Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think this is what I liked about Week 1:
a. The play of Denver safety Duke Ihenacho, an undrafted 2012 college free agent from San Jose State. He was everywhere Thursday night.
b. How great is Calvin Johnson? Started this season the way he ended last: with an acrobatic touchdown catch—even if it was overturned.
c. All offseason, the Bengals worked on Andy Dalton throwing the deep ball better. And boom—first quarter, at Chicago, Dalton threw it up deep downfield for A.J. Green. Complete. Gain of 42.
d. Green abused Charles Tillman, an excellent corner.
e. Five sacks for the Titans—four combined from unsung recent second- and third-round picks, linebacker Zach Brown and defensive tackle Jurrell Casey. Love the pressure Tennessee got all day on Ben Roethlisberger.
f. Reggie Bush. At 28, he played with the verve of the 19-year-old USC weapon, diving into the end zone to cap his 77-yard touchdown catch-and-run.
g. Alex Smith, for being Alex Smith. In a West Coast Offense, it’s good enough to win, and Andy Reid’s banking on it. He was 21 of 34 with no turnovers. Chiefs win, 28-2.
h. Andrew Luck, for his eighth fourth-quarter comeback in 17 professional games. Think about that.
i. No question in my mind Brian Hartline will be a more targeted player than Mike Wallace—unless Ryan Tannehill begins forcing the ball to the unhappy Wallace.
j. Kenny Stills, fifth-round pick, Saints. Ridiculous. He’s a field-stretcher in a sophisticated offense, and it’s only Week 1.
k. The Cleveland run defense: 23 Miami carries, 20 yards. Told you Cleveland could be a top-10 defense.
l. Told you to draft Jared Cook, fantasians. Hope you listened.
m. I knew Martellus Bennett would be a great signing for Chicago, and the leaping fingertip touchdown catch on the first Bears touchdown of the year just proved that.
2. I think this is what I didn’t like about Week 1:
a. Two timeouts on the opening drive of the season for the Bucs, and then Josh Freeman getting sacked. Not good.
b. And the safety. The ridiculous safety. No team was as unimpressive early as the Bucs in the first quarter at the Meadowlands.
d. The first big hit of Kenny Vaccaro’s career. He torpedoed into a sliding Matt Ryan, a clear penalty.
e. Christian Ponder, please. You don’t make a careless throw to no one across your body with a 14-0 lead on the road. You don’t make it down 14-0, or down 34-0. Just a foolish throw.
f. On the first play of the Titans’ season, an opening-kickoff return in Pittsburgh, Darius Reynaud picked up a rolling kick and knelt on the goal line. Safety. Steelers, 2-0. Steelers ball. How do you not get the feeling after that if you’re a Titans fan, “Man, it’s going to be a long year?” Lucky for them, it might now be a long year for the Steelers.
g. The Bucs’ composure—13 penalties, 102 yards. Atrocious.
h. The Giants’ ball security—six turnovers. Atrocious.
i. David Wilson needs to go to the Tiki Barber School of Ball Control. I might be serious about that. Barber should call him.
j. The Panthers sure didn’t look explosive on offense against Seattle. They looked cautious.
k. Brandon Weeden: three interceptions in the first 27 minutes. I didn’t watch that game closely. But there’s just something missing with Weeden, something about knowing when to take chances and when to play safe.
l. Long year for the Jags, and it’s Sept. 9. They had 70 yards on their first 13 drives.
3. I think I gained some respect for the old passing games—the downfield, bombs-away passing games—when looking at the men Peyton Manning tied with his seven touchdown passes Thursday. Manning’s stat line: 27 of 42, 462 yards, 11.0 yards per attempt, seven touchdowns, no interceptions. Y.A. Tittle’s in 1963: 27 of 29, 505 yards, 12.9 yards per attempt, seven touchdowns, no interceptions.
4. I think, for those who tell you Peyton Manning has become a dinker-and-dunker in his dotage, tell them this: His average yards per attempt in 14 Indianapolis seasons was 7.6. His yards per attempt in 17 Denver games: 8.2.
5. I think you don’t want to overrate the first game of the season, especially when it was as horrendous as the one Jacksonville played Sunday in the 28-2 loss to Kansas City. But unless Blaine Gabbert’s still-healing right thumb was a drag on his performance, it’s only a matter of time before the Jags will come to the realization he can’t do it. Watch the tape of the game. How many times does he have a receiver open, within 10 yards, and the receiver has to lunge for the ball or reach way around to try to catch it? He had a few drops too, but playing quarterback is about moving the chains and being crisp, and it looks like Gene Smith’s last big gift to the franchise is going to add another year to the rebuilding process of the Jaguars.
6. I think Mike Wallace has to look himself in the mirror today and say, “What a dumb thing I said yesterday about being ticked to not be a key guy in the gameplan. We won. I was selfish.’’ It’s patently absurd, after winning the first game of the season on the road, to complain about your role. It’s one game, dude. Can’t turn into T.O. after one game.
7. I think, as I reported on NBC over the weekend, that we can have whatever opinion we want about the fruitlessness of the mission Tim Tebow is on, but he is determined to give the quarterback position one more concentrated try. And the NFL quarterback position, not in Canada or the Arena League. Tebow will begin throwing with a quarterback coach this week, and he’ll stay in shape so that if there’s a spate of injuries and some team calls, he’ll be ready. And yes, it’s true: USA Rugby called to inquire whether Tebow would be interested in playing, because the organization believes he has the perfect body—massive shoulders, bull-like legs—to succeed in that game. Tebow believes he’s proven he doesn’t have to be a circus sideshow, as he was with the Jets, to play with a team; his experience with the Patriots shows it’s possible for him to be one of the guys, and not a daily headline. At least that’s his belief. I still maintain in the right place—which the 2012 Jets were, if they’d done with Tebow what Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum intended—Tebow can have a role as a changeup quarterback on a winning team.
8. I think in the realm of unintended consequences, the two penalties called on Tampa Bay safeties for hits on Jets receivers—because the receiver was defenseless or because the hit was very marginally high—will continue the trend of defensive backs lining up receivers and whacking them in the legs. What was ridiculous, I thought, was Jeremy Kerley curling up in anticipation of a hit, and Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson going low on him (I mean, where else could they go?) and getting flagged for unnecessary roughness. It is a rough sport! If a receiver gets in a fetal position and is attempting to go forward, are defenders supposed to leave him alone, or hit him? Said Goldson: “I can’t think about it. I can’t play timid. If I’m not in a position to get a guy clean, then I’ve got to go low. That’s just the way it is.”
9. I think Jerry Jones, Dan Snyder and Bob Kraft—and all the other owners in the league who believe, strangely, in attracting fans to the stadium rather than repelling them—are laughing this morning at this: Notre Dame and Michigan celebrated the largest crowd in college football history (115,109) Saturday night in Ann Arbor by apparently deciding not to play again in Ann Arbor until at least 2020, and maybe never again. Such a good idea, to give the public less of what it’s crying out for.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Remember one thing, all you Springsteenians, who wanted to see a more Jersey look for the Super Bowl halftime show and got Bruno Mars instead: Halftime shows are done to attract a non-football audience, including the international audience. Halftime shows are designed to hit a different demographic. I couldn’t tell you the difference between Bruno Mars and a Mars bar. But 56-year-old men aren’t the focus of the league when it comes to halftime shows at the Super Bowl.
b. I have to tell you it got quiet in the NBC Football Night in America Red Sox Wing when the Jacoby Ellsbury foot news came in Sunday. He’ll miss some time with an injury.
c. This is saying a lot, but the just-completed four-game Yankees-Red Sox series is in the modern era top five Yankees-Red Sox series for weirdness.
d. Thanks, Lake Bell, for being a fan of The MMQB. You’re good at movies too.
e. Feeling stupid for ignoring Breaking Bad.
f. Denver’s so underrated.
g. But the one thing about the city, if you’re there once or three times a year for short stays, is how dehydration just sneaks up on you. Last Wednesday, in mid-afternoon, I’m wondering why I have this headache. I never get headaches. And a friend said to me, “Drink water. Drink a lot of water here. That’s from dehydration.” He was right.
h. Coffeenerdness: Nice espresso, Dazbog. That’s the Denver coffee place I hit a couple of times last week. Less bitter than most espressos.
i. Beernerdness: Subbing a wine this week: I remembered having a Cabernet called “Educated Guess” a few months ago in New Jersey. The owner of the place told me it was a Wayne Gretzky wine from the Napa Valley, and it was terrific. Found it in Denver Wednesday night at our NBC dinner, and the crowd went wild. Very good value.
Who I Like Tonight
Washington 31, Philadelphia 23. Robert Griffin III and Mike Vick set a land-speed record for number of plays (2,349) in a 60-minute game. I don’t trust the Eagles defense.
Houston 34, San Diego 16. With Manti Te’o on the sidelines with a foot injury that’s idled him for 31 days, America will see one of the great names in the game instead—inside ‘backer Bront Bird. Arian Foster is not amused, or intimidated.
The Adieu Haiku
I know. Raiders lost.
But my Week 1 takeaway?
Oakland’s not boring.