By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
BASN’s NFL Review: Week One
For the third consecutive year, all 16 games of the NFL’s Kickoff Weekend were sold out in advance of the local TV blackout deadline, enabling every game to be televised in the home-team market. The first game on Thursday night kicked off the excitement and featured the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts trouncing the New Orleans 41-10.
The win showed that Head Coach Tony Dungy and quarterback Peyton Manning are serious and focused on defending their title. It will be interesting to see if the Colts can stay on top as 31 teams are all gunning for their spot.
Overall the first week of the 2007 NFL season brought surprises (Texans dominating Chiefs, Packers beating the Eagles due to Special Teams “Gifts”, and the Panthers getting a road win in St Louis), non-surprises (Atlanta struggling behind Joey Harrington), cheers, and tears (Sorry Eagles Fans) that only NFL drama can provoke.
The wins and losses no doubt will create a buzz of “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” around the water cooler and on sports radio, but remember the NFL season is a 16 game marathon. Additionally, the “tough” physical game of football causes the 16 game marathon to be a case of survival of the fittest. No team gets to the Lombardi Trophy without dealing with injuries and having luck factor into every week of the season on the way to the title.
This week was no different as injuries were an inopportune part of the games as several high profile players including Ravens LB Ray Lewis (upper arm/biceps), Giants QB Eli Manning (separated shoulder), Giants RB Brandon Jacobs (knee), Ravens QB Steve McNair (groin), Eagles CB Lito Sheppard (knee), Bears DB Mike Brown (knee), Vikings RB Chester Taylor (Hip), Rams OT Orlando Pace (Shoulder/Labrum), Redskins RT Dan Jansen (Broken Ankle) and many others suffered injuries that will effect their teams’ game plans for week two and maybe for the entire season.
A sobering unfortunate moment that keeps all of the games in perspective occurred in the Buffalo Bills-Denver Broncos game when Bills backup TE Kevin Everett suffered a serious spine injury making a special teams tackle early in the third quarter of the game.
The game was stopped for several minutes and Everett, 25, was sadly later diagnosed with a “fracture dislocation” of the third and fourth vertebrae in his neck. He underwent surgery on Monday, but the injury remained life threatening with the possibility of paralysis (It was learned on Tuesday that Everett by a minor miracle could move some of his limbs).
I wanted to send out my thoughts and prayers to Everett and his loved ones in their time of need.
New England Patriots WR Randy Moss: Who needs training camp?? After sitting out most of training camp and the pre-season with a lingering hamstring injury, Moss exploded on the New York Jets secondary for nine catches for 183 yards (20.3 ypc) with a touchdown in a shellacking 38-14 over the Jets. The 10 year veteran receiver looked nothing like the malcontent that shuffled through the 2006 for the Oakland Raiders (42 catches, 553 yards, 13.2 ypc, and 3 TDs). What impressed me the most about Moss’ games was his deep 51-yard touchdown bomb that showed he still has game-breaking speed.
Houston Texans DE Mario Williams: After not living up to expectations around being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft (only 4.5 sacks in rookie year), Williams — fueled by whispers of Reggie Bush and Vince Young — produced in an assertive manner. The big defensive end from N.C. State looked like the dominating player that the Texans thought they selected, producing 2 sacks, 5 tackles, and returning a fumble 38 yards for his first touchdown in a 20-3 drubbing of the Chiefs.
Washington Redskins WR Antwaan Randle El: Playing in front of his old college coach Cam Cameron, Randle El was everywhere in a 16-13 Redskins overtime win over the Dolphins. The former University of Indiana quarterback made sure people forgot his 2006 receiving numbers for the ‘Skins (32 catches, 351 yards, and 3 TDs), catching five passes for a career-high 162 yards and he also added a crucial 15 yard punt return that setup score. Not to be out done Randle El almost produced a game-winning catch off a “hail mary” at the end of regulation when he caught a deflected pass at the Dolphins 3 yard line, but was tackled as time expired.
Honorable Mention: Patriots KR Ellis Hobbs (NFL Record 108 yard kickoff return), Panthers QB Jake Dehlomme (3 TDs and 125.7 passer rating), Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (career-high four touchdown passes), Packers QB Brett Favre (record tying 148 regular season games won w/ co-holder John Elway), Vikings rookie RB Adrian Peterson (103 yards rushing and 60 yard TD rec in debut), Colts LB Freddie Keiaho (Cato Who?? — 6 tkls w/ 1 INT), and Cowboys QB Tony Romo (career-high 345 yards with four TDs)
Lloyd’s Lackey of the Week
Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid: A notorious slow starter, Reid’s record fell to 3-6 on NFL opening weeks. Reid made the strange and bad decision to leave the Eagles fate in the hands of two relatively inexperienced return men (Neither Greg Lewis nor JR Reed had ever returned punts in a regular-season game before Sunday), who muffed two punts leading to 10 points by the Packers including a game-winning field goal.
Honorable Mention: Detroit Lions QB Joey Harrington (Sacked 6 times and 2 INTs returned for a touchdown), Bengals WR Chad Johnson (Leave your H.O.F statements for the field, No Jacket please), Jacksonville Jaguars Defense (Allowed 282 yards including 175 yds to Chris Brown), Jets fans for their classless cheering of Pennington’s injury, and Browns Head Coach Romeo Crennel (Put the kid in).
Colts 41, Saints 10
Led by their offense, the Colts opened their title defense in stellar fashion defeating the Saints 41-10. The game was tied at 10-10 going into halftime, but the Colts exploded for thirty-one second half points. Peyton Manning threw for 3 TD’s and almost 300 yards in the victory. Colts RB Joseph Addai proved he could carry the load going for 118 yards on 23 carries with a touchdown. The Colts defense led by LB Freddie Keiaho shut down Drew Brees, Reggie Bush and the explosive New Orleans offense and caused two interceptions.
Chargers 14, Bears 3
In a defensive struggle the Chargers did just enough to beat the Bears 14 to 3 in a match-up of the two teams that had the two best records for the 2006 regular season. The Chargers were led by RB LaDainian Tomlinson who threw for one TD and ran for another. The Bears had an impressive performance by their defense virtually shutting down the NFL’s highest scoring team in 2006. But Bears QB Rex Grossman was not good going 12-for-23 for 145 yards and an interception. The Chargers defense had two turnovers and allowed three sacks. In the game, Bears safety Mike Brown suffered a season-ending knee injury and Bears defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek tore his knee (ACL).
Seahawks 20, Bucs 6
The Seahawks dominated the Bucs 20 to 6 as RB Shaun Alexander ran for 105 yards and one touchdown. Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck was sharp going 17-for-24 for 222 yards and throwing a 34-yard touchdown pass to Maurice Morris to clinch the win. At points in the game Buccaneers QB Jeff Garcia and RB Carnell “Cadillac” Williams left the game at various times with injuries.
Lions 36, Raiders 21
In an entertaining battle of the two worst teams in 2006, John Kitna led the Lions to an exciting 36 to 21 victory over the Raiders. Kitna living up to his boasts of a “big” season, had a big day throwing for 27-for-36 for 289 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Raiders QB Josh McCown (30 of 40 passes for 313 yards and two touchdowns), a former Lions player, led the Raiders on three touchdown drives to turn a 17-0 deficit into a 21-20 Oakland lead with 7:43 to go in the 4th quarter. Dewayne White caused two turnovers for the Lions including one in the closing minutes to help the Lions spoil Lane Kiffin’s coaching debut in Oakland The Raiders had big days from WR Ronald Curry (10 catches for 133 yards and TD) and RB LaMont Jordan (159 yards of total offense w/ 1 TD
Steelers 34, Browns 7
The Mike Tomlin era kicked off for the Steelers with a thrashing of the Cleveland Browns 34 to 7 in Cleveland. The game marked the first time in 15 years that Bill Cowher wasn’t on the sideline. The star of the game was Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger who threw a career-high four touchdown passes as Pittsburgh built an early 17-0 lead and didn’t look back. The Browns had an embarrassing day of turnovers, sacks and poor play from starting quarterback Charlie Fry whose pitiful line was 4-for-10 for 34 yards, INT (benched and later traded on Tuesday). Steelers RB Willie Parker rushed for 109 yards as Pittsburgh continued their bruising style. Browns beleaguered head coach Romeo Crennel’s record dropped to 1-12 against AFC North teams including being winless in five cracks at the Steelers. Browns Hall of Fame guard Gene Hickerson served as an honorary captain and he was presented his Hall of Fame ring at halftime.
Vikings 24, Falcons 3
The Falcons first game sans Michael Vick turned into a runaway game for the host Vikings as they won 24 to 3. Vikings rookie running back Adrian Peterson playing for injured Chester Taylor rushed for 103 yards and had a spectacular 60-yard catch and run. New Falcons quarterback Joey Harrington was uninspiring throwing two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns, did not lead the Falcons to the end zone and being sacked six times. Vikings QB Tavaris Jackson was efficient going 13-for-23 for 163 yards and one touchdown and one interception.
Redskins 16, Dolphins 13 (OT)
The weekend’s only overtime game was won by the Redskins over the Dolphins 16-13. The star of the game was Redskins WR Antwaan Randle El (see Gameballs). Redskins RB Clinton Portis overcame knee tendonitis to run for 98 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown. The loss spoiled Cam Cameron’s first game as an NFL head coach, as well as quarterback Trent Green’s debut with the Dolphins. Green finished 24-for-38 for 219 yards and one touchdown. The Redskins won the toss to start overtime, took the kickoff and drove 58 yards in 10 plays, all but two runs by Portis and Ladell Betts to Miami’s 22 to set up Redskins Kicker Suisham’s game winning kick.
Panthers 27, Rams 13
In a game that announced, “The Carolina Panthers are back”. The Panthers traveled to St. Louis as an underdog and beat the Rams 27 to 13 in the Edward Jones Dome. Carolina WR Steve Smith was awesome (7 catches for 118 yards w/ 1 TD) in the game and he had the play of the game beating Rams DB Tye Hill on a 68-yard catch for the go-ahead score. Rams feature running back Steven Jackson looked rusty after not playing in the pre-season and he had two fumbles lost fumbles on consecutive carries in the third quarter. The biggest blow to St. Louis was the loss of seven-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Orlando Pace for the season when he injured his shoulder late in the first half and did not return. Rams WR Torry Holt did catch a touchdown pass and KR Dante Hall had an 84-yard kickoff return, but it wasn’t enough to slowdown Jake Delhomme (18-for-27 for 201 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions) and the Panthers. The Panthers totaled 186 yards rushing, 94 by DeShaun Foster and 62 by DeAngelo Williams.
Texans 20, Chiefs 3
The Texans came to play on opening day shutting down Chiefs star RB Larry Johnson and holding the Chiefs without TD in a 20-3 win. Texans former first rounder Mario Williams (See Gameballs) was the star of the game. smiled broadly, clutched his football and breezed into the room. It was Houston’s first win in an opener since 2003 and is the first time in franchise history the team has won three games in a row, dating to last year. Texans QB Matt Schaub had a successful debut throwing for 16-of-22 for 225 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Texans 20-year-old rookie Amobi Okoye became the youngest player to appear in an NFL game since 1967 on Sunday.
Packers 16, Eagles 13
The Eagles opener should have come with the familiar financial services disclosure, “past success is not an indicator of future returns”, with returns being the key word. In a game where the Eagles seemed to be in a pre-season funk from the beginning, the punch less Green Bay Packers accepted a “gift” 16-13 win fueled by miscues (penalties, special teams errors, turnovers, missed tackles and drops) by the Eagles. Against the Packers the Eagles inability to find a return man cost them dearly. Packers quarterback Brett Favre and his offensive teammates did not need to score a touchdown in the quarterback’s record tying 148 regular season games won (co-holder John Elway), but they were able to produce 13 points off of three Eagles’ turnovers. The last score coming on a 42-yard field goal from rookie Mason Crosby with two seconds left after Eagles punt returner JR Reed made the gaffe of the game muffing a punt that the Packers recovered deep in Eagles’ territory (31 yard line) late in the fourth quarter. The loss dropped Andy Reid’s (see Lloyd’s Lackey) a notorious slow starter, record to 3-6 on NFL opening weeks.
Titans 13, Jaguars 10
The Titans run wild in win over the Jaguars 13 to 10. Chris Brown had a career day running for 175 yards, which is more than he had all last season. The Titans also received 66 yards on the ground from RB LenDale White and QB Vince Young scrambled for 22 yards and a touchdown. Tennessee finished with a franchise record 282 yards rushing. Most of his big runs came up the middle as Tennessee’s offensive line manhandled Pro Bowlers Marcus Stroud and John Henderson. Jags QB David Garrard, who was supposed to give the team a better chance to win in than departed Byron Leftwich, finished 17-of-30 for 204 yards and a touchdown. One of the bigger plays of the game was a fumble by Jags RB Maurice Jones-Drew when teammate Marcedes Lewis kicked it out of his hands at the 8-yard line with the Jags trailing 13-10. Jacksonville has lost four in a row, including a three-game losing streak to end last season.
Broncos 15, Bills 14
In a game that featured too many injuries, it came down to Denver veteran kicker Jason Elam producing in the clutch. Elam hit a 42-yard field goal just before time ran out to lift the Denver Broncos to a 15-14 victory over the Buffalo Bills. Elam had missed two field goals earlier and almost didn’t have a chance to make up for his misses. The Broncos were out of timeouts when Jay Cutler hit Javon Walker for an 11-yard catch with 14 seconds left and they chose to rush the field goal unit on rather than spiking the ball. Surprisingly the composed unit did the job as Elam delivered. The Bills defense lost three starters during the game: free safety Ko Simpson (left ankle), linebacker Coy Wire (knee) and cornerback Jason Webster (arm). The game also featured the aforementioned serious injury to reserve tight end Kevin Everett.
Patriots 38, Jets 14
Patriots WR Randy Moss was a handful (See Gameballs) and Ellis Hobbs set an NFL record by running back a kickoff 108 yards for a score in a 38-14 victory over the New York Jets. The play of the game in the blowout was Moss’ 51-yard touchdown catch from QB Tom Brady in the third quarter that gave the Patriots a 28-7 lead. Brady had plenty of time throwing for 22-of-28 for 297 yards and three touchdowns and running his record to 11-2 overall in New York. The game featured a shame on you moment when in the third quarter, Jets quarterback Chad Pennington hobbled to the sideline with a lower right leg injury as fans cheered. Pennington wasn’t spectacular (16-of-21 for 167 yards and the two touchdowns), but he didn’t deserve to fans ire.
Cowboys 45, Giants 35
In a shootout in Dallas on Sunday Night Football, the Cowboys had more offensive power posting a 45-35 victory over the injury-depleted New York Giants. Tony Romo was on fire throwing for a career-high 345 yards and four touchdowns, plus running for another score. The Giants lost four key players to injury including RB Brandon Jacobs and QB Eli Manning, but they still managed to put up 435 total yards in the loss. Terrell Owens was on fire catching only three passes, two of which went to the house including a 47-yarder in the fourth quarter. Giants QB Eli Manning was tough playing through a shoulder injury while throwing for 28-of-41 for 312 yards and four touchdowns with an interception. In Giants DE Michael Strahan’s return, he did not start and contributed five tackles and no sacks.
Bengals 27, Ravens 20
The Bengals had to withstand a goal-line situation in the closing minutes of the game to preserve a 27-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Bengals QB Carson Palmer (20-32, 194 yards, and 2 TDs) was not spectacular, but he got the job done when it counted the most. The Monday Night battle featured the last two AFC North champs with the Bengals capitalizing on six Ravens turnovers. The game was not without controversy as in the closing seconds Ravens backup QB Kyle Boller drove the Ravens to the 1-yard line, where a questionable penalty was called on TE Todd Heap for pushing off on a potential game tying touchdown catch. Soon after Boller threw a game clinching interception to diving Bengals D-lineman Michael Myers. The game was highlighted by Ravens Safety Ed Reed returning a punt 63 yards for a touchdown and Bengals WR Chad Johnson pulling on a “Future H.O.F. 20??” jacket after scoring on a 39-yard touchdown catch.
49ers 20, Cardinals 17
The second game of the Monday Night Football doubleheader featured a match-up of two teams trying to climb out of the NFC West basement. In the game, Niners quarterback Alex Smith (15-of-31 for 126 yards) rallied his team from his pedestrian performance to a 20-17 victory over Cardinals. The game winning score came when Niners WR Arnaz Battle scored on a 1-yard end-around with 22 seconds to play. Overall the game was disappointing for both sides as a swirling wind affected play. The Cardinals did get a good performance from RB Edgerrin James, who rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown, but quarterback Matt Leinart was terrible going 14-of-28 for 102 yards with two interceptions. Shawntae Spencer intercepted Leinart’s final pass with 8 seconds left to preserve the win for the Niners.
Raiders agree in principle with rookie QB Russell: JaMarcus Russell and the Oakland Raiders agreed in principle Monday night to a six-year contract that will guarantee the quarterback more than $30 million in the richest contract ever for a rookie. The two sides met in person Monday for the third time in four days and were hashing out final details of the contract, according to a person familiar with the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not finalized. The final contract needs to be approved by the NFL, but it will be worth at least $60 million with about $31 million guaranteed, the person said. An official announcement could come Tuesday. The previous record deal for a rookie came when the Detroit Lions gave No. 2 pick Calvin Johnson $27.2 million in guarantees this year. Top pick Mario Williams got $26.5 million in guaranteed money a year ago from Houston. The last first-round pick not to be signed by the season opener was offensive lineman Bryant McKinnie, who missed the first eight games in 2002 after being selected with the seventh overall pick by the Minnesota Vikings. Russell went 25-4 as LSU’s starting quarterback, capping his career by throwing for 332 yards and two TDs in a 41-14 Sugar Bowl win over Notre Dame. He finished his career with the Tigers by throwing the second most touchdown passes (52) and having the second highest completion percentage (61.9 percent) in school history.
Patriots accused of spying on Jets’ signals during game: The NFL is looking into claims a New England Patriots employee was videotaping signals by Jets coaches on New York’s sideline during the season opener. The investigation was first reported by ESPN.com, which said that NFL security confiscated a video camera and tape from a Patriots employee during New England’s 38-14 victory Sunday. The story was first reported on the Web site of Jets Confidential, which said the Jets chief of security alerted NFL security about the issue during the game.
NOTE: Late Thursday night, New England coach Bill Belichick was fined the NFL maximum of $500,000 and the Patriots were ordered to pay $250,000 for spying on an opponent’s defensive signals. Commissioner Roger Goodell also ordered the team to give up its own first-round draft choice next year if it reaches the playoffs, and second-and third-round picks if it doesn’t.