Each week I will give my own rewards and punishments based on the performances of teams and individuals this NFL season. The categories will be Best Game, Worst Game, Best Team Performance, Worst Team Performance, Offensive Hero, Offensive Zero, Defensive Hero and Defensive Zero.
I’ll start now with Week 1.
I thought about Jets 27, Cowboys 24, but I give the nod to the Thursday Night opener: Packers 42, Saints 34. Not because of the point explosion. But because each team made plays at some points in the game from each part of the team. The QBs were sharp, neither one threw a pick. The Packers goal line defense came up big twice. Darren Sproles proved to be a valuable pickup for the Saints. There was only one turnover, and that was early.
There really weren’t any horrible games, but if I have to pick one, I’d go with 49ers 33, Seahawks 17. San Francisco in the 2nd quarter penetrated Seattle territory 3 times and only came away with field goals. Some of those field goals came after a turnover gave them a short field. Early in the 4th Quarter they finally made a field goal after two false penalties backed them up 10 yards. And that was after they were stopped at the 1. Seattle’s special teams broke down in the 4th Quarter, allowing Ted Ginn to score a kickoff return and then just moments later on a punt.
Best Team Performance:
Baltimore Ravens. They were solid in all phases of the game. Ray Rice was a beast. Flacco played decently. The defense was dominant, stopping the Steelers twice in the red zone with Ed Reed interceptions. They even surprised the Steelers for a two-point conversion by Sam Koch, the punter who also holds for placekicks. To use an oft-repeated cliche, the Ravens made a statement.
Worst Team Performance:
With the 35-7 drubbing at the hands of the Ravens, it’s tempting to give this to the Steelers. But I’m giving it this week to the Kansas City Chiefs, who looked like they were still in the lockout in their 41-7 beatdown at the hands of the Buffalo Bills. The Bills who had all of 4 wins last year and didn’t have a lot of people picking them as a darkhorse. And it happened at Arrowhead Stadium. The pounding was so bad many Chiefs fans headed for the exits late in the 3rd Quarter. They sleepwalked on both sides of the ball.
Aaron Rodgers – Packers quarterback. Fresh off of his Super Bowl MVP performance, Rodgers completed 27 of 35 passes for 312 yards and 3 TDs. Drew Brees had 107 more passing yards and like Rodgers had 3 TDs and no picks, but Rodgers set the tone.
Donovan McNabb. In his Vikings debut, he was 7 of 15 for 39 yards. He had a TD pass, but that was set up by a long run from Adrian Peterson. His first pass was tipped and picked off, a play that set up San Diego’s first touchdown. He had the lowest passer rating for Week 1 at 47.9.
Ed Reed. The Ravens safety twice ended Steeler drives with interceptions in the red zone, showing what he does best – play centerfield. He, as much as anybody, never allowed Pittsburgh to get back in the game.
There were a lot of offensive fireworks, so this one is hard. I’m giving this weeks punishment to a whole team: the Cleveland Browns defense. Leading 17-13 late in the 4th Quarter, the Browns were caught asleep at the wheel – still huddled up, when the Bengals snapped the ball and Bruce Gradkowski – the Bengals backup QB, hit rookie A.J. Green for a 41-yard TD. Then, needing a stop, the defense got blown off the line of scrimmage, allowing Cedric Benson to scamper 40 yards for a TD to put the game away. A complete meltdown by the Browns defense at the most critical moments.