Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Week 1 NFL Report

The following recap was written by Rich Bergeron, so a big thanks to him for it.


Week one in the NFL was extremely competitive. The Sunday stampede of season starting games happened to be coordinated with the 10th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers and The New Orleans Saints oficially kicked off the season with a Thursday night stunner. Despite making several backpedaling blunders in the game, Saints QB Drew Brees still had a shot to win it right up until the final whistle and threw for over 400 yards and three touchdowns. The Packers amazing offense and passing attack did enough to get the win while the defense set the pace for most of the game, always keeping Brees on his toes. Drew Brees and his Saints relied on big plays at big moments all through the game. Green Bay edged out the win by a score of 42-34 looking like they are still championship material. Sunday's games produced some surprising and expected results with 9/11 tributes kicking off each game and the season itself for most teams in the league.

Monday night's double feature capped off a compelling week one of the season with two blockbuster games.
New England Patriots: 38
Miami Dolphins: 24
Both teams started this game with quick touchdown drives, but then New England's defense started doing a much better job of stopping the big plays from a much-improved Miami offense. It was a true QB battle between Chad Henne and Tom Brady at first. Once Brady and the New England offense went up by a touchdown there was no looking back, though. Benjarvus Green-Ellis, AKA "The Law Firm" scored the first touchdown on a nice run, but it was a high level passing game for Brady for the most part. Brandon Marshall and Chad Henne coordinated on multiple circus catches for huge yardage to keep Miami always a stone's throw away from matching the lead early in the game. A Patriot goal line stand late in the third forced a Dolphin field goal after Marshall caught one of his best passes of the game. The score was 21-17 and the Patriots had a chance to get some separation. A completed bomb and short follow up pass to Aaron Hernandez helped put the Patriots up 10 points, and Gostkowski's kick made it 11 points. The new system of automatic scoring reviews helped kill Miami's comeback after causing a 4th and goal situation New England stopped easily. The next play for the Patriots was a 99.5 yard pass connection to Wes Welker to give Brady 511 yards on the night. He finished with 517 yards and 4 scores. Facing a 38-17 defecit with under 5 minutes to play the Dolphins tried to produce some late magic with Reggie Bush getting the better of another reviewed play to make it 38-24 with the extra point. It was too little, too late. The Patriots controlled the rest of the fourth quarter to take the win.  

Denver Broncos: 20
Oakland Raiders: 23
This game showed how great the Raiders defense can be, limiting the Denver Broncos to just a field goal in the first half while Oakland put up 16 points. A circus catch of an interception by Matt Giordano crushed one of the Broncos' best chances to make the game tighter before the end of the first half. Even with less than 30 seconds left to move the ball, the Raiders put themselves in position to add another field goal with 5 seconds left in the half. The 63-yard boot from Sebastian Janikowski tied an NFL record and made it 16-3. A beautiful punt return touchdown and a second field goal for Denver put their total at 13 during the second half, but an Oakland goal line push kept the margin at 10 points through much of the 4th quarter. Clutch defensive play, including a huge sack by Raider DT Richard Seymour put the Broncos in a position to have to pull off a miracle to get back in the game. Despite throwing over 300 yards, Kyle Orton needed two scores on offense within the final 5 minutes. He wound up fighting the rain along with the Raider defense at the end of the game. Orton completed a touchdown pass to his running back Lance Ball to make the score 20-23 with 3:43 left in the last game of the week. Smart clock management and the relentless running of Michael Bush put the game out of reach at the two-minute warning. They took the clock down to nothing and began their season on a more positive note than they're used to. The Raiders snapped an 8-game season-opener losing streak and snap an 11-game Bronco opener winning streak with the big win.

Three teams put on offensive clinics in week 1's slate of Sunday games, allowing only one touchdown on defense to match their dominating offensive outputs:

Buffalo Bills: 41
Kansas City Chiefs: 7
The Chiefs choked and sputtered in their opener as the new look Buffalo Bills put up 41 points on their first opponents of the year. Kansas City looked miserable throughout the preseason, and they continued their lackluster play to open the regular season. Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was a fantasy football force with 4 TDs through the air and 208 total passing yards. Receivers Steve Johnson and David Nelson each made four catches for an identical 66 yards with Johnson getting the lone score among the two. Fred Jackson ripped up 112 yards on 20 carries to balance out the offense. Tight End Scott Chandler connected with Fitzpatrick for two scores and 63 total receiving yards. The Bills look pretty impressive despite going up against soft competition to start the season. If they can continue their dominance against higher caliber teams they could be a playoff threat this year.

Baltimore Ravens: 35
Pittsburgh Steelers: 7
The Baltimore Ravens worked the Super Bowl runner up Steelers into a  mad frenzy of frustrating moves to start the game. The Ravens defense created a total of 7 turnovers with daunting and dominating blitz packages. The Ravens defensive unit never gave up and kept coming up with stops and steals. Joe Flacco (17-29, 224 yds., 3 TDs) had a defining game to start the year on offense. Ray Rice (19 car., 107 yds., TD) ran over and through defenders all day. Ben Roethlisberger (22-41, 280 Yds., TD) threw three interceptions and couldn't get any kind of rhythm going against the constantly pressing Ravens Defense.

Houston Texans 34
Indianapolis Colts 7 
The Manningless Colts were piss poor performers this week. Kerry Collins was a horrible replacement for the future Hall of Famer. Houston scored 17 points in each of the first two quarters and then went through the entire second half on cruise control. The only Colts TD came in the 4th quarter on a connection between Collins and Reggie Wayne. Matt Schaub got away with throwing two interceptions and put up 220 yards passing on 17 completions with one passing TD. Ben Tate (24 carries for 116 yards) and Derrick Ward (11 carries for 39 yards) each scored on the ground. Andre Johnson nearly cracked 100 yards with 95 total receiving yards on 7 catches with one touchdown.

Five games really came down to the wire this week with teams winning by a touchdown or less:

New York Jets: 27
Dallas Cowboys: 24
The game began with a phenomenal September 11th tribute featuring a field-sized flag, and the New York Jets completed the tribute by making their time in the NFL spotlight special. The Cowboys dominated most of the game, but the Jets crept up out of nowhere and edged out the win by a field goal. Jets QB Mark Sanchez put up impressive numbers with 335 passing yards on 26 completions with two scores and one interception. Tony Romo's line for the Cowboys at QB looked just as impressive (23-36, 342 yds., 2 TDS, INT), but some poor decisions left Romo blaming himself for his team's loss after the final whistle. Romo was in charge with the game tied at 24. The Cowboys had a chance to assemble a winning drive with 59 seconds left, but Romo's lone interception wound up sealing his team's fate. The Jets defensive MVP, Darrelle Revis, returned the INT 20 yards to the Dallas 34. Just 4 plays later Nick Folk punched in a field goal to win the game for the Jets in dramatic fashion. The tying score for the Jets came on special teams when a blocked punt fell into the waiting hands of Isaiah Trufant, who ran it 18 yards for a score.

Minnesota Vikings: 17
San Diego Chargers: 24
The San Diego Chargers, led by Phillip Rivers at QB, took over with a second half surge in this game. Mike Tolbert scored one touchdown on the ground and two through the air in assembling 38 yards rushing and 58 yards receving for the day for San Diego. Rivers threw a couple interceptions, but he matched them with two touchdowns on 335 yards through the air. Donovan McNabb had a low key opening day with just 7 completions for  39 yards with his new team. The Vikings were unable to score a single point in the second half of this game.

Jacksonville Jaguars: 16
Tennessee Titans: 14
The Jaguars edged out the victory in the closest game of the week. Running Back Maurice Jones Drew set the tempo with an early touchdown on the way to compiling 97 yards in the game on 24 carries. Tennessee's holdout RB Chris Johnson didn't put out the kind of effort expected of such a high paid player. He had just 24 yards on 9 carries on the ground to go with 6 catches for 25 yards. Matt Hasselbeck's new favorite receiver seems to be Kenny Britt. The two combined for the only two touchdowns for the Titans on the day and represented 136 of Hasselbeck's 263 yards passing. Luke McCown went 17-24 and put up 175 yards in a decent effort as a new starting QB for the Jags.

Arizona Cardinals: 28
Carolina Panthers: 21
The Cardinals were the Cinderella team of the week, leaving little to criticize the Carolina Panthers for in their first game with Cam Newton (24-37, 422 yds., 2 TDs) at the helm as their QB. Most of the yardage came from Steve Smith, who made 8 grabs for 178 yards and two scores for the Panthers. Cornerback Patrick Peterson's 89-yard punt return made all the difference for the Cardinals. Arzona QB Kevin Kolb looked confident with his new team, scoring two touchdowns of his own through the air and cresting 300 yards in his first start for the Cardinals. Running Back Beanie Wells added the other offensive touchdown on his way to assembling 90 yards of rushing for the game on 18 carries.

Detroit Lions: 27
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 20
The Detroit Lions are a new team this year. Quarterback Matthew Stafford (24-33, 305 YDS., 3 TDs) is in control and looks to be at the beginning of building a fine legacy for himself as a Lion. Calvin Johnson caught two of the three touchdown grabs in the game and notched 88 yards receiving. Tampa Bay Quarterback Josh Freeman put up 259 yards of passing with one pass for a TD, but he also wound up being the team's leading rusher with just 26 yards on the ground. Tampa Bay only kept it close because one of Stafford's passes wound up bouncing off his receiver's hands and ended up in the grasp of Aqib Talib, who ran it back 28 yards for the score. Freeman added the finishing touch with his lone touchdown pass to Mike Williams inside two minutes to go in the game.

The rest of the week's games were somewhere between beatings, crushings, and close shaves.

Atlanta Falcons: 12
Chicago Bears: 30
The Bears made the best out of their off-season acquisitions. Atlanta's QB Matt Ryan was a mess on the field. He threw for 319 yards without a score and threw one interception. Bears QB Jay Cutler (22-32, 312 yds., 2TDs) had a much better game. Matt Forte earned 90 of those yards in receiving and one of those touchdowns on a career day in that category for the back, who also scampered for 68 yards on the ground on 16 carries. Brian Urlacher had a defensive score on a forced fumble and made the Bears defense a huge assett for fantasy teams who started them this week.

Cincinatti Bengals: 27
Cleveland Browns: 17
Cincinatti's Rookie QB Andy Dalton (10-15, 81 yds., TD) went on a wild opening day romp to lay the smack down on the Cleveland Browns, but his backup had to save the day. An injury gave Backup Bruce Gradkowski a chance to prove his mettle. Gradkowski threw for 92 yards on just 5 completions with the game winning touchdown throw to his credit. Cedric Benson also played a crucial role in this one with a 39 yard touchdown run being the highlight of a 25-carry, 121 yard day of rushing. Colt McCoy, the Cleveland Browns QB, threw for two scores and 213 yards with an interception. Ex-Patriot Benjamin Watson had the best catch of the game for the Browns on a 34-yard grab.

Philadelphia Eagles: 31
St. Louis Rams: 13
Michael Vick (14-32, 187 yds., 2 TDs, 97 yds. rushing on 11 carries) made the most of his first chance to prove he's worth the millions of dollars his team just packed into his new contract. His counterpart Sam Bradford was not able to match up to Starship 7 and found himself injured late in the game. Ram RB Steven Jackson began the game with a touchdown romp only to check out due to a thigh injury. The Eagles LeSean McCoy (15 carries, 122 yds, TD) and Desean Jackson (6 rec., 102 yds, TD) both had stellar days to help lead their team to victory on opening day.

San Francisco 49ers: 33
Seattle Seahawks: 17
The offensive-minded 49ers put up nearly double the points of their opponent this week to open a promising year for the team. The Seahawks looked listless in this game. Ted Ginn, Jr. returned a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns in putting the special teams exclamation point on the season opener for the 49ers. Alex Smith went 15-20 for 124 yards through the air. He also ran for a score on 22 yards of rushing. Tarvaris Jackson threw for nearly 200 yards and two scores on 21 completions in his first start for Seattle. That effort included a 55-yard connection late in the game with Doug Baldwin for a score. The 49ers just had a better total package in this game and came out on top.  

New York Giants: 14
Washington Redskins: 28 
Eli Manning started strong, but he and his team fizzled late in the game while Washington sizzled. The Redskins scored in every quarter but the first and didn't kick any field goals in the game. Rex Grossman converted 21 of 34 passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns to prove he's a much better starting QB than Donovan McNabb. Redskins Running Back Tim Hightower added a rushing score as part of his 25 rushing attempts for 72 yards. Manning went 18-32 and amassed 268 yards passing, but his lone interception went the other way for a touchdown thanks to the great return of Ryan Kerrigan.