NFL Rookie Quarterbacks Dominate Week 14

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Dec 09, 2012



OK, now it’s getting ridiculous.

Rookie quarterbacks were once a liability, even until very recently in NFL history, in some cases needing years to adapt to the pro game.

No more. It’s a different game today – and different in dramatic fashion.  

Here in 2012, rookie signal callers are not only playing well, they’re dominating. And never have they dominated like we saw here in Week 14.

Seven quarterbacks played pivotal roles this week. All but one of them emerged victorious, and most emerged victorious in big wins and/or dramatic glorious fashion.

Hell, the Redskins used TWO rookie quarterbacks to knock off AFC power Baltimore, including a brief but stunning and completely improbably relief effort by Kirk Cousins, who managed to produce 8 game-tying points in just three snaps at the end of regulations.

When Cousins, Nick Foles and Russell Wilson – each picked in the third-round or later in the 2012 draft – all win games, in some cases impressively, you know it’s a whole new league.

The remarkable success of rookie quarterbacks has been a hot topic around the NFL this season and here at the Cold, Hard Football Facts.

In fact, last week on CHFF TV we offered four concrete reasons why rookie quarterbacks are succeeding at a level far beyond anything ever seen before.

Short version: quarterbacks these days are trained even from high school to handle pro-style passing attacks, while the NFL’s effort to neuter defenses renders it easier than ever to pass the football.

Rookies are feasting on their experience playing big-boy football at the amateur level. They’re also feasting on their youth, their athleticism and, yes, on NFL defenses.

Miami’s Ryan Tannehill was the only rookie quarterback to fall short this week. But he was charged with a Herculean task: leading the Dolphins across country to face the league’s No. 1 defense in San Francisco. He put up a fight for awhile. But San Francicsco beat the Dolphins, 27-13.

To his credit, even seasoned veterans would struggle against the 49ers in San Francisco. When he's the only exception among rookie QBs, you know it was a monster week for young leading men.

Rookie Star No. 1: Nick Foles (32 of 51, 381 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT)
Philadelphia 23, Tampa Bay 21
Foles proved that even a third-round draft pick can put up big rookie numbers in the modern NFL.

He earned the first win of his career behind an offense that showed absolutely no concern for the rookie limitations of the past, allowing him to whip it 51 times all over the field.

Along the way, he outgunned Josh Freeman and the NFL’s No. 4 scoring offense, as the Eagles won for the first time since September.

Foles tossed two TD passes in the final four minutes, including the short game-winner to Jeremy Maclin with no time to play.

Foles also ran for a 10-yard TD in the first half. In other words, the inexperienced late-round pick rookie accounted for all three Eagles touchdowns to lift the team to the first win after eight straight losses, most of them behind high-priced veteran Michael Vick.

Key Cold, Hard Football Fact: rookie QBs have attempted 50+ plus passes in a game just 23 times in history. All but two of them lost: Indy's Andrew Luck (twice) and now Nick Foles.

 

Star No. 2: Kirk Cousins (2 of 2, 26 yards 1 TD, 0 INT)
Washington 31, Baltimore 28
Superstar rookie Robert Griffin III (15 of 26, 246 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT) went down with 45 seconds to play in the fourth quarter with a knee injury.

No problem! The Redskins conveniently had a second rookie on the roster, forgotten fourth-round pick Cousins out of Michigan State.

Cousins quickly connected on his only two pass attempts, the final one an 11-yard TD pass to Pierre Garcon to make it a 28-26 ball game with 29 seconds to play.

Then, just for rookie kicks and giggles, he ran in the tying 2-point conversion to send the game into overtime. That’s right, Cousins produced 8 points in three snaps, each one more critical than the next.

Cousins did not even attempt a pass in overtime, thanks to a 64-yard punt return by Richard Crawford. After two hand offs, Kai Forbath booted the 34-yard game winner for the Redskins.

 

Rookie Star No. 3: Andrew Luck (16 of 34, 196 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT)
Indianapolis 27, Tennessee 23
The Colts star did it once again: they used some late-game magic to overcome a statistically poor performance, including one by their quarterback, that typically spells defeat.

The Colts trailed 23-21 midway through the fourth quarter when Luck led the Colts on a drive from their own 20 to the Tennessee 25 to take a 24-21 lead.

Luck certainly lived up to his name: he fumbled away the ball on the game-winning drive, but the Titans were flagged for being offside.

Tennessee QB Jake Locker, meanwhile, threw INT on two critical drives in the second half, including a pick-six for the Colts that closed the gap on what was a 23-14 Titans lead at the time.

Regardless, Luck comes through when it matters most. He now owns the rookie records for game-winning drives (6) and fourth-quarter comeback wins (4), according to CHFF's Captain Comeback Scott Kacsmar.

The kid makes stuff happen, and has done it to the tune of a 9-4 record for a team that went 2-14 last season.

 

Rookie Star No. 4: Russell Wilson (7 of 13, 148 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT)
Seattle 58, Arizona 0

Russell has been remarkably efficient this season. In fact, we caused a mini-internet sh*t-storm a few weeks ago when we declared him better than Andrew Luck.

This week he led a 58-0 rout of the Arizona Cardinals. But everything went Seattle’ s way in this game, including two defensive scores and three TD runs by Marshawn Lynch.

It was the biggest win and most points scored in franchise history.

 

Rookie Star No. 5: Brandon Weeden (17 of 30, 217 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT)
Cleveland 30, Kansas City 7
The Browns quarterback was not impressive, but he was a steady hand for the surging – yes, surging – Browns.

Cleveland has won three games in a row for the first time since the end of 2009, back in the Eric Mangini era, when Brady Quinn (Kansas City’s QB this week) and Derek Anderson combined to lead the Browns to four straight victories to close out the season.

Anderson was the last QB to lead the Browns to three straight wins, back in his completely random Pro Bowl season of 2007.

Cleveland has won five games with three to play. Those 2007 Browns were the last Cleveland team to win more than five games in a season (10).

That's right: in today's NFL, a rookie quarterback has made even the Browns play as well as they have in years.


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