Eleven of sixteen week one games are now in the books, including Thursday nights opener in Denver and ten early games this evening. As I sit here watching Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers take on Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay here’s are my take on the games that have already taken place.
– Peyton Manning threw an incredible seven touchdown passes on Thursday night against Denver as the Broncos racked up 49 points. For all the talk of how much the Ravens would miss Ray Lewis it was their secondary that suffered, a unit that had to replace three quarters of its members over the summer. Future hall of fame safety Ed Reed left for Houston, corner Cary Williams signed for Philadelphia and Bernard Pollard, the oft penalised strong safety, landed in Tennessee. The absence of those three clearly showed up as Manning picked apart their replacements with surgical precision, and for a team that built a championship winning team on a strong defense that is a major concern. They won’t face a QB as good as Manning every week, however, and the AFC north looks to be fairly poor offensively with Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati combining for just 40 points in week one.
– Speaking of Pittsburgh, they were upset 16-9 at home by the Titans. The opening play of the game was a boneheaded safety from Tennessee kick returner Darius Reynaud, who caught the ball at the one yard line before retreating and inexplicably taking a knee in the end zone. Those two points were all the Steelers could muster until garbage time in the fourth quarter, but more significantly for the hosts they lost centre Maurkice Pouncey for the season with what looks like an ACL tear. Pouncey was the one bright spot on a weak offensive line heading into the season and Ben Roethlisberger will have an even tougher time staying on his feet without Pouncey protecting him. Big Ben also looks short of options in the passing game with Mike Wallace now in Miami and the rushing attack appears incapable of picking up the slack.
– Tampa Bay literally gifted the Jets one in New Jersey thanks to the most idiotic play I’ve seen for a while. With Geno Smith casually ambling out of bounds at around midfield, and well out of field goal range, Lavonte David decided it would be wise to push Smith as he slowed down outside of the field of play. 15 yards were added to the play, and with seven seconds left Nick Polk dispatched his kick straight through the uprights. Smith wasn’t great but he also wasn’t nearly as bad as everyone thought he would be after his terrible pre-season, giving head coach and professional self publicist Rex Ryan a bit of respite from the pressure that comes with being better at talking a good game rather than coaching a good one. Both teams were as bad as each other in a sloppy contest, which doesn’t bode well for either.
– Matt Ryan came just short of rallying Atlanta to a last minute victory in the Superdome against New Orleans as his fourth down pass with seconds left was picked off in the end zone after the Falcons had four attempts to score from within four yards. After the Saints had the worst defense in NFL history last season Rob Ryan, Rex’s brother, should receive credit for keeping the high powered Falcons offense in check. Both Drew Brees and Ryan threw for over 300 yards but neither could strike the killer blow as both defenses turned the screw in the red zone. Steven Jackson ran for 77 yards on 11 carries on his Falcons debut and was perhaps slightly underused as Atlanta took to the air, ultimately unsuccessfully as Sean Peyton got the W on his return to coaching following his bounty gate induced suspension,
– Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson didn’t quite have the monstrous games predicted in this battle of superstars as new Lions running back Reggie Bush stole the show. Bush went off for 90 yards rushing and 101 yards receiving along with a touchdown, while Christian Ponder did nothing to dispel doubts about his ability to be an effective NFL quarterback as he threw three interceptions. Ponder’s errors would prove telling as Detroit emerged as winners by a score of 34-24.
– Buffalo lost a heart breaker to New England after Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 35 yard field goal with just seconds left on the clock to grant the Patriots a 23-21 win. Bills rookie E.J Manuel, the fifteenth overall pick in this years draft, was impressive as he threw for two scores and no picks. Former Ram Danny Amendola was sharp in his first game hooking up with Tom Brady, catching 10 balls for 104 yards as he helped offset the post season loss of Wes Welker. Shane Vereen rushed for 101 yards on 14 carries as the new look Patriots offense stuttered past Buffalo in their first game under new coach Doug Marrone, whose outfit put up much more of a fight than many people, myself included, expected.
– Old Eagles and new Chiefs coach Andy Reid won his first game in charge of Kansas City as they rolled Jacksonville 28-2. If you get a chance head over to NFL.com and find the highlight of Blaine Gabbert’s second interception of the afternoon. It truly was the kind of play that gives hope to any casual NFL fan that they too can play quarterback with the pros.
– Indianapolis edged past Oakland late on thanks to an Andrew Luck touchdown scramble as the Colts were run close by Terrelle Prior and the Raiders. Prior was ridiculed as Oaklands QB choice before the game and though he threw two picks he rushed for 112 yards on just 13 carries as he demonstrated his dual threat capabilities. The fact that the game was even close should give Colts fans cause for concern as they attempt to make consecutive trips to the post-season, and they’ll face far stiffer tests as the season wears on.
– Miami comfortably handled the Browns in Cleveland as the hosts week one record at home since their reinstatement to the league fell to 1-13. If Brandon Weeden has to throw the ball 53 times during a game, you’re probably not going to win.
– Russell Wilson wasn’t spectacular but he was efficient as he helped Seattle top the Panthers 12-7 in a defensive battle down in Carolina. Wilson completed 25 of 33 passes for 320 yards and a score and the Seahawks shut out the Panthers in the second half. Cam Newton only managed to pass for 125 yards, rush for 38 and did little to encourage fans who were worried by some of his sub-par performances last season.
– Chicago came back late at home to beat the Bengals 24-21. Chicago forced three turnovers including two picks from corner Charlies Tillman while Brandon Marshall (who else?) racked up 104 yards receiving on eight catches including one touchdown. A.J Green went for 162 yards and two scores and by now he has to be in any conversation about the best wide out in the league.
That’s it from me on the games that have already concluded, so I’m going to get back to watching what looks like a great battle in San Francisco. Who’s your money on in that one? Let me know in the comments, or on twitter @fredjstanley.