NFL Week 1: The Good, Bad and Ugly

Steven Miranda@SteMirandaFeatured ColumnistSeptember 11, 2012

NFL Week 1: The Good, Bad and Ugly

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    The opening weekend in the NFL started with a bang and produced many surprises. From the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants losing to a division rival to the five rookie quarterbacks that started for their teams, Week 1 provided plenty of twists and turns.

    Of the five rookie quarterbacks that got the start, only one was victorious. The best quarterback statistically was not named Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees and the latter two both lost. Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson was held without a touchdown, and yet Week 1 saw the most points scored for an opening weekend in the NFL, ever.

    The best thing is that football is back. Let’s take a look at some of the good, bad and ugly performances of Week 1 in the NFL.

The Good: Rookie Robert Griffin III

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    Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III did not look like a rookie QB playing in his first NFL game. He was on the road in the Superdome against a playoff team from a season ago and he looked like a seasoned veteran. Not only did Griffin shine and outperform his veteran counterpart in his first game as a pro, he lead the Redskins to a 40-32 victory over the Saints.

    Griffin ended the game with a rating of 139.9 while going 19 of 26 for 320 yards and two touchdowns. Most importantly Griffin finished with zero turnovers, something the four other rookie quarterbacks starting on Sunday could not avoid.

    One play especially illustrates just how cool, calm and collected Griffin was in his debut. With the Redskins trailing the Saints 7-3 late in the first quarter, Griffin stood tall in the pocket and threw his first touchdown pass of his NFL career. He stayed in the pocket despite Saints free safety Malcolm Jenkins blitzing him unblocked and threw a bullet 26 yards in the air to wide receiver Pierre Garcon. He took a shot from Malcolm that knocked him to the ground, but he was able to sit up to see the end of the play that ended with Garcon racing the final 70 yards to the end zone.

    If Griffin continues to play as calm and relaxed as he did on Sunday, the Redskins will have a tough offense to defend this season.

The Good: The Return of Peyton Manning

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    Welcome back Mr. Manning! Peyton, that is.

    It was great to see Peyton Manning back in uniform on a football field throwing passes again. Broncos fans must be happy to see a quarterback throwing and completing passes. Manning looked strong and healthy on the field as he came out under the lights of Sunday Night Football to face a typically dominate Pittsburgh Steelers defense. From the start, it appeared as if he never missed a snap.

    Manning, who had not played a game in 610 days, displayed his usual composed and calculating mechanics at the line of scrimmage. Once the Broncos started running the no-huddle offense, Manning was unstoppable. He dissected the Steelers defense for 253 yards on 19 completions and two touchdowns and finished the night with a 129.2 passer rating having completed 73 percent of his passes. He also showed that he can still take a hit as he was sacked twice. Both times, he got up immediately and was ready to for the next place.

    Manning’s best pass of the night came midway through the fourth quarter. Down 19-14 on first and goal from the one yard line, he rolled out and threw a one yard bullet to tight end Jacob Tamme for a touchdown. Running full speed to his left away from defenders, Manning threw a perfect pass away from Steeler free safety Ryan Mundy and hit Tamme for the score.

    Jim Irsay must be having some sleepless nights right now.

The Good: David Akers' Record-Tying Kick

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    Kickers usually do not receive much attention. The only time anybody ever writes about them is when they either make or, more often than not, miss a game-winning field goal. Not the case today.

    Leading 13-3 with only two seconds left on the clock just before half time, 49ers’ head coach, Jim Harbaugh decided to have kicker David Akers try a long field goal instead of ending the half with an Alex Smith Hail Mary pass.

    Akers, having already made two 40 plus yard field goals in the game, did not disappoint. He booted the kick, it sailed 62 and one-half yards, hit the cross bar and bounced in for the three points. The kick made Akers only the fourth man in NFL history to a successfully kick a 63-yard field goal.

    Akers joins the Saints’ Tom Dempsey (1970), the Broncos’ Jason Elam (1998) and the Raiders’ Sebastian Janikowski (2011), as the members of the 63-yard club.

    At age 37, Akers is the oldest kicker to accomplish the task.

The Good: It’s Good Being over 40

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    If you are a fan of defensive battles or subscribe to the mantra that “defense wins championships,” then the opening weekend of the NFL was not your cup of tea.

    If you love offenses and high scoring affairs, however, then you were in hog heaven watching the games this week. The 791 total points scored in Week 1 were the most points scored in an opening weekend in the NFL ever. That’s an average of 49.4 points per game. The previous opening record happened 10 years ago when the league started off with 788 points in Week 1 of the 2002 season. Another NFL record was set as five teams, the Jets (48), Ravens (44), Bears (41), Falcons (40) and Redskins (40) all scored 40 or more points in Week 1.

    That’s right: the Jets!

    That was the team that did not score a touchdown until the final preseason game. On Sunday, they torched a Bills team that had made some major upgrades to their defensive unit. No problem for the Jets, though, as they recorded six total TDs, four on offense, one on special teams and one on a defensive interception return for a score.

    Want more offense? Five other teams scored 30 or more points in Week 1 and one of those teams, the Saints, lost scoring 32 points.

    Whether it happens to be that the NFL rule changes are favoring the offenses or teams are just becoming more offensive minded, one thing is becoming clear: your defense might win you a championship, but you better bring your offense along and score some points, too!

The Bad: Michael Vick’s Four INT Performance

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    You might be asking yourself, “Didn't the Eagles win?”

    Yes the Eagles won, but they did not win because of Michael Vick. They won in spite of him. Vick had a terrible outing in Cleveland, throwing four interceptions and fumbling the ball once. Fortunately for Vick and the Eagles, he was able to recover his own fumble in the fourth quarter. That allowed them to score late in the game and come away with a 17-16 win over the Cleveland Browns.

    The Browns have offensive woes of their own (see the next “The Bad” entry) or the Eagles would have started the season with a loss.

    Vick ended the game with a woeful 51.0 passer rating and only completed 52 percent of his passes. He was also sacked twice to go along with his four INTs. If Vick and the Eagles want to make the playoffs, he has two things he needs to do: stay healthy and eliminate costly turnovers.

The Bad: Cleveland Browns' Lackluster Offense

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    To say that the Browns offense was anemic would be doing a disservice to the word. They did nothing. Nothing!

    The Browns only managed 210 yards of total offense and were only able to score three field goals. Over the 59 offensive snaps, they only managed a weak 3.6 yards per play. Not good for a team starting a rookie quarterback (Brandon Weeden), a rookie running back (Trent Richardson) and a rookie wide receiver (Josh Gordon).

    The defense tried to help out, giving their offense great field position throughout the day. They intercepted Eagles quarterback Michael Vick four times and recovered a LeSean McCoy fumble early in the first quarter to give the offense starting field positions near midfield twice and inside Eagles territory twice. The defense even scored a touchdown for the Browns after D'Qwell Jackson intercepted a Vick pass in the fourth quarter and returned it 27 yards for the score.

    Not a good sign for the Browns who finished last season 29th in total offense and 30th overall in points scored. 

The Bad: Saints Defense Laying an Egg

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    No Greg Williams. No Jonathan Vilma (on the field at least). No bounties. No defense.

    The New Orleans Saints finished Week 1 as the worst defense in the NFL. They gave up 464 total yards of offense to a rookie quarterback.

    Robert Griffin III torched them for 320 yards passing and 42 yards rushing and finished the game with an exceptional 139.9 passer rating. It’s hard to imagine that the Saints, at home in the Superdome with the crowd behind them, could not take advantage a guy that had never even played a down in the NFL.

    Don’t kid yourself, the Saints are going to have a difficult time without their head coach Sean Payton leading them all year, but the defense has no excuse for their poor performance. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was on the sideline leading his defense, but they had no answer for Griffin or the Redskins' other rookie, running back Alfred Morris, who rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns.

    Spagnuolo’s blitzing schemes came late and they never really affected Griffin. At the end of the day they never successfully applied the kind of pressure on the quarterback that had previously been the case. Bounties or not, if the defense does not get better the Saints will be lucky to win six games all year.

The Ugly: Replacement Officials Unfortunate Start

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    If you have not heard of the huge officiating mistakes the replacement officials made in Week 1 of the NFL, you have probably been living under a rock. Most everyone is trying to play it off as if the replacement officials did an OK job. It was NOT an OK job. It was ugly!

    The mistake getting the most attention was the extra time-out awarded the Seattle Seahawks near the end of their loss in Arizona. The bigger problem was that in trying to find out whether or not Seattle had a time out to use, the referees held a conference that was longer than a time out. Then the head official came out and gave the wrong explanation of why Seattle still had a time out left to use. Wow!

    There was an unfortunate clock mismanagement situation in the Rams vs. Lions game that allowed the Lions to hang on to an extra time out in their come-from-behind victory over the Rams. Rams head coach Jeff Fisher had to report the official clock mistake to the league.

    In the final game of Week 1 on Monday night in Oakland, the Raiders were deprived of running one final play against the San Diego Chargers. The officials basically ignored a rule that states that a receiving team has an opportunity to run one untimed play if the game ends on a punt and that punt is first touched by the punting team.  The game ended when the Chargers downed the ball at the Raiders five yard. Would the Raiders have scored a 95-yard touchdown and converted a two-point conversion to send the game into overtime? Probably not. The fact of the matter is, they should have had the chance to try.

    The NFL has admitted to these mistakes, yet there is no end in sight to the replacement officials as the league has made plans to use the replacement official through Week 5. I worry that it is only a matter of time before an incorrect call directly affects the outcome of a game.

The Ugly: Rookie Quarterbacks Not Named RG3

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    Saying that the four rookie quarterbacks not named Robert Griffin III had a rough time in Week 1 is an understatement. Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson combined for 11 interceptions, two fumbles and 11 sacks. None of them had a passer rating higher than 63 and none completed more than 55 percent of his passes.

    Andrew Luck had four turnovers in his debut for the Colts. He threw three interceptions and fumbled the ball once. Although he managed to throw for 309 yards against a very good Chicago Bears defense, most of those yards came in the second half when the game was no longer in question.

    Ryan Tannehill probably played the worst six minutes of football by a quarterback ever. Tannehill threw three interceptions on three consecutive possessions in the second quarter against the Houston Texans. The Texans quickly converted those three turnovers into 17 points turning a 3-0 Dolphins lead into a 17-3 blowout. The Texans scored another TD after the Dolphins turned the ball over on their fourth straight drive and headed into halftime with a 24-3 lead. Tannehill and the Dolphins never recovered.

    It is almost not fair to put Seattle Seahawks rookie Russell Wilson on this list, but he did account for two turnovers and was was 0-5 on his final five passes of the game from inside the Cardinals 13-yard line. Although Wilson finished with the highest passer rating of the four rookies not named RG3, he still has plenty of room for improvement as he overthrew his receivers late in a close game.

    When Brandon Weeden got caught under the 100-yard U.S. Flag before the game started, that should have been an indication of things to come. Weeden, the oldest of the five rookie quarterbacks that started in Week 1 at age 28, was the worst of the bunch. Weeden only completed 34 percent of his passes, he threw 4 interceptions, only managed 12 completions for 118 yards and ended the day with a dismal 5.1passer rating. Yikes!










    Andrew Luck









    Ryan Tannehill









    Russell Wilson









    Brandon Weeden









The Ugly: Oakland Raiders Special Teams Punt Unit

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    Jon Condo is one of the best long snappers in the NFL. His replacement, not so much.

    Unfortunately for Raider Nation, Condo left the game in the first half with a head injury and gave way to reserve linebacker Travis Goethel. He came in to long snap for the Raiders punt team and that’s when all hell broke loose. Goethel took over the long snapping duties in the second half and immediately delivered three bad snaps to Pro Bowl punter Shane Lechler.

    One punt was blocked and Lechler did not even have the opportunity to kick the other two as the ball never got off the ground. Goethel looked great as a lawn bowler, but as the long snapper, he was abysmal.

    The Raiders joke of a punt unit set up the Chargers with great field position as San Diego recovered the blocked punt and aborted punt tries at the Oakland 37, 8 and 42 yards lines. All three resulted in chip shot field goals for the Chargers and the Raiders never recovered.

    The Raiders, and specifically head coach Dennis Allen, are at fault for not having a player ready to step in for Condo, but Goethel shares in the blame for not being able to at least get the ball up off the ground on the snap to the punter. One thing's certain, the Raiders are in the market for a long snapper.