New town, new team same old Manning

New town, new team same old Manning

Posted: Monday, September 10, 2012 10:33 pm

By BARRY WILNER
AP Pro Football Writer
A football tucked under his arm along with a victory, Peyton Manning could feel very comfortable in Denver.
A win in your first game with a new team will do that.
His replacement with the Colts, Andrew Luck, wasn’t feeling anywhere near as satisfied Sunday. Then again, not many people thought his NFL debut would go smoothly.
Manning made a successful return to the NFL from a year off recovering from neck surgeries, leading the Broncos past the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-19. The four-time MVP completed 19-of-26 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns, including a 71-yarder to Demaryius Thomas that was the 400th of his career.
“It’s just one game … and we should try to keep it in perspective,” he said. “I do know how hard I’ve worked to get here … and it feels good. It’s special. I definitely would say it’s special.”
Luck probably won’t be using that description. He didn’t do any better than Manning managed in his debut back in 1998.
In a 41-21 loss at Chicago, the top overall draft pick was 23-of-45 for 309 yards and a touchdown. But he also threw three interceptions and was sacked three times.
Fourteen years ago, Manning went a slightly better 21-of-37 for 302 yards, but likewise threw three interceptions to a single TD pass.
“There will be a lot of positives, a lot of negatives. We’ll try to learn from it,” Luck said. “I’m still disappointed fresh off what happened, but we’ll get over it.”
Four other rookie quarterbacks made their NFL debuts Sunday. Robert Griffin III, the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor and the No. 2 overall selection by the Redskins, was sensational and got the only win of his QB class.
He went 19-for-26 for 320 yards and two touchdowns and added 42 yards rushing in a stunning 40-32 victory at New Orleans — the Saints’ first game since the NFL punished them for their bounty program.
Miami’s Ryan Tannehill struggled mightily in a 30-10 defeat at Houston, going 20-for-36 for 219 yards with three interceptions. Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden was worse: 12-of-35 for 118 yards and four interceptions in a 17-16 loss to Philadelphia. And Seattle’s Russell Wilson was 18-of-34 for 153 yards with a touchdown and an interception and rushed for 20 yards in a 20-16 loss at Arizona.
Also, San Francisco shocked Green Bay at Lambeau Field 30-22, New England beat Tennessee 34-13, Minnesota outlasted Jacksonville 26-23 in overtime, the New York Jets took Buffalo 48-28, Detroit beat St. Louis 27-23, Atlanta took Kansas City 40-24, and Tampa Bay defeated Carolina 16-10.
On Wednesday night, Dallas upended the defending NFL champion New York Giants 24-17.
The opening weekend concludes Monday night with Cincinnati at Baltimore and San Diego at Oakland.
Replacement officials were in the spotlight in two places.
At Detroit, Shannon Eastin became the first woman to officiate an NFL regular-season game when she worked as a line judge. At Arizona, the officials gave an extra timeout in the final minute to the Seahawks, who still couldn’t pull out their game with the Cardinals.
Broncos 31, Steelers 19
At Denver, Manning threw his 400th touchdown pass in his 208th career game.
Dan Marino did it in his 227th game and Brett Favre in his 228th.
But he also spent plenty of time watching.
Roethlisberger led a clock-chewing offense that had the ball for 10 minutes longer than Denver did. At one point, Roethlisberger had taken 30 snaps to Manning’s one — a kneel-down — during two monstrous drives that spanned halftime.
“Roethlisberger was awesome on third down,” Manning said of Pittsburgh’s 11-of-19 conversion rate.
 “Wasn’t much fun sitting on the bench there all night. Great job by our defense in the end, getting that turnover.”
Tracy Porter’s 43-yard interception return of Roethlisberger’s pass with 2 minutes left sealed the win.
Manning was sacked twice and both times bounced right up with no issues.
“There’s always a lot of unknowns going into the first week,” he said, knowing that his Broncos were 1-0.
Bears 41, Colts 21
At Chicago, Luck had a nice connection with one of Manning’s favorites, wideout Reggie Wayne, who caught nine passes for 135 yards. But it wasn’t nearly enough.
Jay Cutler threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns and Michael Bush added a pair of scoring runs for the Bears.   Brandon Marshall had nine catches for 119 yards and a touchdown in his first game since being reunited with Cutler, and Matt Forte ran for 80 yards and a score.
Redskins 40, Saints 32
At New Orleans, RG3 began his NFL career by connecting on 19-of-26 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns. Griffin completed his first eight passes, including an 88-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon, tying for the second-longest scoring pass by a quarterback making his NFL debut.
“I’ve won a high school state championship and a bowl game in college, but to play in the NFL, the pinnacle of it all, and win your first game against a Hall of Famer in Drew Brees, it’s at the top,” Griffin said while cradling the game ball he had just been given. “After the game, (Brees) told me he was proud of me. That’s big for him to say after he just lost the game.”
Brees uncharacteristically struggled with accuracy, completing only 46 percent of his throws with two interceptions.
Texans 30, Dolphins 10
At Houston, Tannehill threw three interceptions in a 6-minute stretch late in the first half, and the Texans opened impressively in what they believe can be a Super Bowl season.
Arian Foster had two touchdown runs, while Matt Schaub threw a TD pass to Andre Johnson, who finished with 119 yards receiving. Texans defensive end J.J. Watt deflected two passes that resulted in interceptions and also had 1 1/2 sacks.
Marcus Thigpen returned a punt 72 yards for Miami’s touchdown in Joe Philbin’s head coaching debut.
Eagles 17, Browns 16
At Cleveland, Weeden was even worse than Michael Vick, who overcame four interceptions by throwing a 4-yard touchdown pass to Clay Harbor with 1:18 left. Vick led the Eagles on a 91-yard scoring drive, capping it with his short toss to Harbor on his career-high 56th pass. Before Vick rallied his team, he played poorly and showed rustiness after playing just 12 snaps during the preseason because of injuries.
“It stings,” Weeden said. “It’s going to sting for a few days, but I’m not going to let it get to me.” 
Cardinals 20, Seahawks 16
At Glendale, Ariz., Wilson had his team in position to win when Kevin Kolb replaced the injured John Skelton and led Arizona on the decisive touchdown drive, throwing six yards to Andre Roberts for a score with 4:59 to play.
Aided by two pass interference penalties, Seattle drove to the Arizona 4 in the final seconds. But Wilson threw three straight incompletions and the Cardinals held on despite the officiating gaffe — the only major one Sunday by the replacements.
“I felt great about the opportunities we had,” Wilson said. “We just fell short. That is going to happen a few times.”
49ers 30, Packers 22
At Green Bay, San Francisco’s defense smothered Aaron Rodgers and the Packers for most of the game. Meanwhile, Randy Moss had a TD reception in his return to the NFL after a year away, Vernon Davis also had one scoring catch from Alex Smith, and Frank Gore ran for 112 yards and a score.
Randall Cobb’s 75-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 2-point conversion early in the fourth quarter cut the 49ers’ lead to 23-15. But Rodgers threw an interception to linebacker NaVorro Bowman and Gore ran for a 23-yard touchdown.
Patriots 34, Titans 13
At Nashville, Tom Brady threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns. He also might have broken his nose when he was sacked in the second quarter by Kamerion Wimbley, but he didn’t miss a play.
The Patriots ruined Jake Locker’s debut as Tennessee’s starter, sacking him twice and forcing two turnovers. Rookie Dont’a Hightower returned Locker’s fumble 6 yards for a TD in his own debut, and Stevan Ridley ran for 125 yards and a TD.
Also, Locker came out of the game after hurting his left shoulder when tackling safety Patrick Chung on a fumble return. He was replaced by Matt Hasselbeck.
Vikings 26, Jaguars 23, OT
At Minneapolis, rookie Blair Walsh kicked four field goals, including a 55-yarder as regulation time expired and another one in overtime, and Adrian Peterson returned from a left knee injury to lift the Vikings.
Peterson ran 17 times for 84 yards and two touchdowns for the Vikings, who led for most of the second half until Blaine Gabbert’s 39-yard touchdown heave with 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter put the Jaguars back in front.
For the first time since the NFL’s new overtime scoring rule was installed last season, the first team on the board didn’t immediately run off the field a winner.
After Walsh’s 38-yard kick, the Vikings had to play defense again while the Jaguars had their chance to match. But Gabbert was hurried into a fourth-down overthrow, spoiling the debut for new Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey.
Jets 48, Bills 28
At East Rutherford, N.J., Mark Sanchez threw three touchdown passes, including two to rookie Stephen Hill.
The Jets sprinkled in their wildcat package with Tim Tebow, who was mostly quiet but recovered a late onside kick, and Jeremy Kerley had a touchdown catch and a punt return for a score. Antonio Cromartie also took one of New York’s three interceptions of Ryan Fitzpatrick to the end zone.
It was the most points the Jets have scored in a season opener.
Mario Williams, the Bills’ big free agent signing, was quiet as the Jets’ offensive line protected Sanchez all game.
Lions 27, Rams 23
At Detroit, Matthew Stafford threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Smith with 10 seconds left. Stafford made up for a shaky game by leading an 80-yard possession that included three passes of at least 18 yards.
Sam Bradford directed a go-ahead drive that set up Greg Zuerlein’s 46-yard field goal and put the Rams ahead 23-20 with 1:55 left. But coach Jeff Fisher’s debut ended with a loss because the Rams could not shut down Stafford in the end.
Stafford had three interceptions before halftime for the first time in his four seasons. Cortland Finnegan had a 31-yard interception return for a TD that gave the Rams a 13-7 lead late in the first half.
Falcons 40, Chiefs 24
At Kansas City, Matt Ryan threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns, one of them to Tony Gonzalez in his return to KC. Ryan also ran for a TD, while Julio Jones caught six passes for 108 yards and two scores.
The Falcons took advantage of a defense missing four starters. Pro Bowl linebacker Tamba Hali was suspended for an unspecified violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy, and three others were injured.
Matt Cassel finished with 258 yards passing for Kansas City, but also threw two interceptions and lost a fumble.
Bucs 16, Panthers 7
At Tampa, the Bucs’ rejuvenated defense came up with two interceptions against Cam Newton and the Buccaneers won their debut under coach Greg Schiano.
Josh Freeman threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams and Connor Barth kicked three field goals to help the Bucs stop a 10-game losing streak that prompted the firing of former coach Raheem Morris.
Newton threw for 303 yards and one touchdown.

Published in The Messenger 9.10.12

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