Snap Judgments from Week 1
Jake Delhomme may be done in Carolina -- and I mean toast
Brett Favre can just dink and dunk, and let Adrian Peterson do the heavy lifting
The training wheels have clearly been taken off Ravens' QB Joe Flacco
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we absorb a bonanza of Week 1 action and await the Bears-Packers new-look NFC North showdown at a jacked to the gills Lambeau Field ...
One thing that never, ever changes from year to year in pro football: Quarterbacks make the NFL go round. Always have, always will. After months of debate and just four quarters of results, here are a few things we already know about the guys who play the league's glamour position after the Week 1 games ...
Jake Delhomme may be done in Carolina. I mean toast. Finito. It's going to take all the faith John Fox can muster to stand behind his beleaguered starting QB this time, recent contract extension or not. After months of telling everyone that Delhomme's five-turnover meltdown in the Panthers' home playoff loss against Arizona last January was an aberration, not the rule, Delhomme went out on that same field and turned the ball over five more times (four interceptions and a fumble lost) in an uglier-than-it-sounds 38-10 loss to the visiting Eagles.
Fox benched Delhomme in the second half, after his fifth turnover, and you wonder how the Panthers head coach can possibly run him out there again. I know this much: It's a lucky break for Delhomme that Carolina faces two road games (at Atlanta, at Dallas) and a Week 4 bye before returning to Bank of America Stadium in Week 5 against Washington. Maybe some of the stench of the Panthers' opener and Delhomme's latest debacle will have faded by then.
More than any other quarterback in the league, Drew Brees is instant offense. Six touchdowns to five different Saints receivers, with 358 yards on 26 of 34 passing is a ridiculous opening day for the reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year. In fact, no quarterback in league history has ever thrown more touchdowns in Week 1.
I didn't think Brees would have a real shot at breaking Dan Marino's 1984 record for single-season passing yardage (5,084) this season -- the mark he barely missed last year -- because I presumed an improved Saints defense this season would translate into less need for New Orleans to fill the skies with footballs.
But that assumption may be proved wrong.
Brett Favre looks like he may just have gotten the memo. The one that told him the Vikings' blueprint for victory this season had nothing to do with him playing the hero, and instead is all about getting Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin the ball. Favre just needs to make sure he doesn't do anything to screw things up for Minnesota.
While he started rather shakily in a 34-20 win at Cleveland, at the end of the day he was 14 of 21 for an unspectacular 110 yards, without any interceptions or fumbles lost to go with his one scoring pass. Peterson ran wild with 180 yards and three touchdowns, and Harvin in his NFL debut had three catches for 36 yards and a touchdown, and 22 yards on a pair of rushes.
That's the idea, Brett. Just dink and dunk your way down the field, and let Peterson do the heavy lifting.
A fractured rib for Donovan McNabb, and that means the question of whether Michael Vick might interject himself into the Eagles starting equation just surfaced even earlier than expected. Vick, of course, can't play for another game, and McNabb could tough it out and be back next week for the home opener against the Saints. But stay tuned, because McNabb's health and the Vick option could wind up being a season-long storyline.
We were reminded once again that it really doesn't matter who starts for Cleveland at quarterback. Maybe that's the real reason Eric Mangini wouldn't announce his QB last week. Cleveland did manage to post an offensive touchdown for the first time since Week 11 of last season, but it was just a garbage-time score that came with 28 seconds remaining in the blowout loss to Minnesota.
It wasn't just talk: The Jets are using the Joe Flacco model of last year in Baltimore as their formula for victory this season with rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. New York rushed for 190 tough yards against the Texans, and played stifling defense against an offense (183 yards) that some said would be among the best in the NFL.
Sanchez did his job, making plays when they were there for the making, but not trying to do too much. He finished with a solid 272 yards passing, one pretty 30-yard touchdown pass to Chansi Stuckey, and one pick. The Jets had 13 first downs passing, held the ball for 38:46 of possession time, and Sanchez had three completions of at least 25 yards. That will get it done.
According to the Jets, Sanchez is just the fourth rookie quarterback since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger to win a season opener on the road. The others were Buffalo's Joe Ferguson at New England in 1973, Denver's John Elway at Pittsburgh in 1983, and Carolina's Chris Weinke at Minnesota in 2001. If memory serves, neither Weinke or the Panthers won again that season, finishing 1-15.
Speaking of Flacco, the training wheels have most definitely been taken off in year two, wouldn't you say? The Baltimore QB threw for 307 yards and three scores in that surprisingly tough 38-24 win over the Chiefs, which accounted for the biggest chunk of the Ravens' 501 yards of total offense. Flacco found seven different receivers with at least two of his passes, and spread his three touchdowns around to three Ravens: Todd Heap, Willis McGahee and Mark Clayton.
That's about what we expected from Lions rookie Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick in last April's draft. It's going to be a bit ragged for a while with Stafford, at least until the team Detroit puts around him improves. Stafford wasn't horrible, and the Lions showed a little spunk against the Saints. But he finished just 16 of 37 (there's that accuracy issue again) for 205 yards, with three interceptions, no touchdowns and a measly 27.4 passer rating. Stafford did manage to dent the end zone on a 1-yard run in the third quarter.
If you love stats, Matt Schaub can be your guy. But when it comes to winning the games you're suppose to win, Schaub is not among the league's elite quarterbacks. And anybody who tells you he is, is misinformed.
If ever a team deserved a game-changing lucky break, maybe it's the Broncos after the tumultuous offseason and preseason Josh McDaniels and Co. have endured. Still, that was a miracle touchdown for the ages that Denver receiver Brandon Stokley scored on a deflected pass with 11 seconds remaining at Cincinnati.
Is there some league rule that Denver gets one gift win every season? Betcha Ed Hochuli is just glad he didn't have anything to do with this one winding up in the win column for the Broncos.
Easy pick for my frauds of the week. It's the Texans. A perennial chic pick to finally make the playoffs, Houston laid a total egg at home against the Jets, scoring no points on offense, and producing just 11 first downs and 183 total yards. And what is it about Gary Kubiak's club in September? They're 2-9 in the season's first month in his four seasons, with six consecutive losses.
I've been skeptical all along that Houston is headed for a breakthrough year. I'm more dubious than ever after watching the Texans' efforts in Week 1. They richly deserved those late-game boos that rang out throughout Reliant Stadium.
Second place in my Week 1 fraud alert probably goes to the Bengals, who suckered a lot of people with that hopeful preseason and all that great television in HBO's Hard Knocks.
Do you realize that Adrian Peterson gained 140 of his 180 yards rushing on his final nine carries against the Browns, including that game-clinching 64-yard fourth-quarter scamper in which he left a string of Cleveland tacklers in his wake? A.P. knows how to finish.
Welcome back to the land of the NFL living, Jeremy Shockey. A pair of Week 1 touchdown catches -- his second career two-score game -- is kind of what the Saints had in mind when they identified you as a missing-piece type of acquisition last year.
With No. 2 Colts receiver Anthony Gonzalez going down early Sunday with a knee injury, you have to at least wonder if Indy will pick up the phone and feel out Marvin Harrison about a possible comeback? Don't you?
So I don't see Dallas missing Terrell Owens all that much just yet. Getting three big-play touchdowns from three different Cowboys receivers -- Miles Austin for 42 yards, Roy Williams for 66 and Patrick Crayton for 80 -- kind of kills that angle for a while. Oh, and did we mention that Tony Romo seemed positively liberated in throwing for a career-high 353 yards, with eight completions of at least 10 yards?
Steady there, Raheem Morris. It can be kind of fun watching the Bucs rookie head coach jump around on the sideline, handing out flying high-fives to his players in that Tampa heat and humidity. But he might just become the first head coach to ever require an IV at halftime.
Those were snazzy new uniforms for Jacksonville, but unfortunately that was kind of the same old Jaguars offense. There was a decent dose of Maurice Jones-Drew, and not much else.
I've liked Lions rookie safety Louis Delmas since draft day, when Detroit made him its second-round pick. He's one of those guys who just seems to always be around the ball, and it didn't take long for that reputation to follow him to the NFL. Delmas scooped up a Saints fumble late in the third quarter and raced 65 yards for his first career touchdown, a score that cut the New Orleans lead to 38-27 and kept Detroit's upset bid alive for a time.
Maybe I missed it, but there didn't seem to be any big doings by anyone in the ever-more-popular Wildcat Formation on Sunday. I saw Joshua Cribbs get stuffed on third-and-goal in the Wildcat for Cleveland, and DeSean Jackson and DeAngelo Williams both took a turn in the Wildcat without much result in the Eagles-Panthers game.
Did I hear that right, Texans cornerback Dunta Robinson wore the words "Pay me, Rick'' on his cleats in a protest against Houston general manager Rick Smith not giving him a long-term contract extension?
Maybe Smith should wear "Don't get beat, Dunta" on his footwear, because I believe it was Robinson who got roasted by Jets receiver Chansi Stuckey on his 30-yard second-quarter touchdown catch.
Brian Westbrook is this year's proof that the NFL's preseason isn't absolutely necessary. The Eagles running back got virtually no work in the past four weeks, but he looked pretty primed and ready at Carolina, gaining a team-high 64 yards rushing on 13 carries, and adding three receptions for eight yards and a touchdown in Philly's rout of the Panthers.
Kind of a typical Reggie Bush showing in his return to New Orleans lineup after missing the past three preseason games. He carried seven times for just 14 yards, with a long of 10 (so you know there was some of his customary negative yardage in that total). He did have a 4-yard touchdown run called back by a holding penalty. Bush was better as a receiver, with five catches for 55 yards. But he fumbled twice as a punt returner, recovering one himself and turning one over.
Carolina is clueless on offense at the moment, but the Eagles defense looks like it's in good hands with new coordinator, Sean McDermott, who is replacing the beloved Jim Johnson. Philadelphia held the Panthers to just 169 yards of offense, and Carolina was an anemic 3 of 16 on third downs.
There are big shoes to fill in Philly, but McDermott is off to a promising start.
It's too early to call it a changing-of-the-guard-type moment in the NFC West, but I do believe that Seattle and San Francisco winning in Week 1, and the defending NFC champion Cardinals going down to defeat at home against the 49ers, is indicative of where things likely are headed this season for all three teams.
The Cardinals seem out of sync, as if they have yet to grasp how big of a target they now wear on their backs. Teams will give them their best shot this season, and I have my doubts that Ken Whisenhunt's team is ready for that on a weekly basis.
San Francisco's 20-16 win at Arizona didn't include the running game component I thought the 49ers were going to feature this year -- Frank Gore had just 30 yards on 22 carries -- but it was still the ugly type of victory that we'll see more of in San Francisco this season. The 49ers had just 203 yards of offense, but they picked off Kurt Warner twice, and limited the Cardinals running game to just 40 yards on 17 attempts.
Lot of pressure on Raiders head coach Tom Cable Monday night at home against San Diego. The NFL's other 10 new head coaches went 5-5 in their debuts on Sunday, meaning it's all up to Cable and the Raiders if the newbies are to climb above .500 in Week 1.
The winners? They were Denver's McDaniels, the Jets' Rex Ryan, Indy's Jim Caldwell, Seattle's Jim Mora and San Francisco's Mike Singletary. Losing their first games were Kansas City's Todd Haley, Cleveland's Eric Mangini, Detroit's Jim Schwartz, Tampa Bay's Morris, and St. Louis's Steve Spagnuolo.
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