First and Ten: Patriots send Week 1 message against Bengals
You get the feeling the Patriots took all the experts overlooking them personally
The officials made the wrong call on Calvin Johnson's touchdown catch
Stafford is the latest example of how the draft doesn't help bad teams get better
PHILADELPHIA -- Each week I'll provide 10 quick-hitting insights into the 1 p.m. games ...
1. We should fear the Patriots. All three units surpassed expectations against the Bengals. Their receiving corps reminded us how good they are against a solid pair of Cincinnati cornerbacks. Wes Welker was pretty close to 100 percent with two touchdown receptions, and Randy Moss showed he's still an elite receiver with a strong first half. And Tom Brady looked comfortable throwing to some of his new targets -- rookies Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski and second-year man Brandon Tate all made big catches. Everyone thought the Pats' young defense would struggle, but they held tough, especially in the first half. Their green secondary did well against Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco before they were in more of a prevent mode in the second half. And after their special teams did next to nothing last season, they got a a 97-yard kickoff return by Tate. Watching the Patriots, you get the feeling they took all the experts overlooking them personally.
2. The officials made the wrong call on Calvin Johnson's touchdown catch in the final minute of the Bears-Lions game. After the first official ruled Johnson's catch a touchdown, another official overruled it, claiming the ball hit the ground before Johnson secured it. The play was done. It was a touchdown. Mike Pereira tried to explain it, but failed. The Lions should have snapped their 20-game road losing streak.
3. The Steelers would have beaten the Falcons relatively easily with Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday. When their defense is playing like that at home, you don't need much from the offense. Good thing ... they didn't get much. Roethlisberger is lucky they came away with the win, because a loss would have been another black eye to his legacy. Luckily for the Steelers, their true MVP, Troy Polamalu, was on the field. Not only does he make big plays, but also the whole unit seems more energized with No. 43 on the field.
4. Even though the Texans were obviously playing with some extra juice to finally knock off their Moby Dick, the Colts, you have to worry about Indy's energy level. The consensus was Indy wouldn't suffer the Super Bowl-losing jinx because it had Peyton Manning. But just when the Colts looked like they were about to pull one of their patented come-out-of-nowhere comebacks against Houston, they just didn't have anything in the tank.
5. Give the New York Giants and new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell credit for toughening up against the Panthers' rushing attack. After letting up 247 yards to the Panthers in their old Giant Stadium finale, Big Blue gave up just 89 yards on the ground in their 31-18 win over Carolina on Sunday. They got a little help from the Panthers, who can't throw vertically and stretch the field with the passing game. So the Giants were able to focus on slowing down DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.
6. Calm down, Titans fans. Let's see how your offense does against the Steelers next week before declaring Tennessee the favorite in the AFC South. The Raiders clearly have done nothing to improve in the offseason. Watching quarterback Jason Campbell struggle makes you realize JaMarcus Russell wasn't the problem in Oakland. The Raiders dropped their eighth straight season opener in non-competitive fashion.
7. How did the Bills go all offseason without addressing their quarterback situation? Trent "check-down" Edwards simply can't throw downfield. Even with the clock ticking down in the final minute of the loss to the Dolphins, Edwards couldn't even bring himself to chuck it downfield. He continued to throw underneath, even though the Bills needed to go the length of the field with less then a minute left.
8. The Browns did address their quarterback situation and have to wish they had gone in another direction. Jake Delhomme threw two picks against the Buccaneers. He has never truly recovered from his 2008 playoff meltdown, when he was with Carolina against the Cardinals. Head coach Eric Mangini has to wonder if the front office really wants him to succeed by giving him Delhomme.
9. Even though the Jags beat the Broncos, the win might not have been enough to build a string of sellouts in games when Tim Tebow isn't on the visiting team. David Garrard played a nice ball-control game (16-for-21, 170 yards, three touchdowns) but made very little effort to get the ball down the field. That may work against an uninspired Broncos team that typically doesn't play well in 1 p.m. ET games.
10. Hopefully Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford's right shoulder is OK, but if he's out for an extended period of time, he'll be just the latest example of how the NFL draft doesn't serve to help bad teams get better. Detroit basically had to take the talented Stafford at No. 1 and give him more guaranteed money than any young quarterback is worth. Not only do young quarterbacks make mistakes, they are more likely to get injured than a proven veteran who knows how to get rid of the ball and avoid hits.
11. Expect a raging quarterback controversy in Philadelphia if Kevin Kolb is healthy enough to play next week, after leaving the Eagles' 27-20 loss to the Packers with a concussion. Michael Vick played well, but he was facing an exhausted Packers defense that was clearly playing with a lead. Kolb faced a lot more pressure in the first half than Vick did in the second. Vick said he had "that old feeling" back during the game and thinks the Eagles would have had a shot to win if he had played all four quarters. If there was a flaw in Vick's game Sunday, receivers seem to have a hard time racking up a lot of yards after catch on a lot of his throws. That's supposed to be one of Kolb's specialties -- hitting putting receivers in the position to make plays after the reception (although that wasn't the case Sunday).
12. The Cardinals won, but Derek Anderson didn't do anything Matt Leinart couldn't have done. In fact, Leinart probably would have had a better game against the Rams because he wouldn't have been so out of sync with Larry Fitzgerald. Anderson and Fitzgerald need to improve their chemistry if Arizona hopes to beat non-doormat teams.
13. Is anyone else surprised the Seahawks were able to change personnel at so many positions and still be the more cohesive unit against the 49ers? Maybe Pete Carroll's NFL career will follow the arc of Bill Belichick's and grow into success after earlier efforts fell short. Let's see how the Seahawks fare away from a noisy Qwest Field. Maybe the bigger question is, Why wasn't Mike Singletary's team ready to play?
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