5 Things I Learned on Sunday: Week 1
1. Hate to admit when I am wrong, but in this situation I get a little joy over my erring ways. The New York Jets might be better off then I believed, then we all believed. Mark Sanchez played like a man who knows his seat is hot and we determined to keep the Tebowmaniacs quiet. Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley told Mr. Cromartie that maybe there are a few other receiving options on this Jets roster and maybe Antonio needs to just focus on his defensive job. Although Mike Tannenbaum has received plenty of attention for the QB he brought in this offseason, the truth of the matter is that his upgrade at the Safety position will end up being the real difference maker if the Jets are to have a playoff type of season. I’m not going to get too carried away about an opening day win against the Buffalo Bills, but in general things might not be as bad as well as many of us believed. Maybe Rex and Tony Sporano actually do know something the rest of us don’t?!
2. The San Francisco 49ers are a beast. I thought the 49ers were the best team in the NFC last year, and if it wasn’t for a couple of muffed punts and an awful call on an Ahmad Bradshaw fumble, they would have beaten the G-men in that thriller by the Bay. However, even though I was expecting the 49ers to have the same type of year as last, I didn’t see them beating Green Bay at Lambeau in Mr. Rodgers neighborhood. However, Alex Smith outplayed his Green Bay counterpart, the 49ers defense came out aggressive and Frank Gore and friends gained 186 against a Packers defense that might be their achilles heel for the second season in a row. Randy Moss, who torched the Packers for years as a member of the Vikings, made his 49er debut memorable with a 14 yard TD reception. Hell, even Kicker David Akers entered the NFL record book by tying an NFL record with a 63 yard field goal. Couldn’t have been a much better day for San Francisco.
3. It’s hard for a QB who enters the league owning a cool nickname, landing a Subway commercial and inheriting franchise saving expectations to actually live up to the hype…but that’s exactly what Robert Griffin III accomplished in the Superdome yesterday. Making his debut against Drew Brees and a Saints team that rarely loses at home, Griffin came out firing completing his first 8 passes, including a 88 yard TD strike to Pierre Garcon. He also showed off his legs by running for a solid 40 yards while throwing no picks. While all the other rookie QB’s struggled, RG3 showed he is ready for the big time, making Washington’s blockbuster trade to acquire him look like the correct move one week in. After the game, Griffin said “You can win a high school state championship and a bowl game in college, but to play in the NFL, the pinnacle of it all, and win your first game against a Hall of Famer in Drew Brees, it’s at the top.” Betting on the fact that there will be many more ahead.
4. Peyton Manning did not miss a beat. He ran the no huddle offense, picking the vaunted Pittsburgh Steeler defense apart. He read Troy Polamalu’s blitz attempts like a college scholar, calling for audible after audible. I was dead wrong in thinking he would be better off hanging them up after his injury and taking a broadcasting job. He looks healthy, his arm appeared as strong as ever and his football IQ is as high as can be. Manning has plenty of new toys to play with, as Erik Decker and Demayrius Thomas joined up with his old friends Brandon Stokley and Jacob Tamme, as each receiver made an impact on last night’s victory. Manning looks hungry, is on a team full of talent on both sides of the ball and it’s clear to me that the Denver Broncos are the class of the AFC West. I’m assuming that watching Eli pass him in Super Bowl victories also plays as a huge motivation for Peyton this season and after last night’s showing, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Manning tie his little brother at some point in the next few years.
5. The replacement referees are a disaster and this will be more of a problem that I originally expected. For the most part, every time they are getting on the microphone to explain a call they are either stuttering, stating the wrong team or yardage or just plain-looking really confused themselves. In Green Bay, the refs threw a flag for an illegal block in the back on Randall Cobb’s TD punt return, but then when the Packer sideline and fans let the refs hear their opinion, the picked the flag up and awarded the TD. It was a clear illegal block and the referees were bullied into changing the call. Around the same time, the Seattle Seahawks were lucky enough to receive a fourth timeout in the closing moments of a tight game. During the Broncos and Steeler game last night, literally both sidelines erupted over the same play in which Tomlin attempted to challenge a play as the Broncos were trying to quick snap it. However, NBC clearly illustrated that the closest official on the field to Tomlin and the challenge flag had his back to all the action. The referees have no clue or control over the game and this will be an ongoing issue for the course of the season.