NFL Week 1 Headlines

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Not 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6….BUT 7

Sep 5, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) passes the ball during the second half against the Baltimore Ravens at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday, September 5th was a day NFL fans have had circled on their respective calendars for months. Because it would be on that Thursday September 5th that the 2013-2014 season would commence. The opening game on the schedule would be the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens going on the road to take on the Denver Broncos who they defeated in last year’s playoffs en route to their Super Bowl victory.

Usually, the defending Super Bowl champions open up the season at home. But, because of a scheduling conflict with the Baltimore Orioles who were playing the Chicago White Sox at Camden Yards that Thursday night, the Ravens were forced to start the season on the road. M&T Bank Stadium and Oriole Park at Camden Yards share the same plot of real estate in Downtown Baltimore, as well as the same parking lot.

According to attendance figures, the Orioles/White Sox game drew over 17,000 fans. Meanwhile, a Kenny Chesney concert organized by the NFL in Downtown Baltimore drew over 43,000 fans.

Advantage, NFL. What else is new?

Even when the game was scheduled to kick off, there was another delay. A large lightning storm in the Downtown Denver area within the vicinity of Sports Authority Field @ Mile High Stadium delayed the game for another half an hour—and allowed NBC to shoehorn a few more ads in to promote Ryan Seacrest’s new quiz show.

When the game finally did begin, the Ravens jumped out to an early 7-0 lead on a Joe Flacco 2-yard touchdown pass to Vonta Leach. The score would be 7-0 when the first quarter concluded.

Denver tied the game in the 2nd quarter on a Peyton Manning touchdown pass to Julius Thomas, who was a relative unknown coming into this game. Thomas would have both of his touchdown receptions for the game coming in the 2nd quarter. The score was 17-14 Baltimore at the half.

The rest was history—recent history Ravens fans would rather forget.

Manning and the Denver Broncos outscored the Ravens 35-10 for the remainder of the game, including 5 for touchdown passes from The Sheriff for 7 overall in the game. He became only the second quarterback in history to throw 7 TD passes without an interception. The only other one was Y.A. Tittle who did it in 1962.

In addition, he went 27/42 for 462 yards. Needless to say, Manning’s MVP candidacy started Thursday night.

As for the Ravens, Joe Flacco threw the ball 62 times and completed 34 of his passes for 362 yards, 2 TDs and 2 interceptions. Ray Rice only got 36 yards on 12 carries.

In short, the Broncos were very good. The Ravens were very bad. And if that wasn’t the worst of Baltimore’s issues, Jacoby Jones had to be taken out of the game after a collision on the field with one of his own teammates. He was diagnosed with an MCL sprain and will miss 4-6 weeks.

The Ravens will play at home in Week 2 against the division rival Browns. The Broncos go on the road to play Eli Manning and the Giants in Meadowlands.

From Peyton to Payton

Sep 8, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton looks on from the sidelines against the Atlanta Falcons during the second quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

What’s old is new again in New Orleans. After losing head coach Sean Payton for all of 2012-2013 due to the Bountygate Scandal, the Super Bowl winning head coach was back on the sidelines for the Saints as they opened their 2013-2014 season against their division rival Atlanta Falcons, a very sexy Super Bowl favorite among many pundits.

Fieldwise, there was no advantage for both team as both regularly plays in a domed stadium. At first, the Falcons led 10-0 over the Saints with the main scoring play being a Matt Ryan touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez, considered by many to be the greatest tight end of all time, once contemplated retirement after last year’s NFC Championship Game defeat to the San Francisco 49ers. He elected instead to return for another shot at his first Super Bowl championship.

The Saints came back with a strong 2nd quarter in which they assumed the lead from Atlanta at halftime. Garrett Hartley converted two field goals and Marques Colston caught one of Drew Brees’ two touchdown passes.

When Julio Jones caught his touchdown pass in the 3rd quarter, Atlanta went ahead again by four, 17-13. The Saints responded with a score of their own to retake the lead 20-17.

Hartley’s 3rd field goal of the game occurred in the 4th quarter and it put New Orleans ahead 23-17. Late in the 4th quarter, it appeared as if Matty Ice and the Falcons would engineer another game winning drive late. With 4th and 3 at the New Orleans Saints’ 3 yard line, a pass intended for Gonzalez was intercepted in the end zone by Roman Harper with less than a minute left in the game. The Saints won 23-17.

In the case of this game, it seems to early to tell given that the Falcons are still expected to be very good this year. For the Saints, it could be just one of many victories this season now that they have their head coach back on the sidelines.

In Week 2, the Falcons return home to face the St. Louis Rams. The Saints will play their second matchup against a division rival—on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Pitt-Falls

Sep 8, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (28) carries the ball past Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Larry Foote (50) during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Tennessee Titans won 16-9. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers opened up against the Tennessee Titans at The Steel City’s Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon. Tennessee isn’t expected to do much of anything this season. The Steelers themselves are coming off a disappointing 2012.

If anything, it was September, meaning that the grass at Heinz Field actually looked green. That could’ve been a positive omen in itself.

Except, that is, for the quality of the game. On the opening kickoff, the Titans’ Darius Reynaud received the ball at the 1 yard line, then was tackled in the end zone for a Steelers safety. Pittsburgh was leading 2-0 at the start of the game and surprisingly this was not a reference to the Penguins or the Pirates.

This game would remain at 2-0 until late in the first half when Jackie Battle ran in a 3 yard touchdown. A Rob Bironas extra point would make it 7-2 Titans. Are we sure this game wasn’t being played at PNC Park?

 On the back of 3 field goals from Rob Bironas, Tennessee’s lead ballooned to 16-2, a completely bizarre score for any NFL game. The Steelers did get one more score—a 4 yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to former New York Jet Jerricho Cotchery. It made the score 16-9, but that score would hold as the final score as Tennessee defeated the Steelers.

In a nutshell, defense ruled this game. The leading rusher for either team was Chris Johnson who was once upon a time called “CJ2K”. He had 15 carries for 70 yards. Antonio Brown did catch 5 passes for 71 yards in a losing effort for the Steelers. Roethlisberger went 21/33 for 191 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception (and was sacked 5 times, twice by Zach Brown). Jake Locker—11/20 for 125 yards, and no TDs or picks.

If there is any silver lining to the Steelers’ atrocious home defeat on Sunday, it’s the fact that the Ravens, Bengals, and Browns all lost in Week 1. Meaning the Steelers are (for the moment) tied for first place at 0-1 in the AFC North after one game.

Here We Go…

The Titans head to Houston’s Reliant Stadium to face their division rival Texans in Week 2. The Steelers will be on Monday Night Football in Week against the Cincinnati Bengals in Cincy.

Read Option? What Read Option?

Sep 8, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) prepares to throw a pass against the Green Bay Packers in the second quarter at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

There are two unique distinctions to this season for the San Francisco 49ers. They’re the defending NFC Champions. They’re also playing their final season at Candlestick Park before moving into Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara for the year 2014. One wonders if that stadium is already being dubbed “The House that Colin Built”.

The 49ers began their Farewell to Candlestick tour by facing one of the teams they defeated in last year’s playoffs—the Green Bay Packers. Ironically, one of the biggest offseason pickups for the Niners was Anquan Boldin who knows something about playing in the NFC West from his days as an Arizona Cardinal. Also, he was a Raven last year.

For the first 3 quarters of the game, both teams traded touchdown passes. The game was tied at 7 at the end of the first quarter, tied at 14 at the half, and knotted at 21 a piece at the end of three quarters.

This game also became extremely heated given that the Packers were still upset at the 49ers beating them in last year’s playoffs. Also, these are arguably the two best teams in the NFC again this year. At one point in the game, Clay Matthews put a hit on Colin Kaepernick after he already ran out of bounds. The result—offsetting penalties after he and Niners tackle Joe Staley were both flagged. Bill Leavy has since admitted a mistake in the ruling.

What made the ruling somewhat controversial was the fact that the score was tied again, this time at 28-28. It kept the drive alive for the 49ers, allowing them to score another touchdown en route to the victory.­­

Suprisingly enough, Kaepernick won the game for the 49ers moreso with his arm than his legs. He only rushed for 22 yards, but he threw for 412 yards on 27/39 passing and 3 touchdowns. Two of the scores were caught by Vernon Davis who also caught 6 passes for 98 yards. Boldin had a breakout game in his first time suiting up for the 49ers—13 catches for 208 yards.

As for the Packers, Aaron Rodgers went 21/37 with 333 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception in a losing effort for Green Bay. Two Packer receivers caught 7 passes each for over 100 yards—Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson.

Green Bay’s second game of the season will also be against one of the league’s premier young quarterbacks in Robert Griffin III. The Packers will play the Washington Redskins at a renovated Lambeau Field in Week 2. San Francisco will be “waitin’ all week for Sunday Night” as they take on their division rival Seattle Seahawks and Russell Wilson at CenturyLink Field.

Turnovers For Dinner

Sep 8, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) warms up before the game against the New York Giants at AT

Cowboys Stadium undergoing a name change to AT&T Stadium didn’t change the fact that since “Jerry World” opened its doors in 2009, the New York Football Giants have had plenty of success at the new Arlington megapalace. The G-Men were undefeated there ever since it opened. But in the NFL, records were made to be broken.

The Giants’ first possession of the game was a sign of things to come for Big Blue. Eli Manning’s first pass of the game was intercepted at the 20 yard line by DeMarcus Ware. America’s Team turned it into points and the Cowboys took an early 3-0 lead.

New York played sloppy football for most of the first quarter and most of the game. They turned the ball over three times in less than 10 minutes. So began the internet memes that Eli wanted to top big brother Peyton’s performance with seven interceptions. They were extremely fortunate that the score after one quarter was 3-3.

At half, the score was 13-10 Boys thanks to touchdown passes to Jason Witten for Dallas and Victor Cruz for the Giants. Both Witten and Cruz put up huge numbers for their respective teams.

It appeared to be over as the Cowboys extended their lead to 30-17 in the 4th quarter and the Giants’ offense was looking very flat. They were able to come back though on the back of two more touchdown receptions by Cruz. Late in the game, it was 30-24 with the Giants having possession. Eli Manning is regarded as one of the best late-game quarterbacks in the NFL today, and he would surely complete another comeback win for a team that didn’t look like it deserved to win, right?

Right?

Wrong.

The Giants’ sixth turnover of the game would be their costliest. A short pass intended for runningback Da’Rel Scott was converted into a Pick 6 by Brandon Carr to seal the deal for the Cowboys. They would go up 36-24 at that point. Cruz got his third touchdown of the day to make it 36-31, but it was too little too late. As we all know, turning the ball over six teams will not win you a game against a college team, let alone another NFL team.

The game has already turned into an examination of New York’s runningback issues given the Giants only combined for 50 rushing yards for the game. DeMarco Murray himself had 86 rushing yards on 20 carries for the Cowboys.

Tony Romo, who was injured at one point in the game, was 36/49 with 263 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Eli Manning—27/42 for 450 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions.

Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and Rueben Randle each caught 5 passes for 118, 114, and 101 yards, respectively. Cruz also scored 3 TDs. For Dallas, Miles Austin caught 10 passes for 72 yards. Witten received 8 catches for 72 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Other Games

Patriots defeat Bills 23-21

Bears defeat Bengals 24-21

Dolphins defeat Browns 24-10

Lions defeat Vikings 34-24

Colts defeat Raiders 21-17

Jets defeat Buccaneers 18-17

Seahawks defeat Panthers 12-7

Chiefs defeat Jaguars 28-2

Rams defeat Cardinals 27-24

Eagles vs. Redskins 6:55p Monday Night Football

Texans vs. Chargers 10:15p Monday Night Football

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