NFL Nation: Rapid Reaction 1
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Arizona Cardinals' decision to start Kurt Warner at quarterback made all the difference during a 23-13 victory over the San Francisco 49ers Sunday at Candlestick Park.
Warner wasn't perfect, but he secured the ball much better than he has in the past, and he continually made quick decisions in turning potential negative plays into first downs. His experience was everything for the Cardinals in this game.
Once- and future Cardinals starter Matt Leinart cannot offer the same qualities to a team at this stage of his career. Neither can new 49ers starter J.T. O'Sullivan, who played reasonably well under the circumstances but will need time to grow into the role.
O'Sullivan flourished for stretches early in the game. The 49ers showed they can compete with him at quarterback when Frank Gore is running effectively. Warner prevented Gore and the 49ers' offense from enjoying sustained success by leading two third-quarter scoring drives that used up more than 11 minutes. Warner then led an 18-play, 10-minute drive to a field goal late in the fourth quarter. Immature teams do not finish games that way.
The Cardinals can challenge for a playoff berth in the NFC if Warner plays the way he did against the 49ers. They also have to like the way Edgerrin James and even rookie Tim Hightower produced key short-yardage pickups in the ground game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
SAN DIEGO -- When the San Diego Chargers arrived for training camp this year, it was met with instant Super Bowl talk.
It was understandable since the team won 14 games in 2006 and advanced to the AFC title game last season. The talk was legitimate.
Yet, Chargers coach Norv Turner warned his team. All the Super Bowl talk would be moot if the team started slowly. San Diego started 1-3 last season and looked very average before it caught on fire in October.
Every key San Diego player mentioned how the team could start slow this season. They learned from last season.
Start fast. That was the mantra.
Well, Sunday, against the very game Carolina Panthers, the Chargers started slow. But they finished fast. But it wasn't enough.
San Diego scored two touchdowns in the final 6:54 to take the win after falling behind 19-10 in the fourth quarter,
Still, they couldn't finish and are now 0-1, realizing their worst fears.
CLEVELAND -- With six minutes left in the game, at least three-quarters of Browns Stadium was empty. It spoke to the Cowboys' complete domination of a team rumored to be a contender in the AFC.
Starting on the first drive, quarterback Tony Romo had an inordinate amount of time in the pocket. The Browns traded second- and third-round draft choices to shore up their defensive line, but on this day, the results weren't much different than in past years. The Cowboys consistently knocked the Browns off the line of scrimmage, allowing Romo to carve up the defense for 318 yards and a touchdown. He was 24-of-32, and wasn't even touched until the second half.
On defense, the Cowboys missed starting cornerback Terence Newman on one Browns scoring drive, but that's about it. Fans booed the Browns as they left the field at the half. But they were even louder when head coach Romeo Crennel inexplicably sent out his field goal unit when the Browns trailed 28-7 in the fourth quarter.
The Browns can talk about injuries to receiver Josh Cribbs and guard Rex Hadnot, but it wouldn't have mattered. For one day, the Cowboys lived up to their enormous hype. And the Browns were left wondering if they're really this bad.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
BALTIMORE, Md. -- The Ravens became the first AFC North team to earn a division win this season with a 17-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium.
In our view, the difference was Baltimore overwhelming Cincinnati at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
The offense kept Cincinnati's defense away from rookie quarterback Joe Flacco (129 yards, one touchdown run) just enough to allow the rookie to put points on the board. And the Ravens' defense, which was No. 6 in the NFL last year, held true to form by stuffing the run and pressuring quarterback Carson Palmer.
Healthy cornerbacks made a world of difference in Baltimore's defensive scheme. Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle covered Cincinnati's receivers well. Chad Ocho Cinco made his only catch in the third quarter, and the Ravens' complicated blitz packages confused the Bengals' offensive line.
This was an interesting matchup because neither team had showed much promise in the preseason. What we learned is physicality usually prevails in the AFC North, and Cincinnati will have to improve in that category if it wants to win inside the division, particularly on the road.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
NEW ORLEANS -- What the New Orleans Saints did with Reggie Bush on Sunday was what they should have done with him the last two years.
Instead of asking Bush to be a feature back, they simply let him be Reggie Bush. Yes, Bush started at running back and he even carried between the tackles a few times.
But the Saints didn't limit Bush by using him as a traditional running back and that's smart because Bush isn't a traditional running back. Remember all the spectacular things he did in college at USC?
He did some of that again Sunday and it's because the Saints let him. They lined him up all over the place -- in the backfield and as a wide receiver. As a pure running back, Bush's numbers were very ordinary. He carried 14 times for 51 yards.
But Bush, who also handled punt returns, was far from ordinary. He was the heart of an offense that, at times, confused a very good Tampa Bay defense. That happened because of Bush's versatility and the Saints' decision not to pigeonhole him.
Bush had eight catches for 112 yards and his 42-yard touchdown catch will make all the highlight films. On that play, Bush lined up in the backfield, circled to the right and caught a short pass in stride from Drew Brees. Bush then turned on the speed and the moves we saw at USC and eluded several Tampa Bay defenders.
It all showed what Bush can be when the Saints just let him be Reggie Bush.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
NASHVILLE -- All the concerns about the Titans came to pass. Vince Young was inaccurate. He threw a couple bad interceptions. His receivers didn't make plays for him. To make things worse, he didn't finish the game, due to a sprained left knee.
But while the Jaguars won the plays-by-receivers contest, the Titans won the game -- 17-10.
All offseason the Titans fielded heat about the moves they didn't make at wide receiver to help Young. People seemed to forget that with a crew that probably ranked worse, and with Young throwing 17 picks against nine touchdowns, the Titans were a 10-6 team that went to the playoffs in 2007.
Today they showed off their new weapon -- rookie running back Chris Johnson took 18 touches 127 yards -- and showed that the same formula that carried them last year can work again: run well, play sturdy defense, create the breaks in a tight game.
The Titans stifling run defense allowed just 33 ground yards. They took down David Garrard seven times. Cortland Finnegan pulled in two picks.
For the second year in a row the Jaguars are left to sort out an opening day loss to Tennessee.
At least this time it came on the road.
Sparano's response was appropriate.
Pennington didn't appear to have any significant edge playing against his old mates. He didn't adjust to the defense like he knew what coverages and blitzes were coming. He didn't provide the Dolphins defense much of a read on the Jets' playbook.
The Jets won, 20-14, because QB Brett Favre had a much better command of New York's offense than many expected him to have after 16 seasons in Green Bay.
Favre completed 15 of 22 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns.
Pennington, meanwhile, started out 1 of 6 for minus-1 yard and was getting booed by the Dolphin Stadium crowd three series into his new job. He finished strong, going 26 of 43 for 251 yards and a touchdown. He nearly drove the Dolphins 61 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
But his shaky start hurt.
The Dolphins' young line and run game didn't help much.