Colts' flaws go beyond quarterback, other Week 1 reactions
Don't blame Kerry Collins for Sunday's disaster in Houston. The Colts brought him in too late in the preseason and the 38-year-old quarterback's rustiness showed. Collins lost two fumbles in the first quarter that helped the Texans get rolling.
But Indianapolis has to be worried about more than its quarterback situation. The offensive line was terrible, the defense had no answers for the powerful Texans offense and their special teams was weak. Has the loss of one player ever deflated an NFL team to this degree? The Colts better get their confidence back quickly, or there'll be no reason for Manning to even consider coming back this season.
Meanwhile, the Texans didn't miss running back Arian Foster (hamstring) at all. Ben Tate, Derrick Ward and Steve Slaton combined for 167 rushing yards. Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson didn't have to do much (7 catches, 95 yards, 1 TD), but he is unstoppable when the Texans call his number. Houston also has to be excited about defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' first game. The unit already looks more aggressive than last season. Of course, Collins and Co. helped make Phillips look like a genius.
If you're going to overreact to one Week 1 Game, make it this one. The Ravens, who had dropped seven straight games to the Steelers when Ben Roethlisberger was under center, dominated their AFC North rival. Baltimore obviously wasn't affected by the loss of veterans Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, Kelly Gregg and Willis McGahee. That is in part because future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are still around and don't look like they've lost a step. Lewis had a forced fumble and an interception, while Reed picked off two passes. And the young core of the team looks fast and hungry. Baltimore's offensive line dominated the normally fierce Steelers front, helping Ray Rice and Ricky Williams combine for 170 rushing yards. Joe Flacco got over his issues against the Steelers, completing 17 of 29 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns. The Steelers might have been overconfident against an opponent they've owned and failed to match the Ravens' energy from the opening kickoff.
Jacksonville's Jack Del Rio is supposedly on the hot seat, but he did a good job on Sunday of controlling the game on the ground and not exposing their weakness at quarterback with Luke McCown. The Jags were the third-best rushing team in the league last season and wisely used second-stringer Deji Karim extensively to lessen the workload on Maurice Jones-Drew. Titans running back Chris Johnson looked like he was out of rhythm after his lengthy holdout this preseason. Johnson had just 24 yards on nine carries. Matt Hasselbeck threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns in his Tennessee debut, but overall new coach Mike Munchak's offense looked pretty vanilla.
This has to be the most surprising outcome of Week 1. The Bills haven't scored this much in an opener since 1975. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick made Chan Gailey look very smart for not pursuing another quarterback this offseason. Fitzpatrick threw four touchdowns and no interceptions and Fred Jackson ran for 122 yards in a laugher. Give Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel credit for being out there with a rib injury, but he didn't look very effective, allowing the Bills to focus on slowing down running back Jamaal Charles.
The Falcons' miscues will end up being the story of the game, but that's probably not fair. Brian Urlacher and the Bears defense picked up where it left off in the second half of their NFC Championship loss to the Packers. With all the focus on Jay Cutler in the offseason, it was easy to forget how good Chicago's defense can be. And when Jay Cutler plays well -- 22 of 32 for 312 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT -- the Bears are tough to beat. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 319 yards, but that's a deceiving total since the game was out of control fairly early. Ryan was harassed all day and didn't get much of a chance to show off what was supposed to be an improved passing attack when it counted.
The Eagles had to come in to the game concerned about their young linebacking corps, and on the first play from scrimmage they looked terrible as St. Louis' Steven Jackson romped for a 47-yard touchdown. Philadelphia had to come out with some nerves because of all the hype during the preseason. But Philly's defense settled down and the Rams started to drop left and right. Steven Jackson, Sam Bradford, Danny Amendola and Jason Smith were all hurt Sunday. The Eagles relied on the legs of Michael Vick, who ran for 98 yards and kept several plays alive to put points on the board. But that's probably not exactly what Andy Reid had in mind from Vick. He completed just 14 of 32 passes for 187 yards and they had trouble getting plays off before the time clock ran out.
The Browns picked up where they left off last season, blowing a fourth-quarter lead to the Bengals. That happened to Cleveland four times last season, but expectations were much higher this season. The Browns might have a farther way to go than some people think. Bengals rookie Andy Dalton got off to an impressive start before leaving with an injured wrist. He completed 10 of 15 passes for 81 yards, and most of his incompletions were blatant drops by the Bengals' pass-catchers. Brad Gradkowski came in and didn't do much, but he made the key play of the game, a 41-yard touchdown to rookie A.J. Green that gave Cincy a 20-17 lead. That was Green's only catch of the game. Running back Cedric Benson put his off-field problems to the side and ran for 121 yards and a 39-yard touchdown to seal the win.
The Lions didn't do anything to derail the hype machine coming out of Motown. Matthew Stafford completed 24 of 33 passes for 305 yards, three touchdowns and just one interception and made several Pro Bowl-caliber throws. The Bucs didn't put up all that much of a fight on a hot afternoon in Tampa. Quarterback Josh Freeman was their leading rusher with 26 yards. Tampa Bay focused on not letting Ndamukong Suh get to the quarterback, sometimes blocking him with three guys. It worked, but the rest of the Lions defense was solid, including their oft-criticized secondary.
Quarterbacks Kevin Kolb and Cam Newton put on a show in the desert. The Panthers are probably smiling a bit right now even after a loss. The Panthers' No. 1 overall pick set the mark for passing yards in an NFL debut with 422, and also threw two touchdowns. Receiver Steve Smith was his main target, with eight catches for 178 yards, and Newton had great chemistry with tight ends Greg Olsen (4 catches, 78 yards) and Jeremy Shockey (3 catches, 51 yards). Newton threw one pick, and probably could have ended up with a couple more, but overall he showed surprising poise for his first game. Kolb threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns in his Arizona debut, including two long touchdowns to Jeff King and Early Doucet. Rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson scored the decisive touchdown on a punt return in the fourth quarter. Both defensive coordinators are probably yelling at their players for critical mental mistakes that accounted for most of the scoring in the game.
The Chargers looked like they were off to another one of their slow starts, but the Vikings let them hang around and eventually Philip Rivers found a way to lead San Diego to the win. Minnesota quarterback Donovan McNabb threw for just 39 yards and took very few shots downfield. The Chargers were hurt by Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson early, but they started stacking the box and completely shut the Vikes' offense down. Minnesota has to be happy it got Peterson's contract out of the way, because the perennial Pro Bowl running back probably wants nothing to do with this one-dimensional offense.
Now we know why the Redskins chose Rex Grossman to start over John Beck. Every time you thought the momentum was about to turn against Grossman, he came back with another good play. The Redskins also have to be excited about rookie Ryan Kerrigan, whose blocked pass and interception return for a touchdown gave the Redskins a 21-14 lead they never gave up. The Giants are clearly diminished by the rash of preseason injuries. Eli Manning was under too much pressure and they weren't able to establish a consistent rushing attack with Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs.
The Seahawks appear to have taken a step back from last season, when they got into the playoffs at 7-9. Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson did little to answer questions about why Pete Carroll chose him this offseason. And they were only able to amass 64 yards on the ground. San Francisco didn't look much better, but they got two return touchdowns from Ted Ginn to seal the victory late. Ironically, both of these teams will probably contend in the NFC West, since all four teams looked flawed on Sunday.