By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
The record seven NFL quarterbacks who are 35 or older this season are collectively off to an awful start with seven wins and 14 losses.
Take away the dean of the group, Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlisberger, whose teams are 2-1, and the rest of the group is a middling 3-12.
With the exception of Josh McCown, who’s quarterbacking the New York Jets, it’s not what you’d expect from a group of quarterbacks who long ago figured out how to decipher defenses, stay healthy and prolong their careers.
Aside from the Jets (5-11), the QB’s teams went a combined 59-42-1 last year for a .583 winning percentage. Even including New York, their winning percentage was .547.
Now it’s .333.
The graybeard quarterbacks have decent statistics, collectively completing nearly 71 percent of their passes with 34 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and 49 sacks.
Brady didn’t get things started off on a strong note for the growing group when he misfired on 20 passes in a season-opening loss to the Chiefs. But he’s bounced back with wins over the Saints and Texans and has by far the best statistics of the group with 1,092 yards passing, eight TDs and zero interceptions.
That puts him on pace for 5,824 yards passing, which would obliterate Peyton Manning’s single-season record of 5,477 set in 2013.
Brady was sacked 15 times during his abbreviated 12-game regular season in 2016. That number is already up to 10 this season. But Brady maintains his recovery time is also better because he has learned how to absorb punishment during his career — the reason he’s still playing at 40.
“You do have to learn how to find the way down in a way that you’ll be able to get up and try to play the next play,” Brady said. “There’s some luck involved, but let’s go again, baby. Let’s line them up and play.”
The group also has eight cumulative fumbles — three by Brady last week alone — but just three of those were recovered by opponents.
Roethlisberger has wins over the Browns and Vikings before a surprising loss at Chicago last week. He’s thrown for five TDs and one interception, but his statistics are down from last year when the Steelers met Brady and the Patriots in the AFC title game.
“The quarterback needs to play better,” Roethlisberger said Wednesday as the Steelers tried to turn their focus to preparing for Baltimore following the chaotic fallout from the team’s decision to stay out of sight during the national anthem last weekend in Chicago.
Roethlisberger said he’s overly reliant on star receiver Antonio Brown, who leads the league with 26 catches.
“Sometimes I find myself almost zoning on AB too much,” Roethlisberger said. “We’ve got such a great relationship and he’s so good. I need to take what the defense gives us. Sometimes those guys that might be open, I kind of quickly go to AB.”
Philip Rivers and Eli Manning should be so lucky.
Both are still seeking their first win of the season.
Rivers has four TDs and four interceptions in losses to the Broncos, Dolphins and Chiefs as the Chargers continue to seek their first win for Los Angeles since beating the New York Titans 50-43 on Dec. 18, 1960, to complete a 10-4 inaugural season. They’d lose to the Houston Oilers in the AFL championship on New Year’s Day 1961 and move south to San Diego for the next 56 seasons before returning this year.
Manning has the same number of touchdown throws and interceptions as Rivers but twice as many sacks (eight) in losses to the Cowboys, Lions and Eagles, a trio of letdowns that has many scratching their heads over preseason prognostications that the Giants were Super Bowl-bound in 2017.
Drew Brees, Carson Palmer and McCown are all 1-2.
Brees has six TDs and no interceptions. Half of his touchdowns came last week in a big win over the Panthers following losses to the Vikings and Patriots.
Palmer has four TDs and four interceptions. His 11 sacks are the most among the group and include six last week in a loss to the Cowboys and four the week before in a win over the Colts, which followed a three-interception game against the Lions on opening weekend.
McCown has three TDs, two interceptions and seven sacks in losses to the Bills and Raiders and a win over the Dolphins. But he does have the liveliest legs of the group, rushing 10 times for 38 yards.
The rest? Twenty runs for 25 yards.
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AP Sports Writers Kyle Hightower and Will Graves contributed.
Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
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