AFC South: 2012 Week 1 coverage

Wrap-up: Vikings 26, Jaguars 23 (OT)

September, 9, 2012
Thoughts on the Jaguars' 26-23 overtime loss to the Vikings in Minnesota:

What it meant: The Jaguars have improved but were unable to finish off a team they will feel they should have beaten. The Jags had the ball for 37:49 and had 75 offensive plays to Minnesota’s 58, but couldn’t use that extra time with the ball to pull away or win. The Jaguars are one of three AFC South teams at 0-1, with only Houston at 1-0.

Important development: Quarterback Blaine Gabbert got the ball with 1:18 left in the game trailing by 5 and drove the Jaguars to a touchdown. He completed four of six passes and covered 76 yards in just 58 seconds, capped by a 39-yard touchdown to Cecil Shorts, who made a great adjustment to the pass. Gabbert hit rookie Justin Blackmon for the 2-point conversion and a 3-point lead, but Minnesota managed a field goal to force overtime. Gabbert carried over his preseason play and was largely effective.

Hard to figure: Statistically -- with that time of possession, the advantage in offensive plays and the Jaguars’ nine conversions on 18 third downs compared to the Vikings’ two conversions in 10 chances -- it’s hard to see exactly how Jacksonville failed to win. Typically such things are offset by turnovers or giant plays, but both teams lost one fumble and Minnesota didn’t have a play longer than 29 yards and only had four plays of 20 yards or more. Adrian Peterson's two touchdown runs certainly hurt.

Injuries of concern: The offensive line got beat up with guard Eben Britton leaving the game with an ankle injury and right tackle Cameron Bradfield leaving the game with a leg injury. The other guard, Uche Nwaneri, suffered an ankle injury but returned to action. Running back Rashad Jennings left the game early with a knee injury, meaning Maurice Jones-Drew was back in his full-time role in short order.

What’s next: The Jaguars host the Texans in the first home game for coach Mike Mularkey. Jacksonville lost both games to the Texans last season.

Wrap-up: Bears 41, Colts 21

September, 9, 2012

Thoughts on the Colts’ opening-day 41-21 loss to the Bears at Soldier Field:

What it meant: That the 0-1 Colts are a lot like we thought they’d be -- a team in transition that can have a tough time being competitive. The offense gave the ball away five times, which meant the defense was on the field for 35:48. The Colts gave up 428 total yards. The Bears’ top two backs combined for a 4.3-yard average and Jay Cutler posted a 98.9 passer rating.

What I didn’t like: Andrew Luck’s preseason and training camp didn’t presage such a tough start. He threw three picks and lost a fumble in his first career game. He underthrew Donnie Avery on one Tim Jennings pick and saw a pass for Reggie Wayne in the end zone tipped by Jennings to Chris Conte on another. Remarkably, his four giveaways turned into only three points.

Top targets: The Colts were without two injured receivers who figure to be factors, Austin Collie and T.Y. Hilton. Without them, rookie Luck threw primarily to Wayne (targeted 18 times) and former Stanford teammate Coby Fleener (10 times). That’s 28 of Luck’s 45 throws. Wayne had a huge game with nine catches for 135 yards. But Luck’s first career touchdown went to Avery.

Eerily similar: Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star points out that Peyton Manning’s first start with the Colts produced a similar stat line to Luck’s. Manning was 21-of-37 for 302 yards with a TD and three picks. Luck was 23-of-45 for 309 yards with a TD and three picks.

What’s next: The Colts host the Minnesota Vikings at Lucas Oil Stadium in the first home game for coach Chuck Pagano, Luck and a slew of others.

Wrap-up: Texans 30, Dolphins 10

September, 9, 2012

Thoughts on the Texans’ opening-day 30-10 win over the Dolphins at Reliant Stadium:

What it meant: Houston jumped out to a one-game lead in the AFC South as the only winner in the division on a day when quarterback Matt Schaub's contract extension came to light.

What I liked: It seemed as though the Texans were flat early. They trailed 3-0 for a while. But the defense sparked a huge flurry with takeaways. After an interception led to a field goal that made it 3-3, two more picks and a fumble recovery set Houston up for 21 points in just 1:46. That was more than enough to seize control of the game.

What I also liked: The defense did just what was expected to rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, making things very difficult on him. He wound up hitting on 20 of 36 passes for 219 yards with three interceptions. He was sacked three times and lost a fumble. Houston end J.J. Watt's stat line had 1.5 sacks and three passes defensed, one of which was a tip that turned into Kareem Jackson's interception.

Star power shined: Arian Foster scared some people when he missed practices and wound up questionable with soreness around his knee. But he played and looked to be himself, gliding in for a 14-yard touchdown and bullying his way in from 2 yards out for another. Receiver Andre Johnson, meanwhile, caught eight passes for 119 yards including a 14-yard touchdown on which he displayed some pretty footwork.

What’s next: The Texans hit the road for their first division game of the season, against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. The Texans swept the series last year.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Thoughts on the Tennessee Titans' 34-13 loss to the New England Patriots on opening day at LP Field:

What it means: The Titans start out 0-1. Their failures in coverage against Tom Brady leave questions about how they are going to slow other quarterbacks who will find open people like Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford, Matt Schaub, Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers.

What I didn’t like: Jake Locker did some good things, but none were good enough to offset a wobbly deep ball he threw for Nate Washington that was tipped and picked or a fumble near his own goal line that the Patriots scooped and took to the end zone. The defense couldn’t cover enough of New England’s weapons well enough to give the hosts a chance.

And about the officials: They weren’t brutal, but they could have cost the Titans four points on their early field goal. Just before that, receiver Damian Williams was clearly mugged by Devin McCourty on a pass into the end zone. It was merely ruled an incompletion. Locker got hurt making a tackle on a play that should have been blown dead.

How it’s done: New England’s second-year running back, Stevan Ridley, ran with the sort of purpose that’s too often been lacking from Chris Johnson since his holdout before the 2011 season. Ridley was very good as he collected a TD and 125 yards on 21 carries for the Patriots.

Injuries of note: Locker injured his left shoulder making a tackle on Patrick Chung on a fumble return -- the play was overturned into an incompletion. Washington, the receiver on the play, suffered a leg contusion. Middle linebacker Colin McCarthy suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter. He returned briefly, but then went to the locker room. Will Witherspoon, who was not a factor since the Titans were playing predominantly nickel, filled in. The Titans also went to a dime package with three safeties more.

What I liked: The Titans spent the preseason with Tommie Campbell as the third corner, shifting Alterraun Verner inside. But they left Verner outside in this game, using Ryan Mouton on the inside. And slot receiver Wes Welker didn’t hurt them at all with three catches for 14 yards. Also, while Michael Roos had his hands full with rookie pass-rusher Chandler Jones, I thought the rest of the line did a pretty good job in pass protection. Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork didn’t make a great deal of noise.

What’s next: This franchise has had trouble in recent years against the Chargers, particularly in San Diego. All the tough start predictions start to pan out if Tennessee can’t find a way to win in Southern California. Is Locker back, or do the Titans have to turn to Matt Hasselbeck already because of the injury?