Matt Ryan throws for 448 yards in Falcons win, Peyton Manning gets first win over Colts, and all of NFL Week 1—the Monday Morning Realist


Ahh, Realists. Have you missed football as much as I did? I mean football that actually counts as far as regular season standings are concerned? Preseason may be good and everything, but there’s nothing like the real thing, baby!

So, it’s time for this Realist to take return to its more traditional form for the next six months or so, if you don’t mind.

You don’t? Okay. Well, let’s do this!

No Touchceptions Necessary

Sep 4, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) scores on a 9-yard touchdown run in the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The last time we saw competitive football played that counted for anything, it was when we saw the Seattle Seahawks hoisting the Lombardi Trophy after one of the most dominating performances in Super Bowl history. That 43-8 victory in New Jersey (in lukewarm conditions by Tri-State standards—hint, hint to northern city Super Bowl bashers) had earned the Seahawks the Emerald City’s fourth pro sports title.

Given that the Hawks have developed quite a rivalry with the San Francisco 49ers (that is so prevalent that radio stations from both cities are getting involved with the debauchery), Realists, we had to believe that 49ers/Seahawks was a lock for the Thursday Night opener on NBC. Some wanted a rematch of the Super Bowl—in fact, a majority wanted a rematch according to an NFL Network poll.

Instead, Park Avenue and 30 Rock threw us a curveball when it was announced that Seattle would indeed face the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night in primetime from CenturyLink Field.

Oh, how easy we forget. The last time these two teams met, it was the night of the infamous “TouchCeption” on Monday Night Football—one of the most memorable plays in MNF history. Some even believe that the controversial call was the beginning of Seattle’s ascent into the upper echelon of the NFL.

It was also the play that ended the league’s standoff with the traditional referees as the call was made by replacement refs (only positive from the referee debacle was that it led to the league’s first female official).

So, it would be done. Seattle and Green Bay from CenturyLink. Seahawks coming off a Super Bowl and the Packers coming off a season where if Aaron Rodgers was not injured for half of the season, may have been able to make a run themselves to the Big Dance. This was a potential NFC Championship preview we were looking at.

If it was a preview, Seattle is marking its respective calendar already.

Their opening possession in the first quarter would result in a Steven Hauschka 35 yard field goal to give them an early 3-0 lead.

After a 3 and out by Green Bay, the Seahawks would get the ball back…except for Earl Thomas muffing a punt and the Packers recovering at Seattle’s 34 yard line. Green Bay made Seattle pay with a John Kuhn two yard TD run. Mason Crosby’s extra point was good and the Packers assumed a 7-3 advantage.

Seattle would not be trailing for long. Russell Wilson on the next possession connected with Ricardo Lockette for 33 yards. 10-7 Seahawks.

The next Green Bay possession looked like it would be planting the seeds of what most pundits (including myself) expected—offensive fireworks. Despite going to the Seahawks 5 yard line, the Packers settled for three with Crosby’s first FG of the game. 10-10 tie.

Enter Beast Mode.

Next possession—Marshawn Lynch (who is now doing commercials where he’s lifting weights full of Skittles) must’ve had his fix of tasting the rainbow prior to this game. His nine yard TD run (& Hauschka’s extra point) put Seattle back ahead 17-10.

The Seahawks had the lead at that point and wouldn’t look back. Two Seattle possessions into the second half, that lead would extend with another Hauschka field goal. That possession was the result of Rodgers looking for Nelson and finding Byron Maxwell instead.

Plays like what happened two possessions later were an indication that it wasn’t the Packers’ day. Rodgers was sacked on a 1st & 10 at the 3 yard line. A fumble occurred, but it was recovered by Derek Sherrod. Tony McDaniel tackled him in the end zone—a safety. On top of that, the Packers received a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct. 22-10 Seahawks.

That became 29-10 Seattle as Beast Mode was activated again (as it was all game). A Lynch three yard run to the end zone extended the lead.

After that, the ensuing Packers possession resulted in Rodgers connecting with Randall Cobb for a three yard TD but the two point attempt was no good as the score became 29-16.

When Wilson found Derrick Coleman with 2:31 seconds left for a 15 yard TD, it was basically over on Thursday night. Seattle won 36-16.

• Wilson—19/28, 191 yards, 2 TDs
• Lynch—20 carries, 110 yards, 2 TDs
• Harvin—7 receptions, 59 yards

• Rodgers—23/33, 189 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
• Starks—7 carries, 37 yards
• Nelson—9 receptions, 83 yards

Week 2—GB at home vs NYJ, SEA at SD

448 is How You Be Great

Sep 7, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) looks to pass against the New Orleans Saints during the fourth quarter at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the Saints 37-34 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

At this point, does anything have to be said about the Atlanta Falcons/New Orleans Saints rivalry? Honestly, when this one was announced as the opening game for both teams on the NFL schedule, one can only imagine the trash talking being done on both Bourbon Street and Peachtree Street.

One of these teams advanced to last season’s playoffs—New Orleans. They won one of the Wild Cards in the NFC in 2013 before being eliminated by the Seahawks in a divisional playoff game. A glaring omission was missing from the Saints on Sunday—Darren Sproles. He is now wearing green and black for the Eagles.

As for the Falcons, last season was not exactly memorable. They were one of the worst teams in the league with a porous defense and no Julio Jones—Matt Ryan’s primary deep threat.

Such a return should lead to improved expectations (if the defense improves).

That did not happen on Sunday at the Georgia Dome. The Saints got on the board first when Shayne Graham kicked a 31 yarder after a nine play, 64 yard drive that lasted for over four minutes. 3-0 New Orleans. Another possession later—another Saints field goal from Graham (50 yards). 6-0 Saints.

It appeared Atlanta would get its first points on their ensuing possession after Graham’s field goal before a Julio Jones fumble that was recovered by Corey White…at the Saints’ 25 yard line.

That offensive turnover on the Falcons’ part became points for the Saints. Khiry Robinson’s 2 yard run extended the New Orleans advantage to 13-0.

Atlanta recovered from their previous mistake and began its comeback. It began on the ensuing possession midway through the second half with Ryan found Roddy White from two yards out. 13-7 Falcons.

That would become 20-7 with Drew Brees’ first TD throw of the day. The recipient of which was Brandin Cooks from three yards out. The extra point from Graham was good and the New Orleans lead was extended back out to thirteen with 20 seconds left.

20 seconds left. Realists, when will teams learn that you cannot give Matt Ryan the football again unless there are double zeros at the end of a half or a game. Two big play completions resulted in a 40 yard field goal from Matt Bryant to bring the Falcons within 10 at 20-10 as halftime came.

And, on top of that, the Falcons would have the ball to begin the second half given New Orleans received in the first half. The momentum from that last drive to close out the second quarter clearly translated into the Falcons’ next drive as Levine Toilolo (who?!) received a 1 yard pass from #2. 20-17.

Two Saints possessions later, they were on the march again as they had advanced all the way to the Falcons’ 14 yard line. Was a 23-17 lead in the cards for New Orleans?

Well, it would have been if they took care of the football on that drive. Brees was picked by Robert McClain inside the end zone for a touchback.

As the Saints made the Falcons pay for their earlier miscue, Atlanta converted that into points off the turnover as Antone Smith was the recipient of Ryan’s second TD throw of the game. This gave the Falcons their first lead at 24-20.

Mark Ingram gave the Saints the lead back to begin the fourth quarter at 27-24 with his three yard TD run off a shotgun play.

That lead would not last long either. With under three minutes to go, a 17 yard run on a 2nd & 2 courtesy of Jacquizz Rodgers resulted in a TD and a Falcons lead at 31-27.

Except, for this whole thing about both defenses still being in preseason mode. It showed on the Saints’ next drive as they went 71 yards in under two minutes. Another Ingram touchdown gave New Orleans the lead right back at 34-31, along with Graham’s extra point.

Except, there was still 1:29 on the clock—an eternity for Matty Ice. The Falcons got the ball to the 33 yard line of the Saints before Bryant attempted a 50 yard field goal attempt with four seconds to play. It was good, forcing overtime at 34-34.

Atlanta only needed one overtime possession to win the game after the Saints were unsuccessful in scoring on its opening drive, that resulted in a Marques Colston fumble (recovered by Joplo Bartu deep in Saints territory).
All that was needed was for Atlanta to execute a couple of run plays, and win the game with a 52 yard field goal courtesy of Bryant. 37-34 Falcons win.

• Ryan—31/43, 448 yards, 3 TDs
• Jackson—12 carries, 52 yards
• Jones—7 receptions, 119 yards

• Brees—29/42, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
• Ingram—13 carries, 60 yards, 2 TDs
• Colston—5 receptions, 110 yards

Week 2: NO at CLE, ATL at CIN

Bay Day in Big D

Sep 7, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis (85) catches a touchdown pass in the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

One Richard Sherman tipped pass was what kept the San Francisco 49ers out of last year’s Super Bowl. As for the Cowboys, it was another season of (what has become) the status quo in North Texas—high expectations and overhyped because of their brand, and mediocre on the gridiron.

Oh, and did we also have to mention that in addition to everything else, America’s Team lost DeMarcus Ware to the Denver Broncos in the offeseason. Along with that, Jerry Jones has essentially confessed that if it weren’t for his meddling kid (and maybe his puppy if he has one) Jones would have snagged Johnny Manziel in the NFL Draft.

The reason for this is obvious—jersey sales. Given Johnny Football’s status in Texas (and given that the Cowboys still own the state, the Texans only have metro Houston) Manziel Cowboys jerseys would have sold like hotcakes in the Lone Star State.

One wonders why things are the way they are in Dallas when one has an owner who cares more about winning at the Cowboys official team store than winning on the football field. Because Jerry Jones (so full of himself as the owner of an NFL team) absolutely refuses to hire a general manager to run the football operations. Jones is a businessman and not a football guy, and when businessmen try to run sports teams, the result is usually a bloody mess.

Well, at least he signed Michael Sam to his practice squad.

As for the Niners, they are getting over what happened last year in the NFC Championship Game in Seattle. The 49ers will be christening this season with the opening of their new megapalace in Santa Clara—Levi’s Stadium.
How long before that thing is referred to in the San Francisco Bay Area as “The House that (Colin) Kaepernick Built”. I’ll give it about four to five weeks, Realists.

Not that the 49ers have had entirely the best of offseasons either after what happened with Aldon Smith.
Going back to Levi’s Stadium for a bit—if I didn’t notice correctly, it looked as though they opened their new digs on Sunday in Arlington! There looked to be a good amount of red and gold in the stands at AT&T Stadium on Sunday, and the last time I checked, the Cowboys did not ditch Texas blue for California red, so…

It showed on the field too.

Three plays into the opening series for Dallas, DeMarco Murray fumbled at the 35 yard line when it was recovered by Chris Culliver. The turnover resulted in Culliver returning it those 35 yards for a touchdown to give the 49ers a 7-0 lead.

The following Cowboys possession appeared to be concluding with the score tied at 7 as Dallas was able to advance the ball all the way to the 49ers’ two yard line. But, the Cowboys had to settle for only three with a Dan Bailey 29 yard field goal.

Then, the nightmare began if you are a Cowboys fan. It began with Kaepernick’s 29 yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis to give the 49ers the lead at 14-3.

The following Dallas possession would result in the first of three Tony Romo interceptions as Eric Reid picked him off at midfield and returned it all the way to the 2 yard line. One pass later, Kaepernick connected with Davis again for a two yard touchdown. 21-3 49ers. This one looked to be over in the first quarter.

Romo would be picked off on his following two series—once on 1st & goal in the end zone by Patrick Willis, and one by Perrish Cox at the 49ers’ 36 yard line. One can only imagine the internet memes given Romo is already pilloried for his picks already.

Wherefore art thou, Johnny Manziel. Jerry Jones may have been heard uttering this NFL-ized Shakespeare line in his luxury suite in the second quarter.

San Francisco extended its lead to 28-3 after the turnover on a four yard TD run from Carlos Hyde. Phil Dawson’s kick was good as well.

It appeared that Dallas had completed on a huge play when a Kaepernick pass intended for Michael Crabtree was picked off by Justin Durant. He then fumbled and Crabtree recovered for no gain. The result of the play—a challenge and the call being reversed into an incomplete pass.

San Francisco would have to punt, and the Cowboys would score their first touchdown of the game when DeMarco Murray found the end zone from two yards out. It was now 28-10 49ers.

That lead looked to be extended out to 31-10 as San Francisco were able to get to the Cowboys’ 19 yard line. A 37 yard field goal attempt from Dawson was not good. On the ensuing Dallas possession, they engineered a long drive resulting in a Romo TD throw to Terrance Williams. It was 28-17 49ers.

But with less than a minute to go, an onside kick was on the way. It was unsuccessful, clinching the victory for San Francisco.

The story of the game was easily, turnovers and more turnovers and more turnovers. When a starting quarterback throws 3 picks in a game, it most likely will result in a loss. When a starting QB throws 3 picks in a game when the offense wasn’t clicking (other than Murray), it will most likely result in a loss.

When your starting quarterback throws three picks against a team that went to the NFC Championship Game the previous season, it will most likely result in a loss. Romo sometimes gets unfairly criticized since it’s the easy thing to do, but this one’s on #9.

If only the Cowboys did draft Manziel…ESPN and the North Texas media would have a grand ole time!

• Kaepernick—16/23: 201 yards, 2 TDs
• Gore—16 carries, 66 yards
• Boldin—8 receptions, 99 yards

• Romo—23/37: 281 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs
• Murray—22 carries, 118 yards, 1 TD
• Harris—1 reception, 56 yards

Week 2: SF at home vs CHI, DAL at TEN

More-No Way, New England

Sep 7, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Knowshon Moreno (28) runs against New England Patriots free safety Patrick Chung (23) during the second half at Sun Life Stadium. The Dolphins won 33-20. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Believe it or not, we sometimes forget that the Miami Dolphins were a porous Week 17 showing against the New York Jets last season from actually making the playoffs. That was lost because of the debacle that was Richie Incognito, John Jerry, and Mike Pouncey bullying Jonathan Martin.

Normally, when any team plays the New England Patriots and Tom Brady (especially in the AFC East which is still one of the weakest divisions in football outside of the Pats), it normally does not end well for New England’s opponents (especially in the frigid cold & snowy weather of Foxboro in November and December).

Much was made (once again) about the return of Rob Gronkowski to New England after being sidelined for the entire year last year. Even though Brady has been one of these QBs that throughout his career has made average receivers look like Pro Bowlers (just as Peyton Manning has done his whole career).

It would not be the return of Gronk that would steal the headlines after this one.

The Dolphins also made a notable addition—Knowshon Moreno who formerly was with the Denver Broncos. Still, nearly all pundits (myself included) felt that this one would be an easy victory (even on the road) for the Pats.
Plus, Ryan Tannehill is still Miami’s QB.

Instead, it would be those Dolphins that drew first blood when Lamar Miller caught a four yard TD reception from Tannehill in the start of the first quarter to put the Fins up by a score of 7-0. Caleb Sturgis’ extra point was good.

New England answered back with a 13 play, 80 yard drive capped off with a two yard TD run from Shane Vereen. That plus the Stephen Gostkowski extra point equaled a tie game at 7.

Miami got the football back after that, but would fumble it back to New England. A Tannehill pass to Mike Wallace was fumbled and recovered by Jerod Mayo of the Pats. It occurred at the 35 yard line of Miami, so they gave Brady and his offense excellent field position to get back in front.

Nine times out of ten, you don’t do that when playing Brady. The Dolphins’ defense was able to hold the Patriots to a Gostkowski FG from 47 yards out. 10-7 Patriots.

Next possession for New England—Gronk catch and Gronk spike! Six yards from Brady to Gronk resulted in six. The extra point was good and it was 17-7 New England.

The ensuing Dolphins possession resulted in a turnover via Miller after a 13 yard run. Logan Ryan was responsible for the stop and fumble and it ended up on the shores of Revis Island.

New England couldn’t convert that recovery into points, so Miami would get the ball again. They advanced the ball to the edge of the end zone, but had to settle for a Sturgis field goal from 38 yards out. 17-10 Patriots.

Gostkowski’s field goal from 45 yards out to cap off the Patriots’ next possession extended their lead to 20-10 after an eight play drive that lasted under two minutes. This would be our halftime score.

Then—something happened during halftime. Miami must’ve received a heck of a halftime speech. Or they were shown clips of Remember the Titans at the half.

The Dolphins would get the football first to start the second half. They got back to within seven with another Sturgis field goal after a four minute, 66 yard drive. 20-13.

Then, Brady was sacked by Cameron Wake for a loss of three yards. On top of that, he fumbled the football (no tuck rule needed this time!). Louis Delmas was on the recovery at the Patriots’ 34 yard line. That turnover would be converted into seven points for Miami as Tannehill connected with Wallace for a 14 yard TD. Game tied. 20-20.

On their next possession they would go back in front on another FG from Sturgis. They advanced to New England’s three yard line, but as we know, settling for field goals against Brady is asking to get beat, right?


Miami did have a 23-20 lead going into the final frame. Both teams seemingly had butterfingers at the start of the fourth quarter and tried to cough up the rock. Tannehill fumbled at his own 21 yard line before recovering, and Julian Edelman muffed a punt at the 28 yard line before recovering at the 30.

With over three minutes left, Moreno would cap off his huge game with a four yard TD run that made it 30-20 Miami.
It’s safe to say that Brady was left in Cameron’s “Wake” this game. On a fourth and 10 from the Patriots’ 18, Wake found his way through the Patriots’ defensive line to Brady for a loss of eight yards. Plus, the ball was fumbled. The loss of downs put the Dolphins in perfect position to seal this one away.

They had to settle for Sturgis’ fourth FG of the game to make the game 33-20, but Miami would win by this score.
Simply put—what happened with the Patriots in the second half. Also what happened to the Dolphins? I want to know what was said during that halftime speech.

• Brady—29/56, 249 yards, 1 TD
• Vereen—7 carries, 36 yards, 1 TD
• Edelman—6 receptions, 95 yards

• Tannehill—18/32, 178 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
• Moreno—24 carries, 134 yards, 1 TD
• Wallace, 7 receptions, 81 yards, 1 TD

Week 2: NE at MIN, MIA at BUF

No. 18 Beats Team No. 32

Sep 7, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) passes the ball during the second half against the against the Indianapolis Colts at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, you cannot have a nationally televised slate of NFL games on Week 1 without Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. We know what happened during last year’s Super Bowl when they were dominated so badly by Seattle that it appeared as if they were lost in the evergreen forests surrounding the Emerald City.

The Broncos clearly learned from that Super Bowl and beefed up on defense with the additions of Aqib Talib and DeMarcus Ware. But, Wes Welker was suspended for use of Adderall when it was originally reported that he was popping Mollies (and not rocking Tom Ford).

In addition, he suffered yet another concussion which has led to concerns over if Welker is nearing father time.
As for his former team (and the one Manning would be playing on Sunday night—the Indianapolis Colts) Reggie Wayne’s injury from last year was essentially the deciding factor in what prevented Indy from making a Super Bowl run of their own in 2013. Wayne was back for his team which was going through its own transgressions involving its owner, Jim Irsay. He was booked for six games.

Remember, this is the same Irsay that played up last year’s game vs. Manning and the Broncos last season—a game in which the Colts won at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Indianapolis would not have the same success against Denver on Sunday, but there’s a reason to never count the Colts out of games. Remember being down 38-10 last year at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card playoff game?

Omaha! Omaha!

That meant Manning was back on the football field. What did he do in Week 1 last season? Not much—only throw seven TDs against Baltimore (in a game that should have been in Baltimore but was in Denver) en route to setting the single season record for touchdown passes. Yeah, not too much.

Denver’s first possession would span 16 plays and 77 yards and would last just under seven minutes before Brandon McManus’ field goal would give the Broncos an early advantage at 3-0. They were successful in moving the rock to the Colts’ 3 yard line prior to the three points.

Denver would get the ball back soon after when Rahim Moore committed an interception of Andrew Luck. He returned it to the 46 yard line and it would eventually set up the Broncos’ first TD of the day—a Manning pass to Julius Thomas for 3 yards and six points. McManus extra point was good and we had a 10-0 game.

Manning to Thomas for six points. Get used to this theme throughout this second quarter recap, Realists, because it’s exactly what happened. Case in point with Denver’s ensuing possession. This time, it would be for 35 yards between Manning and Thomas to extend the Broncos’ lead to 17-0.

Another possession—same result. Manning would find Thomas in the end zone, this time for 5 yards. 24-0 Denver. How was a team that won the AFC South last season getting routed this badly?

The Colts would finally get on the board as the half neared its close with a nine yard touchdown run courtesy of Luck. It was then 24-7 Broncos.

It would take two possessions in the second half for Indianapolis to score again, but they did courtesy of an Adam Vinatieri (yep, he’s still in the league) field goal from 25 yards out. At the same time, the Broncos were not having the same success as they did in the first half with running an offense.

More momentum seemed to be on Indy’s side as the fourth quarter commenced when Britton Colquitt punted to the Griff Whalen. What was originally a 92 yard touchdown return was challenged by the Broncos on the grounds of either breaking the plane or not breaking the plane. Denver won and there was a rekick—one that was not exactly returned all the way.

The following Broncos possession would result in them extending their lead out to 31-10 with a Montee Ball three yard TD run and an extra point from McManus.

But, remember that this was (once again) the same team that stunned Kansas City last year to win a playoff game after being down 28 points in the second half.

So, the Colts began to attempt to blaze another comeback trail. A 2:08 drive capped off by a Luck TD throw to Dwayne Allen cut the Broncos lead to 31-17. Then, Indianapolis would recover an onside kick and engineer a drive that got them to the Broncos side of the field before a Luck pass intended for Coby Fleener ended up in the hands of Rahim Moore for his second interception of the game.

The Broncos couldn’t convert that pick into points as their second half offensive lull continued. Luck was not in a second half offensive lull as he found Hakeem Nicks (as in the former New York Giant) for nine yards. It was now 31-24 Denver.

The Colts would get the ball back one more time in hopes of tying the game at 31. They got to the Broncos’ side of the field before having to face 3rd and long and 4th and 6 plays. After the two minute warning, 4th and 6 pass intended for Wayne was incomplete, sealing it for Denver at 31-24. Also, Manning joined Brett Favre as the only two quarterbacks to beat all 32 NFL teams (even though they’re going in to the Hall of Fame with one each).

The Broncos offense apparently listened to the opposite of whatever halftime speech the Dolphins heard when they defeated the Patriots. And it’s starting to appear that no lead is safe against Luck and the Colts (except when their defense is not clicking on all cylinders).

• Manning—22/36, 270 yards, 3 TDs
• Ball—23 carries, 67 yards, 1 TD
• Thomas—7 receptions, 104 yards, 3 TDs

• Luck—35/53, 370 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
• Richardson—6 carries, 20 yards
• Wayne—9 receptions, 98 yards

Other Games

Dec 9, 2012; Tampa FL, USA; An NFL logo is seen on the field after a game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Vikings beat Rams 34-6

Steelers beat Browns 30-27

Eagles beat Jaguars 34-17

Jets beat Raiders 19-14

Bengals beat Ravens 23-16

Bills beat Bears 23-20 (OT)

Texans beat Redskins 17-6

Titans beat Chiefs 26-10

Panthers beat Buccaneers 20-14

Giants vs. Lions (7:10–Monday Night Football)

Chargers vs. Cardinals (10:20 Monday Night Football)