NFL Nation: 2012 Week 1 coverage

OAKLAND -- A look at a hard-fought AFC West game on Monday night:

What it means: In a game of two battered teams, it was the Chargers who started a critical season for coach Norv Turner with a win. Meanwhile, the Raiders were betrayed by special teams and a stalled offense to spoil the debut of the Reggie McKenzie-Dennis Allen era.

Raiders may need a snapper: Oakland long snapper Jon Condo left in the first half with a head injury. Reserve linebacker Travis Goethel took over and delivered three bad snaps in the second half. It changed the game's momentum and resulted in three field goals for the Chargers as they ran away with the game. If Condo has to miss an extensive amount of time, perhaps Oakland will look to sign former Denver snapper Lonie Paxton. He was cut this month. Clearly, the Raiders could do worse than the 12-year veteran.

McFadden is Palmer’s favorite target: With receivers Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford injured, Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer relied heavily on screen passes to running back Darren McFadden. He had 13 catches for 86 yards. It was a career high and a Raiders’ record for a running back. McFadden, who missed the final nine games of last season, struggled on the ground, though. He had just 32 yards on 15 carries.

Oakland’s third-down defense does well: Oakland’s defense tightened when it had to and held San Diego to five field goals and one touchdown. Rivers made his plays, but Oakland can build on this defensive performance.

Oakland’s offense stalls in third quarter: Oakland had just 29 yards of offense in the third quarter and was unable to gain any momentum. Had the Raiders' offense been successful, the Goethel gaffes would have never happened. San Diego’s defense was mostly terrific, especially in the second half. The Chargers should be very excited.

Raiders' penalties: The Raiders were penalized six times for 35 yards. That is encouraging for a team that set an NFL record for penalties and penalty yardage last year.

Chargers' third-down defense iffy: The Chargers’ third-down defense was worst in the NFL last season. While Oakland converted on only 5 of 15 third-downs, they made a few big plays on the ones they hit. The Chargers need to do better.

What’s next: San Diego opens its home slate against 0-1 Tennessee and Oakland travels all the way to Miami on a short week to face the 0-1 Dolphins.

Rapid Reaction: Baltimore 44, Cincinnati 13

September, 10, 2012

BALTIMORE -- A couple quick thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 44-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, which kept coach John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco undefeated in season openers. It also was the Ravens' 19th win at home in their past 20 tries.

What it means: Baltimore is 1-0, and Cincinnati is 0-1. After the first week of the season, we typically get too high on the teams that won and too low on the teams that didn’t. Guilty as charged. But the Ravens' offense, and Flacco in particular, looked very sharp. Harbaugh told me back during training camp to get on the Flacco bandwagon, and I am officially on it. He made tough throws, like the one that gave Baltimore a 17-3 lead in the second quarter. Flacco pump faked and then, under pressure, threw off his back foot and hit Anquan Boldin with a 34-yard strike over Bengals safety Taylor Mays' head. Big arm. Lots of targets. An effective Ray Rice. Look out.

What I liked: For the Ravens, their no huddle offense. It was up-tempo and kept Cincinnati on its heals. Rice’s effectiveness, both running the ball and catching it. Torrey Smith as a deep threat. Dennis Pitta as a trusted target. Baltimore’s run-pass ratio. And their killer instinct. Cincinnati cut the lead to 17-13 on their first drive of the second half. Baltimore then ran off 24 unanswered points.

For the Bengals, BenJarvus Green-Ellis gave them a boost. He ran hard. With the interior of Cincinnati’s offensive line shuffled, Green-Ellis didn’t get much inside. But in short yardage and at the goal line, he was an asset. Clearly, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have something special going, but Andrew Hawkins, a 5-foot-7 second-year receiver out of Toledo was a decent second option. He finished with eight catches for 86 yards and no touchdowns.

What I didn't like: In the first half and the early part of the second, Baltimore struggled to get any pressure on Dalton, who had time to look to his second and third reads, and back again. That changed later in the game, when the Ravens' defense hammered Dalton repeatedly.

The question for the Bengals is this: Why did they keep Dalton in so much with the game no longer in doubt? Baltimore took a 41-13 lead early in the fourth quarter. There was no need.

Who's the man: Ed Reed. With his third-quarter interception of Dalton -- which made the score 34-13 and essentially put away a game that was slipping away from the Bengals anyway -- Reed became the all-time leader with 1,497 interception return yards. The previous record-holder: Rod Woodson, a 2009 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Reed now has 58 career interceptions (compared to Woodson’s 71) and has 14 career touchdowns, including seven regular-season interception returns for touchdowns.

What's next: The Ravens travel up I-95 to play at Philadelphia on Sunday. Cincinnati hosts Cleveland.

Vick can't afford to keep looking bad

September, 10, 2012
It doesn't actually matter what any of us think. That's important to keep in mind. Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles believe they'll get better, and they'd be perfectly happy rolling right into the playoffs with everyone outside their building unconvinced. So while we who write about them and the fans who fret about them can look at Sunday's 17-16 skin-of-their-teeth victory and point out all of the things that reminded us of last year's flop, it doesn't actually matter what we think.

[+] EnlargeMichael Vick
Drew Hallowell/Getty ImagesMichael Vick's bad decisions almost cost the Eagles a win on Sunday.
However, that is what we saw, right? Turnovers. Penalties. Bad Vick decisions. Evidence that he doesn't read the field well. Stubborn, silly playcalling by the coaching staff, insisting on throwing against a team that can't stop the run. Whether it matters to the Eagles or not, we're all perfectly within our rights to point out that everything bad about the offense's performance Sunday looked a lot like everything that was bad about the 2011 Eagles offense.

And that may well end up mattering in a way it currently does not. Because Vick's teammates are people too, and they watch film of the games, and if they start finding reasons to think it looks like the same old same old, then Vick is going to have a major problem.

In this piece by Geoff Mosher, Vick says he could sense doubt among his fellow offensive players when he arrived in the huddle just prior to the game-winning 91-yard drive Sunday. And Todd Herremans, Vick's right tackle, said there was a sense of deja vu:
"It's definitely too much like last year to be happy with," right tackle Todd Herremans said. "We're definitely not happy with all the turnovers sand penalties, but we stuck it out as team, didn't start pointing fingers at anybody and grinded it out in the end."

Which, good for them. They did win the game, and if you win the games in which you play your worst, that can only help you in the standings. It's not how, in the end, it's how many, and the fact is the Eagles are 1-0.

But the thing is, overall, this wasn't a game in which they played their worst. The Eagles' defense was actually quite excellent in this game. They played tough against the run, which they didn't always do last year, and they made rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden's debut a two-sack, four-interception nightmare. The Eagles' defense looked considerably better than it had last year. You can point out that the Browns are lousy if you like, but the lousy Rams picked up big yardage chunks in the run game in last year's opener, so this does show year-over-year improvement, degree of difficulty notwithstanding.

The problem is that Vick's performance statistically demeaned that of the defense. How big a deal, really, can four interceptions be if the Browns can do it too? And to your own veteran quarterback?

Off of one game -- especially a win -- there's no reason to believe the Eagles' defense is feeling that way. But if this were to become a trend -- if Vick were to continue turning the ball over and failing to do anything productive when the defense kept reliably handing it back to him -- that's the kind of thing that could wear a team down emotionally over the course of a season. If Vick saw doubt in the eyes of his teammates late in Sunday's game, imagine what he'll see if he does this again a few more times before Halloween.

You can give the Eagles a pass for Sunday if you want to. You can buy Andy Reid's "rust" explanation about what was wrong with Vick. And you're more than welcome to believe they will get much better. I personally believe they can and will. But the problem is that too many of Sunday's problems reinforced the worries you had about Vick and the offense coming off of last year, and that means the doubt has roots that make it much harder to remove. If those roots start digging into the minds of Vick's teammates, he's going to have a problem. That's why it'd be a really good idea for Vick to look a lot better next week against Baltimore. Especially at home.

Wrap-up: Broncos 31, Steelers 19

September, 10, 2012
As these teams felt each other out early, it was apparent the Pittsburgh Steelers wanted to bludgeon the soft interior of the Denver Broncos defense with the power running game. But as the game went on, Pittsburgh went more no-huddle and put the game on Ben Roethlisberger, who played a great game despite taking a beating -- right up until the pick-six he threw to Tracy Porter seal the game in Denver’s favor.

The Steelers lost Marcus Gilbert in the second quarter, forcing rookie Mike Adams into an unfamiliar role at right tackle -- often facing Von Miller on passing downs. Adams got help on most of these instances, but that left Max Starks alone against Elvis Dumervil. Later in the game, Ramon Foster was sidelined with an eye injury, leaving the Steelers without any reserve offensive linemen. False starts were a huge problem for this line. But the Steelers offense was effective enough to keep the Denver offense off the field through the middle of the game.

Roethlisberger made quite a few vintage Roethlisberger plays by shrugging off pass-rushers and making impromptu plays with his legs and big arm. He really had to work hard for everything the Steelers offense got. But Pittsburgh took very few shots deep downfield -- probably because of protection concerns -- even with Mike Wallace now on board. The Steelers did incorporate Heath Miller more than in recent memory, and Miller could be their best red zone weapon. He came up big, time and time again. But that wasn’t enough on this night.

Peyton Manning's anticipation as a passer is as fantastic as ever. It took Denver too long to go to its no-huddle attack, where Manning thrives and controls the pace of the game, but in the end it didn’t matter. Dick LeBeau dialed up a wide variety of blitzes and got noticeable pressure on Manning early, which is extremely difficult to do. But Manning also appeared to adeptly read where Troy Polamalu lined up and based his play call accordingly, often effectively audibling to a run play when the Steelers’ star safety was aligned deep.

In the third quarter when Manning finally did see the field after nearly an hour of real time rest, he quickly hit Demaryius Thomas on a quick-hitting route, which Thomas took 71yards to the house. An easy throw, but Manning did recognize that the defense was prone to such a play call and acted accordingly. That was the single biggest play of the game.

This was a masterful performance from Manning with his ability to consistently have his team in the right call for the given defense and situation. As the game went on, the future Hall of Famer grew stronger. Manning won this game with his mind.

DENVER -- A look back at a tremendous game in Denver on Sunday night:

What it means: The Peyton Manning era began in rousing fashion and the Denver Broncos opened the season with a huge victory. Manning rallied Denver in the fourth quarter. While Manning is the story of the night, this was a complete team win for Denver. This was a great start of the season for the new-look Broncos.

Manning is back: Manning was terrific in his first game since the 2010 season. Even though he missed all of last season and is attempting his comeback at the age of 36, Manning looked like he played a meaningful game.

Tracy Porter helps Manning this time: Denver sealed the game when Porter jumped a Ben Roethlisberger pass and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown to give Denver a 31-19 lead with 1:58 remaining. In the Super Bowl in 2010, Porter sealed a New Orleans victory over Indianapolis when he intercepted a Manning pass and returned it for a touchdown late in the game. This time, Porter helped Manning cap his first game in Denver with a win.

Manning-Thomas connection is just fine: There was a lot of talk in the preseason that Manning and receiver Demaryius Thomas were having trouble connecting. No problem on Sunday night. Thomas had five catches for 110 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter that gave Denver the lead.

Denver’s defense is stout when needed: This Denver defense looks tough. Yes, Roethlisberger had his moments. But he is a future Hall of Famer. He’ll have his moments in every game he plays. Denver’s defense toughened when it had to and it played well in all phases of the game. Stalwarts Champ Bailey, Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller were all great, but newcomers Derek Wolfe, Porter and Mike Adams were outstanding as well.

What’s next: Denver plays at the Atlanta Falcons on “Monday Night Football” in Week 2. This will be the Falcons’ second straight game against an AFC West opponent. They torched Kansas City, 40-24, on Sunday. After dealing with Roethlisberger, the Denver defense now has to tussle with a powerful Atlanta offense in what should be a wild atmosphere.

Thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals' 20-16 victory over the Seattle Seahawks following their Week 1 matchup at University of Phoenix Stadium:

What it means: The quarterback drama and questions that dominated pregame discussion aren't going away. Kevin Kolb, all but written off in Arizona, came off the bench to throw the go-ahead touchdown pass in the fourth quarter after an ankle injury knocked out starter John Skelton. Seahawks rookie Russell Wilson answered by quickly leading Seattle down the field, but his final pass fell incomplete in the end zone on fourth down with 18 seconds left. In the bigger picture, both teams are still looking up at the San Francisco 49ers. The standings show a tie atop the NFC West, but neither Seattle nor Arizona played anywhere near the level San Francisco demonstrated while handling the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Both teams appeared limited offensively. Both have big injury concerns.

What I liked: Kolb was ready when called upon, moving the Cardinals into position for the go-ahead score.

Skelton had good pass protection for most of the first half, a big surprise after injuries left the Cardinals short-handed at offensive tackle. Skelton had little trouble driving Arizona down the field. When Skelton finally took a hit, he bounced right back by finding Todd Heap over the middle to the 2-yard line. The Cardinals got a touchdown out of that drive as they built a 10-3 halftime lead.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt's replay challenge produced a turnover when officials determined Wilson's incomplete pass was actually a backward one. Linebacker Paris Lenon recovered.

Whisenhunt and offensive coordinator Mike Miller seemed to have a good plan early in the game. They got a rushing touchdown against Seattle's stout run defense by sending LaRod Stephens-Howling, not Beanie Wells or Ryan Williams, up the middle. They also gained yardage with a reverse. Give offensive line coach Russ Grimm some credit, too. His inexperienced tackles, D'Anthony Batiste and Bobby Massie, held up better than expected early in the game.

The Cardinals' defense held up with the game on the line and despite enduring some questionable officiating, including when officials appeared to incorrectly award the Seahawks an additional timeout.

What I didn't like: Skelton completed only one of his seven attempts in the third quarter as Seattle took control of the game. He had trouble finishing drives and threw an ill-advised pick on the perimeter in the second half.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks' excitement over Wilson was palpable before the game, but their conservative game plan seemed to treat him as just another rookie. Either that, or Seattle thought its defense could win the game.

Wilson did move Seattle into position to win on the Seahawks' final drive. He needed some help, however. Doug Baldwin couldn't hold onto a tough pass over the middle in the end zone.

Inconsistent administration of pass-interference penalties seemed to frustrate both teams.

Costly injuries: The Seahawks lost left tackle Russell Okung to what appeared to be another lower-leg injury. Okung limped off the field with 1:39 remaining and Seattle driving. Skelton's injury was the big one for Arizona.

What’s next: The Cardinals visit New England in Week 2 for a 1 p.m. ET kickoff. The Seahawks are home against Dallas for a 4:05 p.m. ET kickoff.

Wrap-up: Buccaneers 16, Panthers 10

September, 9, 2012

Thoughts on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 16-10 victory against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

What it means: One game doesn’t make a season, but the Buccaneers could be a lot better than many people expected and the Panthers might be worse. In coach Greg Schiano’s first game, the Bucs snapped a 10-game losing streak that dated back to last October. They also gave their fan base a show of promise and that could help the crowds start coming back to a stadium that has sold out only twice in the last two seasons.

Not so special: The Panthers put a lot of effort into attempting to upgrade their special teams during the offseason. But it looks like they still have issues. Tampa Bay’s Aqib Talib broke free and blocked a punt by rookie Brad Nortman.

Defense rises: I had some serious doubts about TampaBay’s defense coming into the season. But the Bucs went out and put together a solid defensive effort against an offense that was very explosive last year. The Panthers had only 10 net rushing yards and the Bucs intercepted Cam Newton twice. The Bucs also sacked Newton three times.

Ronde’s big day: The Bucs had a big celebration because veteran defensive back Ronde Barber was making his 200th consecutive start. Barber, who has made the move from cornerback to free safety, ended up having a big day. Barber had a sack and an interception.

New feature back: The Bucs made it pretty clear Doug Martin would be their feature back when they traded back into the first round to draft him. For those that were skeptical and thought LeGarrette Blount would hold onto the job, take a look at the numbers. Martin carried 24 times for 95 yards. Blount carried three times for eight yards. Martin also caught four passes for 23 yards. Blount caught 15 passes in all of last season.

What’s next: The Panthers host the New Orleans Saints next Sunday in a battle between the NFC South’s only winless teams. The Buccaneers play the New York Giants next Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

Rapid Reaction: 49ers 30, Packers 22

September, 9, 2012
A few thoughts from Sunday's affair at Lambeau Field:

What it means: The Green Bay Packers were outmuscled and outmaneuvered for most of this game by the San Francisco 49ers, and a fourth-quarter comeback fell short. The Packers are now 0-1 for the first time in seven seasons.

Powerful 49ers: There are times when you blame a team for playing poorly in a loss. And the Packers certainly made some mistakes Sunday. But the 49ers were the more physical team from start to finish in this game. They looked excellent and had answers for everything the Packers tried. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had difficulty getting the ball downfield all game. It's fitting that on the Packers' final play from scrimmage, Rodgers had to get rid of the ball early because a free blitzer was in his face.

CobbWatch: The Packers' inability to get the ball downfield for most of the game left Cobb as Rodgers' favorite receiver. He caught nine passes for 77 yards, but his biggest play was a 75-yard punt return early in the fourth quarter. That touchdown, along with the subsequent two-point conversion, actually made it a one-score game at 23-15.

Turning point: The Packers reclaimed possession a few minutes later with a chance to tie the game. But Rodgers never saw 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman on a pass intended for Greg Jennings. Bowman intercepted it, and on the next play, 49ers running back Frank Gore rumbled in from 23 yards out to re-extend the 49ers' lead.

Official woes: Replacement officials made some good calls Sunday, including a third-down spot on Gore that stood up to a challenge. But they missed a fair share and erred on some others as well. It's not clear why they picked up a flag on Cobb's punt return, where replays showed that Packers linebacker Terrell Manning blocked the 49ers' Anthony Dixon illegally in the back. It's also hard to explain how they missed at least two clear false starts against 49ers left tackle Joe Staley. Mistakes will occur every week no matter who is officiating, but I would imagine the game will be the focus of this weeks' national discussion on replacement officials.

Key field goal: 49ers place-kicker David Akers ended the first half with an NFL-record tying 63-yard field goal. It hit the crossbar and bounced through the uprights, and the three points obviously played a key role in the endgame.

What's next: The Packers have a short week. They'll host the Chicago Bears on Thursday night at Lambeau.

Wrap-up: 49ers 30, Packers 22

September, 9, 2012
Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 30-22 victory at the Green Bay Packers in Week 1:

What it means: The 49ers affirmed their status as an NFC power, outplaying the Packers in a manner counter to suggestions some of their 2011 success was unsustainable. The game affirmed the progress quarterback Alex Smith showed last season, including when he led the 49ers past Drew Brees and New Orleans in the playoffs. Oh, and while David Akers was tying an NFL record with a 63-yard field goal, the 49ers' defense was exceeding even its own dominant standards. Any questions?

What I liked: Each season takes on its own identity. Success does not necessarily carry over. What I saw, however, was a 49ers team comfortable on the big stage after reaching the NFC Championship Game last season. The difference this time, however, was at wide receiver, a position the 49ers had to address after running low on players at the position when it mattered most last season.

Randy Moss' first-half touchdown reception over the middle showed the 49ers could get immediate contributions from their big-name offensive addition. Moss already had a 20-yard reception at that point in the game. He was more than a threat on reputation. He was a threat for how he could play. That was important for the 49ers.

Michael Crabtree, held to one catch for three yards against the New York Giants with a Super Bowl berth on the line, benefited from better talent around him. It helped, too, that the 49ers often had good pass protection early, including from left tackle Joe Staley against the Packers' Clay Matthews. Matthews did get to Smith with increasing frequency as the game progressed.

Frank Gore topped 100 yards rushing, putting away the game with an authoritative touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter. Gore made his play after NaVorro Bowman's interception off Aaron Rodgers returned the momentum in the 49ers' favor following a disputed punt return for a Packers touchdown.

Akers' 63-yard field goal as the first half ended tied an NFL record while giving the 49ers a welcome boost and a 16-7 lead. The 49ers too frequently settled for field goals last season. Akers set an NFL record with 44 successful field goals last season. The 63-yarder was a kick the team could celebrate, and they did. Coach Jim Harbaugh jumped along the sideline.

The 49ers' defense made timely plays and effectively used a reconfigured sub package featuring Perrish Cox, even when it meant taking Patrick Willis off the field.

What I didn't like: The 49ers caught a tough break early when officials flagged Aldon Smith for removing his helmet. Smith's helmet was already coming off while he sacked Rodgers. Smith did not help his cause by grabbing his helmet and removing it fully as it was coming off.

Later, officials appeared to miss a clear block in the back during Randall Cobb's 75-yard punt-return touchdown to pull Green Bay within eight points in the fourth quarter. The return hurt even more when officials picked up the flag they had thrown during the return.

The officiating frustration continued when officials ruled Gore short of the first-down marker, then upheld the call on a challenge from coach Jim Harbaugh. That left San Francisco with no challenges remaining.

Enough nit-picking on the officiating. There was too much for the 49ers to like in this game.

What's next: The 49ers are home against Detroit in Week 2. They kick off at 8:20 p.m. ET from Candlestick Park.

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: 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.

Wrap-up: Falcons 40, Chiefs 24

September, 9, 2012
Thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons' 40-24 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.

What it means: This was a great way for the Falcons to start the season. It’s always nice to win on the road and it’s especially nice that the Falcons were able to do it outdoors because a lot of people think of them as a dome team. It’s also significant for the Falcons that they already are one game ahead of the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South standings.

What I liked: It’s no secret that this is a crucial season for quarterback Matt Ryan. He’s under a lot of pressure to produce big numbers in a new offensive system. That’s what Ryan did, completing 23 of 31 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns, while also running for another score.

The homecoming: Things couldn’t have played out any better for Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez. He spent the first 12 years of his career with the Chiefs and he ended up catching a touchdown pass against his former team. The ball squirted loose soon after Gonzalez caught it. But Ryan tracked it down and gave it to the tight end. Gonzalez then dunked the ball over the goal post.

Unsung hero: Sean Weatherspoon gets most of the attention at linebacker. But Stephen Nicholas put together a big game. Nicholas had a game-high 12 tackles, intercepted a pass, deflected two others and recovered a fumble.

What’s next: The Falcons get an extra day to prepare because their next game is a Sept. 17 Monday night game at home against Denver.

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: Eagles 17, Browns 16

September, 9, 2012

A few thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles' shaky season-opening victory over the Browns in Cleveland:

What it means: That the Eagles are going to have to spend some more time listening to their doubters. Yes, they won, and that's good for them. Michael Vick engineered a game-winning drive, something he didn't do all of last year. But it was in no other way a good game for the Eagles' offense or Vick himself. He threw four interceptions, fumbled twice and eyewitness accounts of the game I'm reading (I was watching Redskins-Saints in New Orleans) indicate that he made poor decisions and looked out of rhythm all game. He's obviously not going to get away with it against better competition unless he tightens up a lot of things. This was supposed to be the more mature, responsible quarterback version of Vick this year, with a full offseason as a starter and a supposedly renewed commitment to study and detail. The early returns are not encouraging. It's only one game, but when you play in a way that reinforces the doubts people already have about you, you give your doubters licence to keep doubting.

On the flip side: As shaky as the offense may have been, the defense appears to have played very well. They held the Browns to 210 total yards, picked up two sacks and intercepted rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden four times. Yes, Weeden's a rookie, and yes, rookie running back Trent Richardson missed a bunch of preseason time due to injury and likely will play better as he gets his legs under him. But the Eagles' defense did what it had to do to keep getting the ball back in Vick's hands to give him a chance. One of the sacks was by Fletcher Cox, the first-round draft pick who had a bit of a rough preseason but was brought in to help with the interior pass rush. The other was by Jason Babin, but you probably guessed that.

Game-plan stubbornness: LeSean McCoy ran for 110 yards on 20 carries. To which I say, as I'm sure Eagles fans are saying, "Why only 20 carries?" The Eagles ran 56 pass plays and 30 run plays. When you're playing a team that gave up 147 yards a game on the ground last season, and you're not being blown out, and your quarterback keeps throwing to the other team, and you have a back like McCoy ... I'm sorry, but that's just irresponsible play calling.

Defensive stars: Also need to mention that cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie got two of the interceptions and safety Kurt Coleman got the other two. Those were two guys I think people had questions about coming into the season, so it has to be encouraging to see the way they performed. And speaking of such guys, indications are that DeMeco Ryans played a very good game. I continue to believe he'll play well for the Eagles this year.

What's next: The Eagles host the Baltimore Ravens at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday. The Ravens are generally known to have a slightly tougher defense than the Browns do. Not sayin', just sayin'. Also, I'll have more on this game once I've had a chance to watch its replay. I promise.

Wrap-up: Eagles 17, Browns 16

September, 9, 2012
A few thoughts from Cleveland's 17-16 loss to the Eagles in Sunday's opener:

This was a pretty terrible game. Cleveland’s defense does deserve credit. It played very well and very physical. But Michael Vick also looked extremely rusty after a preseason of doing next to nothing. Still, that isn’t a slight on the Browns’ defense, which excelled in Week 1 and obviously got its hands on the football quite a bit -- which you would think would be a great benefit to Cleveland’s offense. ...

Well, not quite. Brandon Weeden was awful in his first NFL start. Greg Little didn’t catch a pass and Trent Richardson never really got going. Philadelphia did not fear Cleveland’s passing attack one bit -- for good reason. His receivers were not exactly running free, but Weeden’s accuracy, decision making and pace were all huge problems. The Eagles’ defense dominated Weeden & Co. from the outset in every facet.

This was a winnable game for the Browns that featured nine total turnovers, and the Eagles did have a whopping 12 penalties, but I can’t say Cleveland deserved to win it. The Eagles did run 88 offensive plays compared to just 59 from the Browns. Yuck.