Print and Go Back Commentary [Print without images]

Monday, September 10, 2012
Robert Griffin III headlines first week's story

By espnW

What is the biggest surprise or takeaway from the opening weekend of the NFL?

RG3 lives up to the hype

By Jane McManus

The NFL hype machine is fully operational before the draft each year, and this year was particularly piqued. Between Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the league was about to undergo a revolution in quarterbacking, if you believed the headlines.

Rarely does the first day of the regular season justify the full extent of that hope, but this year is an exception.

Griffin had 320 passing yards on 26 attempts and no interceptions against the Saints -- a real challenge in the first game of the season. This is a rookie who had been ubiquitous in television commercials in the weeks before he ever played a down.

Even before he had the ball in his hand Sunday, Griffin seemed like he had the mettle to bear the expectations of the Washington fan base. But it is impossible to know if confidence is misplaced, if physical promise matches mental ability.

Nice to see that Griffin was up to the job.

Peyton Manning defies logic

By Kate Fagan

Peyton Manning. I thought he was done -- as did a lot of people. The position of NFL quarterback is so dependent on understanding the system and the people around you, as well as possessing a day-in, day-out rhythm. Manning went something like 600 days between touchdown passes, battled through a neck injury and came out Sunday night as if there wasn't more than a week between starts. It defies logic.

Of course we all knew he was one of the best ever, but that doesn't mean he was going to be able to switch franchises so easily. Watching Manning on Sunday night, it was like nothing but the colors had changed. There he was on the sideline, staring at the bird's eye snapshots of the defense, picking up the phone to talk to his offensive coordinator. Everything was the same except he was wearing orange (which I suppose, for Colts fans, is a massive difference).

Drinking the RG3 Kool-Aid

By Melissa Jacobs

I was shocked by the performance of Robert Griffin III. Perhaps it was the litany of ads; I looked at him as more hype machine than ready for immediate impact. Even with what I perceived as mostly raw talent, he wasn't going to get much help from his average-at-best receivers. To me, anointing Griffin as anything before his first regular-season snap was simply part of the Cam Newton effect.

Robert Griffin III
Robert Griffin III said the highlight of his debut was his postgame encounter with Saints QB Drew Brees, who said he was proud of the Redskins' rookie.

I was wrong. Griffin showed incredible poise in the pocket and on the run, highlighted by the pass up the middle to Pierre Garcon which resulted in an 88-yard touchdown. Griffin was being rushed and used sheer athleticism to get the ball to Garcon. And, as expected, he extended a lot of plays throughout the game.

Now, the Saints' defense was atrocious across the board, and I'd like to see Griffin perform at this level against speedier, more talented units (aka anyone else). But for now, I'll have some sips of that RG3 Kool-Aid -- I mean, Gatorade.

RG3 stands up to pressure

By Sarah Spain

On Sunday, Michael Vick looked average, Peyton Manning looked like he'd never left, a Packers team that averaged 35 points a game last year could only muster 22 and a Jets team that couldn't buy a touchdown in the preseason scored 48 points.

Of all the surprises we saw Sunday, the biggest was the success of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III in the Redskins' 40-32 win over the Saints. While RG3's speed, strength and talent were expected, few could have imagined he'd adjust so quickly to the speed of the pro game and make such good decisions under pressure. Last year, Cam Newton also put up great stats in his first pro game, but RG3 did him one better: He got the win, too.

Griffin impresses Brees, me

By Adena Andrews

Do you hear that? It's the sweet sound of silence heard around the football world as Robert Griffin III put a sock in the mouth of all his haters. There was a large contingency of people who believed Andrew Luck would be better than RG3 and they all had to eat a side of crow during Week 1.

At times I forgot Griffin was a rookie, as he was out there mentally breaking down plays and making smart decisions out of the pocket to defeat the Saints 40-32. Even veteran quarterback Drew Brees recognized Griffin's composure under pressure.

"He told me he was proud of me," Griffin said of his postgame encounter with Brees. "That's big for him to say after they just lost the game. I respect him for that. That's definitely No. 1 on my list."

If Griffin keeps this up, Washington could have something to cheer about for the first time in a very long while.

Peterson's surprising success

By Amanda Rykoff

We still have 16 more weeks of action (and even a couple more games Monday night), but we learned a lot from this weekend's NFL action.

First, I will not get sucked into the Jets hype after they beat up on a terrible Bills team. I fully expect the Jets to regress to mediocre levels as the season progresses, and nothing I saw Sunday will change my mind. If anything, I was surprised at just how awful the Bills are.

I was certainly impressed with the statement the 49ers made in Green Bay, dominating a Packers team dubbed a preseason Super Bowl favorite. San Francisco picked up right where it left off last year and showed no signs of letting up. (Oh, also, Green Bay's defense needs to significantly step up or the Packers will fall short in the playoffs, again). Of course I have to note Peyton Manning looked great (although a little strange in orange) and Robert Griffin III's breakout debut against the Saints has Redskins fans declaring their undying devotion.

My biggest surprise has to be Adrian Peterson. Just more than eight months removed from surgery to repair a devastating knee injury suffered on Dec. 24, Peterson returned to the field for the Vikings. The fact that he even returned to game action so quickly is remarkable. But he looked like his old dominant self, carrying the ball 17 times for 84 yards and two touchdowns. He's clearly not human or normal. Standard recovery times do not apply to him. What an accomplishment. The Vikings won't compete for a division title in a top-heavy NFC North, but the contenders will have to deal with Peterson -- no easy task.

Bring back the professional officials

By Michelle Smith

The NFL officials need to come back to work as soon as possible. Yes, the use of replacement officials paved the way for the first woman to officiate an NFL game Sunday, and that's a great milestone and fabulous story. But let's face it, it probably should have come to pass without a labor dispute. But professional football is too fast, too powerful and there is too much at stake for the kind of officiating we saw in games this weekend. Wrong calls, bad calls, extra timeouts, calls that were and then weren't. Coaches and players did their best to keep a lid on their complaints this weekend. But how long will that last? Frustration will boil over at some point. Heck, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was literally spitting mad in the first few minutes of his team's game against the Packers on Sunday over a succession of questionable calls.

The players, coaches and fans deserve better than to have games decided by inexperienced, inconsistent officials. The NFL needs to end the lockout. Go to the table, work on a deal, get the officials who are worthy of your league back to work.

Taking in small doses of NFL

By Graham Hays

At the risk of being struck down by lightning, or, you know, a tornado in New York, my biggest takeaway from Week 1 of the NFL season is a person can live a very comfortable sports life while paying very little attention to the NFL. Instead of watching Robert Griffin III put on a show in the early game, I watched No. 6 Boston College and No. 8 Central Florida play an entertaining 2-2 draw in soccer. Instead of watching the 49ers go into Lambeau and beat the Packers in the late afternoon game, I got home in time to see Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka play an even more entertaining final set in the U.S. Open. And instead of watching Peyton Manning, the quarterback who gave me the Super Bowl moment I never thought I'd see growing up as an ardent seven-days-a-week Colts fan, beat the Steelers, I got some slightly less entertaining work done.

It's not that I'm anti-NFL -- I still wanted to read what Bob Kravitz had to say in the Indianapolis Star about Andrew Luck's debut. I look forward to hearing what Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon have to say about RG3 and may check in on one of the games Monday night. I understand why for many -- probably the vast majority -- of sports fans in this country, Sunday was a day to revel in the first full weekend of pro football. But a big day for Mark Sanchez, a bad day for rookie quarterbacks not named Griffin and a strong defensive showing from the Patriots notwithstanding, Week 1 reminded me it's possible to enjoy the biggest league in the country in small doses.