After an incredibly rough start to the season for the 49ers, they can at least take solace knowing they're not the only team scratching their head wondering what happened. The eight teams that finished last season in the basement started this year with an impressive 4-4 record, including 2 wins against teams that won their division. Too bad the Rams couldn't make it 3. Although it's only week 1, I think it's safe to say parity is alive and well in the NFL, so let's get this weekly round-up rolling with the game that started the season.
Sports writers sure love their puns. This off season for the Saints was called "Lombardi Gras" and their quest to repeat is now being called "Two Dat". On Thursday, the Saints looked about as bad as their puns, but they still managed to find a way to win. Drew Breese did just enough on offense, completing 27 of 36 passes for 237 yards and 1 TD, while Brett Favre looked like a player who missed all of training camp and part of the preseason. He completed 15 of his 27 passes for 171 yards, 1 TD, and 1 interception and generally seemed out of sync with his receivers. "There's three or four throws that I just missed," Favre said. "I have no excuse. I just missed." Wait a minute. So Brett's timing wasn't quite on with his receivers after missing all that time and only joining the team after several teammates flew down to get him and had to drag him back? Shocking.
If I told you Peyton Manning completed 40 of his 57 passes for 433 yards and 3 TD's, while Matt Schaub was a much more pedestrian 9 of 17 for 107 yards, with 1 TD and 1 interception, you'd be convinced the Colts won. But you'd be wrong. The Texans were 1-15 against the Colts going into this game, but on Sunday they looked loke the more dominant team. Mario Williams put constant pressure on Manning, sacking him once and hitting him another 5 times, and the Texans O-line completely manhandled the Colts front four. But the real hero was the quite poetry writer and ancient Egyptian history lover, Arian Foster. Following the punishing blocking of his FB, Vonta Leach, Foster ran wild through the Colts Defense finishing with 231 yards and 3 TD's on 33 carries. Colts CB Kelvin Hayden said after the game, "They just kept pounding us until we broke." Good job giving us insight into the obvious.
Poor Lions. To come so close but fall ever so short. The Lions led most of the game until a 28 yard TD pass from Jay Cutler to Matt Forte put the Bears on top. No worries. The Lions had Shaun Hill, who had taken over for an injured Matthew Stafford. Sure, he had yet to lead them to a first down in the second half, but we all know the last two minutes are "Hill Time". He calmly led the Lions down the field until throwing a 25 yard TD pass to Calvin Johnson with 24 seconds remaining. Only it wasn't a TD. Johnson got both feet down, fell on his knee, fell on his hip, put one hand down, and then the other which caused him to lose the ball. The Lions started celebrating only to realize it was an incomplete pass. "The rule is if you're going to ground in the process of making the catch you need to finish with the football," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said. "He didn't finish with the football." In other words, the ground can't cause a fumble, but it can cause an incomplete pass. Ecstatic Bears players who were acting like they just won the SB, had to be reminded that they almost lost at home to the Lions.
Mike Nolan might be a poor head coach, but he sure knows how to get the most from his defenses. Former Cardinal, Karlos Dansby, led the Dolphins defense that completely shut down the Bills, limiting them to a mere 166 yards of total offense. Ronnie Brown led the Dolphins on offense, caring the ball 13 times for 65 yards, while scoring their only TD. The TD tied Larry Csonka for the second most TD's by a Dolphin RB in their first 6 seasons. Now he needs only 1 more to tie the franchise leader, Karim Abdul-Jabbar. Who knew the king of the skyhook was also a master of the gridiron? As for the Bills new offensive star, CJ Spiller, he managed just 6 yards on 7 carries. I guess it's hard to flash that speed when there's always a defender in your face.
Jason Campbell was supposed to take the Raiders to the next level. Instead they looked like the same old Raiders. Campbell completed 22 of 37 passes for 180 yards, 1 TD, and 1 interception. He also got sacked 4 times and hit 4 more. It was a nice win for a Titans team that really didn't want a repeat of their 0-6 start from last season. Not surprisingly Chris Johnson led the way for the Titans, caring the ball 27 times for 142 yards and 2 TD's. So how do the Raiders feel about a performance that looks like more of the same? "You can't sit around and feel bad about it or be shocked by it," Raider's coach Tom Cable said. "You really have to deal with it." Well I will agree with that. You definitely can't be shocked by it.
Just as everyone had predicted, Tim Tebow got his NFL career off to a start playing in Jacksonville. Only he was playing for the visiting team, not the Jaguars. He got into the game 3 times, once as a WR, and two more times at QB, where he carried the ball twice for 2 yards. Not exactly the impact the Broncos were hoping for. David Garrard, who played all last season hearing how he might be replaced by Tebow, repaid the faith the Jaguars showed in him by completing 16 of 21 passes for 170 yards and 3 TD's. The Broncos did have a chance to tie it up late in the game but Kyle Orton's new favorite target, Brandon Lloyd, couldn't get both feet in bounds. And in case you're wondering, yes, it's the same Brandon Lloyd who played for the 49ers. The win was a huge boost for the Jaguars who had 9 of 10 games blacked out last season. Of course, this game may have only been a sell out because Tebow gave away so many tickets to his friends and family.
Cardinals 17, Rams 13
Sam Bradford showed on Sunday why he was the top pick in the draft. He also reminded everyone that he's still a rookie. Bradford completed 32 of his 55 passes for 253 yards and 1 TD, but also threw 3 interceptions. The 55 pass attempts were the most ever for a rookie QB playing in his first game. The Rams did have a 13-10 lead late in the 4th quarter but a 21 yard TD pass to Larry Fitzgerald with 6:13 remaining put the Cardinals up for good. The Rams have a lot to be excited about with Bradford but I can't help wondering if they've gotten a little too far away from Steven Jackson who only carried the ball 22 times for 81 yards, compared to the 55 pass plays. And what did Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt have to say about Bradford? "I wish another team had drafted him." My thoughts exactly.
The Kevin Kolb era in Philly got off to a rough start as he only completed 5 of 10 passes for a paultry 24 yards. It then got worse when he couldn't start the second half because of a concussion. But one man's loss is another man's gain. Michael Vick made the most of the opportunity and almost single handedly got the Eagles the victory. Trailing 20-3 in the 3rd quarter, Vick put up the most eye popping numbers of the weekend. He completed 16 of 24 passes for 175 yards, 1 TD, for a 101.9 QB rating, while also caring the ball 11 times for 103 yards. Eagles coach Andy Reid says there isn't a QB controversy and that Kolb will start next week if he's healthy, but you have to think he'll get a quick hook if he plays like he did in the first half of this game. As for Vick, he was brutely honest in his comments after the game when he said, "I feel like if I had been out there for four quarters, maybe we would've had a chance to win the game." In other words, if Kolb hadn't sucked so bad, we could have won.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan made a lot of headlines over the summer by predicting a SB victory for his Jets, but as the old saying goes, "Actions speak louder than words." This was a brutal defensive struggle by both squads but the Ravens were definitely the better team. If the Ravens hadn't lost the turnover battle 3-1, this game wouldn't have been as close as it was. The Ravens out gained the Jets 282-176, they got more first downs 20-6, and were a lot better on 3rd down where they converted 11-19 attempts, compared to only 1-11 for the Jets. Mark Sanchez in particular looked bad, completing only 10 of his 21 passes for a miniscule 74 yards. When the 14 yards lost due to sacks are included, that's an average of 2.9 yards per pass attempt. Ouch! The Jets offense was so bad that at one point they only had 121 total yards which almost equaled the 120 yards they had been penalized. Jets WR Braylon Edwards, who only had 1 catch for 9 yards said, "It looked terrible. There's no secret to that. We looked awful." At least he's honest.
Remember that horrible injury suffered by Wes Welker at the end of last season? Well, he's back. He might still be wearing a brace, but he didn't let that stop him from making 8 receptions for 64 yards and 2 TD's. The Patriots cruised out to a huge 31-3 3rd quarter lead before coasting the rest of the way for the win. The Bengals did get some late points to make the score more respectable, but it was too little too late. As for the TO and Ochocinco experiment, it seemed to work in week one where they combined to catch 19 passes for 212 yards. But there was still one more WR playing in the game that didn't want the spotlight taken off him. Randy Moss, sporting a SF Giants hat, told reporters about his contract situation, "I don't want to take away from the win. But...." And then went on to take away from the win by explaining why he deserves more money. I could just imagine Pee Wee Herman talking to him saying, "Everyone I know has a big "But". C'mon Randy, let's talk bout your big "But"."
Panthers 18, Giants 31
Carolina Panthers head coach, John Fox, loved Jake Delhomme. Unfortunately, Delhomme had this really bad habit of throwing the ball to the other team. So Delhomme had to go and in walked Matt Moore. And what did Moore do in his opening day game against the Giants? He completed only 42% of his passes while also throwing 3 interceptions. Jimmy Clausen, come on down! OK, we're not there yet, but it might not be far away. But what about the game? I'll just say that if they were playing a game of keep away, they both would have lost. All together their were 9 turnovers, including 3 interceptions thrown by Eli Manning, although he at least managed to throw 3 TD's to go along with it. But a win's a win right? Giants WR Hakeem Nicks spoke with excitement after the game when he said, "We just wanted to go out there and click." Well if committing 4 turnovers and 9 penalties for 95 yards is your idea of clicking, I'd say mission accomplished.
Dennis Dixon did just enough, completing 18 of 26 passes for 236 yards, and Rashard Mendenhall picked up right where he left off, caring the ball 22 times for 120 yards, including a 50 yard TD run to win the game for the Steelers in OT. Trailing 6-9 with 3:24 left on the clock, the Falcons did have a chance to take the lead when they had a 4th and 1 on the Steelers 5 yard line. But Mike Smith, who had originally decided to go for it, changed his mind and had the Falcons kick the tying FG instead. I thought the rule was that you go for the tie at home but the win on the road? Oh well, I guess rules are made to be broken. The Steelers defense looked a lot better this year with the $1 million hairdo back in the secondary and he even made an interception with 1:45 left to give the Steelers one last chance of winning it in regulation. The loss was a tough one for an Atlanta team that has high expectations for the season and is running an add campaign featured around the slogan, "Rise up". I guess they figured "Lie down" wouldn't help them sell many tickets.
Browns 14, Bucaneers 17
Bucs 2nd year QB, Josh Freeman, looked solid completing 17 of 28 throws for 182 yards and 2 TD's, including the game winner with 6:45 remaining. As for Jake Delhomme, well Delhomme does what Delhomme is. The Browns offense looked a lot better under Delhomme than they did last season when they were playing QB roulette, but it was his 2 interceptions that ultimately did them in. This game was also the first time ex-Brown, Kellen Winslow, got to play against his former team. He told the media all week that this was just "another team" but was so jacked up that he ran the Bucs flag onto the field and all the way over to where the Browns team was standing on the sidelines. So how did the Browns react to this taunting? They couldn't even see him since there was a giant American flag being unfurled that was blocking their view, which makes me wonder, If Winslow taunts the Browns and they don't see it, did he really taunt them?
The Donovan McNabb era got off to a win in Washington but McNabb was strangely a non-factor. He only completed 47% of his passes for 171 yards and was unable to lead the Redskins to a TD. But the Redskins found another way to get into the endzone and it was because Wade Phillips wins the bonehead call of the week award. Trailing 3-0, and with time running out before the half, Phillips calls for a swing pass rather than just taking a knee and letting the clock run out. You can guess what happened. Tashard Choice fumbled the ball and DeAngelo Hall returned it 32 yards for the 10-0 halftime lead. The Cowboys still had a chance to win, and thought they did win when Tony Romo found Roy Williams for a 13 yard TD as time expired. However, Alex Barron was flagged for holding and the game ended. The win was huge for Washington who've had a lot of tough losses the last couple of years, and there was even an Albert Haynesworth sighting. He didn't start but he did get in on 16 plays. That's 16 of the Redskins 71 defensive plays. That's sure worth $100 million.
The Chiefs started in their newly remodeled stadium and had just enough fire power to get the win. On a rain soaked night, the Chiefs scored 3 times in a 15 minute span on a 56 yard TD run by home run threat Jamaal Charles, a 94 yard punt return by Dexter Mccluster, and a short 12 yard TD drive following a turnover. The Chiefs new look defense under Romeo Crennel made sure it was enough. The Chargers came tantalizingly close to tying in when they had a 1st and goal at the four, but the Chiefs stiffened and Matt Cassel took the final knee to run out the clock. It was the perfect game to open up "New" Arrowhead Stadium. Wait a minute. "New" Arrowhead Stadium? That's it? No, "New" Arrowhead Stadium at Gieco fields? Or, "New" Cheez-it Arrowhead Stadium? What is the world coming to?
49ers 6, Seahawks 31
Ugh. I'm going to keep this short and sweet. Never in my life have I wanted to reach through my TV so desperately so i could punch someone in the face like I wanted to do to Pete Carroll. What was that all about? Why was he acting like he's never seen a team score a TD before?