookie with the exact same stats) against the Saints on December 3, 2000.
Martin scored on touchdown runs of 45, 67 and 70 yards, becoming the first player in NFL history to score three touchdown runs of 45 or more yards in the same game. The only other player to have three scoring runs in one game of at least 30 yards was Adrian Peterson in 2007.
It was an incredible performance that came after Martin had 214 yards from scrimmage in Minnesota in Week 8, including a 64-yard touchdown reception.
Martin joins Billy Sims (1980), Eric Dickerson (1983), and Mike Anderson (2000) as the only rookies to have consecutive games with more than 200 yards from scrimmage.
Martin’s seven touchdown runs rank second in the league, he has yet to fumble on 174 touches, and is the season’s third leading rusher with 794 yards.
No disrespect to Trent Richardson (575 yards, 5 TD in Cleveland), but once again we see that a team can find an explosive running back without using a very high pick in the draft. The 31st pick is still relatively high, but if you can get a stud skill player for a cheap initial contract, then it’s well worth it.
There is also the funny coincidence that Blount would lose his job to a Boise State player given his past, but at least he respects the skills of Doug Martin. Now every defense will be sure to do the same when playing the surging Buccaneers (4-4).
Scott Kacsmar (@CaptainComeback) writes for Cold, Hard Football Facts, Bleacher Report, Colts Authority, and contributes data to Pro-Football-Reference.com and NFL Network.
PFT: Jets RB Mike Goodson was charged with five gun and drug counts Friday morning, after New Jersey State Police found the car he was riding in parked in the middle of Route 80 in Denville, N.J.
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