NFL Week 1 Recap: Top 5 Plays of Opening Week

Mike NelsonCorrespondent ISeptember 13, 2011

NFL Week 1 Recap: Top 5 Plays of Opening Week

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    Football is back!

    Were there times when you thought it wouldn’t be? If you’re saying “no,” then you’re a liar. Early on it looked extremely grim and anyone who knew football was coming back in the early stages hopefully went to Las Vegas and participated in some wagering.

    But Week 1 is officially in the books, and what a week it was. 

    Here are the top five plays from the opening weekend of NFL play. 

5. Brian Urlacher Interception and Touchdown

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    The Bears were supposed to be in big trouble against the Atlanta Falcons, who returned the majority of a roster that led them to the best regular season record in the NFL (14-2).

    The Bears looked very average in the NFC Championship game in January against the Green Bay Packers. With Jay Cutler at quarterback, outside linebacker Lance Briggs’ trade demand and an aging defense, there were many concerns surrounding the Bears in 2011.

    Not so fast. Brian Urlacher looked every bit as much like the middle linebacker who has dominated the league for the past 11 seasons. At age 33, he showed he still had it.

    On Sunday, he made a spectacular catch on a Matt Ryan pass and also had a nice fumble recovery for a touchdown.

    If this had been Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald making the catch that Urlacher did, this wouldn’t be all that noteworthy. But since it was Urlacher, he earned the No. 5 play of the opening weekend.

4. Calvin Johnson Touchdown Catch

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    Johnson is maturing into one of the best receivers in the game. And why not?

    This athletic freak has the makings at 6’5” and 235 pounds, with blazing speed and stick ‘em hands, to become the best wide receiver in all of football—especially if his quarterback Matthew Stafford can stay healthy.

    Sunday he had six receptions for 88 yards and two touchdowns in the Detroit Lions' 27-20 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. One of the touchdowns warranted serious recognition.

    On this play, Stafford just lobbed it up in the corner of the end zone and, with Johnson’s freakish athletic ability, he went up and got it as it nearly blew past him.

    Unlike opening day last year, there was no controversy regarding whether or not this ball was a catch.

    Enjoy it folks…there’s more to come. 

3. New York Jets Blocked Punt

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    The blocked punt is one of the most exciting plays in football. But it is also one of the rarest.

    It marks a massive change in the momentum of any game (unless it’s a blowout) and can spur a team that’s down into comeback mode.

    On Sunday night football, a very emotional evening in which the city of New York and the rest of the United States remembered 9/11, the Jets produced the first blocked punt of the young season and turned it into six points.

2. Ted Ginn Jr. Kick Returns

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    The NFL altered its rules regarding kickoffs this offseason. Instead of kicking from the 30-yard line, the league pushed kickers five yards closer to the opposition.

    The thought process was that pushing kickoffs five yards forward would cause more touchbacks which would help eliminate injuries to players on kickoffs.

    There was also concern that the move forward would decimate the number of kickoff returns fans would experience.

    San Francisco 49ers receiver Ted Ginn Jr. experienced no such problems Sunday. He not only returned a kickoff 102 yards, but, for good measure, followed that up with a 55-yard punt return on the very next time the Seattle Seahawks kicked the ball.

1. Randall Cobb Kickoff Return

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    Rookies are supposed to be unprepared, inexperienced and unimpressive in their NFL debuts. They’re supposed to shy away from the limelight as they try to fully grasp the NFL game compared to previous levels of football that they’ve experienced.

    Green Bay Packers receiver Randall Cobb didn’t get that memo.

    He also didn’t get the memo alerting players that they wouldn’t be susceptible to as many kickoff returns for touchdowns in 2011 with the new kickoff rule either.

    But in his first game as an NFL player and in the first game of the 2011 NFL season, Cobb returned a kickoff for a touchdown. And it was a beauty.

    Unlike Ginn Jr. or receiver Percy Harvin of the Minnesota Vikings, Cobb didn’t receive the support from the blockers up front or rely strictly upon his speed. Cobb had to bounce off members of the kickoff team and had to fight off the ground too, before all was said and done.

    It didn’t get any better than Cobb’s return in Week 1.