AFC West: 2013 Week 1 Rapid Reaction
September, 10, 2013
By Bill Williamson | ESPN.com
SAN DIEGO -- A look at another jaw-dropping come-from-ahead loss for the San Diego Chargers -- this time 31-28 to the Houston Texans -- as the Chargers begin a new era:
What it means for San Diego: The Chargers are well, the Chargers. Unreal. And it’s not all Norv Turner’s fault. Turner’s teams were known for blowing games. Last year, on a Monday night, the Chargers turned a 24-0 halftime lead against Denver into a 35-24 loss. Stunningly, the Mike McCoy era has started in similar fashion. The Chargers led the Texans 28-7 in the third quarter. What a disappointing start for McCoy, who by the way was with Denver last year. His team was so impressive for so long Monday night, but the misery continues. Quarterback Philip Rivers was great for most of the night, but he will be remembered for an interception that Houston’s Brian Cushing returned for a score to tie the game at 28.
Letting Houston back in: The Chargers’ defense faltered the second half. It gave up huge plays on third-and-18 and third-and-13 to allow the Texans to cruise back into the game. The special teams also got into the choking act. The Chargers were called for a penalty on a field goal that gave Houston new life. The Texans ended up scoring a touchdown. That was a huge four-point swing.
Stock watch: San Diego receiver Eddie Royal had three catches, two of which were touchdowns. He was targeted often. Rivers seems to trust him. Overall, it was a good night for San Diego's maligned offensive line. King Dunlap and crew held star pass-rusher J.J. Watt in check for the most part. Not a lot was expected from this unit, but it came up big for much of the game.
What’s next: The Chargers go to Philadelphia to face the NFL’s flavor of the moment. Chip Kelly’s Eagles are the big curiosity in the league after beating Washington on Monday night. There is no doubt the Chargers’ defensive players will have to put on their track shoes for this one. The Eagles' offense goes fast.
September, 8, 2013
By Adam Teicher | ESPN.com
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Reaction from the Kansas City Chiefs' 28-2 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars:
What it means: The Chiefs thought themselves to be playoff contenders. And while the Jaguars may be the worst team in the league, the Chiefs did to them what the better teams do. They dominated Jacksonville. That speaks well for their drive toward a playoff berth.
Stock watch: A lot of arrows on defense are pointing up. The Jaguars had no answer for outside linebacker Justin Houston, who with three sacks continued his ascent toward becoming one of the league’s top pass-rushers. Nose tackle Dontari Poe was a force against the run and brought a pass rush that had been lacking from the middle of the defensive line. Cornerback Brandon Flowers and linebacker Tamba Hali each had an interception, with Hali returning his for a touchdown.
Finding the end zone: As dominant as the Chiefs were on defense, this stat maybe meant the most: The Chiefs' offense scored a touchdown on each of its three trips inside the Jacksonville 20. If the Chiefs continue to score touchdowns rather than settle for field goals, they will realize their dream of being postseason contenders. Having to repeatedly kick field goals last season was one problem for a faltering offense. The Chiefs were last in the league in 2012 by scoring touchdowns on just 27 percent of their trips inside the 20.
Backing up the Jaguars: It may not have mattered that much given the suffocating performance of Kansas City’s defense, but another key was Jacksonville’s horrible starting field position. The Jaguars started drives at their 20, 26, 20, 20, 20, 19, 19, 19, 14, 20, 12, 20, 24 and 20. A mistake-free Chiefs offense made certain the Jaguars had to go a long field each time it received the ball. It was evident early on that Jacksonville was incapable of driving a long distance with any frequency.
What’s next: The Chiefs open their home schedule with a much tougher test. They play the Cowboys next Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. If the Jacksonville game hasn't already done so, the Chiefs can stamp themselves as legitimate by beating Dallas.
September, 6, 2013
By Jeff Legwold | ESPN.com
DENVER -- Some thoughts in the wake of the Denver Broncos' 49-27 victory over Baltimore in the NFL season opener Thursday night at Sports Authority Field at Mile High:
What it means: The Broncos, after their playoff misery last January and an offseason filled with turmoil, finally have more than a little momentum to grab on to as they head off into the regular season.
The offense flexed its big-play muscle and flashed some of the pedal-to-the-metal speed, which is going to cause opposing defenses some problems at altitude. Peyton Manning became just the sixth quarterback in NFL history to throw seven touchdown passes in a single game, and he did it with the merciless, take-what-the-defense-gives-you approach that should worry ever defensive play-caller in the league.
Manning tossed touchdowns to three different wide receivers and the tight end -- two to Wes Welker, two to Julius Thomas, two to Demaryius Thomas and even one to, yes, Andre Caldwell.
Stock watch: America, meet Julius Thomas. The Broncos' third-year tight end caught two touchdown passes and figures to be a rather popular fantasy pick-up in the coming days.
The Broncos thought cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie still had it in him to be a No. 1 option if needed, and on a night when Champ Bailey missed the first season opener of his award-studded career, Rodgers-Cromartie was all that. He lined up in Bailey’s left cornerback spot and kept the Ravens’ Torrey Smith in line all evening.
Hit the reset: Sometimes, when pass protection is an issue in the team's preferred three-wide receiver look, Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase likes to beef it up for a series to set things right.
After running their first 20 offensive snaps in three-wide formation with only limited success and Manning having taken a hit here and there, the Broncos opened a series with 8:03 left in second quarter in a two-tight end look. They quickly moved the ball, gave Manning time and switched back into three-wide when they got into Ravens territory, and stayed in it for much of the remainder of the evening.
Uh, the arm, it’s fine: Seven touchdown passes, another 400-yard game and a 49-point binge on the season’s opening night for Manning. His receivers have spoken all through the offseason about Manning’s improved arm strength, and he flashed accuracy to all parts of the field Thursday.
What’s next: The game Manning doesn’t particularly like – a showdown against his brother Eli in New York. But they now have nine days to prepare, given they helped lift the curtain on the season.
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