New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees continued his mastery of the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
Do the math.
We are 14 games into the 2013 NFL season, which means 14 teams with 1-0 records and 14 clubs with 0-1 marks.
That means 14 fanbases are looking for their teams to go undefeated and 14 more are thinking their club will earn the first pick in the 2014 draft.
All joking aside, it was another typical unpredictable Sunday in the league. So what we are going to do each Monday morning is show you what we learned from the day before. Some of it will be obvious. Some of it won’t make you happy. Some of it may be flat-out bizarre.
Hence, here are 10 observations from Sunday’s action. We don’t want to draw too many conclusions after only one Sunday of regular-season action, so we will start slow, at least for this week.
Hey, it’s early for us writers as well.
You just knew that the Kansas City Chiefs were going to be better this season under head coach Andy Reid.
And while a 28-2 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars doesn’t wrap up a playoff berth for the team, there were certainly signs of progress from a year ago.
The Chiefs scored 28 points, a mark they never reached during their dreadful 2-14 showing in 2012. They also played turnover-free football, something the club only did twice last season.
Led by quarterback Alex Smith, the offensive unit totaled three touchdowns, all of those in the first half. A year ago, the Kansas City offense managed only 17 touchdowns, equaling the total of Houston Texans running back Arian Foster.
Add in the fact that the Chiefs held Jacksonville to 178 total yards and had as many takeaways as the Jaguars had points, and it was a nice start to the newest era by a franchise that hasn’t won a league title since 1969.
Three seconds into the 2013 season, and the Tennessee Titans were already down 2-0.
That was an interesting start for a team that won just six games and allowed the most points in the league a year ago.
But it was all uphill from there. Correction: All downhill.
Downhill in terms of old-school football, courtesy of a persistent running game that totaled just 112 yards but on 42 attempts as Mike Munchak’s club surprised the Pittsburgh Steelers 16-9.
Yes, Mike Tomlin’s club was miserable on offense and never recovered from losing Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey. Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com reported that Tomlin said Pouncey will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.
However, give credit where credit is due.
Bolstered by an offensive line featuring new guards in free agent Andy Levitre and rookie Chance Warmack, as well as the addition of center Rob Turner, the Titans controlled the ball for 34:01 and didn’t commit a turnover. And 24 of the team’s 42 rushing plays came in the second half.
Yes, one loss does not a season make. But losing is becoming somewhat of a habit for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Mike Tomlin’s club dropped its sixth game in eight tries dating back to 2012 via a disturbing 16-9 home setback to the Tennessee Titans. Tennessee was 6-10 last season but managed to defeat Pittsburgh last October.
Much will be made about the inefficient Steelers offense which totaled 32 yards rushing as well as 195 yards overall. The team scored just one touchdown, and that was with 1:23 remaining in the game. Add in a pair of turnovers and five sacks of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and it was ugly.
What has happened to the Steelers defense? Yes, there was another terrific effort in terms of yards (229) and points (16) allowed. Dick LeBeau’s group only surrendered one touchdown on the afternoon. However, the Steelers failed to force a turnover, which has become a familiar theme with the club.
Dating back to 2011, Pittsburgh has totaled just 35 takeaways in 33 regular-season games. During their 2010 Super Bowl season, Tomlin and Co. forced 35 turnovers in 16 contests.
So what do we take away from this Week 1 loss? It’s hard to tell. Then again, the lack of takeaways is exactly what we are talking about here.
Detroit Lions fans came to Ford Field on Sunday knowing they would see one of the most explosive players in the league.
Make that two.
Yes, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson ran for 78 yards and a score the first time he touched the ball in 2013. But the league’s MVP a year ago was held to 15 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries the rest of the day (though he added another score in the passing game).
The afternoon would belong to one of the newest Lions in running back Reggie Bush. He dazzled the Detroit crowd with 191 yards from scrimmage (90 rushing, 101 receiving), including an electrifying 77-yard scoring reception as Jim Schwartz’s club ended an eight-game losing streak with a 34-24 win over the Vikings.
The victory also ended a seven-game skid versus NFC North rivals. More importantly, it showed a little balance by the Lions attack. It’s worth noting that Detroit has been ranked 23rd in the league or lower in rushing yards per game eight straight seasons.
Thanks to Bush and teammate Joique Bell (25 yards and two touchdowns), the Lions' new-look ground attack is off to a nice start.
The former Ohio State standout proved to be more than a handful for the Indianapolis Colts. Pryor threw for 217 yards and a score, as well as two interceptions, but he also ran for 112 yards on 13 carries.
He was ultimately done in by two crucial mistakes that resulted in a 21-17 loss for Dennis Allen’s club.
Down four points with two minutes to play, Pryor came up big with a 21-yard completion to Denarius Moore on 4th-and-9, putting the Raiders at the Colts 8-yard line. But he was sacked for a 16-yard loss a moment later, and two plays after that, he was picked off by safety Antoine Bethea.
What did we learn? Never mind us. Ultimately, it is what Pryor takes from the loss. And despite a few bad plays, it was an afternoon of promise for the young signal-caller.
The Atlanta Falcons have been the NFC’s top seed two of the last three seasons but still haven’t been able to reach the Super Bowl during the Matt Ryan/Mike Smith era.
Despite its success, the 2012 Falcons offense lacked balance. But the addition of free-agent running back Steven Jackson, he of eight straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons, is supposed to help.
He still might. On Sunday at the Superdome, the all-time rushing leader for the St. Louis Rams ripped off a 50-yard run. Last season, the longest rushing play by a Falcons player, regular season or playoffs, was 45 yards.
So how is it that Smith’s team, leading 10-0 in the first quarter, would wind up with 88 yards rushing on only 14 attempts? A mere 88 yards against a New Orleans Saints team that finished dead last in the NFL against the run in 2012?
So for the third straight game, dating back to last year’s postseason, the Falcons blew a double-digit lead. And for the second straight time, it cost them a game.
The more things change, well…you know the rest.
Obviously, it’s still far too early to really tell if the Chicago Bears will miss linebackers Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach.
One thing is for sure: Last year’s formula of taking away the football not only remains alive and well in the Windy City but figures to be essential if Marc Trestman’s club is to have a successful 2013.
In Sunday’s 24-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, the Bears allowed 340 total yards, and Cincinnati wideout A.J. Green had a field day against the Chicago secondary. The Pro Bowler was targeted 13 times and caught nine passes for 162 yards and two scores, mostly at the expense of ball-hawking cornerback Charles Tillman.
But the Bears defender also intercepted Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton twice, part of three takeaways by the Chicago defense on the afternoon. That means the Bears have now forced 47 turnovers in 17 games dating back to the start of last season.
Without those takeaways on Sunday, it would have been interesting to see if Trestman’s club would have held on for the win. It’s worth noting that since 2012, the Bears have totaled 39 takeaways in 11 victories and forced only eight turnovers in six setbacks.
Of course, it is no accident that the defense is so efficient in this department, but can the Bears can retain that Midas touch?
In last season’s divisional playoff matchup with the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers was witness to history…at his expense.
The veteran coach watched in dismay as the Niners racked up 323 yards on the ground, 181 by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, as the Niners rolled to a 45-31 win.
On Sunday at San Francisco, the Packers defense held Jim Harbaugh’s club to 90 yards on the ground, and Kaepernick managed only 22 yards on seven attempts.
Of course, there’s this other thing that the talented quarterback can do, and that’s throw the ball. The Green Bay pass rush managed only two sacks while Kaepernick completed 27-of-39 passes for 412 yards and three scores in the 49ers' 34-28 win.
If these teams should meet again down the road, certainly a distinct possibility, it will be interesting to see how Capers attacks the third-year quarterback the next time around.
Although we are not sure if San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin will play out the rest of his career with his newest team, here’s one thing we do know: The next club that the veteran wideout joins will be ecstatic, especially when it comes to his regular-season debut with his new employer.
On Sunday, one of the heroes of the Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl XLVII win over the Niners caught 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown in his debut with San Francisco.
But that’s old news in a way. You see, Boldin’s first game as a rookie with the Arizona Cardinals in 2003 saw him pull down 10 passes for 217 yards and a pair of scores in a loss to the Detroit Lions. Seven years later, Boldin caught seven passes for 110 yards in the Ravens' 10-9 win over the New York Jets.
It is safe to say that this was old hat for the 49ers' newest receiver. More importantly, teammate Colin Kaepernick has found himself quite the safety blanket in the veteran wideout.
Sunday night’s game between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys was not a thing of beauty.
But beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder, it is also important that one holds onto the football.
That was not the case for the Giants, who in a 36-31 loss handed the Cowboys the pigskin six times, including three interceptions by quarterback Eli Manning.
However, let us not bury the lead. Led by new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, this was an opportunistic Dallas unit that totaled five of the six takeaways. All told, the Cowboys are already nearly halfway to last year’s total when it comes to forcing turnovers (16).
Yes, the Dallas defense was far from perfect. Manning threw for 450 yards and four touchdowns, and three of his wideouts (Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Rueben Randle) totaled at least 100 yards receiving on the evening. But those takeaways and three sacks of Manning speak volumes of what the Dallas defense could be in 2013.