Kryk Slants: Recapping Week 1 of NFL season

1 London

London News & Search

1 News - 1 eMovies - 1 eMusic - 1 eBooks - 1 Search


For starters: perspective on the big news

Where did all the offence go?

Look, teams en masse are never sloppier than in Week 1, as they iron out wrinkles, especially on offence and special teams, and as they shake off rust since Week 3 of the pre-season, and throw unprepared injury and waiver-pickup replacements into the action, etc.

Granted. That’s why anomalies, mistakes and kooky plays are bound to happen with greater frequency in opening week.

But through Sunday night the most surprising takeaway in Week 1 was how bad most offences were.

Six teams — SIX! — failed to gain as many as 226 total yards. Half (13) failed to gain as many as 300. That meant a lot of low-scoring, boring games. And get this, only two gained 400-plus yards: Kansas City last Thursday night in New England with 537, and Buffalo on Sunday with 408 against the woeful New York Jets.

The Chiefs and Patriots opened the season Thursday with 908 yards of combined offence. Only one game Sunday eclipsed the 700-yards threshold: Oakland at Tennessee, with 709. Two games — Jags-Texans and Ravens-Bengals — didn’t even produce 500.

Can’t blame the weather. It was sunny and clear literally everywhere a game was played Sunday.

Is it that defences are dominating? There were seven defensive TDs on Sunday.

Are defences suddenly that good? Perhaps but doubtful. It’ll take several weeks before we get a more telling assessment. Probably that’s true only in a few cases. Such as with the Baltimore Ravens, whose first-string defence did not allow a touchdown in the pre-season then shut out the Bengals on Sunday in Cincinnati. (If the Ravens can ever get their offence figured out, wow, watch out.)

What’s to blame for the offensive offences, then? Overmatched O-lines surely were a huge contributor.

Wretched quarterback play, though, tops the list. Combined through Sunday night, Week 1 QBs threw only 25 touchdown passes in 13 games, while getting intercepted 23 times — five of which were returned for touchdowns. A 25-to-23 TD-to-INT ratio is pretty bad by today’s standards.

A couple QBs with just a handful of career starts played dreadfully. Tom Savage was abysmal in Houston’s home opener, fumbling twice and completing just 7-of-13 for 62 yards while getting sacked six times before getting yanked at halftime for rookie Deshaun Watson, who wasn’t that bad.

Scott Tolzien of the Indianapolis Colts was even worse: 9-of-18, 128 yards, two pick-sixes, and on third downs he was 1-of-8 for minus-4 yards.

But it wasn’t just the inexperienced who reeked. Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton got picked off four times, Arizona’s Carson Palmer thrice. Even Russell Wilson, behind that terrible Seattle line, completed just 14-of-27 for 158 yards and the Seahawks couldn’t score a touchdown.

Colin Kaepernick’s name came up a lot on Sunday on Twitter. Know this — he is not a good QB. But he might not remain unemployed much longer.


It happened again, so it probably will happen again

1. He’s 29 years old, but LeSean McCoy vows he’s playing in the body of a 25-year-old, despite having lugged the football 1,920 times so far in his nine-year NFL career. On Sunday against a New York Jets defence keying mostly on him, McCoy still dipsied, doodled, juked and jumped his way to 110 rushing yards on 22 carries, and added 49 more yards on catches. Only rookie Kareem Hunt ran for more (148 yards) in Week 1 entering Monday night. McCoy time and again vexed Jets tacklers, several of whom afterward said McCoy and the Bills did little unexpected. They just couldn’t tackle him.

2. Remember that Monday night opener in 2014, when the Seattle Seahawks defence so flustered Green Bay passer Aaron Rodgers that he refused all game long to throw even once to the side of the field where cornerback Richard Sherman lined up? That’s not an issue anymore. Since that 36-16 loss, Rodgers and the Packers are 3-1 against Seattle, after Sunday’s 17-6 thumping. And they should be 4-0, after dominating the Seahawks for all but the final three minutes of the 2014 NFC championship game in Seattle, before blowing a 19-7 lead — after Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy infamously unplugged Rodgers and a humming pass attack that built up a 16-0 halftime lead. In Green Bay’s current three-game series win streak, Rodgers has completed 72% of his throws for six TD passes against only one pick.

3. Calais Campbell has been one of the NFL’s best penetrating interior defensive linemen in a 3-4 scheme since starting for the first time in Year 2 of his career, in 2009. He averaged seven sacks per year over the eight years he started in Arizona. In his first game Sunday with a different team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Campbell registered 3.5 sacks before halftime — a Jaguars single-game record. He broke that record in the second half with another half-sack. Campbell’s career best sack total is nine, in 2013. He’s almost halfway there with 15 games to go.


Inside the numbers

If Alex Smith reverts to being Alex Smith again, he’ll always have Thursday night’s spotlight memories. Prior to Monday night, the veteran Kansas City Chiefs passer had by far the best Week 1 of any quarterback — statistically or otherwise.

And was he ever special in K.C.’s 42-27 victory.

In Week 1, no other QB completed as many as 80% of his throws (28-of-35), nor amassed as many as passing yards (368), nor had a passer rating anywhere near as high as his 148.6. Only Detroit’s Matthew Stafford matched Smith’s four TD throws, and only Stafford bested his fourth-quarter numbers.

Smith is the NFL’s modern-day record-holder for most backhanded compliments received — for being a “game-manager” quarterback. That is, a QB who has overcome his limited talent barely enough to just not fuss things up. Asked what his eye-popping performance against the defending Super Bowl champs means in that light, Smith said: “If you asked me that seven, eight years ago I would give you what you’re looking for there. (Now) I really don’t care, to be honest.”

This is the 33-year-old Smith’s fifth year in Andy Reid’s offensive system in K.C. Now that he’s finally surrounded by breathtaking if diminutive performers at both receiver (5-foot-10 Tyreek Hill and 5-foot-9 Albert Wilson) and running back (5-foot-11 breakout rookie Hunt), maybe we can expect regular performances like this from Smith.


Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

Even though the NFL’s highest-paid player had led Detroit to an NFL single-season record of eight fourth-quarter comeback victories in 2016, when the Arizona Cardinals jumped out to a 17-9 lead late in the third quarter, it didn’t look like Stafford could spin his late-game magic to start 2017.

But he did. With three TD passes in a 13:54 span, and a 35-yard pick six by Lions safety Miles Killebrew to cap it off, the Lions clipped the Cards 35-23. In the fourth quarter Stafford was amazing, again, completing 7-of-8 for 122 yards, a crazy 15.25 yards-per-attempt and those TD throws.

Now, can he do it again next Monday night at the New York Giants?


Indianapolis Colts

Not just QB Tolzien. Not just in-way-over-his-head coach Chuck Pagano. Not just new GM Chris Ballard, for failing to get a possibly competent placeholder QB earlier than last week (Jacoby Brissett) while Andrew Luck still slowly recovers from January shoulder surgery. Not just owner Jim Irsay for overseeing this reeking mess. They’re all to blame. Players too. Well, except punter Rigoberto Sanchez, who after Sunday led the NFL in net punting average (47.8). So they’ve got that going for them, unless Sanchez’s foot falls off from overwork before November.


T.J. Watt, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers.

Never mind his older brother J.J. The rookie earned a starting role after training camp, and in his pro regular-season debut he notched two sacks, two QB hits, two tackles-for-loss, intercepted a pass, knocked down a pass and had six tackles, including one on special teams. Helluva start.


Marcell Dareus, DT, Buffalo Bills.

Didn’t register a stat in 34 snaps against the Jets. No tackles, sacks, QB hits, TFLs, pass knockdowns, nothing. One of the NFL’s best-paid defenders did suck up double-team blocks much of the time, but not always. Besides, he’s being paid $96 million over six years to fight through those double-teams at least some of the time.


Shining more light on a strategic decision

This should require no explanation, it’s so obvious. Todd Bowles, head coach of a team trying badly to convince the world it’s not tanking this season, opted to punt on fourth down, trailing by nine points at Buffalo while facing a fourth-and-8 from the Jets’ 44, and just over four minutes left. Not exactly the best anti-tanking evidence, coach. Perhaps, though, Bowles has even less confidence in his truly overmatched offensive attack than cynical outside observers.


If you missed it Sunday night, Dallas Cowboys WR Cole Beasley had another one of those insane one-handed catches we see so often nowadays, thanks to the super stickiness of legal catching gloves worn by receivers. Beasley juggled a third-down pass thrown by QB Dak Prescott as he neared the sideline. Just before his momentum carried him out of bounds, he stabbed the ball with just his left hand, behind his head, and jammed it against the back of his helmet and neck, getting two feet down before continuing out of bounds. “Oh my God!” NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth shouted, while chuckling.


“We got our asses kicked, and credit to the 49ers at coach (Sean) McVay.”

— Head coach Chuck Pagano, after his Indianapolis Colts lost 46-9 to McVay’s Los Angeles Rams. Right. The Rams. Not the Niners.


“@DAZN_CA is the worst thing Europeans have brought to Canada since smallpox. #NFLKickoff2017.”

— Steve Starr (@thestevenetwork), one of hundreds of Canadian NFL lovers who took to social media Thursday, Sunday and Monday to complain about terrible or unavailable streaming service from England-based DAZN, now sole rights carrier in Canada for all live NFL games on all digital platforms. There is no cable or satellite TV option.


My Top 20 active and available QBs, after Sunday games

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay

2. Tom Brady, New England

3. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh

4. Derek Carr, Oakland

5. Matt Ryan, Atlanta

6. Dak Prescott, Dallas

7. Drew Brees, New Orleans

8. Matthew Stafford, Detroit

9. Cam Newton, Carolina

10. Alex Smith, Kansas City

11. Phil Rivers, LA Chargers

12. Russell Wilson, Seattle

13. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay

14. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee

15. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia

16. Sam Bradford, Minnesota

17. Kirk Cousins, Washington

18. Carson Palmer, Arizona

19. Eli Manning, NY Giants

20. Joe Flacco, Baltimore


Eye on Canadian-connected NFLers

Eli Ankou not only dressed for the Jacksonville Jaguars, seven days after the club picked him up on the waiver wire from the Texans, but the rookie from Ottawa had a tackle in the Jags’ big 29-7 win in Houston.

Dallas defensive end Tyrone Crawford returned to action Sunday night in the Cowboys’ 19-3 defeat of the New York Giants. He’d missed more than a month of practices with a nasty lateral ankle sprain. Crawford, a sixth-year NFLer, registered two tackles against the Giants in limited work.


1. Buffalo is alone in first place in the AFC East. Sky hasn’t fallen.

2. New England allowed more pass yards (352) than 16 teams allowed total yards.

3. Browns LT Joe Thomas’ consecutive-snaps streak is up to 9,996.

4. No runner Sunday came within 38 yards of eclipsing Hunt’s 148 on Thursday.

5. Tennessee was the first team in nine years to open the season with an onside-kick attempt. It failed.


Thirty years ago, the New England Patriots became the first NFL team to have its games regularly broadcast on a French-speaking radio network — CKLM, a 50,000-watt station in Laval, Que. Apparently, endless rebuffering, pixilation and incompatibility with certain brands of receiving devices was not an issue and, thus, did not mar the experience.


Quick thoughts on Week 2 games (all on Sunday unless noted)

— Texans at Bengals, Thursday, 8:25 ET: Will either team score, beyond pick-sixes?

— Browns at Ravens, 1ET: DeShone Kizer must decide faster in the pocket or he’ll be pounded to a pulp this week.

— Bills at Panthers, 1 ET: Pupil (Buffalo coach Sean McDermott) has tough task to beat teacher (Carolina coach Ron Rivera).

— Cardinals at Colts, 1 ET: No RB David Johnson for Cards. Might only win by 20 now.

— Titans at Jaguars, 1 ET: Jags can open 2-0 (!) with a win. Tennessee (0-1) needs this.

— Eagles at Chiefs, 1 ET: Andy Reid against his old team. Both 1-0. Can K.C. RB Kareem Hunt sparkle again?

— Patriots at Saints, 1 ET: No such thing as a must-win game for these Pats. But this is kinda close.

— Vikings at Steelers, 1 ET: A day less to prepare to play in Pittsburgh’s home opener won’t help.

— Bears at Buccaneers, 1 ET: Chicago QB Mike Glennon against his old team. First game for Jameis Winston & Bucs.

— Dolphins at Chargers, 4:05 ET: And first game for Jay Cutler and Miami, across the country. Flip a coin, who knows.

— Jets at Raiders, 4:05 ET: If ever there was a guaranteed NFL winner, Oakland’s mighty close to it. Jets are just awful.

— Cowboys at Broncos, 4:25 ET: Dak and Zek didn’t miss a beat Sunday night. Can Broncos’ D slow them down?

— Redskins at Rams, 4:25 ET: We’re unconvinced, Rams. Beat a real team and then maybe we’ll believe.

— 49ers at Seahawks, 4:25 ET: Seattle players felt jobbed in loss at Green Bay. Gonna take it out on the 49ers.

— Packers at Falcons, 8:30 ET: Green Bay’s D impressed vs. Seattle. Can’t repeat in Mercedes-Benz Stadium grand opening.

— Lions at Giants, Monday, 8:30 ET: Giants attack laid a big egg in Dallas. Can OBJ (ankle) play this week?

BYES: None.


Two teams that won’t win this week

Kinda the opposite of a suicide pool. I can pick a team only once all season, so each of 32 teams over the NFL schedule’s final 16 weeks. This week’s inaugural picks: San Francisco (at Seattle) and Chicago (at Tampa Bay).


This week’s winder-upper

Only Canadians in Western Canada got to see the Oakland at Tennessee game on free TV. Presuming few of you elsewhere were able to clearly watch and hear all of that game, owing to the rampant reception and streaming problems experienced nationwide with the new, exclusive all-games domestic provider, DAZN, I thought you’d want to know how Tony Romo’s debut as a game analyst went over.

The consensus? The former Cowboys starter absolutely rocked.

And the best part? He seems to be one of those rare former high-level players who can provide deep-inside-the-game insights, and make it fun doing so.

Time and again on the CBS telecast, Romo — who replaces Phil Simms alongside veteran play-by-play man Jim Nantz — tried to predict the playcall. And was often right. Uncannily.

The New York Post transcribed a few examples, such as this gem.

“Jim, I’ve got $5 this is a run to the left,” Romo said at one point in the second quarter. Sure enough, Titans RB Derrick Henry lugged it left.

“What did you see there?!” Nantz asked Romo.

“I’ve seen football in the NFL for 14 years,” he answered.

A few teams might be calling him this week to see if he’d like to make it 15.

Till next week …

1 London

London News & Search

1 News - 1 eMovies - 1 eMusic - 1 eBooks - 1 Search



Leave a Reply