NFL Week 1: Peyton Manning, Robert Griffin III and the 49ers
Robert Griffin III: Helped Washington to victory in pre-season action for the Redskins (Image: AP)
After raising the curtain in New York with the Giants hosting the Dallas Cowboys, the bulk of the action took place today with 13 games played.
The two biggest headlines that have come out of this day of action was the sensational debut by no. 2 overall draft pick Robert Griffin III and the return of Peyton Manning in a Denver uniform.
Here are the headlines capping the week.
The Return of Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning made a dramatic return to the NFL in a marquee matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers returning to Denver for the first time since their dramatic overtime loss to the Tebow led Broncos.
Manning seemed to erase all doubts over his capacity to play again with an outstanding performance against a quality defence.
Although Manning did look rusty as a passer, his presence at the line of scrimmage and his command of the Broncos was vintage Manning. Whether he can withstand the rigours of the league after four neck surgeries is unclear but for just this night it was great to see #18 on the field again.
In other good signs for the Broncos their defense looked nasty, abusing the Steelers offensive line and hitting Ben Roethlisberger time after time.
Roethlisberger played very well but his costly interception late in the fourth quarter sunk the Steelers hopes. More importantly for the Steelers, their defense seemed to be lacking in speed from seasons passed. Troy Polamalu was mostly a non-factor but it would be better to judge this defence when Ryan Clark and James Harrison are healthy.
Clark in particular has grown into an outstanding and consistent player who provides a blanket of support to allow Polamalu to be at his most effective.
Week 1 of the 2012 season saw the debut of five rookie signal callers smashing a former league high of two. Each of these quarterbacks saw action today and the bulk of them struggled.
Top overall pick Andrew Luck and the Colts showed that they have a significant way ahead of him after throwing four interceptions in a bad loss to the Bears.
Brandon Weeden of the Browns threw four interceptions, Ryan Tannehill of the Dolphins threw three interceptions as well.
Russell Wilson of the Seahawks showed more promise, almost pulling off a fourth quarter comeback win. The star of the day was Robert Griffin III who threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns (the most of any debut quarterback in a win) to upset the Saints in New Orleans.
Griffin showcased all his talents as a quarterback throwing deft, deep passes and was an effective threat on the ground.
Washington fans should be very happy with this start by Griffin who appears early on to be the real deal. Luck was unfortunate to debut against an elite defense behind a shakey offensive line.
Although Wilson’s debut performance was an overall positive Weeden and Tannehill really looked out of their depth.
The most dramatic upset of the week was clearly the Saints falling to the Redskins who clearly showed they will struggle without Sean Payton.
The 49ers upset of the Packers was not nearly as unexpected as the Saints loss, it may be more important in signifying the power balance of the NFC.
The 49ers defense looked fantastic particularly in pass defense. On paper 303 yards thrown by Aaron Rodgers appears to be a reasonable day out, but the 49ers were constantly threatening to intercept passes throughout the game and playing with a lead, the 49ers forced the Packers to abandon their running attack early inflating Rodgers statistics.
After rendering the best quarterback in the NFL a non factor, the 49ers on offense were at their efficient best operating an attack that is balanced and doesn’t turnover the ball. At the end of the season, this victory may be looked at not as an upset but as a sign for greater things to come.
After an absolute circus of a training camp and a moribund offense in preseason games the Jets dramatically shifted the narrative of their team.
Mark Sanchez was extremely effective, throwing for three touchdowns and mostly avoiding mistakes. The Jets also maintained some balance in executing their offense. Their defense produced takeaways and although CJ Spiller did run for 169 yards, they did look stout.
Even more importantly for shifting the narrative of the Jets, Tim Tebow was a non-factor in the game, running the ball only 5 times for 11 total yards and not attempting a pass. The negativity surrounding may just be a product of a backlash with the team looking very good against Buffalo.
Performances of the Week
CJ Spiller (Buffalo) 14 carries, 169 yards, 3 TDs
Robert Griffin III (Washington) 19/26 320 yards, 2 touchdowns 10 carries 42 yards
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Kurt Colemon (Philadelphia) 2 Interceptions each
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