NFL

Big passing games can be deceptive

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Brian Billick

Brian Billick served as head coach of the Baltimore Ravens from 1999-2007, winning Super Bowl XXXV. He has also authored books, including More Than A Game: The Glorious Present and Uncertain Future of the NFL. Follow him on Twitter.

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I say it all the time. The NFL is a quarterback-driven league. Sunday was proof as we saw five quarterbacks surpassing the 300-yard mark in Josh Freeman, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning and, yes, even Mark Sanchez. Additionally, there were seven quarterbacks (Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, Freeman, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, Sanchez and Brandon Weeden) who attempted more than 40 passes on the day.

But don’t be fooled. Just because the NFL is a quarterback-driven league, it doesn’t mean that 300-plus yards passing or, especially, attempting 40 passes determines success. Of the five 300-yard passers, two of them came in losing efforts (Jets and Bucs). Of the seven that attempted 40-plus passes, only two came during a victory, the Giants and Raiders.

Nonetheless, here are some of the phenomenal efforts from Sunday’s offensive explosion.

Rodgers led the Packers to their first back-to-back wins of the 2012 season. In those wins, Rodgers has thrown for 785 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions. On Sunday, he completed 30 of his 37 attempts and that 81.1 completion percentage was his second best of his regular-season career, just shy of the 81.8 percent he posted in his career debut.

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In his 76th career game, we also witnessed Rodgers become the second-fastest player to reach 150 passing touchdowns. Dan Marino reached 150 in his 62nd game, basically a full season ahead of Rodgers. Wow.

In a losing effort, Freeman was 24 of 42 for a career-high 420 yards and three touchdowns. If it weren’t for two fluke plays, Freeman very easily could have had five touchdowns. Freeman connected with Vincent Jackson in the third quarter for what would turn out to be a 95-yard completion, but a hustling Malcolm Jenkins tackled Jackson on the goal line. The Bucs failed to score on four straight plays from the Saints’ 1-yard-line. On the very last play of the game, Freeman rolled out of the pocket, and found Mike Williams at the back of the end zone, but a correctly called illegal touching nullified the score with no time left on the clock. With those two scores, Freeman could have padded his stats, but more importantly, if either had been touchdowns, the Bucs would have won the game.

In the same game, Brees threw for 313 yards ...by halftime! After the first two quarters, Brees was 20-for-25 for 313 yards, the 10th most yards in a half since the 1970 merger. Brees added 64 yards in the second half, and with the help of the fluke plays mentioned above, led his team to a 35-28 victory.

We also saw a duel of fourth-quarter comebacks in the Redskins and Giants game. First it was Robert Griffin III who converted on a 4th-and-10 after scrambling to his left and then back toward the middle of the field before finding his tight end for a gain of 19 yards. Three plays later, Griffin found a streaking Santana Moss for a 30-yard touchdown in which he perfectly placed the football.

Not to be outdone, with 1:32 left the game, Eli Manning needed just two plays and 19 seconds to find Victor Cruz for a 77-yard touchdown to retake the lead. RG3 got the ball back with 1:13 remaining, but a lost fumble by Moss on just the third play of the drive ended his chances at a second comeback. For Manning, that 77-yard touchdown sealed his 24th fourth-quarter comeback in his career. For comparison purposes, Brady only has 25, but older brother Peyton Manning has 47 under his belt.

Tagged: Broncos, Packers, Saints, Giants, Jets, Buccaneers, Redskins, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman, Victor Cruz, Robert Griffin III

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