An interesting Week 1 in the NFL had its share of big moments, surprises and injury news. Let’s take a spin around the league’s opening Sunday.
Atlanta 19, Miami 7: Not the start Miami was hoping for, by far. Several experts picked the Fins in an upset, but the Falcons took advantage of four Miami turnovers for nine points. Atlanta TE Tony Gonzalez can still catch the ball and find the end zone, and Miami should have kept running the ball at the Falcons, but decided to use the Wildcat too many times. Atlanta might have a kicking problem on its hands as Jason Elam struggled, despite a 50-yard field goal. This one should have been a blowout.
Ravens 38, Kansas City 24: A tougher game than many expected was put away by a late touchdown by Baltimore’s Willis McGahee at home. The Ravens posted a club-record 501 total yards, and they needed almost all of it with two touchdowns in the final three minutes of play. Joe Flacco’s 43 pass attempts weren’t expected as Kansas City prepared for a running attack. Ravens TE Todd Heap came back to form in a big way with 74 receiving yards and a touchdown.
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Philadelphia 38, Carolina 10: Story of two quarterbacks dominates Eagles’ victory. Philly QB Donovan McNabb breaks a rib and his status is undetermined for Week 2 against New Orleans. By the way, Michael Vick is not eligible until Week 3. Jake Delhomme struggled mightily as he was responsible for five of Carolina’s seven turnovers (Eagles scored 24 points off those seven miscues), but coach John Fox is sticking with him – for now. Carolina will have to do better than 2.4 yards per play to win games.
Denver 12, Cincinnati 7: CBS announcer Gus Johnson was in NCAA Tournament form as the easily excited play-by-play man cranked into full gear on Brandon Stokley’s 87-yard touchdown off a tipped pass late in the game. Stokley then stalled at the goal line to kill the clock and the Bengals. Chad Ochocinco had just one catch for eight yards – not much to Tweet about for the Cincy WR. Denver QB Kyle Orton was a winner in his debut and the folks in the Broncos front office have to be glad he’s the QB, instead of Jay Cutler today.
Minnesota 34, Cleveland 20: Vikings QB Brett Favre’s debut with Minnesota was the focus of the national media, but RB Adrian Peterson was the real show for the Vikes with 180 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries. Favre was 14-21 for just 110 yards passing. Again, his greatest contribution will be to safely hand the ball off to Peterson. A lot good Browns coach Eric Mangini did with his starting QB antics – Brady Quinn threw for 205 yards, including a late TD, and was sacked five times by the Minny D.
New York Jets 24, Houston 7: Rex Ryan had a very successful debut as the Jets’ head coach, thanks to – no surprise – the defense. The Jets pounded the Texans running game, and Texans QB Matt Schaub was harassed all day. The Jets got 272 pass yards from Mark Sanchez and 107 rush yards and two scores from Thomas Jones. Not sure what this victory means to New York, but Rex has the Jets buying into his way of football.
Indianapolis 14, Jacksonville 12: The Jags missed a chance to get a division upset in Week 1 as the Colts’ defense clamped down late in the fourth quarter. Jax QB David Garrard completed half his 28 passes for 122 yards, and RB Maurice Jones-Drew had only 97 rush yards and one TD. Colts QB Peyton Manning showed that even with the offseason coaching changes, he still runs the Indy defense with 301 pass yards, 162 to WR Reggie Wayne on 10 catches.
New Orleans 45, Detroit 27: The good news for Mt. St. Joe’s Jim Schwartz in his NFL head coaching debut? The Lions scored more points than they did in ANY 2008 game. The bad news? The Saints got a club record-tying six TD passes from QB Drew Brees in a blowout that extended Detroit’s futility streak to 18 straight games. Brees distributed the ball around as TE Jeremy Shockey scored twice – his first scores since being traded to New Orleans last season. Lions rookie QB Matthew Stafford will want to forget his first NFL game – three interceptions. He and Lions will have better days – but not soon.
Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 21: Cowboys QB Tony Romo successfully shook off the supposed hex by former girlfriend Jessica Simpson to throw three touchdown passes as part of a 353-yard passing day. Bucs QB Byron Leftwich probably thinks the blonde bombshell put the hex on the wrong guy, as he was battered by the Dallas defense once Tampa Bay had stop running the ball. Tampa Bay could be in for a long year as division rivals Atlanta and New Orleans have as much, if not more firepower, than the Cowboys.
San Francisco 20, Arizona 16: One of the few mild surprises of Week 1, as the defending NFC champs were beaten at home by a rapidly improving 49ers squad. 49ers QB Shaun Hill threw for 209 yards and a score, while fantasy darling Kurt Warner was picked off twice and subject to a heavy pass rush from San Francisco. Arizona was led in receiving by a running back, Tim Hightower, who caught 12 balls for 121 yards – that’s not the formula that helped the Cards go so far in 2008.
New York Giants 23, Washington 17: The Giants defensive line, sparked by the return of DE Osi Umenyiora, made life very difficult for the Skins as Washington was held to only 51 rush yards. Even without former WR Plaxico Burress, the G-Men are going to be a serious contender in the NFC because of their defense. QB Eli Manning completed 20 of 29 passes for 256 yards. Skins QB Jason Campbell was stripped of the ball by Umenyiora for a score, and DE Albert Haynesworth collected a check, but not many Giants runners in his debut after the monster contract handed out to him by Dan Snyder in the offseason.
Seattle 28, St. Louis 0: Good to see old friend Jim Mora get a victory in his opening game as Seahawk coach, thanks in part to instant replay that showed 12 men on the field for the Rams when St. Louis returned a blocked field goal to apparently tie the game 7-7 late in the first half. The penalty on the Rams gave the Seahawks new life, and Seattle converted for a late TD for a 14-0 halftime advantage. St. Louis folded their tents in the second half as Seattle got three TD passes from QB Matt Hasselbeck.
Green Bay 21, Chicago 15: This wasn’t the script Bears fans had in mind for the season opener against hated rival Green Bay. Jay Cutler threw four interceptions, and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers threw one TD pass, but it was a game-winning 50-yard toss with just over a minute to play. Chicago killed a lot of clock in the fourth quarter to kick a field goal that seemed to put them in charge, but Cutler’s fourth pick in the dying seconds sealed the Green Bay victory. The Bears’ loss could be costly in other ways as LB Brian Urlacher might be finished for the season with a wrist injury.