- When it counts most, new Bears QB Jay Cutler stinks up Lambeau Field, tossing four interceptions as Bears fall to Packers, 21-15. Bears LB Brian Urlacher lost for season with broken wrist. Aaron Rodgers connects with WR Greg Jennings for game-winning TD with 1:11 on the clock.
- In the “Isn’t life ironic?” category, new Broncos QB Kyle Orton hooks up with Brandon Stokley on a miraculously tipped, 87-yard TD pass with 11 seconds left on the clock, as Denver wins its opener on the road, 12-7, in Cincinnati for new head coach Josh McDaniels. Neither team shows much of anything except a long way to go. Broncs’ crybaby WR Brandon Marshall shows up and catches four passes.
- Redskins again exhibit confusion and lack of killer instinct on offense, falling to the Giants, 23-17, in a game that wasn’t nearly that close. Giants don’t look great, but offense appears sound, and the return of Osi Umenyiora to the DL a definite plus. Justin Tuck a standout on D.
- Rookie QB Mark Sanchez sets Jets fans to salivating with impressive first start (18-31, 272 yards, 1 TD), in surprisingly convincing 24-7 victory over Houston. Texans’ offense stalls out in front of home crowd of 70,718.
- Titans and Steelers slug it out in the season’s inaugural game on Thursday night. Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger’s impressive, clutch second-half performance the difference in 13-10 Pittsburgh victory.
- Falcons score solid home victory 19-7 over Dolphins, with sophomore QB Matt Ryan putting up good numbers (22-36, 229 yards, 2 TDs) and All-Pro TE Tony Gonzalez making an impressive debut in Atlanta after coming over in the off-season from Kansas City. Dolphins’ offense struggles early and often versus Atlanta D, led by former Jaguars LB Mike Peterson.
- Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne the story in Colts’ narrow 14-12 home win over Jacksonville. First career win for new Indy head coach Jim Caldwell.
- Brett Favre’s debut with the Vikings is overshadowed by the 180-yard running performance of Adrian Peterson. Minnesota pulls aways to 34-20 victory over Cleveland, scoring 24 second-half points. Browns keep it close, then can’t respond under QB-designate Brady Quinn.
- QB Tony Romo has big day (16-27, 353 yards, 3 TDs), leading Cowboys to 34-21 victory on the road over Buccaneers. Bucs generate some offense under new QB Byron Leftwich, with RB Cadillac Williams gaining 97 yards on 13 carries. But Tampa defensive breakdowns prove team’s undoing.
- Lions go on the road under new head coach Jim Schwartz and get more of the same, a 45-27 shellacking at the hands of the Saints. New Orleans QB Drew Brees throws six TD passes, while former Denver RB Mike Bell comes out of nowhere to gain 143 yards on 28 carries. Rookie QB Matthew Stafford’s Lions debut marred by three interceptions.
- Ravens open at home with 38-24 victory over the Chiefs, with second-year stars Joe Flacco (26-43, 307 yards, 3 TDs) and Ray Rice (19-108 yards) leading the way. Chiefs keep it close under reserve QB Brodie Croyle, then Ravens bust game open with 21-point fourth quarter.
- Eagles QB Donovan McNabb breaks a rib in what is otherwise a decisive Philly triumph, 38-10, over Carolina. Panthers QB Jake Delhomme throws four interceptions, and the game’s essentially over by halftime. Meanwhile, the Eagles have signed veteran signal-caller Jeff Garcia as a backup, pending McNabb’s recovery.
- Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck announces his return to health with a big day (25-36, 279 yards, 3 TDs), leading his team to a 28-0 whitewash of the inept Rams and their first-year coach Steve Spagnuolo. Seattle RB Julius Jones resurfaces also with 117 rushing yards.
- 49ers announce possible changing of the guard in NFC West with surprise 20-16 victory over the Cardinals in Arizona. QB Shaun Hill proves resilient and savvy for San Francisco, and the Niners’ D flexes its muscle at key moments.
- The spunky Bills hold a 24-13 lead with five minutes remaining, then let the host Patriots back into the game on a critical turnover, whereupon Pats QB Tom Brady eats ’em alive, as New England ekes out 25-24 win. Old reliable duo of Brady (39-53, 378 yards, 2 TDs) and Randy Moss (12 catches, 141 yds) back in synch as Brady returns from knee surgery that
scuttled his 2008 season.
- Seesaw game in Oakland results in 24-20 win for Chargers. Raiders still look like an erratic team on offense under QB JaMarcus Russell, but tough-minded D seemed to get a boost from addition of former Patriots DL Richard Seymour. QB Philip Rivers looked good in the clutch for San Diego, and the big game-clinching TD was scored by RB Darren Sproles, whose obvious superior quickness may earn him a starting job over LaDainian Tomlinson.
I’ve had my mixed feelings in the past about Chris Collinsworth’s abilities as a broadcaster, but I have to say he seemed excellent doing the Titans-Steelers opener with Al Michaels. Maybe it’s the somewhat grating tenor of his voice that used to bug me, but his observations proved instructive and interesting, and that’s good enough for me. (Don’t push it, Chris. Just give it to us straight.)
Jon Gruden made his official season debut as a color man on ESPN, covering the Bills-Patriots game. He’s not bad at all, and his commentary helped to keep blowhard Ron Jaworski quiet for longer periods of time, which is a real blessing. Jaworksi’s uber-jockish enthusiasm is a meatheaded nightmare sometimes, and frankly, if you actually dissect the stuff he says, it sounds like BS. (Sorry, Jaws, I know you’re in earnest and all, but...) Jaws did make the point that the Patriots should kick off deep rather than go for the on-sides kick toward the end of the game, making him look prescient when the Bills’ return man Leodis McKelvin fumbled the ball. Of course, if McKelvin doesn’t fumble the ball, and the Bills successfully run out the clock, then Jaws looks like an idiot. Such is the nature of the beast.
For ESPN’s second game on the Monday night doubleheader, we had to suffer Greenberg as the play-by-play man (he missed his share of player IDs on tackles; bone up on that program, Mike). But also, we had to really suffer Golic doing color. The man is an absolute moron; he out-Jaws Jaws. If ever there were proof that sports broadcasting success is not based on meritocratic decision-making, Golic is it. He’s a big dummy who will never master the English language because he’s incapable of doing so. His presence on the airwaves is especially mysterious because he was a totally mediocre player in his time, hence he can’t even bring star power to his job. Unlike Hall of Famer Steve Young, who, as one of the finest newer analysts in the NFL, found himself sitting between these two desperate wannabes. Young helped the situation, but alas, Golic, having been encouraged all these years, thinks he ought to jump in all the time, then did so, thus robbing us of more Young.