Week 1 NFL Report-Card Grades for Every Team

Russell S. BaxterContributor ISeptember 10, 2012

Week 1 NFL Report-Card Grades for Every Team

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    With the Ravens victory over the Bengals and the Chargers win over the Raiders on Monday night, Week 1 is in the books for all 32 teams in the National Football League.

    So there are 16 teams headed for undefeated seasons and another 16 en route to the first pick in the 2013 NFL draft.

    Don’t worry; we’re jesting, not suggesting. But you can’t overanalyze every team’s opening-day efforts, because the season is so very long (and fun), and so much can happen.

    So we’ve passed out our share of A's, B's and C's (and beyond) when it comes to the X's and O's of Week 1. 

Arizona Cardinals (1-0)

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    In a game so evenly matched that the Seahawks outgained their guests by one yard (254 to 253), the Cardinals came away with not only a win, but numerous positives as well.

    While the Arizona ground game was a no-show (a paltry 43 yards on 20 carries), the much-maligned offensive line allowed only one sack in 37 pass plays.

    More importantly, more-maligned quarterback Kevin Kolb wound up replacing an injured John Skelton late in the fourth quarter and leading the team to the go-ahead touchdown.

    Meanwhile, Ray Horton’s defense did its job on the Seattle offense, although quarterback Russell Wilson and company had a chance to win it late after numerous defensive penalties on the Cardinals secondary prolonged the ending.

    Grade: B

Atlanta Falcons (1-0)

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    It’s hard to be more impressive than Mike Smith’s team was in its 40-24 opening-day trouncing of the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

    The Falcons broke open a 17-all tie late in the first half and would total 23 consecutive points before Kansas City scored a late touchdown with five seconds to play.

    The Matt Ryan-to-Julio Jones show continued, as well. In Atlanta's last five regular-season contests, the Falcons signal-caller has thrown 13 touchdown passes without an interception, while the second-year speedster has been on the receiving end of eight of those scores.

    Kudos to the Atlanta defense, as well, which gave up some yards on the ground (152) but sacked Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel three times and forced him into three turnovers, including a pair of interceptions.

    Add in four field goals without a miss for Matt Bryant, and you have a complete effort.

    Grade: A

Baltimore Ravens (1-0)

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    John Harbaugh remained perfect (5-for-5) in openers as Ravens’ head coach as the defending AFC North champions looked the part in an impressive Monday night win.

    They also began the 2012 campaign like they ended the 2011 regular season; with a win over the Bengals. Baltimore turned a close game into a decisive 44-13 victory by scoring the final 27 points of the evening.

    Fifth-year Joe Flacco looked like the confident quarterback that played so well in last season’s AFC title game, completing 21-of-29 throws for 299 yards and a pair of scores. And Pro Bowl back Ray Rice totaled 68 of the team’s 122 yards on the ground and added a pair of scores.

    And those concerned about the Ravens’ defense, currently minus 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and company sacked Andy Dalton four times and Ed Reed made career interception No. 58 (now tied for 10th on the all-time list) count via a 34-yard return for a touchdown.

    Add in a solid debut for rookie kicker Justin Tucker and very little went wrong for Harbaugh and company.

    GRADE: A

Buffalo Bills (0-1)

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    The Bills put a lot of emphasis in the offseason on the defensive side of the ball. If you remember, Chan Gailey’s team ended the 2011 season by giving up 49 straight points to the Patriots.

    Buffalo made some slight improvement on Sunday by allowing 48 points to the supposedly offensively challenged Jets, although not all (but most) were at the expense of Dave Wannstedt’s defense. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez threw for 266 yards and three scores (with one interception) but was not sacked on the afternoon.

    Meanwhile, it was a forgettable Sunday for Ryan Fitzpatrick, who also picked up where he left off last season, when he was picked off 20 times in the final 13 games.

    The Bills signal-caller threw three more interceptions, and while he finished with three touchdown passes, a lot of the damage had already been done.

    Still, the Bills turned a 41-7 game into a 13-point deficit with just under six minutes to play, so there was no quit in this team.

    But it was quite a reversal of fortune for a team that won 41-7 on opening weekend at Kansas City a season ago.

    Grade: C-

Carolina Panthers (0-1)

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    Given the way the Panthers handled the Buccaneers twice in 2011, scoring a combined 86 points in the two victories, one would have not expected Ron Rivera’s team to have just as many points as rushing yards in this matchup.

    No, that’s not a bad joke.

    Carolina ran 13 times for 10 yards in the 16-10 loss at Tampa Bay.

    Add in three sacks of quarterback Cam Newton, who threw a pair of interceptions in the loss, and last year’s explosive attack was surprisingly corralled.

    Still, here’s some kudos to the Carolina defense. Despite allowing 130 yards on the ground, they did limit Tampa to only 16 points.

    But Newton and company went down with a whimper instead of a bang.

    Grade: C

Chicago Bears (1-0)

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    Could Lovie Smith’s team start any worse than they did Sunday against the new-look Colts?

    Jay Cutler was sacked for a 12-yard loss, and then there was a false start followed by a three-yard run by Matt Forte and a Cutler incompletion. When the Bears got the ball back, they gave it right back on a short Colts interception return for a touchdown.

    But 7-0 Indianapolis would become 41-21 Chicago.

    How?

    Because the offense settled down and Cutler relied on his playmakers, targeting old friend Brandon Marshall 15 times and completing nine passes to him for 119 yards and a score, Forte added 110 yards from scrimmage and a score, and Michael Bush added two touchdowns. And Smith’s defense sacked Andrew Luck three times, stole three of his passes and held the Colts offense to a pair of touchdowns.

    Like they say, it’s not how you start…

    Grade: B+

Cincinnati Bengals (0-1)

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    Despite reaching the playoffs a season ago, Marvin Lewis’ team was dismissed by some due to their failure to beat the top dogs in the conference, in particular their 0-4 mark vs. division rivals Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

    Unfortunately for the Bengals, their critics got some new ammunition on Monday night.

    After falling behind 17-3 in the second quarter, Andy Dalton and company stole the momentum and narrowed the gap to four points in the third quarter.

    And then it suddenly disappeared as the Ravens went on a 27-0 run to close the game, aided by a pair of Dalton turnovers, including an interception return for a score by Ed Reed. But perhaps more disappointing was the fact that Mike Zimmer’s defensive unit allowed 430 yards, more than half of that (260) coming in the second half.

    For a moment, Lewis’ club appeared to be on the verge of perhaps stealing a win from the defending AFC North champions. Now a trip back to the drawing board may be in order instead.

    GRADE: C

Cleveland Browns (0-1)

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    The second year of the Pat Shurmur regime looked a lot like the first, as the Browns picked up where they left off last season, with a loss and a failure to consistently find the end zone.

    The frustrating 17-16 loss to the visiting Eagles featured a four-interception debut by rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, who also fumbled the ball twice. It marked the seventh straight setback for Cleveland, dating back to last season. It also marked the sixth straight game and 15th time in 17 contests that Shurmur’s club was limited to 17 points or fewer.

    Meanwhile, the Browns’ only touchdown came on linebacker D’Qwell Jackson’s 27-yard interception return of a Michael Vick pass.

    Cleveland’s offense was limited to 210 total yards, and rookie running back Trent Richardson’s debut was far from sensational, with the former Alabama standout totaling just 39 yards rushing on 19 carries.

    No one expected the Browns to surprise these Birds.

    But in his first regular-season outing, Weeden’s struggles didn’t evoke a lot of confidence.

    Grade: D+

Dallas Cowboys (1-0)

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    Just one week into the season, the Cowboys accomplished something they hadn’t done all of last season: besting the team that won the NFC East a year ago.

    And Jason Garrett’s team accomplished this on the road, no less.

    And while quarterback Tony Romo enjoyed a tremendous outing, it was an improved Dallas defense that ultimately proved itself. They rose up early to keep the Giants out of the end zone after an interception and return by Giants linebacker Michael Boley set New York up inside the Cowboys 5-yard line.

    On Wednesday night, Rob Ryan’s defense held Big Blue to 269 total yards in the 24-17 win. Last season, Tom Coughlin’s team scored 37 points and gained 510 yards in Week 14 at Dallas and then three weeks later “slipped” to 31 points and 437 total yards in the division-clinching win.

    The only factor that prevents this grade from being higher is the 13 penalties totaling 86 yards.

    To put that in perspective, the Giants totaled 82 yards rushing.

    Grade: A- 

Denver Broncos (1-0)

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    It was heralded as Peyton Manning’s return to the field. Too bad he wasn’t on it very long.

    Despite that, the former Colts legend was around long enough to frustrate the Steelers defense in a 31-19 win in the debut of the newest era in the Mile High City.

    Manning threw his 400th and 401st career touchdown passes in the win, a game in which Pittsburgh controlled the clock for more than 35 minutes. Excluding the kneel-downs at the end of the contest, the Broncos scored on four of their eight possessions.

    Meanwhile, the Denver defense made plays when it had to and took advantage of Pittsburgh's makeshift right side, totaling five sacks, with three of those coming in the closing minutes. And free-agent pickup Tracy Porter impressed in his Denver debut, totaling eight tackles, five passes defensed and a 43-yard interception return for a touchdown.

    Although not perfect, this looks like a sound Broncos squad. They appear more confident than even a year ago.

    Grade: A

Detroit Lions (1-0)

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    Lost in the team’s first playoff appearance since 1999 last season was the fact that Jim Schwartz’s club dropped seven of its final 12 games after a 5-0 start, including a postseason setback to the Saints.

    And the men from Motown looked like they were on their way to another defeat until quarterback Matthew Stafford and company came to the rescue.

    Despite a not-so-sensational Sunday by the prolific passer—which included three interceptions—Stafford led his team on a pair of 80-yard touchdown drives in the fourth quarter. His last culminated with a scoring toss to Kevin Smith with 10 seconds to play in Detroit's 27-23 win.

    And while Schwartz’s team didn’t make easy work of a team that finished 2-14 in 2011, the Lions defense did limit St. Louis to 250 total yards and a single offensive touchdown while sacking Rams quarterback Sam Bradford four times by game’s end.

    Grade: B-

Green Bay Packers (0-1)

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    Just a year ago, Mike McCarthy’s team flirted with a perfect season. That won’t be something the Packers worry about in 2012.

    For those who continue to insist that this is a quarterback-driven league, you may want to bring a little running and defense along for the ride. And those were absent for the Packers at Lambeau Field, as Green Bay saw its 13-game regular-season home winning streak come to an end against the formidable 'Niners.

    Green Bay ran for only 45 yards in the 30-22 loss, while Aaron Rodgers took what the San Francisco defense gave him, which simply wasn’t enough. All told, 16 of the quarterback’s 30 completions went to Randall Cobb and tight end Jermichael Finley.

    And while the Pack’s pass rush reappeared this week to the tune of four sacks of Alex Smith, the 49ers signal-caller threw for 211 yards and two touchdowns while the San Francisco ground attack rolled up 186 yards.

    So in their last three games dating back to last season, including playoffs and all at home, Green Bay has allowed 41 (Lions), 37 (Giants) and 30 points (49ers).

    And if that doesn’t improve, it won’t matter how big Rodgers’ numbers are in 2012.

    Grade: C

Houston Texans (1-0)

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    Perhaps surprisingly, Gary Kubiak’s club found itself down to the visiting Dolphins, 3-0, after one quarter of play.

    Roughly 15 minutes of playing time later, the Texans were en route to their seventh victory over Miami without a loss.

    Houston rolled up 24 straight points before Miami could respond, and the lone touchdown by Joe Philbin’s team came on a punt return. Wade Phillips’ defensive unit schooled Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who threw three interceptions in a 30-10 loss.

    Meanwhile, it was good to have all of the pieces in place if you’re the Texans, who got 79 yards rushing and two touchdowns from running back Arian Foster and eight catches for 119 yards and a score from wideout Andre Johnson. And second-year defensive end J.J. Watt totaled three tackles and 1.5 sacks and knocked down three passes.

    All told, a workmanlike effort by the defending AFC South champs.

    Grade: A-

Indianapolis Colts (0-1)

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    It was a promising start for Chuck Pagano’s team in the Windy City.

    But when it was all said and done, the Colts were eventually blown away.

    Indianapolis’ 41-21 loss to the Bears featured some positives but far too many negatives. Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck threw for 309 yards for a score but was responsible for four of the team’s five turnovers, and Bruce Arians' offense scored just two touchdowns.

    And while outside linebacker Robert Mathis sacked Jay Cutler on the Bears' first play from scrimmage, the Colts pass rush only got the Chicago quarterback once more by game’s end.

    All told, Pagano’s defense was on the field for 70 plays, surrendered 428 total yards and allowed five touchdowns.

    It wasn’t an awful beginning to the Luck era, but there wasn’t much to celebrate either.

    Grade: C

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1)

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    Despite looking like a new quarterback during the preseason, many speculated that Blaine Gabbert would look poor against the league’s leading sacker in 2011, Minnesota’s Jared Allen.

    But the second-year pro more than held his own at the Metrodome.

    Gabbert was sacked only twice (neither by Allen) and would throw for 260 yards, a pair of touchdowns and zero interceptions, his score to Cecil Shorts with 20 seconds to play giving the Jaguars a short-lived 23-20 lead.

    Inexplicably, the Vikings managed to send the game into overtime and would win it, as the Jacksonville secondary couldn’t prevent Christian Ponder from finding Devin Aromashodu in the closing seconds. Rookie Blair Walsh nailed a 55-yard field goal at the gun and then a 38-yarder in overtime.

    And when Gabbert and company failed to score, that was all she wrote.

    Still, it was a good effort in Mike Mularkey’s debut as head coach. Unfortunately, the Jaguars did find a way to lose.

    Grade: C+

Kansas City Chiefs (0-1)

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    It appeared that Romeo Crennel’s club was engaged in one of the better games of the afternoon. But before you could say, "Pass me more barbecue," the Chiefs found themselves way down and eventually out.

    For the second straight season, a visiting team put at least 40 points on the board in the Chiefs' opener. (The Bills won 41-7 a year ago.) However, it looked like this would be a back-and-forth affair after Kansas City forged a 17-all tie late in the second quarter.

    But the Falcons would score 23 consecutive points, and by all accounts, Crennel’s defense didn’t answer the bell.

    Matt Ryan threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns and was sacked only once as the Chiefs failed to force a turnover. Meanwhile, Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel had his good moments but turned over the ball three times on the afternoon.

    A loss to the Falcons is hardly surprising, but the manner in which the Kansas City defense gave up chunks of yardage (four plays of 25-plus yards) certainly was.

    Grade: C+

Miami Dolphins (0-1)

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    New Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin was part of an offensive staff in Green Bay that helped the franchise total 560 points in 2010, the second-highest single-season total in league history.

    That doesn’t figure to be in the plans for a rebuilt Dolphins team that failed to score an offensive touchdown in the franchise's latest loss to the Texans.

    All told, it was a very rough outing for rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who completed 20 passes to his teammates (six to running back Reggie Bush) and three more to the opposition. And the Miami ground attack totaled only 79 yards on 10 carries.

    Meanwhile, the Dolphins defense totaled just two sacks and failed to come up with any takeaways or even force a fumble. And with Philbin’s attack quite short on weapons, the shorter the field, the better.

    The D stands for Dismal.

    Grade: D

Minnesota Vikings (1-0)

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    When you win only nine games in a two-year span after falling just short of the Super Bowl, it has to be tough being a Minnesota Viking these days.

    But who knows what the future holds after Leslie Frazier’s team rallied from certain defeat to steal a 26-23 overtime win over the visiting Jaguars.

    The Purple Gang had fallen behind, 23-20, with only 20 seconds to play when quarterback Christian Ponder made a couple of key throws in the final moments and rookie placekicker Blair Walsh, who was very busy during the preseason, nailed a 55-yard field goal at the gun. Walsh knocked another kick through in overtime, and minutes later, the Vikings were already one-third of the way to last season’s victory total.

    Ponder, who threw for 270 yards without a touchdown or an interception, was certainly happy to have Adrian Peterson back. The workhorse ran for 84 yards and two scores on 17 carries, and his presence kept the Jaguars defense more than honest.

    Now, if Frazier and company can win a few games against their NFC North brethren, things could get really interesting in the Twin Cities.

    GRADE: B

New England Patriots (1-0)

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    It looked like business as usual for Bill Belichick and company at Nashville. And that’s bad news if you’re of the mind to dethrone the defending AFC champions.

    After spotting the host Titans a 3-0 lead, Tom Brady and the New England defense scored the next 21 points and took an 18-point lead into the locker room. And while Tennessee responded at times, it was much too little and much too late, as the Patriots won, 34-13.

    Two of the biggest pluses actually came from the offensive side of the ball, as second-year running back Stevan Ridley totaled 125 yards rushing and a score while the heavily criticized line allowed only one sack.

    But the crowning moment came in the second quarter when first-round draft choices Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower teamed for a big play. The former sacked Titans quarterback Jake Locker and forced a fumble that the latter returned six yards for a touchdown.

    One win doesn’t make for a Super Bowl season, but if the Patriots have found a defense to go along with that high-powered attack, look out.

    Grade: A

New Orleans Saints (0-1)

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    It appeared to be the perfect scenario with an unlikely twist that would play into the hands of the defending NFC South champions.

    Instead, it arguably proved to be the story of Week 1.

    A year ago, including their playoff win over the Lions, the Saints were a perfect 9-0 at home and more than doubled the opposition (374-171) on the scoreboard.

    In Week 1 against the Redskins and rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, Drew Brees and company couldn’t keep up.

    Washington rolled up 464 yards in the 40-32 win. Griffin threw for 320 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 42 more yards. Steve Spagnuolo’s unit managed only two sacks (one by cornerback Patrick Robinson) while allowing 153 yards on the ground on 43 carries.

    While the Friday news of the overturned suspensions of linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith figured to make the Superdome an even louder place to play, Brees and company had to be watching in stunned silence as Griffin and company walked away with an upset win.

    Grade: C-

New York Giants (0-1)

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    For the first time since the 1999 John Elway-less Denver Broncos fell to the Dolphins on a Monday night in the Mile High City, a defending Super Bowl champion did not open the season with a win.

    That’s because it proved to be a night of misses for Tom Coughlin’s team.

    Following an interception of Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo by linebacker Michael Boley that eventually put the ball at the Dallas 1-yard line, the Giants lost three yards on three plays and settled for a field goal.

    A bunch of missed tackles, as well as a great individual effort by DeMarco Murray, led to a 48-yard run by Dallas' second-year back, setting up a field goal for Jason Garrett’s team.

    Speedy wideout Victor Cruz, who was targeted 11 times by Eli Manning, caught six passes but dropped a few others. And rookie running back David Wilson fumbled inside the Dallas 30-yard line, killing a drive.

    All told, Coughlin’s club gained 269 total yards and 17 points in the seven-point loss. The Cowboys totaled 275 yards and 17 points…in the second half.

    Grade: C+

New York Jets (1-0)

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    It was a summer of discontent for Rex Ryan and company, as a winless preseason was lowlighted by the fact that quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow were the supposed culprits for a team that scored 31 points and just one touchdown during the summer.

    But give Ryan and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano credit, as the Green and White made it look easy against the supposedly improved Bills.

    The 48-point explosion featured a three-touchdown pass performance by Sanchez, who threw for 266 yards (one interception) and wasn’t sacked, while rookie wideout Stephen Hill scored twice.

    For a team that couldn’t find the end zone for the majority of the preseason, all factions of the team scored touchdowns, as Jeremy Kerley ran back a punt 68 yards and cornerback Antonio Cromartie returned a Ryan Fitzpatrick interception 40 yards for six.

    Are the Jets playoff bound? Who knows?

    But for one afternoon, Ryan and company had more than a few chuckles at the expense of the team’s many naysayers this offseason.

    Grade: A+

Oakland Raiders (0-1)

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    The Dennis Allen Era in Oakland began just as the Hue Jackson Era ended in 2011; with a loss at home to the division-rival Chargers.

    But while the 22-14 setback was disappointing, there were some encouraging signs for the Silver and Black, who were strapped a bit offensively minus big-play wideouts Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford.

    The Raiders allowed just 258 total yards and kept San Diego out of the end zone when they drove deep on numerous occasions as three of the Bolts’ five field goals came from less than 30 yards. Oakland’s defense limited the Ryan Mathews-less Chargers to only 32 yards rushing on 20 carries. And Dennis Allen’s team totaled just six accepted penalties.

    Now the not-so-good news.

    While Darren McFadden was the focal point of the offense and touched the ball 28 times, at times he seemed like the only option, rushing for only 32 yards on 15 carries while catching a team-high 13 passes for 86 yards. McFadden (18) and fill-in wideout Rod Streater (10) were the top targets for Carson Palmer, who threw for 297 yards but failed to connect on any game-changing plays. And the Oakland offense didn’t find the end zone until the final minute of the game.

    Despite some positives, it was still a loss for the Raiders. But this could be a much different team with all its weapons in place.

    GRADE: C+

Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)

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    A win is a win, and weeks from now, if the Eagles are in first place in the NFC East, their rough afternoon at Cleveland will be forgotten.

    But it was certainly pretty disconcerting watching Andy Reid’s club stumble all afternoon against the Browns, and while the Eagles rallied for a 17-16 victory, there will be plenty to talk about during this week’s preparation for the Ravens.

    Last season, the Birds turned over the ball 38 times, the second most in the league. And they got off to a good start in terms of topping that mark this year, as they gave up the ball five times in the one-point win. That included four interceptions by Michael Vick, who threw the game-winning touchdown in the closing minutes but also had one of his picks returned for a score, the Browns’ only trip to the end zone.

    All told, Vick threw 56 passes and dropped back 58 times. LeSean McCoy (who lost a fumble) did run for 110 yards, and the Eagles rolled up 456 yards.

    But it was ugly, to say the least. The Birds did win, though, despite the mistakes.

    Grade: C

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1)

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    Mike Tomlin’s team certainly had some chances in this playoff rematch of sorts with the Broncos. But a missed opportunity here and there sent the Steelers to their second straight opening-day loss after a string of eight consecutive Week 1 wins.

    A suspect offensive line became downright awful when starting right guard Ramon Foster and starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert left the game. And replacements Doug Legursky and rookie Mike Adams had their problems, most notably later in the contest.

    Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made some throws and missed on others, but unfortunately, he didn’t miss cornerback Tracy Porter, who stepped in front of Emmanuel Sanders and returned Big Ben’s only interception of the night 43 yards for a score.

    Meanwhile, even though they weren’t on the field very long, the Steelers defense had its issues with Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ quick offense.

    It was a good effort by a banged-up Pittsburgh team in a very entertaining game.

    Grade: B-

St. Louis Rams (0-1)

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    A game effort in Jeff Fisher’s St. Louis debut with fell a bit short in the Motor City, where the Rams were within reach of surprising the Lions.

    Still, despite the narrow setback, all was not well with this new-look team. The Rams totaled just 14 first downs and 250 total yards, and their offense didn’t reach the end zone until the fourth quarter.

    Meanwhile, the saving grace for the Rams defense was its ability to take advantage of Matthew Stafford, whom they picked off three times, with Cortland Finnegan returning one of the thefts for a score.

    Still, Fisher’s team, which would give up 429 total yards, couldn’t stop the Lions when it had to in the closing minutes, and there are no real moral victories here.

    Grade: C+

San Diego Chargers (1-0)

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    A road win over a divisional opponent is always a positive. And Norv Turner’s team managed just that in a hard-earned win at Oakland.

    While Philip Rivers and the San Diego offense were often frustrated in their attempts to score touchdowns, placekicker Nate Kaeding bailed out the Bolts with five field goals in the team’s 22-14. It was a good evening for the veteran specialist, who was lost for the season a year ago on opening day.

    Playing without running back Ryan Mathews, the Chargers ran for only 32 yards on 20 carries. But Rivers spread the ball around per usual, completing passes to seven different players, including newcomers Ronnie Brown, Le’Ron McClain and wideouts Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal. The Pro Bowl quarterback was sacked just once and more importantly, avoided the turnovers that plagued his 2011 campaign.

    Meanwhile, the hard-hitting Chargers’ defense forced a turnover and sacked Carson Palmer three times (two from Shaun Phillips). And The San Diego special teams came up with a big play, blocking a Shane Lechler punt that set up a Kaeding field goal.

    Red zone issues aside, it was a good night for Turner and company.

    GRADE: B+

     

San Francisco 49ers (1-0)

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    Last season, Jim Harbaugh brought plenty of moxie to his new team and showed that the 'Niners weren’t intimidated playing away from home. San Francisco was 6-2 on the road and won games at Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Detroit.

    Now you can add Lambeau Field to that list.

    The last time San Francisco beat the Packers in a meaningful game was the 1998 Wild Card Playoffs (Owens! Owens! Owens!) in a classic. But despite a late charge from Aaron Rodgers and company, Harbaugh’s gritty club held on for a 30-22 victory.

    And what a difference an offseason makes.

    In last year’s NFC Championship Game loss to the Giants, Alex Smith completed 12-of-26 passes with only one reception by a wide receiver. On Sunday at Green Bay, the 'Niners quarterback hit on 20-of-26 throws, with 15 of those catches by wideouts.

    Add in 186 yards rushing (112 by Frank Gore), and you have a complete 49ers victory.

    Grade: A

Seattle Seahawks (0-1)

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    It’s the third year of the Pete Carroll era in the Pacific Northwest, and the well-traveled coach trotted out his third different opening-day quarterback in as many seasons.

    While the Seattle defense did a very respectable job, rookie Russell Wilson was up and down during his regular-season debut.

    Still, he had a chance late in the game to steal a victory, but it wasn’t meant to be, as the former Wisconsin star threw three straight incompletions from the Cardinals 4-yard line in a narrow 20-16 loss.

    While the positives included holding Arizona to just 43 yards on the ground, the negatives included 13 penalties for 90 yards. And although Wilson completed more than half of his passes (18-of-34) for 153 yards and a touchdown, he was sacked three times and committed a pair of turnovers.

    It was a tough loss for Carroll’s club, but I'm not sure how much we actually learned.

    Grade: C+

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0)

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    No team gave up more rushing yards per game, and no defense totaled fewer sacks (23) last season than the skidding Buccaneers, who went into their opening tilt with Carolina riding a 10-game losing streak.

    So it was only natural that in the 16-10 win over the visiting Panthers, Greg Schiano’s team gave up a mere 10 yards rushing and dropped Cam Newton three times.

    Meanwhile, it was an efficient outing for the Tampa Bay offense, which ran the ball 36 times for 130 yards (24 carries for 95 yards by rookie running back Doug Martin) and didn’t commit a turnover. And that’s big news for a team that gave up the ball a league-high 40 times in 2011, 32 of those coming during the season-ending 10-game skid.

    It added up to unspectacular but solid effort by the new-look Bucs.

    Grade: B+

Tennessee Titans (0-1)

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    Jake Locker’s first NFL start had its good and bad moments.

    Chris Johnson’s 63rd NFL start was simply horrendous.

    The Titans offense drove 70 yards on 12 plays and settled for a Rob Bironas field goal to take a 3-0 lead over the visiting Patriots.

    And it was downhill from there.

    A pair of Tom Brady touchdown passes sandwiched a Dont’a Hightower fumble return for a touchdown, the rookie scooping up a Locker fumble and running six yards to pay dirt.

    Locker would throw for 229 yards and a touchdown, as well as an interception and the aforementioned fumble. Johnson would total four yards rushing on 11 carries, and the Tennessee ground attacked totaled 20 yards on 16 attempts.

    And since the Titans defense allowed 162 yards rushing and sacked Brady just once, it appears the defensive front is still a work in progress.

    Grade: D+

Washington Redskins (1-0)

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    It was an afternoon of firsts for Robert Griffin III.

    The second overall pick in April’s draft got win No. 1 in the most unlikely of places, as Mike Shanahan’s club stunned the Saints at the Superdome, where the home club was perfect a year ago.

    Griffin completed 19 of his 26 passes for 320 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while adding 42 yards rushing and being sacked only twice in Washington’s surprising 40-32 win. Rookie running back Alfred Morris added 96 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, while the Redskins defense helped make the host team one dimensional, as New Orleans ran for only 32 yards on 10 carries.

    And although Drew Brees would throw for 339 yards and three touchdowns, he was constantly playing from behind, and the ‘Skins stole a pair of his passes and sacked him twice.

    I’m sure there were those who expected this new-look Washington team to play well. I’m sure there were very few who expected them to raise the roof at the Superdome.

    Grade: A+