It’s been a little while since my last blog entry but football is back and so it’s time to get back to business. As if to prove that the preseason counts for nothing (or very little) in terms of predicting regular season outcomes, the first tranche of games were full of unexpected twists and turns. To get my 2015 blogging season underway, here are my takeaways from some of the most headline worthy games in week one of the 2015 NFL season.
Mariota vs Winston
Titans 42 – Buccaneers 14
The ‘who will be better?’ discussion has punctuated the off-season since the draft but no one predicted the gulf of difference between these two rookies in their NFL debuts. It’s not that Winston was spectacularly awful (210 yards for 2TD and 2INT) although giving up a pick six in his first ever play in the pros did little to boost his or his team’s confidence. However, Mariota’s level of play was comparatively in another realm as he completed 13/16 for 209 yards and 4 TDs. Titans fans will hope that comparisons with Robert Griffin III are confined to RG3’s rookie exploits but can look forward to their week 2 showdown against the 0-1 Browns with great confidence. The Bucs however still look like a team lost and it must be galling to see those preseason hopes dashed in week one by a QB they could’ve drafted. It’s early days but round one certainly went to the number two pick.
Hard knocks for Houston
Chiefs 27 – Texans 20
A team taken to heart by many following one of the most entertaining seasons of Hard knocks hit the ground hard on Sunday against an accomplished performance by Kansas City. Of course J.J. Watt impacted on defense with six tackles for loss and two sacks but the NFL is the ultimate team sport and the rest of the Texans looked shaky. Its the quarterback contest, a central part of the Hard Knocks narrative, that looks most uncertain. Brian Hoyer completed just over 50% of attempted passes for only one TD and was replaced in the final quarter by Ryan Mallett who led two scoring drives. Hoyer was contrite in his post game press conference, taking responsibility for his poor play but if Houston are to drag themselves out of mediocrity the QB situation needs to be improved and quickly.
Game changing play calls
Rams 34 – Seahawks 31
Pete Carroll is keen to forget the intercepted final play of Super Bowl 49 but giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch on a 4th and one play against the Rams was no more successful as Lynch was stuffed at the line of scrimmage by the St Louis’ dominant defense.The resulting 34-31 loss in overtime was not the start the Hawks would have wanted, especially against a divisional opponent in the newly impressive Rams. St Louis’ DT Aaron Donald with 2 sacks is being tipped as an early shout for defensive player of the year.
Cowboys 27 – Giants 26
The Giants showed poor clock management as they left the Cowboys enough time in the final quarter to take the ball down the field for the game winning touchdown. “It’s my fault at the end of the game. There’s nobody to blame but me. The decision to throw the ball there on third down was not a good decision,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said, but the team and newly financially compensated Eli Manning have taken a slating in the New York Media over the game changing faux pas.
Both of these close-run victories could have easily gone the other way if it wasn’t for these end of game errors. Tony Romo also staked his claim as one of the best QBs in the league completing 36 of 45 for 356 yards with three touchdown passes even without star receiver Dez Bryant who is now out with a broken toe. The Cowboys O-Line ensured Romo was barely touched as he used his wide range of other offensive weapons to rack up enough points to beat the Giants who staged a mid game comeback.
Jets take flight
Jets 31 – Browns 10
Jets fans nerves were tested in the first half of a what was a must win game for the franchise which has undertaken a great rebuilding in the offseason. A loss against the Browns would have been a huge blow and although in the end the victory was decisive the early overtures were enough to have fans biting their nails. Thankfully, the Ryan Fitzpatrick offense found it’s rhythm with excellent performances by workhorses Brandon Marshall and Chris Ivory as well as newly returned Chris Owusu and Eric Decker. Cleveland, who lost starting QB Josh MccCown to a concussion, played most of the game with Johnny Manziel who showed speed on the ground but poor decision making resulting in 3 turnovers. In short the Browns do not look good and the Jets looked better than last year but still with a ways to go. On defense the Jets lost Antonio Cromartie to a knee injury which seems less serious than initially expected but Marcus Williams stepped into his place to make some good plays. Second year safety Calvin Pryor also showed some of the spark we failed to see in 2014. The Jets only managed 3 sacks and will need to move quicker to the QB next week against the Colts.
Of course, there are many more stories from week one which can’t be covered here. I’ll be posting my week 2 picks later in the week and hoping to improve on my 11-5 week one record. But most importantly, football is back!