The Texans finally have their man, the luckless Lions, more Snaps
The Texans might've finally shed their 'expansion' label by thumping the Colts
Matthew Stafford's shoulder injury may curtail Lions' expectations of six victories
Darrelle Revis and Logan Mankins have made poor judgments with contract issues
PHILADELPHIA -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we take in a Week 1 that's sure to spark overreaction and over-analysis on numerous fronts. But then again, that's par for the course on the NFL's opening weekend ...
They have been belittled and beleaguered, called everything short of gutless for their inability to rise to the challenge and win their biggest games these past eight years. But you can't blast the Houston Texans' lack of backbone today. Not after they finally vanquished their nemesis, the Colts, and took a sizable first step toward fulfilling their playoff-level promise.
The Texans, of course, didn't clinch anything with their 34-24 conquest at Reliant Stadium, but they cleared a significant psychological hurdle in improving to 1-0. Indy entered the game 15-1 against division rival Houston from 2002 on; and until the Texans manned up and handled the Colts, they were going to forever seem like the expansion club that couldn't quite shed that label. In a very real sense, this was Houston's Super Bowl.
Maybe all the Texans really needed was a running back like Arian Foster. But, who couldn't use a rusher capable of a team-record 231 rushing yards and three touchdowns against Indy's supposedly improved running defense? Houston might be a pass-first team most games, but against Indy, head coach Gary Kubiak had the good sense to feed Foster the ball 33 times and running him for more yards than anybody ever had against the Colts. Fifteen of the Texans' 23 first downs came via the ground, and quarterback Matt Schaub completed just nine of 17 passes for 107 yards, with one touchdown.
If Houston should go on to bigger and better things this season, the drive that may be forever remembered as getting the Texans over the hump occurred at the start of the third quarter, with Houston clinging to a slim 13-10 lead after racing to an early 13-0 advantage. You could almost hear the here-we-go-again thoughts racing through the minds of the Texans players and fans, given Houston's penchant for blowing big leads and losing to Indy. I certainly was thinking the same thing.
But not this time. This time, the Texans crisply marched 66 yards in 15 plays, chewing up 7:57 on an absolutely essential touchdown drive. Foster did most of the damage, carrying nine times for 49 yards, including the final, toughest yard -- a 1-yard touchdown plunge on 3rd-and-goal. Though there was almost a quarter and a half still to play, it was effectively the end for the Colts, who trailed 20-10 and never again got closer than 10 points.
It's a long season, and Houston's challenges will still be many as it strives for the first playoff berth in franchise history. But Week 1 can set the tone for an entire season, especially for a team that's still learning how to win. These Texans don't have to cower anymore when someone brings up the Colts, and I do believe their long search for a franchise back has ended quite happily. That's progress aplenty for Kubiak's talented team on this particular NFL Sunday.
Sorry, but it's a lousy, nonsensical NFL rule that removed Calvin Johnson's touchdown catch from the scoreboard and cost the heartbroken Lions a victory at Chicago. The league has split so many hairs and so often redefined what is and isn't a catch in recent years, that I don't know what one really looks like any more.
That's not true. I do know what a catch looks like, and Johnson made one against the Bears in the end zone, with under 30 seconds left in the game. But by the definition the NFL uses at the moment, Johnson's heroics were wiped out because he wasn't deemed to have made one of those vague "second football acts'' while in possession of the ball.
That rule needs some work, and everybody knows it now. If a receiver has the ball, with two feet down in the end zone, and then another body part down inbounds, why is that not as good as a running back who dives and barely breaks the plane of the goal with the ball before fumbling out of bounds? There should not be two vastly different ways of interpreting possession in the end zone.
All I know is that calling Johnson's play a non-catch by the letter of the law leaves me convinced the law needs to be changed. In any other NFL decade, that would have been a touchdown without much debate, if any at all. But not now. Not when we have "second football acts'' to complicate what once wasn't all that complicated.
The Bears won, but everything I suspected about Chicago's woeful offensive line showed up on its failed goal-line possession in the fourth quarter. Chicago had a 1st-and-goal from inside the 1, and couldn't punch it in on all four downs. Matt Forte was stuffed on fourth down, running right, and was met by a wall of Detroit defenders.
All those high-profile acquisitions by the Bears the past two offseasons could be wasted by the fact Chicago didn't give its O-line much love at all. New Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice is one of the best molders of an effective line in the NFL, but I'm not sure he has much to work with in Chicago.
That was a very ill-advised sidearm interception thrown by Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme in the first half at Tampa Bay, the kind of brain cramp that led to him relocating to Cleveland in the first place during the offseason. The good folks in Carolina have seen that kind of dubious decision-making out of Delhomme before, and Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber read Delhomme like a book, from cover to cover, before returning the pick 65 yards to the Browns' 3.
The turnover-plagued Delhomme wound up throwing two interceptions in Cleveland's 17-14 loss at Tampa Bay, a game the Browns once seemed comfortably in command of, at 14-3. Not a good development for Mike Holmgren's rebuilding program in Cleveland. If the Browns can't defeat the Bucs, who can they be expected to handle? And if Delhomme keeps throwing two picks a game, my prediction of Seneca Wallace as the team's starting QB by October has a great shot of coming true.
So much for the Bengals passing game being new and improved. Sure, Carson Palmer finished with 345 yards and two touchdowns in Cincinnati's 38-24 loss at New England, but it's much easier to throw the ball in the NFL when you're down 24-3 at the half and can just load it up in the final 30 minutes. When it mattered in the first half, the Bengals were bottled up and largely ineffective. On Cincinnati's first five possessions, it punted three times, lost a fumble, and Palmer threw a 59-yard yard pick-six to Patriots linebacker Gary Guyton.
Batman and Robin may be on hand in Cincinnati, but Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens are no guarantee of success for the Bengals this season. I'm more convinced than ever.
Despite all the upheaval late in the preseason -- when Seattle seemingly turned over a third of its roster in haphazard fashion -- new Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll certainly had his guys ready to play in the opener. Seattle dismantled San Francisco 31-6, scoring 31 unanswered points in the final three quarters.
San Francisco was the consensus choice to rule the NFC West this year, and that's an assumption that might need some rethinking at this point. Seattle dominated Mike Singletary's team for the most part, with Matt Hasselbeck picking the 49ers apart on 18 of 23 passing, for 170 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception.
Let's see if the Seahawks can keep it up next week at Denver, but for now, Seattle's showing was Week 1's biggest surprise. Unless San Francisco's dismal day outdid even the Seahawks. The 49ers go home to face the defending Super Bowl champion Saints next Monday night. Far earlier than expected, the pressure is suddenly on in San Francisco.
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