The two pre-eminent pigskin powers of the past decade were in exhibition action last night, and it didn't go well for either team.
The mighty AFC champion Colts were prison-raped by the Packers, 59-24, in a pre-season laugher at Lambeau. The once-mighty Patriots were edged at home by the 2009 laughingstock Rams, 36-35, on Josh Brown's last-second field goal at Gillette.
Yes, of course, we understand that it's exhibition football. But that doesn't stop us from digging up the disturbing trends for each AFC power provided by the scant evidence at hand Thursday night. Conversely, in a sport that's all about the quarterbacks, the NFC upstarts can count a little added confidence as their biggest gains last night.
New England's Tom Brady led an offense that looked rusty at first. But at the end of the day he tore up the St. Louis defense with the same bloodlust that a Congressman treats the Constitution.
He completed 18 of 22 passes for 273 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT and a near-"perfect" 158.0 passer rating. It was a performance highlighted by a quick-triggered 65-yard scoring strike to Randy Moss through the middle of the St. Louis defense.
Indy's Peyton Manning was sharp early as he staked Indy out to an early 17-7 lead, with touchdown passes to Pierre Garcon and Reggie Wayne.
He completed 15 of 26 passes for 214 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT and a 94.1 passer rating. They're not huge numbers by his standards, but you do that every week and you're having a pretty close to your average All-Pro Peyton-caliber season (2.02-to-1 career TD-INT ratio and 95.2 career passer rating).
The big problem for both future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, and their teams, is that their pass defenses were chewed up and swallowed like a Philly cheesesteak
at a CHFF tailgate.
St. Louis rookie quarterback Sam Bradford made Bill Belichick's defense look more like chumps than champs. It's a familiar story in New England
in recent years: unproven quarterbacks having big days against Patriots defenders and a defensive "genius" whose lost his tactical fastball.
Bradford squared off against New England's first unit, and looked cooler than Fonzie ski-jumping a shark, completing 15 of 22 for 189 yards, 2 TD, 0 and a 125.0 passer rating.
In fact, here's a video of Bradford in action last night:
show video here
And that performance was just one half of play. He exited the game with last year's 1-15 Rams holding a 20-14 lead over last year's AFC East champ Patriots.
Indy's defensive balance sheet looked even worse. Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers ripped up an Indy pass defense that – last time it played a meaningful game – could barely force Drew Brees into so much as an incompletion, let alone make a big stop.
Rodgers completed 21 of 29 passes for 195 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT and a 124.9 passer rating. Back-ups Matt Flynn (8 of 13, 80 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT) and Graham Harrell (4 of 5, 62 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT) piled up the numbers against the porous Indy pass defense, too.
All in all, it was a gruesome day for the porous Indy pass defense: 33 of 47, 337 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT and a Defensive Passer Rating of 125.9.
For Rodgers, it was the big-numbered type of performance that made the Packers a statistical juggernaut in 2009 and could make them prime Super Bowl contenders in 2010.
Remember, Rodgers enters the 2010 season with a career 97.2 passer rating. If he attempts 364 passes this year to reach the minimum (1,500 attempts) needed for official NFL records, he might enter the books as the highest-rated passer in NFL history. (Steve Young holds the current mark at 96.8).
The NFL is all about quarterbacking. It's last night's evidence provides hope that better days are ahead for the Rams, and glory days are once again ahead for the Packers.
Brady and Manning, meanwhile, will chew up the stats this year. We already know they will. But even all-world quarterbacks don't win Super Bowls all by themselves.
Just ask Joe Montana – perhaps the greatest quarterback in history, who quietly enjoyed the benefit of being paired with an all-world pass defense
from 1981 onward. Hell, just ask Brady himself. Back when Belichick was still a defensive genius, they were virtually unbeatable.