2011 NFL Season: Week 1 Remix by Lloyd Vance

WR Calvin “Megratron” Johnson and his fellow Lions came to play as Detroit knocked off the Bucs in one of Sunday’s more entertaining games

After a lockout that lasted 136 Days and it seemed the longest training camp/preseason ever, the first regular season game weekend of the 92st NFL season titled: “Back to Football” was finally played. NFL Universe just couldn’t get enough of America’s Game as Week 1 stretched over three game days (September 8th, September 11th, and September 12th).  Fans turned out in record numbers as even the downtrodden Jacksonville Jaguars played to a sellout.  Excitement was all around the league that fan’s get enough of.  But there was also solemn remembrances as the NFL and it’s fans remembered the tragic events from September 11, 2011 with much reflection.  There were stirring National Athems — I like Queen Latifah’s renditionat the US Open Tennis Championships the best — Players wearing patriotic gear, and great commercials — loved the State Farm ad of little kids singing “I Love New York” to the firemen.

Overall the first week of the 2011 NFL season brought surprises (Ravens demolishing the Steelers, Raiders ending the Broncos opener win streak, Cowboy losing a 14+ point lead for the first time in team history, Bills thumping 2009 playoff team, the KC Chiefs and several photo finishes), Non-surprises (Colts struggling without Peyton Manning; Michael Vick looking like a “Human joystick” again, Tom Brady winning in an opener again,  Redskins and NY Jets winning emotional games at home on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11), Cheers, and Tears (Sorry Cowboys fans…Romo just didn’t have enough “killer” instinct to knockoout the NY Jets when he had the chance) that only NFL drama can provoke. The wins and losses no doubt will create a buzz of “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” around the water cooler and on sports radio, but remember the NFL season is a 17-Week Marathon.

The first game on Thursday night kicked off the excitement (fireworks, Grammy winners, etc) and featured the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers using a fast start by their offense to hold off the hard-charging New Orleans Saints.  In the game you could see a couple of things:  Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is almost surgical getting the ball to his many weapons, The Saints abandoned their running game, Packers defensive is still opportunistic, and Green Bay probably has the NFL’s highest octane offense .

What I love about Week 1 is experts, fans, and some members of the media start making year-long assertions based on “one week” of real NFL games.  Two of the comments/feedback that I have received after only one week of play that I consider “laughable” from one of my loyal listeners were: “After the way the Texans beat-up Indianapolis…It is going to be a long year in Indy and they should quit now”; “Super Bowl XLVI in Indy will be the Patriots vs. Packers” and “The Baltimore Ravens finally have completely kicked the Steelers to the curb and will own the AFC North”.  Just slow your roll there a little bit “Mr. Overzealous Fan”.

C’mon some of these conclusions may prove to be true, but Week 1 isn’t enough game action to paint with such a broad picture.  Sure Week 1 is important for setting the tone for the entire season — the last 45 Super Bowl Champions started out a combined 37-7-1 in Week 1 of their championship season.  But remember in the parity-laden NFL everything can change very quickly. The theme that I will continue to pound at this time of year is that an NFL season is a marathon and should be taken increments.  Being on top early in an NFL season guarantees nothing. Teams can’t get caught up in thinking things are going to be biscuits and gravy throughout the entire season.  The main thing right now is for teams to focus week-in and week-out on the team that they are facing.  In 2009, after five weeks the NY Giants looked like Super Bowl contenders as they started 5-0 only to limp home to an 8-8 record. 

2011 Week 1 Game Notes

Thursday Sept. 8

Packers (1-0) over Saints (0-1), 42-34… In season opener, Aaron Rodgers spreads the ball all-around… Rookie WR Randall Cobb shines…Packers hold at goalline as game runs out

Sunday Sept. 11
49ers (1-0) over Seahawks (0-1), 33-17… Alex Smith finally looks like a 1st rounder as SF pounds Seattle…ST star Ted Ginn Jr runs back a Punt and Kickoff for TDs

Bears (1-0) over Falcons (0-1), 30-12…. In a shocker, Jay Cutler outplays Matt Ryan with a big offensive performance…Peppers and Urlacher lead Lovie Smith’s D

Bengals (1-0) over Browns (0-1), 27-17… In the Battle for Ohio, Cincy behind rookie QB Andy Dalton and RB Cedric Benson outlast the Browns

Bills (1-0) over Chiefs (0-1), 41-7… Chan Gailey gets his revenge…”Mr. Harvard”, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, leads  Bills to their highest offensive output since 1975 in a laugher over Chiefs

Cardinals (1-0) over Panthers (0-1), 28-21… In an offensive showcase, No. 1 pick Cam Newton shines breaking Otto Grahams over 60-year record…Kevin Kolb another 300-yarder in win…WR Steve Smith is back!

Chargers (1-0) over Vikings (0-1), 24-17…. In a tight game, the injured Chargers fought back for a home win…Harvin bright spot for Vikings… McNabb looks terrible as he passes for 39 yards… Chargers lose kick Nate Kaeding for season (ACL) 

Eagles (1-0) over Rams (0-1), 31-13… An early see-saw battle turns into a Vick laugher after S-Jax leaves with a quad injury…Birds D gets tougher as game goes on…D-Jax shows why he needs a new deal

Jaguars (1-0) over Titans (0-1), 16-14… In a who cares game, the Jags squeek one out over TEN… Big game for MJD in return from injury…Bad Boy Britt shows his good hands for Titans

Lions (1-0) over Buccaneers (0-1), 27-20 … In a battle of Up-And-Coming Teams, Detroit led by QB Matt Stafford and Calvin “Megatron” Johnson get a quality win in Tampa

Ravens (1-0) over Steelers (0-1), 35-7… In a total shocker, the Ravens produce 7 turnovers as the suddenly ‘old” Steelers get thrashed in the Charm City…Flacco finally beats Big Ben

Redskins (1-0) over Giants (0-1), 28-14… In an emotional 9-11 Tribute Game, the ‘Skins break-open a tight game late (14-14 at half)…Grossman goes for 300 yards in win… WAS rookies shine on D

Texans (1-0) over Colts (0-1), 34-7… It maybe a very long year for the Colts w/o Peyton (2 to 3 months, neck)…Collins turnovers the ball under after constant pressure by Texans…Schaub, Tate…Johnson shine for HOU

Jets (1-0) over Cowboys (0-1), 27-24… SNF pays tribute to 9-11 in NYC…DAL gets early lead but falls apart after a 14-point lead entering 4th quarter…Romo “chokes” again with terrible end of game turnovers…Folk burns his old team with 50-yard GW FG

Monday Sept 12

Patriots (1-0) over Dolphins (0-1), 38-24…  A tight game early is busted wide-open by Tom Brady’s MNF record performance…Patriots overcome Koppen injury to offensively destory ‘Phins in an offensive explosion game (over 900 passing yards)

Raiders (1-0) over Broncos (0-1), 23-20 … Tough AFC West rivalry game in the MNF Night Cap…. OAK won in Denver for the fourth straight season…Run DMc runs hard… OAK improving defense gets tough when needed…Janikowski boots 3 FG’s including an NFL record-tying boot of 63 yards

Some Lloyd’s Leftovers from Week 1

The NFL Season is Survival of the Fittest– The “tough” physical game of football causes a survival of the fittest on the way to the Lombardi Trophy. No team makes it to the top without dealing with injuries every week of the season. Unfortunately one of this week’s biggest stories were season-ending injuries as players like Steelers OL Willie Colon (torn triceps) and Chiefs safety Eric Berry (ACL) unfortunately were badly hurt.  Other major injuries were Chargers K Nate Kaeding (ACL), Rams QB Sam Bradford (finger), Rams RB Steve Jackson (quad), Patriots OL Dan Koppen (broken ankle), Panthers LB Jon Beason (Achilles), Rams WR Danny Amendola (dislocated elbow), Saints WR Marques Colston (shoulder) and  Texans WR Kevin Walter (shoulder)

Former playoff teams were even – As I always say, “Every year is different in the NFL”.  That phrase was never more prophetic than in Week 1 where 2010 playoff teams went a combined 6-6 — Winners were Patriots, Packers, Eagles, Ravens, NY Jets, and Bears;   Losers — Saints, Seahawks, Falcons, Chiefs, Steelers, and the Manning-less Colts

Passing, Passing, and more Passing – I am a smash-mouth run the football kinda guy, but NFL teams are looking to chuck it more than ever. In Week 1, there were 13 QB’s that threw over 300 yards including Tom Brady’s 517-yard, 4 TD, 1INT record setting performance on Monday Night Football.  In all starting quarterbacks combined to throw for over 7,000 yards (NFL Record).

Running the Ball Still Matters – As mentioned earlier there were 13 QB’s who threw for over 300 yards, but their combined record was only 7-6.  Conversely their were six RB’s over 100 yards and they all won their games including Oakland Raiders RB Darren McFadden running for 150 yards in his team’s 23-20 win over the Broncos in the Monday Night Football nightcap

Breaking the Wildcat — In 2008, the Miami Dolphins showed the world it’s version of the Single Wing formation called the “Wildcat” and pretty soon the entire National Football League (NFL) jumped on board.  But recently defensive teams have started to break the “Wildcat” – by just crushing the player taking the snap — and we are seeing it less and less in the NFL.  A prime case was in St. Louis, where the Philadelphia Eagles went to a Wildcat formation with original combo-back Ronnie Brown taking a direct snap in the redzone.  The Rams never bit and Brown was crushed for maybe a 1-yard game.  Also the Buffalo Bills had little success with the formation againt the Kansas City Chiefs.  Free Agent signee Brad Smith only gained 9 yards on 3 rushes and was 0-for-1 passing.

Game Ball

Patriots QB Tom Brady517 passing yards (Monday Night Football Record), 4 TDs, and 1 INT in New England’s 8th straight opener win.   Dolphins hung around until Brady kicked it into high gear hitting his many TE’s and favorite target Wes Welker. 

Honorable Mention – Panthers QB Cam Newton, Eagles DE Jason Babin, Raiders K Sebastian Janikowski, Ravens RB Ray Rice, Bills HC Chan Gailey, Eagles QB Michael Vick, Lions passing combo QB Matthew Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson, Raiders Special Teams including K Sebastian Janikowski, Panthers WR Steve Smith and the NFL’s 9/11 ceremonies

Lloyd’s Lackey of the Week

Minnesota Vikings QB Donovan McNabb — Looked terrible as he threw for only 39 yards on 7 of 15 passing including 1 TD and 1 INT.  Hopefully the former Eagles Pro Bowl quarterback is still learning to play with his new Vikings’ mates, but those numbers are pitiful.

Dishonorable Mention – Cowboys QB Tony Romo, The Whole Pittsburgh Steelers Team, Colts QB Kerry Collins

Week 1 Leaders 
 
Passing
    
1. T. Brady NE  517 yds
2. C. Newton CAR  422 yds
3. D. Brees NO  419 yds
4. C. Henne MIA  416 yds
5. T. Romo DAL  342 yds
 
Rushing
    
1. D. McFadden OAK  150 yds
2. L. McCoy PHI  122 yds
3. C. Benson CIN  121 yds
4. B. Tate HOU  116 yds
5. F. Jackson BUF  112 yds
6. R. Rice BAL  107 yds
 

Receiving   

1. S. Smith CAR  178 yds
2. W. Welker NE  160 yds
3. B. Marshall MIA  139 yds
4. K. Britt TEN  136 yds
5. H. Nicks NYG  122 yds
 

TDS   

1. T. Brady NE  4 TDs 
1. R. Fitzpatrick BUF  4 TDs 
3. M. Tolbert SD  3 TDs 
3. C. Henne MIA  3 TDs with 5 others  
 
 

Looking Ahead to Week 2 Games

Sunday Sept. 18

Bears (1-0) at Saints (0-1) 1:00PM ET – FOX
Browns (0-1) at Colts (0-1) 1:00PM ET – CBS
Buccaneers (0-1) at Vikings (0-1) 1:00PM ET – FOX
Cardinals (1-0) at Redskins (1-0) 1:00PM ET – FOX
Chiefs (0-1) at Lions (1-0) 1:00PM ET – CBS
Jaguars (1-0) at Jets (1-0) 1:00PM ET – CBS
Packers (1-0) at Panthers (0-1) 1:00PM ET – FOX
Raiders at Bills (1-0) 1:00PM ET – CBS
Ravens (1-0) at Titans (0-1) 1:00PM ET – CBS
Seahawks (0-1) at Steelers (0-1) 1:00PM ET – FOX
Cowboys (0-1) at 49ers (1-0) 4:05PM ET – FOX
Bengals (1-0) at Broncos 4:15PM ET – CBS
Chargers (1-0) at Patriots 4:15PM ET – CBS
Texans (1-0) at Dolphins 4:15PM ET – CBS
Eagles (1-0) at Falcons (0-1) 8:20PM ET – NBC

Monday Sept. 19
Rams (0-1) at Giants (0-1) 8:30PM ET – ESPN

 

 NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).  Lloyd can be reached on Twitter @lloydvance_nfl

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