The legend of Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III took a huge, deserved step forward with his performance during Sunday's victory in New Orleans. The same can't be said for his rookie quarterback brethren. From Andrew Luck to Brandon Weeden, Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson, the other four quarterbacks who christened their careers Sunday were somewhere between bad and putrid.
Trending toward putrid.
Between the four, they managed two touchdown passes and 11 interceptions and two lost fumbles. All four lost and only two of the games were competitive. Of those two, Cleveland nearly pulled of a victory over Philadelphia after picking off Michael Vick four times. Unfortunately for the Browns, Brandon Weeden also threw four picks, which led him to an overall quarterback rating of 5.1.
Don't take the stark tone of all this as some indictment. This is reality. Despite rookie quarterbacks coming in and playing well (Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez all had varying degrees of success as rookies), it's hard to maintain.
Especially when a league-record five get thrown to the wolves.
[Les Carpenter: Robert Griffin III is real deal in debut]
Of course, one game is too early to come to any final conclusions, but here's a review of how the others did.
(L) at Bears 41-21
Robert Griffin III
(W) at Saints 40-32
(L) at Houston 30-10
(L) vs. Eagles 17-16
(L) at Cards 20-16
Luck — The bad (three sacks, three interceptions and three fumbles during a loss to the Bears) is pretty easy to see on the stat sheet, but doesn't represent the true nature of the problem. Luck's offensive line is horrendous and the running game is little help in keeping opponents honest. From early in the game, Chicago basically was selling out against the run to go after Luck. Luck didn't help his cause, missing a pair of important third-down passes toward Reggie Wayne. Both passes came as Luck tried to throw awkwardly off his back foot and tossed the throws high to the left. Beyond that, one of Luck's few problems in college reared its ugly head when he under threw a deep pass along the left side, leading to his first pick.
Weeden — Oh Lord, this was bad. As bad as Vick was (he nearly cost the Eagles a chance to win when he threw a pass that should have been intercepted on the game-winning drive), Weeden was worse. Weeden's tendency to stare down receivers was obvious and his lack of athletic ability to extend plays was also evident. Still, on the strength of D'Qwell Jackson's interception return for a score, the Browns had a chance to win at the end. That chance ended after an interception of Weeden on the first play of the drive.
Tannehill — There are going to be plenty of days like the loss to the Texans for Tannehill because as bad as Luck's supporting cast is, Tannehill would trade with him in a heartbeat. The Dolphins' offensive line is slightly better than Indy's, but that's not saying much. The Dolphins' receiving corps wouldn't qualify as scare-worthy at a kindergarten Halloween party. Tannehill kept this game interesting for a quarter until Houston cornerback Johnathan Joseph jumped a slant route, showing absolutely zero fear of getting beat over the top. Look for more of that as the season goes on.
Wilson — The story of Wilson fighting his way to the starting lineup for Seattle is a great, inspirational tale. However, the realities of starting a small quarterback were demonstrated in the loss to the Cardinals. Wilson is a great athlete who can extend plays. But the thing that happens as soon as Wilson gets pressured is that his eye level changes and he can't find receivers downfield. He basically becomes a runner almost immediately. If you want to see the difference, watch Roethlisberger and then watch Wilson. That's not to say Wilson can't play in the NFL. It just means that if first impressions are accurate, Wilson's future is as a backup.
Here are the winners and losers for Week 1:
• The NFL won in a big way in the battle with the referees and don't be surprised if there is talk of letting the veteran officials go if they don't agree soon. NFL vice president of football operations Ray Anderson sounded very defiant when asked if the refs are replaceable. "Absolutely," Anderson said. During the opener on Wednesday night and during the early games Sunday, there were no outrageous mistakes by the officials and, if you didn't know better, you probably wouldn't know the officials working the games were replacements. While there have been a couple of missed pass interference calls (one in the Giants loss to Dallas and another in New England’s win over Tennessee) and the extra timeout debacle in Arizona, the league generally survived the first 13 games of the season without too much embarrassment.
• Randy Moss, welcome back to the NFL. It just wasn't the same without you. More important, the San Francisco 49ers are all the better with you, as their 30-22 victory at Green Bay showed. Moss didn't light up the stat line with four receptions for 47 yards and one touchdown. But his one score was exactly what the 49ers were looking for when they took a chance on him. Last season, the 49ers consistently settled for field goals in the red zone. That helped them set an NFL record with 44 last season, but that's not a record a team wants to hold. The point of getting Moss was to convert about nine of those field goals into touchdowns. So far, so good.
• Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan took a step forward in the Falcons' opening win at Kansas City. While the numbers (23 of 31 for 299 yards, three TD passes and one rushing TD) are nice, this game was a complete domination by Ryan. He easily could have thrown for 400 yards if the Falcons had pushed it. Ryan was not only exceptionally accurate, but he was in complete command. In the past, the Falcons have tried to run their offense through running back Michael Turner. Instead, the Falcons, with new coordinator Dirk Koetter, are running the offense through Ryan with a heavy use of wide receivers Julio Jones (six catches, 108 yards, two TDs) and Roddy White (six catches, 87 yards). Ryan looked in control throughout the game and the Falcons even let him play a fair amount of up-tempo, no-huddle attack at key moments. Ryan had a nice scramble for a put-away score in the second half. Aside from Ryan, Jones continues to look like the second-coming of Terrell Owens, at least from a playing standpoint.
• Speaking of the Falcons, veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez got a nice treat as he opened the final season of his career in Kansas City, the place where it all started. Gonzalez scored a touchdown and showed enough athletic ability still to dunk the ball over the crossbar. Gonzalez spent the entire week thinking about every detail of this game … except for what he would do if he scored. It hurt Gonzalez deeply when he was traded by the Chiefs even though he wanted to be dealt. Give him credit for a classy return.
• The St. Louis Rams lost when Detroit's Matthew Stafford came up with a great drive at the end of the game. However, the Rams' effort was terrific as they nearly pulled out the win on the road. More important, the Rams showed their revamped secondary is legitimate by grabbing three interceptions, including one each by rookie Janoris Jenkins and top free agent acquisition Cortland Finnegan, who returned his pick for a score. The pair also helped contain Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson to two catches in the second half (both coming against zone coverage). The Rams' pass rush still needs work, but the coverage looks strong.
• Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (16 carries for 80 yards, three receptions for 40 yards) showed no ill effects of his injuries from last season. He helped set up each of the Bears' first two scores with a pair of big plays. On the first touchdown drive, Forte showed great burst on a 32-yard run over the left side. In the second quarter, he made a one-hand snag of a short pass from quarterback Jay Cutler and took it 31 yards to set up another TD.
• Smart move by Jacksonville Jaguars management to get running back Maurice Jones-Drew back on the team. Part of the way the team did that was by reportedly reaching a confidential settlement on the approximately $1.2 million in fines that Jones-Drew had accrued during his holdout. It is believed the Jaguars will essentially take more of their payment by getting back a share of the signing bonus Jones-Drew signed when he did his contract. That way the money will go back on the salary cap for the 2013 season, helping the team sign players next season (and perhaps signs Jones-Drew to an extension if it wants to as he enters the final year of his contract).
• Tip your cap to the disciplined approach of Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, whose defense limited Carolina to 10 yards rushing on 13 carries en route to victory. In the NFL of today, those kinds of numbers are simply awesome. Schiano's group also came up with two interceptions of Cam Newton, including one by veteran Ronde Barber. Barber was making his first start at safety after moving from cornerback this offseason.
• Aside from losing, the Colts suffered in a huge way when linebacker (Linebacker? Yeah, that's weird to write) Dwight Freeney sprained his ankle and did not return in the first half against the Bears. The Colts might want to consider trading him this season if the right offer comes along. In converting to the 3-4 defense, Freeney is moving to a new spot that looks uncomfortable for him. While Freeney said in training camp he wants to end his career in Indianapolis, he also acknowledged that situations change. "This is a business and we'll see what happens," Freeney said. If Freeney recovers but the Colts continue to struggle as expected this season, don't be surprised if he's gone by the Oct. 30 deadline. Anyone who watched Sunday knows they need offensive line help.
• It has been a rough start to the season for cornerback Vontae Davis, who worked his way out of Miami and was traded to Indianapolis. On Sunday, he faced wide receiver Brandon Marshall, another former Miami player who was traded to the Bears early in the offseason. Davis and Marshall have an odd history as teammates. Last November, they got into an ugly fight in practice and Davis was barred from traveling with the team that week, the first of a series of issues that led to his departure. The dustup was preceded by Marshall mocking Davis mercilessly. On Sunday, Marshall scored a go-ahead touchdown in the second quarter after overpowering Davis in coverage.
• The Buffalo Bills were expecting big things from their revamped defense after an infusion of talent (defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, and cornerback Stephen Gilmore) and change at coordinator to Dave Wannstedt. Throw in the fact that the Bills were facing the struggling New York Jets and this looked like a great opportunity to start the season strong. Instead, Wannstedt's unit got lit up, including a stunning 9.9 yards per attempt by quarterback Mark Sanchez as Buffalo was routed.
[Related: Total collapse for Bills in Week 1]
• Despite the game-winning drive at the end, Matthew Stafford's play in the first half against St. Louis was really poor. Aside from the three interceptions he threw, there was a fourth pass that should have been picked in the end zone just before half. That play almost cost the Lions a field goal.
• On the subject of the Lions: Is it just me or does Detroit's paneled blue jersey look terrible? It looks like the players have odd-shaped sweat stains.
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