What I Learned From Week One
By Jeff Falconio
it's great having the NFL back and as always there are the usual storylines that come from Kickoff Weekend. Here are a few things I learned from the NFL's first week:
Feeling Blue: How long will the season be for St. Louis? Donnie Avery fumbled the opening kickoff against Seattle and it was pretty much downhill from there. The Seahawks turned it over three times in the opening quarter and the Rams still couldn't do anything with it. Final score: Seahawks 28, Rams 0. Fear not, St. Louis, 15 more games and the season will be over.
Philosophically Speaking: It's interesting watching teams that make coaching changes and get away from long-held schemes and philosophies. Seattle is one of those teams, going from the traditional Mike Holmgren-led West Coast offense to the zone-blocking rush attack of Jim Mora, Jr. Seattle ran the ball 33 times, giving it to Julius Jones 12 times in the first half alone. Meanwhile the Broncos, known for the zone-blocking of Mike Shanahan, ran a more wide open attack under new coach Josh McDaniels. The Broncos will likely run a more spread-out New England-style attack with shotgun and three and four wide receivers.
McHatin': Donovan McNabb's injury may be more devastating than it appears. The Eagles have high hopes for backup Kevin Kolb but his performance against Carolina after McNabb went down left plenty to be desired. Granted it was 38-10 when Kolb took over but his longest completion was only six yards and he was sacked twice. Kolb was a project coming out of college and it looks like he's not yet ready for prime time. It's telling that Philly signed Jeff Garcia on Monday.
Gore-y Details: San Francisco's Frank Gore rushed 22 times for a putrid 30 yards. That's 1.4 yards per carry. Quarterback Shaun Hill threw for only 209 yards yet the 49ers generated enough offense to defeat the Cardinals 20-16. San Francisco took advantage of good field position for two first half field goals but when the Niners needed offense they got it on a clutch 15 play drive in the fourth quarter. Hill completed nine passes on that drive, four of which went to Vernon Davis.
Off-Kilter: Kurt Warner and Tom Brady are two guys that are nearly unstoppable when in a rhythm. It would be impossible for Brady to duplicate his numbers from 2007 but with all the weapons in New England you'd think Brady would come back from his knee injury with ease. But something was off about New England's offense until the final five minutes. Same thing with Warner's Cardinals. Arizona was off balance all game against the 49ers as Warner was sacked three times, intercepted twice and hit Larry Fitzgerald only once in the first half.
Nevermore?: I'm not sure which is stranger: that Kansas City put up 17 offensive points against Baltimore's defense using a backup quarterback or that Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco put the ball in the air 43 times. Baltimore was able to spread out the Chiefs, running the 3-4 for the first time, and Flacco was precise throughout. The question now is will this new aggressive offense be a weekly thing or will the Ravens get back to a basic game plan that was so successful in '08?
Running All Day: Adrian Peterson carried the ball only nine times in the first half as the Vikings trailed Cleveland 13-10 at the half but the third quarter was all Minnesota. The Vikings converted all four third down attempts and held the ball for 12 1/2 minutes in the third quarter. Sure enough it was 24-13 Vikings by the start of the fourth quarter and Peterson finished with 25 carries. Say what you want about Brett Favre, he is an upgrade over Tarvaris Jackson, but if the Vikings win the NFC North will be because of Peterson's feet, not Favre's arm.