Week 1 is in the books in the NFL and a majority of the matchups lived up to its billing with excitement and – defense. Sloppy play was expected during the opening weekend because this was the teams’ first, real time outings.
No matter what the teams’ performances were during the opening week of the NFL, there are reasons why some squads were victorious, while others were losers. Here’s NFL Insider Barry Barnes’ reasons; Why They Won (WTW) and Why They Lost (WTL).
Chicago Bears 41, Indianapolis Colts 21
Why Bears Won – Running back Matt Forte was outstanding for the Bears as he sustained early scoring drives with the combination of speed and power. Forte finished with 16 carries for 80 yards and a touchdown and pitched in 40 receiving yards off three catches.
While Forte and the Bears offense put numbers on the board, the Monsters of the Midway haunted rookie quarterback Andrew Luck all afternoon. The Bears defense wrapped the Colts’ running game in a box with 63 yards on 15 attempts and intercepted Luck three times.
Why Colts Lost – Early forced throws by Luck led to turnovers and the veteran Bears’ squad took advantage of them. Luck, who completed 23 out of 45 attempts for 309 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions, was forced to throw the ball much more than what was expected of him because of the early deficit.
The early deficit for the Colts was unfortunate as they could have been successful with a chance to win because running back Donald Brown was putting together a career-day with 48 yards off nine carries and a touchdown. Luck and the Colts had to take the ball out of Brown’s hand to try to keep up with the Bears.
Philadelphia Eagles 17, Cleveland Browns 16
Why Eagles Won – This was a sloppy game, until their last drive to win the game. Eagles’ quarterback Michael Vick struggled mightily throughout the contest as he threw four interceptions. However, when needed to score, Vick went 91 yards to cap off the final drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Clay Harbor with 1:18 remaining in the game.
Overall, the Eagles did not perform like a Super Bowl contender, and their 12 penalties would have cost them if they played against a more formidable opponent.
“It was us in the huddle just stepping up and saying let’s get it done,” said Vick. “We have been through so much throughout the game with the penalties and the turnovers. The great thing about it was nobody pointed fingers, and everybody just stuck together and encouraged one another. The last drive we got into a no huddle drill and were able to move the ball, which is good for us. We get out of here 1-0, and that’s what’s important.”
Why Browns Lost – Well, it was not the Browns’ defense that cost the game, until the final drive. For the past few years, the Browns’ defense played decent ball for three quarters, and when fourth quarters began, Cleveland gets away from what helped them stay in the game. Sunday, it appeared that they may have finally got their fourth quarter woes solved. On the Eagles’ final drive, the Browns lost their rhythm defensively and they could not get to Vick to put the game away.
Clearly, after competing against a talented offensive squad like the Eagles, the Browns should feel that they can play with anyone.
“The good thing about it, as I walked into the locker room I saw a lot of guys that you could tell it meant something to them,” Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. “The younger guys, they come from programs where they won and they’re not used to it and it’s actually a good thing. A lot of those guys were upset about losing. I thought on both sides of the ball we played a hard fought game.
“To come up short, yes I’ve been through it enough so what I can do on my end is teach the younger guys that we have 15 more weeks and take the positives out of this game,” he added. “The positives being that they’re a good football team. Philadelphia is a good football team and some people have them playing in the Super Bowl so we could take something away from it. I give those guys a lot of credit.
“They made the plays when they needed to make it,” he continued. “We had a chance towards the end, the defense, but they made the play (and) we didn’t. It’s early and we still have a lot to learn from the tape and just move forward. We have a long season ahead of us, but today, you hate to lose. But there are a lot of positives out of it.”
Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden completed 12 out of 35 attempts for 118 yards and four interceptions. Weeden was attacked, but he must settle down – before he is sat down.
“Well first and foremost, you have to give those guys a little credit, or a lot of credit,” said Weeden. “That’s a really good football team. They challenged us, played a lot of man-to-man, and there were a lot of times where there was really nowhere to go with the football. You know I tried taking a shot down the field twice on Cromartie (cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie). He’s a 6’2” corner, a great player, real long and he got me twice. So I’m just trying to take shots, you know Travis (wide receiver Travis Benjamin) is a great player and I have a lot of confidence in all my guys around me but that’s a good defense. They didn’t give me a lot throughout the day.”
Detroit Lions 27, St. Louis Rams 23
Why Lions Won – The confidence of quarterback Matthew Stafford was the key of the game. Despite being pressured and out of sync with three interceptions threw, Stafford kept throwing and throwing to complete 32 passes out of 48 attempts for 355 yards and a touchdown. On the Lions’ final drive to win the game, Stafford capped an 80-yard drive with a five yard touchdown pass to running back Kevin Smith.
Led by defenders Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams and Nick Fairley, the Lions were never out of the game.
Why Rams Lost – The Rams played well defensively, but their offense just ran into a brick wall against the Lions front four.
Atlanta Falcons 40, Kansas City Chiefs 24
Why Falcons Won – Julio Jones. The second year receiver was clicking with quarterback Matt Ryan all afternoon as he finished with six receptions for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Thanks to a forced fumble and an interception in the third quarter, the Falcons went on the score 14 unanswered points and stepped on the young Chiefs for the remainder of the contest.
“I thought Julio had a very good game,” said Falcons head coach Mike Smith. “He had a very quick start. He had six receptions for 108 yards. He was targeted early, and I felt like he and Matt [Ryan] were on the same page. Then they try and take him away and we’re able to distribute the ball to Roddy [White] for six catches and Tony [Gonzalez] got his catches.
“That’s what you’ve got to do to be successful on offense, is how people try to attack you defensively, you have to make sure you get the ball into your playmaker’s hands,” he added. “Matt did a very good job, and I thought the plan was outstanding. The offensive staff did a very nice job in preparation. There were some things we had not shown, so we got our first opportunity to see it and now everybody else will get a chance to evaluate it.”
Why Chiefs Lost – The Chiefs started the game extremely well for the first half as they hung tough against the heavily favored Falcons. Quarterback Matt Cassel looked confidence and went blow-for-blow against Ryan. However, the Chiefs’ defense was unable to get the Falcons off the field during the third quarter when they faced third downs. The pressure to keep up with the Falcons was too much for Cassel and the Chiefs, which allowed the Falcons to control the rest of the contest.
“That’s how we practice, up tempo and just trying to catch everything,” said Jones. “Everybody stepped up today and caught everything like we have been practicing. The offensive line stepped up and blocked well. Overall, we had a good performance, but we still have some things that we need to work on. So we are going to go in tomorrow and correct those [things].”
Houston Texans 30, Miami Dolphins 10
Why Texans Won – The Texans are more of a superior team than the rebuilding Dolphins. The Texans capitalized on the Fins’ four mistakes in the second quarter with three picks and a fumble recovery. Texans’ cornerback Johnathan Joseph wanted the ball a little more than Dolphins’ wide receiver Legedu Naanee, which led to the game’s first interception to set up a score. Two tipped ball from the line of scrimmage, creating to two more picks, and a fumble recovery later (all in Miami’s territory) turned from a 3-0 Dolphins’ lead entering the second quarter to a 24-3 Texans’ lead to end the half. The Texans never looked back.
Why Dolphins Lost – The Fins’ defense held pretty well, but quick turnovers by the offense in the second quarter and long sustained drives in the second half forced the Dolphins to run out of gas.
Minnesota Vikings 26, Jacksonville Jaguars 23 – Overtime
Why Vikings Won – Balance, balance, balance and rookie kicker Blair Walsh. Running back Adrian Peterson was one of the top stories of Week 1 in the NFL as he returned on time, as he promised, from a serious knee injury (which he sustained a torn MCL and ACL) in the team’s finale against the Washington Redskins last season. Due to an opportunistic defense in the Vikings, Peterson put two touchdowns on the board for Minnesota.
“We thought 10-15 carries would have been great,” said Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier. “He (Peterson) finished with 17 so it was right about where we wanted him to be. Some of those runs, I told him afterward, I said, ‘I’m not sure you weren’t just faking that ACL.’ He looked pretty good to me. Just extremely proud of Adrian and the effort that he gave us, the boost that he gave us, and our fans reaction when he was introduced, it was outstanding and lifted our players. He’s special, without question.”
Down the stretch, Walsh was clutch as he nailed three field goals in the fourth quarter, including a 55-yarder, which sent the game into overtime. Walsh put the pressure on the Jaguars to score after he hit a 38-yard field goal, after being set up by a 21-yard run by Peterson. The Vikings defense held off the Jaguars from there.
“It’s a test of fortitude. It’s incredible,” said Frazier about his young kicker. “You have to credit Rick (Spielman) and Mike Priefer and our scouts for finding him and having confidence that he was the right guy for what we wanted to do going into this season.
“Blair, there is no need to say it but it was outstanding to come away and kick the way he did at the end of regulation and then to hit the game-winning field goal in overtime,” he continued. “As a rookie, it doesn’t get much more pressure than that and to come through for us, it really improved the confidence of our players along with his confidence as time goes on.”
Why Jaguars Lost – The Jaguars played well to win, but they just could make plays down the stretch.
Washington Redskins 40, New Orleans Saints 32
Why Redskins Won – The Redskins were solid on all three phases of the game. Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and the offense was balanced as their running game laid the foundation with 44 catches and RG3 hit his targets in stride without gambling. The defense played fast and was aggressive and kicker Billy Cundiff kicked deep balls during kickoffs so Saints’ running back Darren Sproles could not get off any major return.
Why Saints Lost – Time expired just before they started to finally get into a rhythm. A rhythm the Redskins’ defense was proud to interpret.
New York Jets 48, Buffalo Bills 28
Why Jets Won - A complete team effort. Other than a bad decision by quarterback Mark Sanchez to oddly flick the ball to his tight end Jeff Cumberland that was popped off him and landed in the hands of Bills’ linebacker Bryan Scott, Sanchez was sharp as he completed 19 out of 27 attempts for 266 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
“I just love the fact (that) fundamentally he was set, he had great confidence in his protection,” said Jets head coach Rex Ryan. “The protection was outstanding. When guys did come open, he was able to step up and make throws. (He was) very accurate with the football. There are probably a couple throws he wished he had back, but overall I thought he did a tremendous job.
“You just saw that confidence and I saw it in the pregame,” he added. “I’m not so sure I ever saw that before. I’ve seen him have some great pre-games, but he was bouncing around and he was zipping it, so I sensed that he was really feeling it. He certainly played that way.”
The Jets’ defense was solid, but according Ryan, they still need to do better.
“We missed a bunch of tackles. We were up 41-7,” said Ryan. “Sometimes that happens a little bit. I’ve been part of those things and I lost a game once when we had a huge lead. That’s where you have to keep the focus and you have to literally (keep in mind) the old saying that we’ve all heard in high school or anywhere else, “It’s 0-0.” You have to approach it that way or things like this can happen.
“That’s a good offense,” he continued. This was an offense that overcame several big leads last year to win games. I was aware of it. I think our team was. I don’t know if it’s human nature, but we certainly have to do a much better job than we did in the second half of that game.”
Why Bills Lost – The Bills were simply outplayed.
New England Patriots 34, Tennessee Titans 13
Why Patriots Won – Quarterback Tom Brady was at his normal best, but running back Stevan Ridley helped supplied the balance on offense with his 21 carries for 125 yards in his debut, including a touchdown, and their defense controlled the Titans as they held them to 284 total yards.
Why Titans Lost – Quarterback Jake Locker and the Titans could not overcome their early deficit.
Arizona Cardinals 20, Seattle Seahawks 16
Why Cardinals Won – The defense was impressive, but the Seahawks’ offense was not necessarily great. The game could have gone either way. Nevertheless, the Cardinals’ defense made the better plays at the end when it counted.
Why Seahawks Lost – The Seahawks’ defense played well to keep Seattle in the game, but rookie quarterback Russell Wilson appeared to have been overthinking his executions than just executing. The Seahawks’ receivers need to help Wilson – by coming to and catching the ball.
San Francisco 49ers 30, Green Bay Packers 22
Why 49ers Won – Is it safe to say that the 49ers bullied the Pack? Yes, because never allowed the Packers to control the tempo of the game offensively like they are accustomed to. When a team’s quarterback lead their squad in rushing yards, based off broken down plays, that is a sign of being handled. Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers gained 27 yards off five non-designed carries, while running back Cedric Benson had nine carries for 18 yards.
49ers’ quarterback Alex Smith was efficient as he completed 20 out of 26 attempts for 211 yards and two touchdowns and running back Frank Gore, including the offensive line, laid wood on the Packers defense as he finished with 112 yards and a touchdown off 16 carries.
“Well, it stands to reason that when you have a star quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, and that ball was coming out so quick and accurate,” said 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh. “And then his ability to run, which is well-documented and he runs, and he runs to hurt you. And then the great group of wide receivers and tight ends and playmakers that Green Bay has, it stands to reason that you’re not just going to shut them down, play after play after play to negative yardage. But what you hope to do is not give up the big, big play in the run game or the pass, which I thought our team did an outstanding job of not giving them.
“And then eventually, you get them shut on a series of downs and you get the ball back,” he continued. “But I thought pursuit was the key. Nobody staying on the ground, nobody staying blocked. Getting off blocks, pursuing like the dickens. And you saw that with any number of our guys. Aldon early in the game, getting a sack. And that kind of play, that kind of hustling backs on the back end, tackling and not giving up big plays was essential to getting them shut on some of those series.”
Why Packers Lost – Rodgers did all he could, but the Packers were just man-handled as the 49ers were the aggressors and more physical.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16, Carolina Panthers 10
Why Buccaneers Win – The Bucs were not fancy as they took what the Panthers gave them. Quarterback Josh Freeman was not forced to create plays, but was needed to take care of the ball. Moreover, credit the Bucs’ running game, led by rookie running back Doug Martin’s 24 carries for 95 yards, and their defense that gave Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton different looks throughout the contest to confuse him.
Why Panthers Lost – The Panthers should have never given up on their running game. 13 totaled carries, totaling 10 yards is unacceptable, especially when the game was never out of reach.
Denver Broncos 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 19
Why Broncos Won – Quarterback Peyton Manning was excellent as he orchestrated his offense to pick apart the Steelers defense. The play of cornerback Tracy Porter was huge for the Broncos as Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger targeted his side of the field more and challenged cornerback Champ Bailey less. Porter made the Steelers pay when he sealed the game with a pick-6 that went for 43-yards.
“He’s a guy that we acquired from New Orleans in the offseason,” said Broncos head coach John Fox. “Guy’s had an excellent training camp for us. That was definitely a huge play. Probably the play of the game, being up only six, for him to make that play then was huge.”
Why Steelers Lost – The Steelers were simply outplayed towards the end for a tough defeat.
“Well it was a tough defeat, as they all are,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. “That was a tough hard-fought game. Just in a nutshell, I thought that they made the significant plays in the second half of the football game particularly down the stretch, in all three phases. We lacked a significant play – the game-defining play.
“They made them. Obviously, when that happens you’re going to lose football games like we did tonight,” he added. “We accept that and we acknowledge that. We’ve got to get better and get better in a hurry. We’ve got a new challenge facing us here coming up in about six and a half days.”
Baltimore Ravens 44, Cincinnati Bengals 13
Why Ravens Won – Joe Flacco, Joe Flacco, Joe Flacco. Get ready to hear his name mention throughout the season, and his offense. The Ravens were, at one time, press to be notice and be respected as top-notch team around the league. Now, the Ravens are not as pressed as they are ready to blitz the league, both defensively and offensively.
With the no-huddle offense, Flacco was outstanding in his deliveries as he connected with ease on 21 of his 29 attempts for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Flacco could have added more to his total, but after two series and two pass attempts, the Ravens pulled him out of the game early in the fourth quarter.
Why Bengals Lost – The Bengals played extremely well throughout the game as quarterback Andy Dalton was able to move the ball up and down the field against the Ravens. With 7:16 remaining in the third quarter, the Ravens out-muscled the Bengals offensively and Cincy was outplayed by the Ravens’ D – with safety Ed Reed’s historical touch as his pick-6 spanned 34-yards, giving him the most interception return yards in NFL history.
San Diego Chargers 22, Oakland Raiders 14
Why Chargers Won – Mental mistakes and a key injury for the Raiders opened the door for the Chargers to take advantage with good field position.
Why Raiders Lost – The Raiders used running back Darren McFadden well, but this team needs to get on track right away, mentally.
All quotes received via press release.