So much for giving offenses a boost with stricter enforcement of the rule that bars pass defenders from making contact with receivers more than five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. It's only one week, but compared with the first 15 games in '03, scoring in the same number of games last week dropped slightly, from 588 points to 583, and accepted penalties dipped from 15.6 per game to 13.5. "Teams have adjusted, which is what I expected to see," NFL director of officiating Mike Pereira said on Monday.
Alarmed by small drops in scoring and completion percentage from 2002 to '03, the league wanted to stop the mugging of receivers past the five-yard zone. Thus, the thinking went, more passes would be completed, and scoring would go up. But only five illegal-contact penalties were called in games through Sunday, the same number as in the first 15 games last year, while defensive holding was called 15 times last week compared with five times in '03.
Now the question is, Will officials strictly enforce the rule all year? Skeptical coaches have seen aggressive enforcement early in a season before, only to have playoff games called differently. "Any team that wants to challenge us, go ahead," Pereira said. "I can assure you we're not going to let up on this until the Pro Bowl."
Matchup of the Week
Texans QB David Carr versus Lions QB Joey Harrington. The career statistics of these third-year players are eerily similar; they also show how each has struggled. The first pick in the 2002 draft, Carr (right) is 7--21 as a starter; the third pick in the same draft, Harrington is 9--20. Carr has completed 54.8% of his throws, Harrington 53.3%. Carr's touchdown-to-interception margin: --12, Harrington --9. Each has a young talented wideout to throw to: second-year man Andre Johnson in Houston, rookie Roy Williams in Detroit. It's time for the two quarterbacks to live up to their hype.
1. The most surprising comment I heard while making training-camp rounds was that the Broncos were dumb to trade running back Clinton Portis to the Redskins for cornerback Champ Bailey and a second-round pick. But Denver's 34--24 win over Kansas City provided evidence of the brilliance of the trade. Bailey made an acrobatic interception, and the Broncos held the prolific Chiefs to 174 passing yards. Portis's replacement, Quentin Griffin, rushed for 156 yards and scored three times.
2. What a Week 1. We had a classic to kick things off (Colts-Patriots), a barnburner (Chiefs-Broncos), a star who lived up to the hype (Terrell Owens), a winning walkoff TD pass (Jaguars-Bills) and no fewer than nine games decided by seven points or less.
3. Not to rain on their parade after their opening-night win, but the Patriots will be in big trouble if their run defense--202 yards surrendered to the Colts--doesn't improve dramatically.