Falcons fans hate Saints fans. Saints fans hate Falcons fans. So it only made sense the two opened the season in the Superdome in a game that literally came down to the very last possession. Heading into Sunday’s kickoff, much had been made about both teams. There was the return of Sean Payton following a yearlong exile at the hands of Emperor Goodell. For the Falcons, there was the addition of Stephen Jackson and dealing with the pressure of once again being a legit Super Bowl threat in the NFC.
There was also the story of the Saints defense. Last year, New Orleans’ defensive unit was the worst in history. Bar none. On Sunday, they came off like a totally different beast led by the fiery persona of Rob Ryan. After the first quarter, New Orleans outscored Atlanta 23-7 and were in Matt Ryan’s grill what felt like every other play making his 304 yards anything but textbook. His gunslinging counterpart, Drew Brees, was up to his normal hijinks tossing for 357 yards to eight different receivers and two touchdowns.
While the offensive fireworks weren’t as plentiful as one would expect with these two offenses, the game all boiled back down to that aforementioned New Orleans defense who withstood a goal line charge from the Falcons with less than a minute remaining. The end result is the team from The Big Easy starts the season 1-0 while the rest of the division has to sit with a goose egg in the win column for seven whole days.
The Baltimore Ravens gave Anquan Boldin up for sixth round pick earlier this year. Immediately, we’ve seen how that panned out. Baltimore is scrapping the bottom of the barrel for receivers and in his first game as a 49er, the former Florida State Seminole logged 208 yards on 13 catches, including one touchdown (which probably shouldn’t have counted).
San Francisco and Green Bay’s Week 1 rematch of last year’s divisional playoff shootout was by far the most aggressive game of the weekend. Prior to the game, Clay Matthews made it no secret inflicting some sort of pain on Colin Kaepernick was the game plan. Individually, Clay held up his end of the bargain as he was in the second year quarterback’s face and around his neck all game. Kaep didn’t allow the physicality of a game that saw more than its fair share of shoving matches to slow him down. He threw for three touchdowns and 412 yards. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers’ 333 yards and three touchdowns kept Green Bay in the game. Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson both tallied over 100 yards, too.
The game boiled down to which defense could generate stops when it mattered most. And while Green Bay appeared nowhere near as vulnerable as they did in January, San Francisco’s defense remains superior and can bank on the fact Aaron Rodgers won’t be the opposing team’s quarterback week after week. San Francisco’s normal cast of characters on the defensive end carried the load – Navarro Bowman, Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith and Donte Whitener.
Yet, rookie safety out of LSU Eric Reid – who fell to San Francisco after a trade with…Dallas – should thrive in a defense that was already scary before his arrival. Adding in a hard-hitting, ball-hawk safety to that unit? Why give a machine gun more bullets?
— Someone must have given Reggie Bush’s dad a new Escalade because USC Reggie is back. The new Lions back cranked out 90 rushing yards, 101 receiving yards (including a 77 yard screen pass for a TD) and a rushing touchdown en route to a 34-24 Lions win. Get this, he also had two TDs called back with his knee at the one. So in a game with AP (largely held “in check” after his opening TD run) and Megatron, Reggie Bush was the best player on the field.
– Russell Wilson and Cam Newton are two of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league, but the story in the Seahawks/Panthers game was definitely the defense. Rushing yards were few and far between while each team struggled to get points on the board. In the end, it was the Seahawks who clamped down and snuck away with a 12-7 win. Regardless, the Panthers showed that the preseason talk about their defense may be warranted.
— The Jets/Bucs game was a battle of f*ck ups, ending with a stupid personal foul on Tampa’s Lavonte David allowing the Jets to kick a game-winning field goal. So technically Geno Smith led his first game-winning drive. *flashes Illuminati/Roc Nation Sports symbol* In all seriousness, Geno’s debut – 24-38, 256 yards, one TD (and one interception) – may be the best Jets quarterback performance in two seasons.
— Bowling. Shoe. Ugly. That’s about the best way to describe the Steelers and Titans contest. That game gets the weekly “the less said about it the best, so how about just revisiting that Bria Myles Nightcap, shall we?
— Terrelle Pryor and EJ Manuel looked like solid QBs in their 2013 debuts. Pryor’s second career start saw him ran for more than 100 yards in a near-win against the Colts while Manuel nearly took down the Patriots — with maybe the worst set of receivers Brady has ever had — if not for a last-minute field goal. Whatever the case, these two QBs definitely deserve your attention moving forward. They may not get many wins this season, but they’re damn exciting.
— Speaking of Colts/Raiders, this was Andrew Luck’s eighth game-winning drive in 17 career starts.
— AJ Green literally played Peanut Tillman like a ventriloquist much of the game, but a fourth quarter touchdown from Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall in the fourth quarter put Chicago up for good 24-21.
— All the talk of the Browns’ efficient offense appeared to be nothing more than a dream in Week 1. Brandon Weeden’s three interceptions low-lighted a Sunday that saw Miami march into Cleveland and steal a 23-10 win. There’s a LeBron joke in there somewhere. Even worse for Cleveland? This makes nine straight season-opening losses, tying the Eagles from 1968-1976.
— Through one game, Carson Palmer is the best Cardinals quarterback since Kurt Warner retired, meaning Larry Fitzgerald is officially relevant again (he’s already halfway to last season’s TD total with two grabs on Sunday!). Through the same game, the Cards are 0-1 because of a 14-point fourth quarter charge by the Rams. With seven catches for 141 yards, the addition of tight end Jared Cook could possibly be the weapon Sam Bradford needs to turn the corner in a still young career.
— The Jaguars have run away with “worst team in the league” honors after scoring a layup agains the Chiefs. The Andy Reid era starts off swimmingly in Kansas City after a 28-2 win. #TankForTeddy is off to a blistering start.
— Dallas’ new look defense gave up 31 points and 450+ passing yards, but forced the Giants offense into five turnovers (six in total). Any normal team wins by 17+ points with this turnover margin. With the Dallas Cowboys, however, nothing is ever easy, but at the end of the game, Dallas earned their first victory versus Eli Manning in five tries in JerryWorld by a score of 36-31. Expect to hear a lot about Tony Romo ribs and the Giants’ foggy running back stable all week.
— Peyton Manning just threw another touchdown on Baltimore.