March 11th, 2020, is officially six months ago today. If you love sports like I do, you might know that this is the day that left American sports reeling.
On this day, the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder DIDN’T play an NBA game. We later found out Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, and our country hasn’t been the same since.
We’ve come six months from when the pandemic officially became real (to most of us, at least) in America. We spent our summers indoors instead of at the beach (again, most of us), and we have finally gotten to the point where we got to watch NFL football last night.
The Chiefs and Texans battled it out on Thursday Night Football, and I have to say, it was very refreshing to see the NFL in action after such a long layover. That said, it is definitely a different game than the one we saw before COVID.
Here are my takeaways from the first night of COVID football.
- Little to no fans will not have an impact on TV viewers
This is something that I was definitely concerned about coming into this season. I have been watching some MLB baseball games with empty stands, and it’s just…depressing.
Seeing those empty stadiums and not hearing a roar when the ball comes off the bat has made baseball hard to watch, even for a diehard fan like me. I don’t think this will impact the NFL games though.
Sure, there were some fans at Arrowhead last night, but I feel like the few shots of the stands that NBC gave looked even sillier with 20% capacity than it would if the stadium was empty. Maybe I’m just oblivious to it, but who knows.
If I’m wrong, feel free to let me know. I think the NFL has clearly put work into this because they made sure to keep the camera’s focus solely on the field during the action. It worked. I didn’t miss the fans at all, and the crowd noise that they pumped in masked the silence well enough.
Again, maybe it’s different in a truly empty stadium, but I don’t think it will be. Especially if they give the game quality announcers like we had last night. The only time the games will look weird is when (if) they show the angle behind the kicker as he is about to kick a field goal or extra point.
- Passing offenses are going to be rusty for a couple weeks
At first glance, this may seem insane if you have looked at Patrick Mahomes stat line. Yes, I get that he completed 75% of his passes, but I have two rebuttals to this.
First, that Chiefs offense is as good as a passing offense asthat we’ve ever had in the history of the NFL. I don’t think it’s safe to say that the Giants or Dolphins are going to be nearly that smooth.
Secondly, I think that the Chiefs offense could have been a lot better last night, which is terrifying for the rest of the league. Of those eight incompletions by Mahomes, I would say I saw two or three that were errant passes, and one definitely should have been picked off.
There were two more, one to Demarcus Robinson in the endzone and the other to Tyreek Hill in the middle of the field, that didn’t go down in the box score as drops, but definitely would have been caught if these guys were in midseason form.
Mahomes’ average completed pass also only traveled about five yards, per pro-football-reference.com, so he definitely wasn’t airing the ball out as much as he normally would.
- Penalties (especially false start/offside) are going to be minimal
I’m going to keep this one short because it’s kind of a “well duh” takeaway if you really think about it. I just hadn’t really thought about it until I watched the game. With the limited amount of crowd noise, everyone on the line is going to be able to hear the snap count.
Because of that, there is really no excuse for jumping early this year. There were only six total penalties last night, and only one per team was a false start. That false start was also Kansas City’s only penalty for the ENTIRE game.
It’s going to be very nice for the fan experience because it will keep the game flowing, but again, a lot of these teams bank on their home crowds drowning the stadiums in noise. Normally road teams can’t hear themselves think, especially come playoff time. Again, home field advantage seems like it’s going to be less important this year.