LOS ANGELES, September 9, 2014 — With NFL 2014 Week 1 now in the history books, it is time to analyze what we all learned and also what we failed to learn from the 16 games played.
Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks — The Seahawks broke a 10-10 tie midway through the second quarter and belted the Packers 36-16. The Legion of Boom really is that good. The notion that winning a Super Bowl automatically leads to complacency has been discredited. Pete Carroll knows how to motivate his guys. As for Mike McCarthy, he did not even have Aaron Rodgers try to throw one pass in the direction of Richard Sherman. Rodgers was the 2011 NFL MVP. He should have at least been allowed to try taking on Sherman.
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons — This thrilling pinball machine game came down to one mistake in overtime. The 37-34 Falcons victory showed two exciting offenses. Neither of these teams will win it all unless they shore up their defenses. Drew Brees is still a pinball wizard, but allowing Matt Ryan to throw for 448 yards shows that the Saints still have more work to do.
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens — While five first half Mike Nugent field goals helped the Bengals win 23-16, it is mind-boggling why so many NFL teams wait until the fourth quarter to go bombs away. The conservative strategy leads to too many field goals and not enough touchdowns. Teams who have strong-armed quarterbacks should unleash them. Meanwhile, the Ravens will not be building a statue of Ray Rice any time soon.
Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears — The Bills 23-20 overtime victory was a surprise to many, but the difference came down to the ground game. In an overtime game, both defenses are tired. Running the ball makes sense. Marc Trestman kept Jay Cutler throwing the ball. Meanwhile, CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson wore down the Bears’ defense and got the big yards when it counted. When the weather gets colder, the Bears will be in even more trouble if they have to rely solely on Cutler.
Washington Redskins at Houston Texans — Even with Jadavean Clowney going out with an injured knee in the first half, the focus on this game is the knee of Robert Griffin III. RGIII is still not back to what he was as a rookie. The Texans have a defense, but the 17-6 Houston win was more about the ineptitude of the Washington offense. Houston also blocked a punt and an extra point, but unless RGIII gets his health and his confidence back, it will be a long year for the Redskins.
Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs — This is a tale of two quarterbacks, one underrated and one overrated. Alex Smith is a game manager. The Chiefs overachieved last year, but Smith is not going to get them to the Promised Land. The Titans almost gave up on the frequently injured Jake Locker, but Locker again showed what he can do when healthy. The 26-10 Titans win was not as close as the score. Locker can win games. Smith needs more help.
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins — The Patriots have been far superior to the Dolphins over the last 14 years, but somehow Tom Brady always seem to have his worst games at Miami. This time the Patriots had a 20-10 second quarter lead before the Patriots melted in the hot Miami sun. Patriots owner Robert Kraft will not be replacing Brady and Bill Bellichick for Ryan Tannehill and Joe Philbin and by the end of the season, this 33-20 Dolphins win could be an aberration that tells us nothing.
Oakland Raiders at New York Jets — The Jets committed 11 penalties for over 100 yards and threw away two gift touchdown chances. They won 19-14 anyway because the Oakland Raiders run the Dink and Dunk with Dennis Allen West Coast Offense. Even with Derek Carr showing solid promise as a quarterback, having him throw two-yard passes on third down and four or longer does no good. Unless Dennis Allen learns that an entire world exists beyond the first down marker, the Raiders will remain boring and predictable losers.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Philadelphia Eagles — The Jaguars are improved, but when Philadelphia overcame a 17-0 deficit to rattle off 34 straight points, it showed how good the Eagles can be. Despite a rash of early turnovers, Chip Kelly and Nick Foles both stayed patient and calm. The 34-17 Eagles win was a good character test. The Eagles faced adversity and did not panic. Their offense can score quickly, so an early deficit will not rattle them.
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers — The Browns overcame a 27-3 deficit to tie the game, only to fall on the final play. Rookie quarterbacks make mistakes, and so do rookie coaches. Mike Pettine should have tried a field goal from the Pittsburgh 35 that could have won the game. Instead he went conservative and punted. Later, he got aggressive with Cleveland deep in their own territory. Pettine will improve, as will the Browns. Yet in his very first game, his mistakes were enough for the Steelers to escape with the 30-27 win. On the positive front, the Browns have a good quarterback in Bryan Hoyer, rendering the backup unnecessary at this moment.
Minnesota Vikings at St. Louis Rams — Mike Zimmer won his coaching debut, but this is a story of the one player not on the field. When Sam Bradford went out with a preseason injury, it took the Rams’ season down with him. The Vikings won 34-6 because the Rams looked exactly what they were: deflated. Losing Bradford’s new back up, Shaun Hill, did not help either. Jeff Fisher has to give the Rams something to rally around, otherwise the Rams will soon become the worst team in football despite a ton of defensive talent.
San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys — The 49ers built a 28-3 lead because Dallas may have the worst defense in the league. Jerry Jones is still obsessing over Cleveland’s backup quarterback, but Jerry needs to fix his defense. The Cowboys had the whole offseason and the draft, which will again bring howls from fans that Jerry Jones, the owner, needs to fire Jerry Jones, the general manager. The 49ers were thought to have too many distractions to be as good as in recent years, but the awful Dallas defense provided the perfect San Francisco treat in the form of a 28-17 49ers win.
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Carolina was without Cam Newton, but they still brought their defense. While both these teams need some improvement on the offensive side of the ball, the real test will come when they face division rivals Atlanta and New Orleans. The Panthers 17-0 fourth quarter lead allowed them to hang on 20-14, but neither of these teams seem ready for the pinball pace of their division opponents.
Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos — The Broncos took the 24-0 lead and hung on for dear life in a 31-24 win at home. Denver was supposed to have fixed its defense, and even a win cannot shield the Broncos from a glaring weakness, a lack of a killer instinct. This plagued the Broncos in their playoff wins over San Diego and New England last year when they came close to blowing big leads in the fourth quarter. The Broncos need to finish games stronger than they did in this one.
New York Giants at Detroit Lions — Jim Caldwell may have never made a facial expression, but this man can coach. He put the pedal to the medal when he had Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, and he could be exactly what it takes to get Matthew Stafford to the next level. Captain Grumpy Tom Coughlin may have a bad Giants team, but Caldwell could be the best thing to happen to the Lions since the days when Herman Moore ran wild in the mid-1990s. The 35-14 Lions win showed that the Lions offense is ready for business. Even an average defense would make them contenders.
San Diego Chargers at Arizona Cardinals — The San Diego Chargers blew a 17-6 fourth quarter lead as the Cardinals escaped with the 18-17 win. Arizona was lucky in that failed two-point conversions did not cost them. Coaches should only go for two when they have to. San Diego should have been going for the field goal tie and not the win, but the Cardinals gave up those two points. However, when in field goal range, Philip Rivers cannot have a failed shotgun snap. Rivers is a veteran, and for San Diego not to get a field goal try in that situation is inexcusable. As for Carson Palmer, do not send him home to collect social security just yet.