Tom Brady whipped 53 passes Monday night, one for each calendar week elapsed since his last pass of consequence, so it appears the New England Patriots did not have their franchise quarterback on anything approaching a rigid pitch count.
Brady threw 53 times, Joe Flacco threw 43 times the day before, and Ben Roethlisberger threw 43 times three days before that.
But here's the shock value, at least to me: they all won.
The Patriots hurried back to clip the Buffalo Bills, the Baltimore Ravens held off the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Pittsburgh Steelers toppled the Tennessee Titans in overtime, all with quarterbacks winging balls at moving targets as feverishly as a love-struck teen trying to win Jolene a kewpie doll on the last day of the local county fair.
Used to be axiomatic in this game that the more you threw it, the more you often had to, and the more likely you were to get beat. That's real Old Testament stuff now.
More in line with ancient theocracy, David Garrard threw just 29 passes on Kickoff Weekend, Jason Campbell threw 26, Trent Edwards 25, Brodie Croyle 24 and Brett Favre 21. Those used to be winning numbers. All except Favre were losers.
Summed up, winning quarterbacks threw more than losing quarterbacks in Week 1 of this NFL season, partly because of the game's ever-accelerating offensive evolution and partly because of something that has gotten lost in the excessive fretting over the Steelers' desultory running game -- running the ball in this 21st-century NFL is, um, hard.
"I believe, particularly in September football, people make a commitment to stopping the run," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "And it's easier to make the commitment in September when everybody feels good and you've got all the horses in the stable. I think over the course of the long haul, you see who's good at it week in and week out, but it's usually tough sledding early in the football season; that's been my experience.
"That was my intent when I was a defensive play-caller, that in order to be a good defense it starts there -- making people one dimensional, making people struggle if they're committed to running the ball."
Steelers purists wonder aloud, real loud, whether the Steelers have any such commitment, and I say they do, but it is not a commitment to run for running's sake. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians handed the ball to his own skittish stable of running backs 22 times in the prime-time opener, and, if that is not your idea of commitment, I would only say it is hard to stay committed to incompetence.
Of those 22 plays, 17 were gains of 3 yards or less (or as I like to call 'em: plays that don't work), and seven gained no yards or resulted in lost yardage.
That's fairly terrible, but what it is not is unpredictable. No one figured to find open lawn by the acre in any event involving the Titans, who beat these same Steelers handily only last December. What's more, there is not a lot of running room anywhere in this NFL.
The number of 100 plus-yard rushing performances came in at a stagnant five on the league's first weekend, with only Super Vike Adrian Peterson's 180 and the 143 carved out by New Orleans' Mike Bell posing as outstanding performances, and even those came against Cleveland and Detroit, both well-used thruways.
Only seven NFL running backs gained as much as 80 yards in Week 1.
None of this will taste like solace to the frantics who were wounded to the black-and-gold core that the Steelers gained eight times as many yards through the air as on the ground against Tennessee, nor will the fact that the Chicago Bears, who will play host to Tomlin's team Sunday, use the same kind of upfield 4-3 Tennessee brought to Pittsburgh last week.
"That (the relative unfamiliarity with the 4-3) was a factor, but I'm not going to allow it to become an excuse," Tomlin said. "We have to execute. We've got to get better in that area as a football team for one reason and one reason only, that it increases our chances of winning. That's what we're about, putting ourselves in position to win. We acknowledge that if we continue along those lines from a run-game standpoint that that doesn't help us."
In other words, you can't average 54 inches per rush attempt and expect to win regularly. That's Old Testament, too, and it still very much applies.