NFL 2009–Week 1 Recap

NFL 2009—Week 1 Recap

After seven months of suffering, life can finally begin again. The 2009 NFL Season is upon us.

Enough talk. Let’s play football.

Tennessee Titans @ Pittsburgh Steelers—This was expected to be the AFC Title Game last year. Tennessee had the top record in the NFL last year after beating up on Pittsburgh in Nashville. Yet the Steelers are the defending champions, and they hosted this game. As is NFL tradition, they kicked the season off on Thursday night.

What made this game particularly interesting was that both of these teams came in with chips on their shoulders. The Titans felt that they should have won the Super Bowl last year instead of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh’s grudge was that despite winning it all, Tennessee beat the tar out of them late in the regular season last year, and stomped on their Terrible Towels. Pittsburgh did win it all, but they did not have to face Tennessee in the playoffs.

Despite Kerry Collins and Ben Roethlisberger being solid, these teams are about defense. Jeff Fisher and Mike Tomlin like hard-nosed football. This game was expected to be a bare-knuckle, two-fisted slobberknocker.

Tennessee had a couple of chances early on, but Kerry Collins’s deep bomb was intercepted when Troy Paomalu made a ridiculous one-handed interception. In the second quarter, Rob Bironas had a field goal blocked. Yet Paomalu, who also had a great speed tackle on a running play, went down with an injury on the blocked field goal. He will be out 3-6 weeks.

After 28 minutes, these teams were in the middle of a 0-0 bonelock. Roethlisberger did throw a touchdown pass with just over one minute remaining in the half, but Collins then came right back with a strike of his own, as the teams went to halftime deadlocked 7-7.

The second half was a slugfest war of attrition. While the normally reliable Bironas missed a second field goal, he made is third try to put the Titans up 10-7 with 11 minutes remaining.

With 6 minutes remaining, Jevon “The Freak” Kearse leveled Big Ben on a blitz. Yet for some reason, on 3rd and 12, the defense then only rushed 3 guys rather than send the house as they often do. Big Ben completed the first down pass, and with 3 minutes remaining, a field goal had this game again tied 10-10.

Pittsburgh got the ball back, and with one minute left a pass to Hines Ward deep in Tennessee territory appeared to seal the win. Yet Ward, superstar that he is, blundered. Inside the five yard line, he fumbled, and Tennessee recovered. A disgusted Ward could only watch as the teams went to overtime.
Foot ball is about redemption among many other things, and Ward made a pair of critical catches in overtime to set up a field goal attempt with 10 ½ minutes remaining in overtime. The kick was good, and the NFL could not have asked for a better opening game. The only thing that would make this game more meaningful is if the rematch occurred in the AFC Title Game. That very well could happen. This game was last man standing, as it should be. 13-10 Steelers, OT

Miami Dolphins @ Atlanta Falcons—Both of these teams came from the scrap heap last year with rookie head coaches and rookie quarterbacks to post identical 11-5 records. Reality set in for both teams with quick playoff losses. Today began the quest to avoid sophomore jinxes.

The Falcons moved the ball early, but Jason Elam missed a 42 yard field goal. A scoreless first quarter was followed by Matt Ryan leading Atlanta on a 14 play, 7 1/2 minute drive that ended in a one yard Ryan touchdown pass. The Falcons led 10-0 at halftime. Miami was plagued with fumbleitis in the second half, killing a pair of drives.

Chad Pennington had a tough day, and an interception he threw late in the third quarter set up Atlanta at the Miami 20. Ryan hit Tony Gonzalez for the touchdown. Elam missed the extra point, but at 16-0, the game was essentially over. Elam added another field goal in the final quarter, and with 3 1/2minutes remaining Pennington finally got the Fins on the board. It was too little, too late. 19-7 Falcons

New York Jets @ Houston Texans—The Matt Sanchez and Rex Ryan eras begin in New York, while the Gary Kubiak era may end in Houston if the Texas do not improve this year. Sanchez did not play like a rookie. He calmly led a 16 play, 8 1/2 minute drive that led to a Jay Feely field goal and a 3-0 Jets lead. Rex Ryan instills defense, and a turnover set up Sanchez to throw a 40 yard touchdown pass as the Jets led 10-0 in the first half. A 12 play, 7 1/2 minute drive covered 87 yards, resulting in a short touchdown to put the Jets up 17-0.

Sanchez did not play like a rookie. He passed for 272 yards. Leon Washongton ran hard, and Thomas Jones scored a pair of touchdowns. Sanchez did make one mistake, an interception that was returned for a touchdown to close the gap 17-7. Yet the defense clamped down from there, and Sanchez stayed poised. He threw a 40 yard pass to Keller, and Jones then ripped off a 38 yard run for the touchdown to close the scoring. 24-7 Jets

Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints—The Lions were the first team to go 0-16 last year. Their quest to avoid being worse than the 1976-1977 Buccaneers begins at a New Orleans Saints team that could be one of the all time great offenses. Drew Brees was 15 yards shy of Dan Marino last year, and this year he will keep firing.

He began with the Saints at their own 46, and needed 5 plays to throw a 9 yard touchdown pass to Marquis Colston. The Lions punted, the Saints took over on their own 47, and Brees threw a 39 yard touchdown pass to Robert Meacham as the Saints quickly led 14-0.

Matthew Stafford began his first professional game in a tough spot. He did manage to get to the Lions to a 3rd and 1 at the Saints 25, but a run lpst four yards and the Lions settled for a field goal. The Lions did get within 14-10 when Dennis Northcutt returned a punt 43 yards to the Siants 18, setting up a four yard touchdown run.

Yet Brees struck again as a pair of  touchdown passes to Shockey made it 28-10. The tosses went for one and 15 yards, and Shockey  made a juggling catch in the back of the end zone. It looked like Shockey was out of bounds, but the review called him in. Near the end of the half, the Lions caught a break when Reggie Bush fumbled a punt. They did nothing with it.

The Lions took the second half kickoff, and Stafford completed a 64 yard pass to Calvin Johnson to set up a one yard Stafford run to make it 28-17. An exchange of field goals had the game at 31-20, but the Lions defense had no answer for Brees.

A 58 yard touchdown pass to Devry Henderson had the Saints up 38-20. The Lions defense did return a fumble 65 yards to make it 38-27, but Brees kept throwing. A 13 play, 8 minute drive culminated in Brees hitting Evans for 13 yards to close out the scoring. By the time this game ended, Drew Brees had thrown for six…yes six…touchdown passes. The Lions are still winless, but they might not be the same old Lions. They lost on the road to a very good team. 45-27 Saints

Denver Broncos @ Cincinnati Bengals—The Bengals have always been a mess. Yet this year the normally stable Broncos might be just as dysfunctional. Mike Shanahan and Jay Cutler are gone, Josh McDaniels has offended many, Brandon Marshall is angry, and Kyle Orton has much to prove. As for the Bengals, Chad Johnson (I refuse to call him Ochocinco) will try to twitter while he is on the field if he can.

The first half was dreadful. The Bengals had a field goal attempt go awry when the high snap resulted in a turnover. On the last play of the half, the Broncos kicked a field goal to lead 3-0 at intermission. Kicker Prater matched his 50 yarder with a 48 yarder late in the third quarter to give the Broncos a 6-0 lead. Neither team wanted to win this game. The Broncos were in field goal range midway through the fourth quarter when Kyle Orton took a sack, killing the drive. Yet the Bengals returned the incompetence when their punt returned fair caught the ball at the 9 yard line.

After a game with no offense, Carson Palmer led a 91 yard drive that ate up 6 minutes. An actual touchdown run of one yard had the Bengals up 7-6 with 38 seconds left. The Bengals kicked it deep rather than kick it out of bounds and give the game away. Eddie Royal took it several yards deep in the end zone, then fell and slipped at the 13.

Yet in one of the worst games ever played, a thrilling finish occurred that will be talked about for years. Orton threw a prayer into triple coverage. Had defender Leon Hall knocked it down, the game may have ended. Instead he tipped it up into the air, where Denver Receiver Brandon Stokely plucked it out of the air, and raced 87 yards for the miracle touchdown. Somewhere Franco Harris and John Mackey smiled. Stokely even slowed down and ran laterally at the one yard line to take a few more seconds off of the clock. The Bengals got the ball with five seconds left, and Carson Palmer’s Hail Mary was intercepted. 12-7 Broncos

Kansas City Chiefs @ Baltimore Ravens—A very bad team travels to face a very good team. This had all the makings of a Baltimore blowout. Brodie Croyle started in place of an injured Matt Cassel. The Chiefs had no offense, and found themselves down 10-0 early on. A field goal started the scoring, and then Joe Flacco led a 13 play drive that ended wit his 3 yard touchdown pass to Willis Mcgahee. However, a blocked punt for a touchdown had Kansas City within 10-7. Then Joe Flacco was intercepted by Johnson, who returned it 70 yards to the Baltimore six yard line to lead to the touchdown that put the Chiefs up 14-10. Yet Flacco remained calm, and led an 11 play drive that ended in a nine yard toss to Todd Heap to put the Ravens back on top 17-14 at halftime.

Kansas City took the second half kickoff, and a 53 yard field goal tied the game 17-17. The Ravens came right back, and Lon McClain scored from one yard out to put the Ravens back on top 24-17. A roughing the passer penalty against Baltimore set up Kansas City, and Brodie Croyle fired 10 yards to Ryan to tie the game 24-24 with 5 1/2 minutes remaining in the game.

With just over 2 minutes left, Flacco coolly threw a 31 yard touchdown pass to Mark Clayton to put the Ravens back in the lead 31-24. The defense then clamped down, and on 4th and 18 from their own 13, Croyle was sacked, resulting in a fumble that Baltimore recovered at the 9. Kansas City’s defense had to make a final stand. On 4th and goal from the one, the Ravens opted to go for it rather than risk a field goal block. McGahee scored, and the game was iced. 38-24 Ravens

Dallas Cowboys @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers—Given that Dallas is on the road, punts hitting the scoreboard were not an issue. Dallas is expected to go deep into the playoffs, or Jerry Jones will roll heads. Tampa Bay has blown up the team and is rebuilding. Jon Gruden is now in the Monday Night Football booth.

The Cowboys had a pair of field goals, including one that was set up when they blocked a Tampa Bay field goal. Cadillac Williams ran it in to put the Buccaneers up 7-6. However, a 42 yard touchdown pass by Tony Romo put Dallas back on top 13-7 at halftime.

In the second half, Romo found Roy Williams on a slant pass. Williams shed tacklers, and raced for the 66 yard score to have Dallas up 20-7. Late in the third quarter Byron Leftwich led an 84 yard, 11 play drive that was finished with a one yard run by Ward. Tampa Bay was within 20-14, with 14 minutes remaining in the game.  Yet one minute later, the Cowboys were up 27-14 when Romo threw an 80 yard touchdown pass to Patrick Crayton.

Leftwich brought Tampa Bay back again, but on a 4th and 7 from the Dallas 26, the Buccaneers turned it over on downs. Romo again went deep to Crayton, and the 44 yard connection led to a 6 yard Marion Barber run to make it 34-14. Tampa Bay did score once more to make the game look closer than it was, but this was a Dallas domination. 34-21 Cowboys

Minnesota Vikings @ Cleveland Browns—While normally the storyline would be the beginning of the Brady Quinn era in Cleveland, every game Brett Favre plays in will be about him. The Vikings are built for the Super Bowl, and # 4 started their quest today. Favre has all world running back Adrian Peterson, which relieves much of the pressure.

Brady Quinn led the Browns to the red zone on the opening drive before the drive bogged down. A Phil Dawson field goal had Cleveland up 3-0. After an exchange of punts, Minnesota took over just past midfield. Despite the short field, 12 plays and 7 minutes yielded only the tying field goal at 3-3. Another terrible punt followed by a 36 yard return had Minnesota starting at the Cleveland 23. Favre Hit Peterson for 18 yards, and Peterson ran it in from one yard out on the ground. The Vikings led 10-3 when Cleveland added a field goal, and a 67 yard punt return for a touchdown by Joshua Cribbs to lead 13-10 at the break.

In the third quarter, a two yard touchdown run by Adrian Peterson had the Vikings up 17-13. Quinn went deep but was intercepted, as the Vikings took over at their own 18. Favre then led a 13 play, 7 1/2 minute drive. Peterson broke off a long gain to set up a Favre 10 yard touchdown toss to Percy Harvin to put the Vikings up 24-13.

With 10 minutes remaining in the game, Quinn fumbled, setting up the Vikings at the Cleveland 34. This led to a field goal that put the Vikings up 27-13. Minnesota needed only one play on their next drive, as Adrian Peterson shed several tacklers to complete a 64 yard touchdown run to make it 34-13. Cleveland added a garbage touchdown with less than 30 seconds remaining. Brett Favre only threw for 110 yards, but Adrian Peterson finished the day with 180 yards rushing. 34-20 Vikings

Philadelphia Eagles @ Carolina Panthers—Both of these teams lost to the Cardinals last year in the playoffs. Yet The Eagles have upgraded, and added Michael Vick. Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid will have the offense, but losing Brian Dawkins hurts them on defense from an emotional standpoint. Carolina could go either way. Their home playoff loss was a shocker and a meltdown. Early on would tell us if it was an aberration or the beginning of the end of this team.

It looked like the beginning of the end. Michael Vick is not available until week 3, but he was not needed. Donovan McNabb threw a pair of touchdown passes, and Jake Delhomme was intercepted three times in the first half. Deangelo Williams did run it in from 11 yards out to culminate a 13 play, 8 minute drive and put Carolina up 7-0, but the rest was all Philadelphia.

After a Philly field goal, Delhomme was sacked at his own 15, resulting in a fumble that was returned 2 yards for the touchdown. The Eagles led 10-7, and never looked back. An 85 yard punt return by Desean Jackson had the Eagles up 17-7. This was in addition to McNabb’s touchdown passes, although these were not drives. Delhomme was intercepted, and Philly took over at the Carolina 9. One play later McNabb threw the touchdown to Celek. After a punt, runs by Bryan Westbrook of 17 and 16 yards led to another score that  had the Eagles up 31-7. They led 31-10 at the break.

In the third quarter the Eagles increased their lead, but then all of Philly held their collective breaths when McNabb went down in the Carolina end zone after stretching out to score the touchdown himself. He walked off under his own power, but he was down for a few minutes. He fractured a rib. As for Jake Delhomme, he was benched after his 5th turnover. There is serious trouble in Carolina. 38-10 Eagles

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts—Both of these teams have talent, but Jack Del Rio begins on the hot seat. With Tony Dungy retired, the Jim Caldwell era begins in Indy. Apparently Peyton Manning still knows how to throw the ball, and should fire at will as he usually does. Yet AnthonyTony Gonzalez went down with an injury, and Marvin Harrison is no longer on the team. Manning was intercepted in the end zone to kill one drive, and Joseph Addai fumbled to end another one. Addai scored a touchdown run, but the Jacksonville defense kept it close as the Colts led 7-6 at halftime.

In the third quarter Manning hit Reggie Wayne on a 35 yard strike to take a 14-6 lead. Although Manning had 301 yards passing, the Jacksonville defense was stout. Maurice Jones-Drew ran for a short touchdown to get Jacksonville within 2 points, but the 2 point conversion failed. The final 2 minutes produced a controversial ending.

On 4th and 1 from the Jacksonville 35, the Indy offense was stuffed. The Jaguars had a chance to win. David Garrard was then hit, and although his arm was going forward, it was inexplicably ruled a fumble. It was an ugly game, and Jacksonville got robbed. 14-12 Colts

St. Louis Rams @ Seattle Seahawks—The Rams are a bad team, while Seattle is a declining team. Mike Holmgen, aka the Walrus, has retired. Jim Mora Jr. now leads them. The Hasselbeck does not have Shaun Alexander, and Walter Jones may or may not still be all world at left tackle. Normally the left tackle is not discussed, but Walter Jones is a big deal on this team.

San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals–Many people thought that despite having a load of talent on offense, that the Cardinals were a fluke last year. Yes, they went to the Super Bowl, but they were only 9-7.

Kurt Warner was intercepted midway through the first quarter, allowing the 49ers to start at the Arizona 36. This led to a field goal and a 3-0 San Francisco lead. A punt had the 49ers at their own 44, which led to a 50 yard Joe Nedney field goal to make it 6-0. Warner and the Cardinals began at their own 24, where he fired a 40 yard completion to Jeremy Urban. A 44 yard field goal by Neil Rackers pulled the Cardinals to within 6-3.

With 2 1/2 minutes remaining in the half, Shawn Hill went deep to Isaac Bruce for a 50 yard gain down to the Arizona six. Frank Gore did the rest to make it 13-3. Warner was intercepted on the next drive, but the 49ers fumbled it right back. The Cardinals took over at their own 40, and Warner completed passes of 13 and 14 to Tim Hightower to set up a field goal to pull the Cardinals to within 13-6 at the half.

Midway through the third quarter, Warner hit Larry Fitzgerald for 23 yards and Hightower for 18 more, to set up a 5 yard touchdown pass to Fitzgerald to tie the game 13-13. After a punt, Warner led the Cardinals on the move again. The drive stalled, but a 43 yard Rackers field goal hd the Cardinals up 16-13 only secons into the fourth quarter.

Hill then led the 49ers on a 15 play, 7 1/2 minute drive. A pair of 3rd down conversions resulted in a 19 yard pass to Vernon Davis and a 13 yard toss to Isaac Bruce. Hill hit Gore for the 3 yard touchdown pass to put San Francisco up by 4 points. The Cardinals failed to move the ball, but pinned a pint at the San Francisco two yard line. Arizona got the ball back with 3:11 left at the San Francisco 38.

The Cardinals then self destructed, with penalties pushing them into 1st and 25. They regrouped, but on 4th and 5, they turned the ball over on downs. They had all 3 timeouts left, and the 49ers failed to pick up a first down. The Cardinals had one last shot, with 43 seconds left from their own 12. Yes, one of the early games featured an 87 yard miracle, but 88 yards is an entire extra yard. On the last play of the game, form the Arizona 46, the Hail Mary never got launched as Warner was sacked, resulting in a fumble.

One game is not a season, but the Cardinals might be on the way to flukeville, while the 49ers seem to be picking up the attitude of Coach Mike Singletary. 20-16 49ers

The Rams fumbled the opening kickoff, and Seattle started at the St. Louis 19. Hasselbeck was intercepted in the end zone. For some reason the remaining 59 minutes of this game was played. After a scoreless opening quarter, Hasselbeck led a 13 play, 6 minute, 73 yard drive that finished with a one yard touchdown pass to Carlson. After a Rams punt, Hasselbeck led a 69 yard drive that finished with a 12 yard touchdown pass to Nate Burleson with only 12 seconds left in the half to put the Seahawks up 14-0. The second best play of the day for the Rams came in the form of a blocked field goal that was returned to tie the game 7-7, until they were flagged for having 12 men on the field to nullify it. The second half should have been nullified.

The best play of the day for the Rams was a punt that was downed at the Seattle one yard line. Hasselbeck led Seattle 99 yards, with a 33 yard touchdown pass to Carlson putting the Seahawks up 21-0. Another Rams punt led to a one play Seattle drive, a 62 yard Julius Jones touchdown drive. The game was not called, but rumor has it the Seattle cheerleaders finished the game. 28-0 Seahawks

Washington Redskins @ New York Giants—Jim Zorn got off to a good start in his rookie coaching season before the team faded down the stretch. As for the Giants, now that the Giants are a year removed from being champions, Tom Coughlin can go back to never smiling. The team went 13-3 last year, so either this is the year where a dynasty begins, or Coughlin’s taskmaster act runs thin. Some say he has mellowed. Either way, Eli Manning is ready.

Well, not completely. He fumbled on the second play from scrimmage. However, he was bailed out by his offensive line. Manning went on to lead a 12 play, 7 1/2 minute drive that led to a field goal and a 3-0 Giants lead. From the Washington 29, Clinton Portis raced 34 yards to the New York 37. However, a trick play involving Antwon Randle-El resulted in an 11 yard loss and a punt.

The Giants running game rolled, as Ahmad Bradshaw ripped off 22 yards and Brandon Jacobs added 15 more. On the first play of the second quarter, on 4th and 1 from the 3, Jacobs was stuffed. The goal line stand came at a cost as Albert Haynesworth was injured on the play. After a punt, the Giants took over at the Washington 44. Manning fired a 30 yard touchdown pass to Manningham to make it 10-0. This was the first team to have a Manning to Manningham connection.

The quarterbacks then exchanged turnovers as Campbell was intercepted and Manning fumbled it back. Yet with 2 1/2 minutes in the half, the Redskins had the ball near midfield. Campbell as sacked by Osi Umenyura, resulting in a fumble that Umenyura took to the house for a 37 yard touchdown and 17-0 Giants lead.

The Redskins finally got going in the 2 minute drill when Campbell hit Randle El for a 35 yard gain. Facing 4th and goal at the 8, Zorn decided to call a fake field goal. Hunter Smith executed it to perfection, running it around the right end for the touchdown and a 17-7 game at the half.

The Redskins took the second half kickoff and moved from their own 20 to the New York 43, but on 4th and 2 Zorn decided to punt. Neither team moved the ball, but with 3 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, Manning was intercepted, and the Redskins took over at the Giants 11. The defense held, and the Redskins were forced to settle for a field goal to pull to within 17-10. Manning brought the Giants right back, and a 24 yard pass to Kevin Boss has the G-Men at midfield. Lawrence Tynes kicked a 45 yard field goal to put the Giants up 20-10 with 11 minutes left.

After a punt, Manning ate up the clock with a 6 minute, 66 yard drive that took 10 plays. A short field goal had the Giants up 23-10 with only 3 minutes left. Campbell came back with a 16 yard run, a 17 yard pass to Randle El, and a 17 yard touchdown to Chris Cooley with 90 seconds remaining. The onsides kick failed, and the Giants ran out the clock. For the second straight year, the Giants prevailed at home over the Redskins in a workmanlike victory. 23-17 Giants

Chicago Bears @ Green Bay Packers was the Sunday night game. The Bears were always a one dimensional team, with Brian Urlacher leading the defense. Jay Cutler brings the team instant offense. As for the Packers, this is now Aaron Rodgers’s team. Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy are forever tied to him. Escaping the Favre shadow started tonight.

Like any Black and Blue NFC Norris Division game, this was ugly. If these teams want to claim that they have a better quarterback than the fellow in Minnesota, they have work to do. Cutler had a miserable first half, with three interceptions. One of those interceptions was returned inside the five yard line, and fumbled through the end zone in an apparent touchback. However, it was ruled that the return man stepped out of bounds at the one before fumbling the ball. Aaron Rodgers was sacked for a safety, as the Packers clung to a 3-2 lead.

(No baseball remark. It’s an old stupid joke.)

The interception return that turned into the fumble that wasn’t did lead to a one yard touchdown run and a 10-2 Packers lead at the half. In the third quarter, Cutler went deep to Devon Hester, who beat double coverage for the 40 yard touchdown. Lovie Smith decided not to go for the 2 point conversion, and the Bears trailed 10-9. The Bears got a field goal on their next drive to take a 12-10 lead going into the final quarter.

With 10 minutes remaining, Green Bay connected on a 39 yard Mason Crosby field goal to put the Packers back in front 13-12. Cutler matched Rodgers drive for drive. The Bears bogged down inside the 5 yard line, but a short field goal back on top 15-13 with 2 1/2 minutes left.

The Packers then exploded, moving 72 yards in only 5 plays as Rodgers went deep to a wide open receiver. The defensive breakdown plus the 2 point conversion had the Packers up by 6 points. The Bears took over with 1:06 left at their own 38. Cutler needed only one play to complete a pass to Al Harris. Unfortunately for Cutler, Harris plays defense for Green Bay. Cutler’s fourth interception ended the game.

To add insult to injury, or to be more specific,, injury to insult, the Bears suffered a loss much more devastating than this game. The heart and soul of the Bears is on defense, and the leader of the defense is Brian Urlacher. He broke his wrist in the first quarter making a tackle. He is out for the season. 21-15 Packers

Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots was the first Monday night game, since Week 1 has two games. The entire New England season falls on Tom Brady’s knee. The New England defense has been decimated this season. As for Buffalo, Dick Jauron somehow kept is job. He needs to produce now.

Daffy Duck laid a golden egg when a mobster threatened him with a gun to his head. Whatever happened to Dick Jauron, the Bills came out fired up. New England moved the ball well early on, but on 4th and from the Buffalo 35, the running game got stuffed. Buffalo came back the other way, and a touchdown run actually had Buffalo up 7-0. Brady looked tentative at times, although he did tie the game at 7-7.

In the second quarter, the Buffalo defense came up even bigger. Brady went back to pass, and a juggling, bobbling interception was returned 20 yards by big defensive lineman Aaron Schobel to put the Bills up 14-7. Brady did bring the Patriots back late in the half, but they had to settle for a field goal as Buffalo led 14-10 at intermission in what was 30 minutes away from being a shocker.New England had double the time of possession and double the yardage, but the turnover had the Bills on top.

In the third quarter a Buffalo punt forced New England to start at their own 3 yard line. Brady engineered a 12 play drive, and with 6 minutes left in the third quarter, New England had a 4th and 2 at the Buffalo 35. Brady’s pass was well defended, and again New England turned it over on downs. For the third time in the game, the Buffalo defense came up huge. Buffalo capitalized on the excellent field position, as a 40 yard Ryan Lindell field goal had the Bills up 17-10 with 2 1/2 minutes remaining in the third quarter.

New England had been driving the ball well all game, but kept bogging down. Brady got them into the Red Zone when Aaron Schobel came up big again. His defensive stop forced the Patriots to settle for a 28 yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal. The Bills led 17-13, but the issue would be whether they could finish the game.

The Bills fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but luckily fell on it themselves as 11 1/2 minutes remaining. A 3rd and 11 completion from Trent Edwards to Terrell Owens was nullified by an offensive penalty on Owens. Yet Edwards stayed poised, and a perfectly executed screen pass converted the 3rd and 16. Fred Jackson ran for hard, tough yards, and he converted a critical 3rd and 3 with 8 minutes left.

Controversy erupted on the next play. Edwards was sacked by Adalius Thomas, but he was called for a personal foul when he threw Edwards to the ground. It was a borderline call at best, but instead of long yardage the Bills had first and 10 at the New England 21. On 3rd and 8 from the 19, Edwards killed New England again. Seeing nobody open, he took it himself up the middle for first and goal at the 10. With 5 1/2 minutes left, Edwards again executed a screen pass perfectly, and the touchdown to Jeff Handgartner had the Bills on the verge of a shocker at 24-13.

Brady kept firing, and had thrown over 50 passes. With 2:06 remaining, Brady fired a touchdown pass, but the 2 point conversion failed. New England had all 3 timeouts, and Bill Bellichick decided to kick it deep and not go for the onsides kick. Leodis McKelvin took the ball several yards deep in the end zone. A touchback would allow the offense to try and run out the clock. Instead, McKelvin ran it out, got leveled, fumbled, and gave the Patriots a 1st and 10 at the Buffalo 31.

Dick Jauron can’t be blamed for this, but if he gets fired before the season is out, he can thank McKelvin. Brady threw a perfect strike to Watson with 50 seconds remaining. This was not good teams finding a way to win. This was a bad team finding a way to lose. No, it was not an 87 yard deflection, but it was a miracle comeback against a team determined to give a game away, The 2 point conversion again failed, but the Patriots had a one point lead. Buffalo had 2 timeouts remaining. They began at their own 21 with 45 seconds remaining.

Edwards hit Owens for a 19 yard gain to the 40 as Buffalo took their second timeout with 37 seconds left. Edwards was taken down on the next play at the line of scrimmage, and the Bills took their last timeout with 28 seconds left.

Screw the drama. The Bills screwed it up. This was the six year anniversary of the last time the Bills defeated the Patriots in the 2003 opener. This was the second year in a row Buffalo had lost a Monday Night Football game 25-24 after being up by two scores. They also blew a 24-13 lead to Dallas. Yes, Patriots fans are insufferable, but the Bills are pathetic. 25-24 Patriots

San Diego Chargers @ Oakland Raiders is the second Monday night game. These teams faced off in the opening Monday Night game in 2006. That game fell on 9/11. It was the first start for Philip Rivers. Yet the Chargers have a Super Bowl team with Norv Turner at coach. He pulled a Lazarus Act last year to keep his job. The Raiders were expected to come out fighting, especially since they have rallied behind coach Tom Cable, who has done some fighting of his own. The Silver and Black finished strong last year, and were looking to continue the momentum. JaMarcus Russell has an all world running game, which is expected to help him grow as a passer.

For more on the game of the week, go to Just Blog Baby.

The 100th meeting of these teams was also the 50th anniversary of the AFL. The Chargers broke out the powder blue uniforms while the Raiders wore white at home rather than their traditional black. Given what a hot night it was weather wise, this was a smart move. As for the players, the Chargers had Shawn Merriman and the Raiders had Richard Seymour. both almost did not play in this game, but both were ready to go.

The one thing the Raiders can definitely do is run the ball. From their own 29, Michael Bush ripped off a 17 yard gain. On the next play Darren McFadden slipped and fell, but he is so quick that he got back up and still gained 9 yards. With the running game working well, Russell threw an incomplete pass, but the Chargers had jumped offsides. On 3rd and 2 from the San Diego 30, a false start penalty pushed the team back. On 3rd and 7, Russell fired a strike to the team’s top receiver, tight end Zach Miller, for a 1st down at the 25. A beautiful drive went to hell when Russell was intercepted by Quentin Jammer on the next play.

The Chargers took over at their own 29, but went three and out and punted. The Raiders took over at their own 16. The ground game continued to function well as McFadden picked up 8 yards, 1 yard, and 7 yards straight up the middle on 3rd and 1. What made it even more impressive was that this was running up the middle against an 8 man front. On 1st and 10, a play action pass had Russell hit Miller for a long gain to the San Diego 35. McFadden picked up another 7 yards on first down and another 5 yards for another first down at the San Diego 23. Russell hit Tony Stewart on a slant pass. Stewart fell down, but got back up without being touched, for a 1st and goal at the 8 yard line. A pair of Michael Bush runs set up 3rd and goal at the 4. Expecting a pass, the Raiders ran Bush again for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 3 minutes left in the opening quarter. The drive lasted 10 plays and 84 yards.

Before the Raiders could exhale, Darren Sproles returned the kickoff 66 yards to the Oakland 34. On 1st and 10 from the 21, RIchard Seymour sacked Philip Rivers for a 6 yard loss. Welcome to Oakland, Mr. Seymour. On 3rd and 13, Gerard Warren encroached. With seconds left in the opening quarter, Tomlinson was hit and fumbled, and the Raiders recovered. It was his first lost fumble in three years.

From their own 9 yard line, McFadden picked up 5 yards. On 3rd and 3, Russell ran for it himself, stretched the all out, and picked up the first down. A 3rd and 6 completion for a first down was nullified by an illegal shift. On 3rd and 11 from the 19, Russell went deep to nobody. However, this was not due to a bad pass but an illegal contact penalty on the defender trying to stay with Darrius Heyward Bey. The automatic first down kept the drive alive. On 3rd and 6, Russell again threw a perfect strike to Miller for a 17 yard gain to the Oakland 45. Yet 2 plays later McFadden fumbled, and the Chargers took over at the Oakland 45.

The Raiders had the ball for 16 1/2 of the first 21 minutes yet led only 7-0. On 3rd and 12, Rivers fired a strike that split the defenders down to the one yard line. Tomlinson brought it over to tie the game 7-7 with 4:45 left in the half. The Raiders went 3 and out, but the Chargers had to start at their own 12 after a Shane Lechler punt and solid coverage. The defense was solid, as the Chargers also went 3 and out.

Mike Scifres is also a great punter, although Johnny Lee Higgins returned it 15 yards to the Oakland 35 with 2 1/2 minutes left in the half. Russell hit Louis Murphy at midfield with 1:56 left in the half. A pair of awful incompletions was followed by a 15 yard strike to Louis Murphy on 3rd and 10. Another first down was followed by a near interception. Russell took advantage of the gift non-turnover and fired a touchdown pass to Louis Murphy to put the Raiders up 14-7 with 45 seconds left in the half. It lasted until the refs ruled that the ball was not caught. It was a dreadful call, and yes the league hates the Raiders. Sebastian Janikowski kicked a field goal and the Raiders led 10-7.

Again Sproles returned it for 59 yards to the Oakland 40. Nate Kaeding nailed a 47 yard field goal to make it 10-10 at halftime. The Raiders dominated the half, but it was tied.

Sproles got nailed on the second half kickoff, as the Chargers began on their own 15. Rivers moved them to the Oakland 40 when a pass bounced off Antonio Gates’s fingertips and intercepted by Michael Huff. The Raiders wasted the opportunity with a one yard loss and a pair of terrible incompletions. San Diego took over at their own 17. They lost 7 yards back to the 10 and punted. Johnny Lee Higgins took the punt back to the San Diego 48. The Raiders wasted the opportunity, went three and out, and punted a touchback.

Philip Rivers was very calm when throwing from the pocket, but when rolling out, he was consistently ineffective. Tomlinson ripped off a 15 yard gain, but on 3rd and 10, after a timeout, Rivers inexplicably threw the football down at a defender’s head for a 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct taunting penalty. On 3rd and 25, San Diego suffered a false start. On 3rd and 30 from their own 13, San Diego ran the ball and punted. Another booming Scifres punt had the Raiders at their own 25. They quickly went 3 and out and punted. The Chargers took over at their own 33. The Chargers went 3 and out as Greg Ellis sacked Rivers on 3rd down. The Raiders took over on their own 30.

With Rivers and Russell both misfiring on all cylinders, Tom Cable decided to go back to the ground game, which worked well early on but then slowed down. Yet  on 2nd and 7, Russell went play action pass and found Zach Miller for a long gain down to the San Diego 40. The Raiders then ran a reverse play, and with Russell throwing a pair of blocks, Higgins picked up 20 yards to the 20. As the mostly uneventful third quarter ended, Oakland was finally in the Red Zone again. The drive bogged down, but Seabass nailed a 35 yard field goal. The Raiders led 13-10 with 13 minutes remaining.

The Chargers took over at their own 23.On 3rd and 3, Rivers found Gates at the San Diego 40. A defensive breakdown led to Rivers hitting Gates again, this time at the Oakland 30. On 3rd and 13 from the 33, Rivers found Sproles for the first down at the 16. Rivers lobbed a touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson. The Chargers had their first lead of the game 17-13 with 7 1/2 minutes left. Screaming until I am blue in the face that the Raiders were outplaying the Chargers most of the game does no good. Now the Raiders needed to take an offense that has been dysfunctional since 2002, and somehow make it functional to avoid another loss.

The Raiders took over at their own 30. A first down pass was dropped, but Bush picked up 9 yards on the ground to set up 3rd and inches. Russell ran the quarterback sneak and picked up the first down. Russell got injured on the play. He got up limping. Bruce Gradkowski came in. A 5 yard completion was nullified by offensive pass interference to set up 1st and 20 back at the 30. A pass to McFadden picked up 11 yards to set up 2nd and 9.  A completion to Louis Murphy set up 3rd and 4, but a false start pushed the silver and black 5 yards back. The Raiders failed to convert, but illegal hands to the face on the defense gave the Raiders an automatic first down at the Oakland 45 with 3:48 left. Russell came back into the game.

Offensive holding pushed the Raiders back 10 yards to again set up 1st and 20. A screen to McFadden picked up 13 yards to midfield to set up 2nd and 7. Russell was then sacked for an 8 yard loss with 2:48 remaining. The Raiders took their first timeout. The first San Diego sack of the night was a killer. Russell threw a perfect strike to Higgins, but Higgins got blasted as the ball fell incomplete. Cable decided to go for it on 4th and 15 from the Oakland 43.

Cable either has nothing for brains or balls of steel. I am going with the latter. I actually agreed with the call because although the Raiders had 2 timeouts left, this young offense has to grow at some point. They may have grown up on this very play, as Russell went for the bomb, and connected with Louis Murphy for a 57 yard touchdown play. The Raiders led 20-17 with 2:34 left. The issue now, as with so many young teams trying to change a losing culture, was if they could finish.

Darren Sproles killed the Raiders with a pair of long returns, but after that he was muffing the ball throughout the game. His third mishandled kickoff had the Chargers starting at their own 11 yard line. At the 2 minute warning the Chargers had reached their own 28. A pass to Sproles had the Chargers at the San Diego 44 with 1:50 left. A shoestring catch and run had the Chargers at the Oakland 32. Another pass set up 3rd and 1 at the 23. A pass to Gates set up 1st and goal at the 9. The Chargers called their second timeout with 46 seconds left. A run to the 5 yard line was followed by Tom Cable running onto the field to call a timeout with 21 seconds left.

With the entire defense expecting a pass, Sproles ran it up the middle for a touchdown with 18 seconds left.

On a night when the Raiders kept the penalties to a minimum, and Tomlinson was limited to 55 yards, the Raiders allowed an 89 yard drive, collapsing when it counted. Yes, this team looks better. Yet anybody that thinks moral victories matter needs to have their head knocked off by a defensive lineman. Russell’s Hail Mary was intercepted. 24-20 Chargers


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.