This column was originally published in The Inkwell and its website.
Football is back, with the good, the bad, and the ugly highlighting Week 1. There was a seven-touchdown performance by one Manning brother, and a six-turnover game by the other Manning brother’s team. Adrian Peterson was back, and then he wasn’t. There were breakouts and embarrassments. Most of all, there were surprises and the usual expectations.
The surprises of the first week are always the most exciting and yet unforgiving. Fans of teams can start praising or harassing players without realizing there are still 15 more games to be played in the regular season.
For the San Francisco 49ers, the team’s results had surprises that can be seen as an eyebrow raiser. San Francisco’s rushing attack was one of the most dominant in the NFL last season. They had a true three-headed monster in quarterback Colin Kaepernick and running backs Frank Gore and LaMichael James. Currently, James is out for a couple weeks with an injury, but Kendall Hunter is back after being injured last season. The Niners and Green Bay Packers rematch was one of the most anticipated games of the week, especially after Kaepernick torched them with a new quarterback rushing record of 181 yards last time the two met. This time was different. Green Bay jumped all over the read-option and the Niners only ran for 90 yards and averaged just 2.6 yards per carry.
With those results, you would expect that San Francisco would be thrashed by the Packers, but instead Kaepernick laughed at the attempt of intimidation by Clay Matthews and out Aaron-Rodgered Aaron Rodgers. The “running quarterback” had the best passing game of his young career, going 27-of-39 for 412 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Possibly the best news for the Niners was who Kaepernick hooked up with to dominate the defense. Newly acquired receiver Anquan Boldin made his debut with the team by reeling-in 13 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Vernon Davis, who was nearly invisible when Kaepernick took over last season, caught six passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
Kaepernick is taking over the NFL with jersey sales, GQ photo shoots, kissing his biceps and most importantly his play on the field. As a dual-threat star Kaepernick can be extremely exciting to watch this season.
Is Reggie Bush finally the player we expected he would be when he came out of USC as one of the greatest players maybe ever? Well, probably not, because he will never be the next Gale Sayers/Marshall Faulk combination, but the Detroit Lions and fantasy owners (That’s me!) everywhere may have a true weapon of mass destruction in Bush.
After the preseason, it was clear Bush would excel in Detroit’s pass-heavy offense, but nobody expected him to be a threat running the ball. Against the Minnesota Vikings, Bush only had three less yards than his counterpart Adrian Peterson, finishing the day with 90 yards on 21 carries. Through the air, Bush led the Lions with four catches for 101 yards and a touchdown. If Bush can come close to this production every week, the Lions will be much improved and Calvin Johnson is sure to have more than 37 yards receiving next week.
In the same game, Peterson proved that he is gunning for 2,500 yards on his first carry of the game, going 78 yards for a touchdown. On paper he had a productive day, rushing for 93 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns. But wait, there’s a catch – after his first carry, Peterson was held to 15 yards on 17 carries. Peterson will continue to dazzle and put up huge numbers, because he’s that good. However, if Christian Ponder keeps being…well, himself…and throwing three interceptions, then defenses will continue to put everyone in the box and attack Peterson.
The Jacksonville Jaguars really, really suck. Yeah, no surprise here. How did they suck against a team that had the No. 1 pick in the draft after winning only two games last season? Maybe there is another side to the story here. The Kansas City Chiefs may not be that bad. They held the Jaguars to only 178 yards of total offense and virtually held them scoreless, as Jacksonville only scored on a safety from a blocked punt. If Jamaal Charles can stay healthy, Alex Smith can continue to be efficient and Justin Houston — who had three sacks in Week 1 — can turn into a star, the Chiefs will be a big surprise team in the AFC.
Did Terrelle Pryor really almost beat the Colts? And did the Bills really almost beat the Patriots? Yes and yes. The Raiders game was the bigger head scratcher. Oakland was supposed to be perhaps the worst team in football, while the Colts are supposed to be a playoff-caliber team with Andrew Luck turning into a bonafide star. Pryor was effective in his second career start, going 19-for-27 for 217 yards with a touchdown, but two picks. He also ran for 112 yards on 13 carries. Perhaps the Colts are not as good as we thought and the Raiders are better than expected. Check back after more than just one game for a real answer.
The Bills seem to always play the Patriots tough at home, but this time they had a rookie quarterback coming off of knee surgery starting for them, and their two best players in the secondary — Jarius Byrd and Stephon Gilmore — were out of the game. New England only had one play over 25 yards, a 35-yard reception by Julian Edelman. Is this a result of not having Rob Gronkowski for a couple more weeks or losing Wes Welker, who caught nine passes and two of them were touchdowns from Peyton Manning? This game was another case of check back in a few weeks please.
And for the grand finale of them all, hello Chip Kelly! Just try to keep up with Kelly’s offense. Most likely, you will fail. Kelly’s coaching debut resulted in a 33-27 against the Redskins in Washington D.C. For defenses, the scariest part of Kelly’s offense is how well he utilized Philadelphia’s three-headed monster of Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson. Vick went 15-for-25 for 203 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran nine times for 54 yards and a touchdown. McCoy had a breakout game in what could be a huge season in Kelly’s rushing attack, carrying the ball 31 times for 184 yards and a touchdown. The final piece of the trio, Jackson, caught seven passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. Not a bad debut, Chip.
Let me remind you that I didn’t even mention Peyton Manning tying an NFL record throwing seven touchdowns in a game, the Panthers holding the Seahawks to only 12 points and the Steelers looking god awful. Welcome back, football! We missed you.