NFL Nation: 2010 Week 1 Rapid Reaction

KANSAS CITY -- Breaking down the Chiefs' victory, which was played in wet and windy conditions:

What It means: It may be too early to say the Chiefs are going to stick around all season, but they are clearly much improved. This was a big night in all three phases of the game for the Chiefs.

For San Diego, the four-time defending division champion, the loss hurts. The Chargers' offense stalled in bad weather for much of the night and it died at the 6-yard line in the final seconds of the game. The Chargers clearly still have a lot of work to do.

Tomorrow's Talker: The Chiefs have a terrific return game. Second-round picks Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas may soon make folks forget the great Dante Hall years. Both players had big returns, highlighted by McCluster's team-record 94-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Big Revelation: The San Diego offense is not beyond being stymied. Monday night, it was the weather that took San Diego’s offense out of the game. Give Kansas City’s young and energized defense credit. It made plays and it was very active.

But San Diego was clearly frustrated by the driving rain and wind storm. The Chargers didn’t have a first down in the second quarter and they went 30:14 with just one first down. The team misses holdouts Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill, but the weather was San Diego’s real enemy for much of Monday night. San Diego’s offense was much better before and after the rain. Much of the first and fourth quarters were rain free.

Trending: The Chiefs need to get Jamaal Charles the ball more. He is a game breaker. His 56-yard run for a touchdown in the first quarter was a thing of beauty. He made two big-league cuts on the play. He had 92 yards on 11 carries. Starter Thomas Jones had 39 yards on 11 carries. I don’t care who starts, but Charles needs to carry the ball 20 times a game or more.

What’s Next: San Diego opens its home slate against Jacksonville in a game that it is having difficulty selling out. Kansas City goes to Cleveland in what is a winnable game for the Chiefs.

Rapid Reaction: Ravens 10, Jets 9

September, 13, 2010
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ -- Here are thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' victory over the New York Jets:

What it means: The Ravens picked up a huge road victory against another AFC contender. It's just one game. But considering the hype and trash talk -- most of it coming from the Jets -- it was a nice statement for Baltimore to start its 2010 season.

What I liked: As usual, Baltimore's defense carried the Ravens for four quarters. Despite turnovers by the offense and bad field position, the Ravens kept the Jets out of the end zone and that made the difference. New York quarterback Mark Sanchez looked confused by the Ravens all night, and Baltimore's front seven was stout against the run.

What I didn't like: Baltimore's much-hyped and new-look offense failed to score many points in its 2010 debut. Yes, the Ravens were playing against last year's No. 1 defense. But -- for the most part -- sloppy play, penalties and poor execution kept the Ravens' offense grounded. There were some flashes, such as a stellar debut by new Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin (seven catches, 110 yards). But there is plenty of room for growth for this talented unit.

Injuries of note: There were no major injuries in the game for Baltimore. But starting cornerback Lardarius Webb, who had offseason knee surgery, practiced all week and didn’t play Monday. He could be a possibility for next week and would be a nice addition to Baltimore’s secondary.

What's next: The Ravens' win takes some of the pressure off next week, when they have their first division game of the season against the Cincinnati Bengals. The defending AFC North champion Bengals will be trying to avoid an 0-2 start after losing to the New England Patriots. Cincinnati swept the division in 2009, and, lately, has had Baltimore's number when Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer is healthy.

Rapid Reaction: Redskins 13, Cowboys 7

September, 12, 2010
LANDOVER, Md. -- It wasn't pretty, but the Mike Shanahan era is off to a good start. The Washington Redskins used a huge Cowboys miscue at the end of the first half to take a 10-0 lead and were able to hang on for a 13-7 win. While I'm headed down to the locker room, feel free to peruse the following items:

What it means: It's a huge win for an organization that was 0-for-6 in the NFC East last season. The Redskins' defense made big plays when it counted and the Cowboys looked nothing like a team that belongs in the Super Bowl conversation. I'm feeling better and better about my Giants pick all the time.

Tomorrow's talker: I'm planning to write about that DeAngelo Hall touchdown at the end of the first half. Cowboys coach Wade Phillips told NBC at halftime that the offense should've taken a knee. We'll see if he backs off that statement at all in the postgame news conference. I'm not saying the Cowboys were definitely going to win the game without that play, but it gave the Redskins a huge lift.

Goat: I guess you could pin this thing on Cowboys running back Tashard Choice's fumble, but I'd rather focus on offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. His alleged high-powered attack couldn't win a game in which the Skins' offense only mustered two field goals. Garrett will have to answer a lot of questions this week.

What I didn't like: The Cowboys' kickoff coverage was pretty bad and they didn't do much in the return game. And despite moving the ball, I thought Garrett got away from the running game when it seemed to be gaining a little traction. Oh, and that holding call on Alex Barron on the final play wasn't a great thing for the Cowboys. Barron couldn't handle Brian Orakpo at all in the second half and it ended up costing the Cowboys a touchdown.

What's next: The Redskins can't get too excited about this win because they have the mighty Houston Texans coming to town next Sunday. The Cowboys have to try to turn this thing around against the Bears.

Rapid Reaction: Cardinals 17, Rams 13

September, 12, 2010
What It Means: The Arizona Cardinals are going to have to grind, grind, grind as long as Derek Anderson is their quarterback. Anderson makes some plays, especially when he has time, but his inaccuracy will test the Cardinals' patience. It's a huge adjustment from Kurt Warner. St. Louis Rams rookie Sam Bradford, meanwhile, looked at times Sunday like the second-best quarterback in the division -- and he only figures to get better. Bradford threw three picks, including one on fourth down as the Rams tried to rally in the final minutes, but he gives the Rams hope and that will help them stay in games this season. The Rams' defense fed off that hope, creating turnovers and keeping St. Louis in position to win. Adrian Wilson made a spectacular play on one of the Bradford interceptions. The second came on a fourth-down play when Bradford had to take a chance. The third was on a Hail Mary to end the game. Bradford's performance was better than his stats.

What I liked: The Rams did not become overly conservative to protect a rookie quarterback. They did the opposite, actually, putting Bradford in the shotgun and trusting him to make the difference in key situations. Bradford was often up to the challenge. His touchdown pass to Laurent Robinson on fourth-and-goal from the 1 was one example. Bradford repeatedly rolled out and made accurate throws on the run. The Rams pretty much declared Bradford ready for prime time. He tossed 55 passes -- too many -- but anyone watching this matchup would take Bradford on its team any day.

Tomorrow's Talker: If the Cardinals could dump their projected starting quarterback, Matt Leinart, how long before they consider giving rookie Max Hall some reps at quarterback? Look, I know it's early and Anderson finished with a respectable 85.1 rating. He made plays. But he completed only 54 percent of his passes and he repeatedly missed open receivers. Warner would have lit up the scoreboard if he were still the Cardinals' quarterback. Even a reasonably accurate passer would have scored more points for Arizona. Anderson won the game and that's what matters in the end. But there were six or seven times when I wondered what Hall would have done.

Trending: There was much fretting over the Cardinals' situation at safety after losing Antrel Rolle. Kerry Rhodes picked off one pass to kill a late Rams drive. Adrian Wilson picked off two others. On the surface, it looked like safety will not be a problem for Arizona.

Hero: Steve Breaston caught seven passes for 132 yards, making several big plays for the Cardinals. He was open often and showed, again, that Arizona can produce at receiver without Anquan Boldin. Breaston's hustle play to force a fumble and save a touchdown return was also critical.

Critical Call: Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt called those five consecutive running plays after the passing game showed inconsistency. It was a smart move and the Cardinals responded. With Beanie Wells out, the Cardinals turned to LaRod Stephens-Howling more as a runner. The second-year pro carried seven times for 49 yards. He caught three more passes for 16 yards. Stephens-Howling's running was important in sustaining that touchdown drive featuring the five consecutive runs.

What's next: The Cardinals visit Atlanta for what figures to be a tough game. Taking a 1-0 record into that game gives Arizona welcome breathing room early in the season. The Rams head to Oakland and figure to have a good shot at their first victory of the season.

Rapid Reaction: Steelers 15, Falcons 9

September, 12, 2010
PITTSBURGH -- Let's take a quick look at the Steelers' 15-9 overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

What it means: The Steelers can win without suspended quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who will be out for three more games. Pittsburgh made the Falcons play its tempo, which was an ugly field-position battle for four quarters and overtime. Finally, Rashard Mendenhall's 50-yard run in the extra period sealed the win.

What I liked: Pittsburgh's defense stepped up against a pretty good Atlanta offense. The defense looked more like the 2008 version with a healthy Troy Polamalu in the lineup. The front seven won most of the battles in the trenches and the pass rush bothered Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan enough to stall drives.

What I didn't like: Quarterback Dennis Dixon showed several flashes but still needs to work on reading coverages. Atlanta fooled Dixon several times. In addition to his one interception, he threw three other passes that could have been picked. Those drops could have changed the outcome of the game. To Dixon's credit, he did make several nice throws to receivers Hines Ward and Mike Wallace. He finished with a career-high 236 passing yards and an interception.

Injuries of note: There were two significant injuries to Pittsburgh starters. Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton suffered a hamstring injury and didn’t return after halftime. The severity is unknown, but if Hampton must miss time, Pittsburgh does have better depth on the defensive line this season. The ankle injury to left tackle Max Starks must be monitored. The Steelers lack quality depth on the offensive line, and Starks' injury looked painful.

What's next: The Steelers have a tough road game coming up against the Tennessee Titans, who pounded the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. This was considered the swing game by many on Pittsburgh's schedule during Roethlisberger's four-game suspension, but it won't be easy. Still, the Steelers have a great opportunity to start 2-0 without their best offensive player.

Rapid Reaction: Steelers 15, Falcons 9

September, 12, 2010
PITTSBURGH -- I’m heading downstairs for interviews and will be back with much more later. But, first, some quick observations on the Falcons' 15-9 loss to the Steelers.

What it means: This was a horrible loss for the Falcons. Yes, it’s tough to go on the road against a good team and get a win. But this one was set up for the Falcons all summer long. They were going against a Pittsburgh team that was without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and backup Byron Leftwich. If you’re really going to be a playoff team, you have to take advantage of opportunities like this. The Falcons did not.

Tomorrow's talker: What happened to Atlanta’s offense? Sure, Pittsburgh has a very good defense. But an offense that has Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez should never be shut down for much of the day. Turner looked slow and tentative and Ryan had about as bad a game as I’ve seen from him. I gave him a pass last year because of the injuries around him and didn’t buy into all the talk about the “sophomore slump’’. But Ryan's into Year 3 now. Should we be talking about a “Junior Jinx’’?

Goat: Ryan. He got picked off by Troy Polamalu late in the first quarter on a sideline throw. Polumalu baited Ryan into making the throw and the quarterback failed to spot one of the NFL’s most dangerous defensive backs.

What I didn't like: Remember all that talk we heard during the preseason about how Atlanta’s pass rush would be better? Well, I didn’t see any real difference. Aside from a sack by John Abraham, the Falcons really didn’t get much pressure on Dennis Dixon, until Curtis Lofton and Kroy Biermann came through with sacks late in the game. Prior to that, there was almost no pressure on Dixon.That’s inexcusable because the young quarterback has very little experience and the Falcons probably missed some opportunities to force mistakes.

What’s next: The Falcons have their home opener next Sunday with Arizona. They’ve got lots to fix and they better do it quickly because they’ve got to travel to New Orleans in Week 3. Suddenly, it looks as if the Falcons could have a 1-2 or 0-3 start.

Rapid Reaction: Bears 19, Lions 14

September, 12, 2010
CHICAGO -- Let's hit the high and low points of a sloppy game at Soldier Field.

What it means: More than anything, this game told us that neither team is ready to challenge the upper echelon of the division. The Bears were mistake-prone throughout the game, committing four turnovers and nine penalties. The Lions' defense got consistent pressure on quarterback Jay Cutler but still gave up 464 total yards. Their offense, meanwhile, played in a daze after quarterback Matthew Stafford departed late in the second quarter with a right shoulder injury. Their offense, in fact, managed four first downs after Stafford's injury.

Critical Call I: The Lions scored what appeared to be a 25-yard touchdown pass from Shaun Hill to receiver Calvin Johnson with 24 seconds remaining. Officials initially ruled the play a touchdown but later overturned it, saying Johnson didn't "complete the act of catching the ball" because he left it on the ground after falling. The replay booth confirmed it. Wow. I seem to remember Green Bay Packers receiver Greg Jennings losing a touchdown at Soldier Field the same way last year. Terrible way to end for the Lions.

Injury of note: Stafford spent the second half sitting on the sideline with his right shoulder in a sling, courtesy a second-quarter sack from Bears defensive end Julius Peppers. It was the opposite shoulder that Stafford injured last season. Details were scarce, but in general you don't want your quarterback's throwing shoulder in a sling. For now and perhaps the foreseeable future, Hill is the Lions' quarterback. He struggled before catching fire on the final drive, completing 9 of 19 passes for 88 yards along with an interception and a lost fumble.

Hero and Goat: Tailback Matt Forte fumbled twice as a runner, but he caught seven passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns. Included in that mix was a beautiful catch on a game-winning 28-yard touchdown reception with 1:40 remaining. His 89-yard play on a screen pass, meanwhile, had gotten the Bears back in the game after they fell behind 14-3 late in the second quarter.

Critical Call II: For reasons beyond anyone's comprehension at Soldier Field, Bears coach Lovie Smith decided to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the Lions' 1-yard line with 9 minutes and 4 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. A field goal would have given the Bears a 16-14 lead against an opponent that was struggling to move the ball. But Smith opted for a Forte run off right tackle. Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch caught Forte from behind, giving the Lions an improbable goal-line stand. Luckily for the Bears, Forte bailed them out later in the fourth quarter.

What's next: The Bears have a tough game at the Dallas Cowboys. The Lions will host the Philadelphia Eagles for their home opener.

Rapid Reaction: Texans 34, Colts 24

September, 12, 2010
HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans opened the season with a 34-24 victory against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at Reliant Stadium. Here’s a quick overview.

What it means: The Texans are 1-0 and atop the AFC South. They’ve matched their win total in the AFC South from all of 2009. The Colts will be in the relatively rare position of playing chase early in the season.

Hero: As the center of a franchise record rushing day, Arian Foster was fantastic. He gave the Texans just the sort of run-game presence they needed to push around the fast but small Colts, who seemed to wear down. The offensive line and fullback Vonta Leach did their parts to make a record running day possible for him, and Steve Slaton proved the nice alternative they needed with no fumbling issues.

Goat: Justin Tryon twice had chances to down punts near the goal line and pin the Texans back, but twice botched the play on short punts by Pat McAfee. On the first he appeared to misjudge it, on the second he’d run out of bounds and then was the first player to touch the ball.

What I liked: The Texans were resilient and showed the sort of killer instinct they’ve lacked in the past. When the Colts cut it from 27-10 to 27-17 with 4:52 remaining, there wasn’t panic from a team that’s blown 17-point leads against this opponent in the past.

What’s next: The Colts host the Giants in Sunday night football, for another edition of The Manning Bowl. Houston travels to Washington for its first game in the season matchup with the NFC East.

Rapid Reaction: Dolphins 15, Bills 10

September, 12, 2010
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Miami Dolphins opened the season with a 15-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Here's a quick overview.

What it means: Both teams raised more questions than delivered answers. The Dolphins clearly were the better team, but their inability to pull away from an opponent that struggled all day should be disconcerting. The Dolphins dictated on defense for the most part, but on fourth-and-11 from their own 31-yard line, they yielded a 31-yard scoring strike from Trent Edwards to Roscoe Parrish with 5:13 left in the game.

What I liked: The Dolphins successfully played a ball-control game and were dominant on defense despite not having inside linebacker Channing Crowder (groin) and outside linebacker Ikaika Alama-Francis (illness). The Dolphins held the Bills to 166 total yards. The Dolphins had the ball nearly 14 minutes longer than the Bills did.

The Dolphins had a balanced offense. Ronnie Brown rushed for 65 yards. Ricky Williams rushed for 62 yards. Brandon Marshall had eight receptions for 53 yards. Davone Bess had six catches for 51 yards.

Parrish was a weapon for the Bills. Previous coach Dick Jauron rarely used Parrish in the offense and stripped him of return duties. Parrish finished with two receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown and had a 19-yard punt return.

What I didn't like: Bills coach Chan Gailey raved about his three running backs, but none of them cracked 20 yards against the swarming Dolphins' defense. Rookie C.J. Spiller ran six times for 7 yards. Edwards was third in rushing yards with 12 yards. The Bills were intent to throw, and that seemingly was just fine with the Dolphins.

The Dolphins, who have constantly tinkered with their offensive line, were shaky in pass protection against a team that overhauled its defense and was banged up. The Bills sacked Chad Henne three times.

Unsung hero: Brandon Fields dropped a punt on the Bills' 1-yard line with 1:48 to play and the Dolphins clinging to a 3-point lead.

Injuries of note: The Bills lost inside linebacker Paul Posluszny early in the third quarter to a knee injury. Despite missing four games last year, he led the Bills with 115 tackles. Posluszny has a checkered medical history. He played only three games his rookie season because of a broken forearm. He broke his arm again in last year's season opener. A prolonged recovery would be a crushing blow for Buffalo, who lost top backup inside linebacker Kawika Mitchell for the season to a foot injury.

What's next: The Dolphins begin a brutal stretch of games next week with the Minnesota Vikings in the Metrodome. That game is followed by five playoff opponents over the next six games, with the Pittsburgh Steelers the exception. The Bills play the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

NASHVILLE -- Here are my quick thoughts on the Raiders' loss:

What it means: The Oakland Raiders are not ready for prime time. Expectations were sky high in Oakland this year after a productive offseason, which included the hiring of new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, a productive draft, the release of quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the trade for quarterback Jason Campbell, a completely new linebacking crew and a strong preseason. Yet, one game into the 2010 season, the Raiders appear to be far from a quality NFL team. As of right now, you have to think Oakland looks like the team that has won 29 games in the past seven seasons.

Big revelation: Campbell does not look like a top-notch quarterback. The folks in Washington have been saying that for years. He was expected to bring life to Oakland’s anemic offense. That didn’t happen Sunday. Campbell didn’t get much protection, but he made his share of mistakes and looked shaky at best.

Trending: Oakland still seems to have trouble stopping the run. Oakland used its first two draft picks on middle linebacker Rolando McClain and defensive end Lamarr Houston with improving against the run as the primary objective. Yet, Oakland gave up some big runs in the preseason and Tennessee’s Chris Johnson wore Oakland down. Oakland had its moments against Johnson, but a 76-yard touchdown run in the second quarter took the Raiders out of the game.

What's next: Oakland hosts St. Louis and rookie quarterback Sam Bradford next Sunday. Oakland can get well in a hurry, but it's clear the Raiders have a lot of work to do.