Pre Season Week One Round Up

Mark Payne Covers the first NFL action of the season with a round up of all the pre-season games so far

Jacksonville Jaguars 12 – 47 New England Patriots

Tom Brady was a noticeable absentee for the Pats, while the Jags were without Maurice Jones-Drew who missed the game after giving verbal abuse to everyone from Jay Cutler to fantasy football fans as was last season’s starting QB David Garrard. Gabbert threw for 85 yards at a completion rate of 56% without a touchdown or interception on his first NFL start though was outshone by the Patriots third choice QB Ryan Mallet who appeared to put his off the field issues to one side as he threw for 164 yards and a touchdown.

Moment of the game: Backup Pats QB Brian Hoyer throws a strike to Taylor Price who expertly turns his body mid-air in the endzone to ensure a TD

Baltimore Ravens 6 – 13 Philadelphia Eagles

Michael Vick had his best season in the NFL in 2010 and looked bright in his only series against the leagues most intimidating defence securing the games only touchdown before handing the Eagles offense over to new backup QB Vince Young, his ability to escape the pocket and pass long downfield shows the Eagles willingness to stick with a mobile offence. For the Ravens the night highlighted a number of holes in their offensive line. Joe Flacco was hammered on a play early on prior to 6 sacks from the Eagles defence. Rookie Ravens Quarterback Tyrod Taylor averaged nearly 10 yards with his feet and passed for 179 yards though the two picks he gave up will disappoint him.

Moment of the game: Michael Vick extending the play before hurling a 42-yard long bomb down field to Cooper, before Ed Reed forcibly denies him access to the endzone.

Seattle Seahawks 24 –  17 San Diego Chargers

There was no place for Sydney Rice for the new look Seahawks offence as Tavaris Jackson started his first game for the Seattle outfit. Jackson’s 3/5 completed passes for just 13 yards will do little to silence those that feel he is incapable of leading the Seahawks to the next level. In contrast nobody dares question the quality of Philip Rivers these days,  his 5/6 completed passes for 87 yards and a touchdown underlined his elite status in his sole drive of the game. Last season Charlie Whitehurst led a losing team to a playoff victory against the World Champion Saints, he underlined his ambition to be the starting QB come September 11th as he looked after the ball extremely well, 115 yards and a 70% completion rate will have put real pressure on Jackson.

Moment of the game: Phillip Rivers 48 yard completion to the fit again Vincent Jackson in the first Quarter.

Denver Broncos 23 – 24 Dallas Cowboys

Tony Romo returned to the Cowboys for the first time since October when he fell foul of the Giants ‘Quarterback killers’, though the real pre-game drama was the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Denver QB’s Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow. Orton who moved from the trading block to starting QB in a matter of weeks looked out of sync with his offence making just a third of his passes. This wasn’t helped by a solid Dallas defence who blitzed on almost every down, under new coordinator Rob Ryan. The Broncos running game looked much more productive with McGahee and Moreno producing strong numbers despite limited stats. Von Miller, my tip for the Rookie of the Year, had a quiet game with only 1 tackle. Tebow faced criticism postgame for his indecisiveness in the pocket but still produced 91 yards and missed with just one pass attempt. However, the standout player was Cowboys rookie WR Dwayne Harris who bagged two touchdowns from his 5 receptions.

Moment of the game: Dwayne Harris’ first touchdown exemplified the threat he poses, a 76 yard touchdown, mostly run on the floor, leaving Broncos DB’s trailing in his wake.

Arizona Cardinals 24 – 18 Oakland Raiders

New Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb had a difficult opening to his new career in Arizona, his first pass landed well clear of intended target Larry Fitzgerald, but the pair soon began connecting and threatening the Oakland backline. A 43-yard pass found Larry Fitzgerald in double coverage, but as we’ve come to realise in recent years, that doesn’t often pose a problem for him as he snagged the ball well. Kolb left the field without a touchdown, but a positive debut behind him. Beanie Wells then began to show a new toughness as he blasted through the Raiders. There’s  a big season ahead for Jason Campbell who had a game of highs and lows, a couple of big passes but left the game, like Kolb, without a TD.

Moment of the game Kolb’s pass to Larry Fitzgerald, which Fitz pinned to his helmet under double coverage offers promise of things to come for Cardinals fans.

Miami Dolphins 28 – 23 Atlanta Falcons

Chad Henne is under pressure of losing his starting berth at the Dolphins with rumours of a trade for Tebow growing stronger. In response the Dolphins Quarterback had a nightmare game, throwing a pick on his first play. On the ensuing drive Ryan looped a ball to rookie Julio Jones, who showed why Atlanta traded everything but the kitchen sink to get him as he almost broke through the Dolphins  backline on his way to a 21 yard gain. Jones caught a few more big passes on an impressive debut as well as showing his versatility, running a reverse for a 12 yard ground gain. Ryan also through a strike to Harry Douglas who caught the ball in the endzone despite double coverage. Meanwhile, Henne’s nightmare continued, throwing the ball away in the redzone for his second interception. He finally completed a TD pass in the second quarter, although that owed more to bust coverage than quality passing. The Dolphins despite the result, have work to do, while the addition of Jones to the Falcons roster shows this side are a real force to be reckoned with.

Moment of the game Dolphins WR Phillip Livas takes a punt 75 yards and into the endzone, showing pace and a good recovery from a stumble to complete the play.

Cincinnati Bengals 3 – 34 Detroit Lions

This pre-season encounter in Detroit featured two sides heading in very different directions, the Bengals began this one without Carson Palmer and Occhocinco who are no longer with the side, while the ever improving Lions, deadly duo of Suh and Fairley struck their first victim with last season’s defensive rookie of the year forcing a fumble from Andy Dalton on his debut.

There was a Palmer on show for the Bengals though it was Carson’s younger brother Jordan, who took a few snaps late in the game. The Bengals are now hoping to rebuild with rookies Andy Dalton and AJ Green replacing stars Carson Palmer and Chad Occhocinco in the line up. If they want to learn how to do it, they need look no further than the ever improving Lions, Matthew Stafford, back from injury frequently connected well with Calvin Johnson throughout the game. Suh and Fairley on the defence rarely featured in the opening encounter but if all four stay fit and on form the Lions could make a strong push for a playoff place.

Moment of the game Ndamukong Suh’s flashpoint with Andy Dalton, which saw, in order, Dalton’s helmet removed, a bodyslam to the ground and a 15 yard penalty.

Pittsburgh Steelers 7 – 16 Washington Redskins

The Steelers, a perennial playoff team, looked slightly rusty as they visited Washington. Ben Roethlisberger completed one pass of over 20 yards, overthrew a touchdown pass and took a sack in his short appearance. In contrast the Redskins were a team full of players keen to prove themselves, Tim Hightower, traded from the Cardinals picked up a couple of first downs and 44 yards before he was withdrawn in the second quarter. With the disappointment of the McNabb era behind the Redskins and John Beck unavailable Rex Grossman really had an opportunity to prove himself. He started with two big passes and was solid completing 73% of his passes, scoring a touchdown and passing for over 200 yards.

Moment of the game Isaac Redmond, the Steelers Running Back bobbing, weaving and powering his way over from 29-yards out. Expect a big year from the second year pro.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25 – 0 Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs reached the playoffs last year but they made failed to look after the football resulting in a 25-0 blowout against the buccs. Cassell fumbled the ball on his three yard line and left the game without a pass to his name, in addition the rest of the side fumbled four times while backup QB Palko gave up a safety to the marauding Buccaneers. For Josh Freeman, the Kansas City born =ex-Wildcat, his homecoming was a solid one, he completed 9 of 13 passes for 73 yards. He will hope that the youthful Briscoe and Hardy play at this level all year in the receiving corps while the Chiefs will once again be relying on a strong running game took take pressure of Cassell if they are to get to the playoffs.

Moment of the game A safety is called against the Chiefs as Tyler Palko gives up the ball in his own endzone, however, further replays show the ball was out before he hit the deck and a fumble should have been called. Currently the play is non-reviewable, this play may lead to a review from the NFL.

San Francisco 49ers 3 – 24 New Orleans Saints

The resigning of Alex Smith has not gone down well in San Francisco so it is not a big surprise to see calls for Colin Kaepernick to start at QB following a solid debut. Smith completed a pass early doors to new signing Braylon Edwards before facing up to three sacks, a whole pile of defensive pressure and figures of 2 out of 7 for 10 yards. Kaepernick is viewed by many to be a leaner version of Cam Newton, but importantly wasn’t considered a potential starter prior to this game. He showed mobility and a strong arm but was still sacked three times, gave up two picks though did gain 117 yards through the air and 47 on the ground. Rumours surrounding a third QB in Daunte Culpepper appear to suggest that Harbaugh is not happy with his options under centre. The bright lights for them were the returning Frank Gore who came through the game unscathed, David Akers career long 59 yard field goal and the impressive aldon Smith who forced a fumble on debut. The Saints will be a big contender this season, Drew Brees  barely featured though understudy Chase Daniel proved a capable replacement. Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram scored a touchdown while his new running back partner Darren Sproles looked bright. Roman Harper blitzed brilliantly from the backfield and caused problems the whole time he was on the field. The Niners need work, the Saints are the finished article.

Moment of the game Joe Morgan running Andy Lee’s punt to the house from 78 yards.

Green Bay Packers 17 – 27 Cleveland Browns

The Packers superbowl win last season finally released the club from the shadows of the Brett Favre era, though the opening pre-season game of this season felt like a hangover from a heavy night of celebration. Rodgers looked bright in the first quarter as he completed a long pass to Donald Driver before hitting a touchdown laser to Greg Jennings. But the real star of the show was Colt McCoy. He completed 9/10 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown.

Moment of the game Colt McCoy’s touchdown pass perfectly finds Josh Cribbs 27 yards away in the corner of the endzone.

New York Giants 10 – 20 Carolina Panthers

The side with the number one overall pick in their lineup is obviously going to be given a great deal of attention at the start of the season though Cam Newton has faced more than most. Opinions divided as to whether he’s the next Tom Brady or the next Ryan Leaf on this showing however he has a bright future ahead of him. Clausen started for the Panthers and launched into the game with a pick 6 before levelling the scores at 7-7, finding Greg Olson in the endzone. Newton in contrast to Clausen found a first down with his first pass before finding Olson again 30 yards downfield inside the 10 yard line. There were a couple of sacks to contend with but more excellent long passing leaving Newton fingertips away from a touchdown on debut. For the Giants the night was one to forget with Hixon the only standout for them.

Moment of the game Newton just overthrows Armanti Edwards in the endzone. More work on accuracy is required but his fundamentals looked good on debut.

Buffalo Bills 3  – 10 Chicago Bears

The Buffalo Bills 2010 season saw them with an all-pro in Kyle Williams and 1000 yard receiver in Stevie Johnson. But the Bills have the equal longest run without playoff football and only scored a 4-10 record last season. Their defence looks safe as house, conceding just 10 points with 9 sacks including one for rookie defensive end Marcel Dareus and two for new signing Shawne Merriman but the other side of the ball seems a little pedestrian. The bears built bug time yards on the ground and with special teams but their O-line needs reinforcing to protect Cutler.

Moment of the game The back to back sacks by Shawne Merriman on backup QB Caleb Hanie  just trump Dareus’ sack on starter Cutler.

Indianapolis Colts 10 – 33 St Louis Rams

During the 2011 NFL draft as the rounds rolled by, there were a growing number of analysts that felt the Colts would snap up troubled QB Ryan Mallet as cover for four time NFL MVP Peyton Manning. They didn’t and the Colts put their faith in backup QB’s Nate Davis, Dan Orlovsky, Curtis Painter and added undrafted rookie Mike Hartline to their roster. This may prove to cost the Colt’s games this season as Peyton Manning is currently sidelined with a neck injury and the remaining four combined for a pass completion percentage of 32.6, for less than 200 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions to their collective names. Curtis Painter was perhaps the brightest of the backups, and this was only the first game of pre-season but, Bradford was a class above as he picked up where he left off last year pushing the Rams into a comfortable lead by the time he left the field in the second quarter. The addition of Lance Kendricks to the Rams offence is a big move, all the big passers in the league rely on a quality tight end and Kendricks shows all the potential to put him up their with the likes of Dallas Clark, Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, this could be a big partnership for the Rams.

Moment of the game Danario Alexander dives on a ball in the endzone from backup Rams QB AJ Feeley

Minnesota Vikings 3 – 14 Tennessee Titans

Favre has left the Metrodome. Last season was an awful one for the Vikings, though tipped strongly in pre-season they failed to make the playoffs as Brett Favre and their stadium both showed frailties ending up bottom of the NFC North. The Titans had the same record as the Vikings last year and both know that just three or four more wins will send them to the playoffs this year. Donovan McNabb never settled in Washington though I think he will fit the Vikings a lot better, former Seahawk star Matt Hasselbeck was also out to prove he still had what it takes as he lined up for the Titans. But this game was all about the long term “project QB’s” Ponder and Locker. All four had solid games but it was the Titans pairing who took the spotlight. Matt Hass was faultless as he completed 5 from 6 before Locker nailed 7 from 10 including an impressive fumble recovery touchdown.

Moment of the game That huge 45 yard touchdown pass from Locker after he bobbled the snap was very impressive.

New York Jets 16  – 20 Houston Texans

Wade Phillips’ move across Texas has clearly already had an impact on Houston’s defensive unit. They picked up seven sacks on the night and forced two fumbles. For the Jets Sanchez was solid but lacked enterprise as he left the game 6 from 7 for a total of 40 yards. The Texans’ blitz packages were frequent and aggressive leaving DB’s Dominique Barber and Brandon Harris at the top of the tackle count, this may be toned down against strong O-lines in future games but did enough to disturb the passing rhythm here. At the quarterback position for Houston, starter Matt Shaub, was completely outshone by former Cardinal Matt Leinart though the surprise star was fullback Chris Ogbannaya who picked up a receiving touchdown as well as one on the ground for over 100 combined yards.

Moment of the Game Rex Ryan’s explosion in the second quarter after he is forced to correct an illegal formation with a timeout.. who says pre-season doesn’t matter


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