AFC East: 2012 Week 1 coverage

Wrap-up: Texans 30, Dolphins 10

September, 9, 2012
Here are some thoughts on the Houston Texans' 30-10 victory over the Miami Dolphins:

What it means: This was about what I expected from Miami. In fact, I predicted Houston would win 27-10, which was very close. The Dolphins are a rebuilding team in major transition offensively and defensively. It showed as Miami couldn't keep up with Houston for even a half before Houston's talent eventually prevailed. The Dolphins have very few difference-makers. Miami will have to play mistake-free football for four quarters to win consistently, but that wasn't the case in this game. The Dolphins committed four turnovers and didn't force any from Houston.

What I liked: One of the bright spots for Miami was starting running back Reggie Bush. He led the Dolphins in both rushing (69 yards) and catches (six). Bush is proving to be a reliable weapon. The Dolphins need to find ways to get the ball in his hands as much as possible until other players prove they can step up. Miami’s run defense also was solid. The Dolphins held Houston Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster to 79 yards on 26 carries. Foster did have two touchdowns.

What I didn’t like: Miami rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill struggled in his first regular-season start. He threw for 219 yards and had three interceptions. Tannehill’s passer rating was 39.0. He looked very much like a rookie and Miami will have to live with the growing pains this year. The goal is for Tannehill to get better each week. His supporting cast (besides Bush) also has to do a better job.

What's next: Miami will host the Oakland Raiders next week at Sun Life Stadium. This is a chance for the Dolphins to catch Oakland on the road and coming off a short week. This is probably the most winnable game Miami has on its early schedule.

Rapid Reaction: Patriots 34, Titans 13

September, 9, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Rapid reaction from the Patriots' 34-13 win over the Titans at LP Field:

PatriotsTitansWhat it means: Solid opening effort from the Patriots, who extend the NFL's longest active streak of opening victories (9). The Patriots have been on the road for three wins during the streak and to come into this environment and control the game the way they did -- after a slow start defensively -- was impressive. They were clearly the superior team.

Rookie impact on D: The Patriots’ top three draft choices highlighted a strong defensive effort, with defensive end Chandler Jones (first round, No. 21 overall) strip-sacking Titans quarterback Jake Locker in the second quarter and linebacker Dont'a Hightower (first round, No. 25 overall) recovering and returning it 6 yards for a touchdown. Earlier, safety Tavon Wilson (second round, No. 48 overall) had an interception. Looks like the Patriots have picked themselves some much-needed difference-makers.

Brady takes big hit; is marvelous: There was a hold-your-breath moment for Patriots followers when quarterback Tom Brady was sacked from the blind side by Kamerion Wimbley on the team’s third series. Brady required medical attention on the sideline, with athletic trainers and doctors working on his nose. He wore a bandage over the bridge of his nose. The big hit didn’t affect his performance, as Brady was marvelous. He finished 23-of-31 for 236 yards and two touchdowns.

Run defense puts clamps on Johnson: One of the Patriots’ main points of emphasis entering the game was limiting speedy running back Chris Johnson. Mission accomplished. Johnson finished with 11 carries for 4 yards. No further explanation needed.

Ridley in the lead role at running back: The post-BenJarvus Green-Ellis era began with the Patriots featuring Stevan Ridley as their lead back. The second-year pro out of LSU was one of the team’s top performers, with hard-charging running and good ball security. Ridley established a new career high for rushing yards (he had 58 at the half, 106 after his 1-yard TD run late in the third quarter, and finished with 125 yards on 21 carries), as the rushing attack looked more explosive than 2011.

Quiet day for Welker: Patriots receiver Wes Welker entered the day needing four catches to become the franchise’s all-time leader in receptions. He finished with three (for 14 yards). Welker was rotated with Julian Edelman throughout the game, as he didn’t have his usual heavy playing time load.

Injuries to monitor: Starting right guard Dan Connolly left early in the fourth quarter and did not return. His final play was serving as a lead-blocking fullback on Ridley’s 1-yard touchdown run. Donald Thomas finished the game at right guard. There were no other known injuries. For the Titans, linebacker Colin McCarthy (ankle), Locker (left, non-throwing, shoulder) and receiver Nate Washington (leg contusion) were notable injuries.

What’s next: The Patriots return to New England for their home opener on Sunday, Sept. 16, against the Arizona Cardinals (1 p.m. ET).

Rapid Reaction: Jets 48, Bills 28

September, 9, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the New York Jets' season-opening 48-28 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

What it means: It means the Jets have more answers than the Bills at this point of the season. Both New York and Buffalo entered this game with "contender or pretender" labels. These teams are expected to compete for second place in the AFC East and possibly a wild card. The Jets certainly have it more together in Week 1. The Jets dominated Buffalo on offense, defense and special teams. The game wasn’t as close as the final score indicated, as the Jets took their foot off the pedal late in the second half. New York continues to have Buffalo's number. The Jets won for the sixth straight time over the Bills, who fell to 2-11 against other AFC East teams under head coach Chan Gailey.

Offensive explosion: What got into the Jets' offense? This was a starting unit that couldn't score a touchdown in the first three games of the preseason. Suddenly, the Jets were efficient and explosive against the Bills, scoring 34 points. New York took advantage of Buffalo's four turnovers and had the short field most of the game. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez was solid. He overcame an early interception and finished with 266 yards, three touchdowns and one pick. New York also scored once on defense and special teams. The 48 points were the most by the Jets in a season opener in team history.

Jackson injured: The Bills lost one of their leaders on offense in the second quarter. Starting running back Fred Jackson took a hard shot on the knee from Jets safety LaRon Landry and did not return to the game. This was Jackson’s first game back since last year’s season-ending knee injury. Bills backup C.J. Spiller did play well in relief. Spiller rushed for 169 yards on 14 carries and one touchdown.

Hill and Kerley show: There were plenty of questions about whether New York had a No. 2 receiver to pair with Santonio Holmes. It turns out both rookie Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley showed up in the season opener. Hill did a great job of getting behind the defense and caught five passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns. Kerley made an impact on offense and special teams. He caught a 12-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and also returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown.

Tebow Time: New York unveiled its much-anticipated Wildcat formation Sunday. There were a few flashes, but overall it didn’t have much of an impact in this game. Tebow rushed for 11 yards on five carries. Buffalo has its own Wildcat package and was well prepared in this area.

What’s next: The Jets continue a tough slate to start the season with a road game in Week 2 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was important for New York to win right off the bat. The Bills have a home game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Buffalo needs to prove it can bounce back from a tough loss or risk falling to 0-2 on the season.




Sunday, 9/21
Monday, 9/22