It is traditionally understood that an offense will begin a game with a series of plays pre-scripted to be run that they believe will be successful based on their scouting report of the defense relative to the personnel at their disposal.
While that is not the only function of those plays—they also work to set the tone for the game, feeling out the defense and how they will play, defend, and respond to certain plays, and to set up other plays later in the game—generally speaking, it isn’t a totally uncommon occurrence for those opening drives to end in points.
Of course it happens less often than it does not. It is and will always be hard to score touchdowns. The majority of drives will not end inside the end zone. But you generally figure that you will give up a few touchdowns on opening drives during a season.
That had not been the case for the Pittsburgh Steelers in a long time. entering Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers, the defense had not allowed an opposing offense to score a touchdown on their opening drive in 27 consecutive games during the regular season, dating back to the tail end of the 2015 season.
Being able to go more than a season and a half getting your defense off to a good start to games is remarkable, but it is perhaps even remarkable that, up until this game, the Steelers were outscoring their opponents on their own opening drives.
Unfortunately, that ended on Sunday when the Steelers allowed Packers backup quarterback Brett Hundley to connect with Randall Cobb for a 39-yard touchdown on second and 11, Artie Burns blowing his assignment in a Cover-3 look.
That was the first touchdown the defense has allowed on an opening drive during the regular season literally since friggin’ Ryan Mallett connected with Chris Matthews on the first possession of the Wee 15 game against the Ravens in 2015, ending a 15-play drive.
Not only was it the first touchdown in 27 games, it was just the second score that they have allowed on an opening possession, the only other points coming on a Matt Prater 48-yard field goal against the Lions in Detroit.
So opposing offenses have now scored 10 points this season on their opening drive against the Steelers. And the Steelers have scored nine points on their opponents’ opening drives. They recovered a punt for a touchdown in the season opener and recorded a safety on the Chiefs’ opening drive six weeks later.
Brett Hundley. Ryan Mallett. These are the only quarterbacks since Derek Carr in Week 10 of the 2015 regular season to lead their team to a touchdown on their opening drive against the Steelers, a span of more than two full seasons’ worth of games.