Weekend Recap  

 

Brees' six-TD performance highlights thrilling Week 1

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Drew Brees tied the Saints' single-game record for TD passes.
(Bill Feig / Associated Press)

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Saints 45, Lions 27
Detroit fails to find an answer for the Saints' explosive offense. Drew Brees operated extensively out of multiple receiver sets to exploit a vulnerable secondary. The spread looks made it easy for Brees to identify probable rushers and allowed him to attack the blitz with quick rhythm throws. Additionally, the Saints used the spread formation to get their playmakers into favorable matchups, which led to several big plays down the field. Brees threw six touchdowns for the league's most potent offense.

Falcons 19, Dolphins 7
The Falcons' addition of Tony Gonzalez makes their diverse offense problematic for opponents. He controls the middle of the field, and gives Matt Ryan a big target to find when working off play-action. Against the Dolphins, Ryan repeatedly found Gonzalez in the seams of the defense after freezing the linebackers with strong play fakes to Michael Turner. With Miami intent on shutting down Atlanta's rush attack, the Ryan-Gonzalez connection was the perfect remedy for the team's offensive woes.

Ravens 38, Chiefs 24
The Ravens showcased a balanced, but explosive offense against the Chiefs. Cam Cameron allowed Joe Flacco to throw from an assortment of spread formations, and the second-year pro meticulously picked apart the Chiefs by finding open receivers in the intermediate areas of the zone. Mark Clayton, Todd Heap and Derrick Mason repeatedly found space over the middle of the field. Additionally, Flacco effectively used his backs on check downs to keep the Chiefs from squeezing the receivers down the field. With a suddenly diverse passing game complementing their formidable rush attack, the Ravens had all of the answers to the Chiefs' tricks.

Eagles 38, Panthers 10
The Eagles were spectacular in Sean McDermott's debut as defensive coordinator. While following the ethos of his predecessor - the late Jim Johnson -- McDermott's troops recorded five sacks and forced seven takeaways against the Panthers. Five of those turnovers were directly attributed to Jake Delhomme, as he struggled to make decisions against the myriad of defensive pressures thrown at him. The mixture of five- and six-man blitzes hurried the clock in Delhomme's head, and pressured the quarterback to repeatedly force throws in the traffic. Coming off his abysmal postseason performance, the Eagles' decision to aggressively pressure Delhomme was the right call.

Broncos 12, Bengals 7
The Broncos are forced to play small ball with Kyle Orton at quarterback, and the results weren't good in Josh McDaniels' debut. The team rarely threw the ball deep, and Orton had only 156 passing yards prior to Brandon Stokley's unlikely reception. While some of Orton's limited production can be attributed to the Bengals' stingy defense, the design of the Broncos' passing game incorporates few vertical routes or deep throws. Without long balls to stretch the defense, the Bengals crowded the line of scrimmage and made it tough for the Broncos to move the chains consistently for most of the day.

Vikings 34, Browns 20
The offense in Minnesota still revolves around Adrian Peterson despite the addition of Brett Favre. Brad Childress relentlessly pounded his workhorse between the tackles to soften up the Browns and occasionally complemented the power runs with a few bootleg passes to keep the defense honest. While the Vikings didn't throw downfield often, the threat kept the Browns from walking up an additional defender to stop the running game. Without extra defenders crowding the box, Peterson repeatedly found the soft spots in the defense, which keyed his effort.

Jets 24, Texans 7
Rex Ryan used a series of exotic defenses to befuddle the Texans' high-powered aerial attack. Operating out of a 3-4, the Jets repeatedly brought an assortment of five-man pressures from multiple angles to harass Matt Schaub in the pocket. The constant barrage of blitzers kept Schaub from finding Andre Johnson (four receptions for 35 yards) and led to a dismal passing day. In addition, the blitz-heavy approach enabled the Jets to hold Steve Slaton to only 17 rushing yards on nine carries. Ryan promised a suffocating defense when he took the job in New York, and the Jets appear to be well on their way after a stellar performance.

Colts 14, Jaguars 12
The revamped Colts' defense showed that it was up to the challenge of playing in a slugfest against the Jaguars. After spending years eschewing the blitz in their Tampa-2 defense, the Colts are relying on an aggressive zone-blitz scheme to get after the quarterback and stuff the run. The approach worked well against Jacksonville's physical running game. The Colts surrendered 114 yards rushing, but were stout at the point of attack as they committed eight men to the box on early downs. In addition, the Colts brought more five-man pressures to keep David Garrard on the run. Ultimately, Garrard completed only 50 percent of his throws for a measly 122 yards and no touchdowns.

Cowboys 34, Buccaneers 21
The Cowboys have a different look and showed an explosive potential with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett building a game plan around a formidable ground attack. The team has three explosive runners (Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice) and the Cowboys are using the threat to create big play opportunities in passing game. Tony Romo frequently connected with Roy Williams and Jason Witten on a handful of intermediate throws after successfully fooling the defense with an assortment of play-action passes. In addition, the solid run-action fakes allowed Romo to take a couple of deep shots to Miles Austin, Patrick Crayton and Williams. With the Bucs intent on crowding the line of scrimmage with eight-man fronts and press coverage, the combination of run and play-action enabled the Cowboys to put up big numbers on a limited amount of plays.

49ers 20, Cardinals 16
The 49ers relied extensively on the pressures from their defensive line to blanket the Cardinals. While most 3-4 units utilize a variety of five- and six-man pressures to disrupt the rhythm of offenses, the 49ers used a variety of pre-snap disguises to confuse the Cardinals and only rushing four players the majority of the game. The tactic worked well as the 49ers recorded three sacks and tallied at least eight hits on the quarterback. With Kurt Warner under attack, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald were kept in check as the 49ers surrendered only 16 points against a potent offense.

Giants 23, Redskins 17
The Giants didn't skip a beat in Bill Sheridan's debut as defensive coordinator. While the new defensive leader didn't dial up the blitz as frequently as his predecessor ( Steve Spagnuolo), he called an assortment of stunts and games up front to free Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora off the edges. The Redskins seemingly had no answer to the tactic, as Jason Campbell was repeatedly battered by the Giants' front four on most passes. The pressure led Campbell to turn the ball over twice, and kept the offense out of sync for most of the day.

Seahawks 28, Rams 0
The Seahawks' passing game exploited the middle of the defense by frequently targeting John Carlson on a variety of seam routes. Matt Hasselbeck excels at finding open windows on intermediate throws and the Rams' umbrella coverage left several gaps down the hashes. With the Seahawks electing to use a mixture of two-back formations and spread sets, the Rams never appeared to get a beat on Hasselbeck's primary target. St. Louis' inability to shut down the middle of the field enabled Hasselbeck to find his rhythm and Carlson repeatedly in the win.

Packers 21, Bears 15
The 3-4 gave the Bears a host of problems as the constant blitzing and stunting disrupted Chicago's blocking schemes. Jay Cutler was harassed repeatedly in the pocket, and the steady pressure forced a handful of errant throws. Additionally, the Packers' clever bluff and blitz tactics resulted in two sacks and four interceptions from Cutler. Not to be outdone, the Bears' defense did quite a number on the Packers, as they battered Aaron Rodgers with numerous secondary blitzes to disrupt his rhythm. The Bears recorded two of their four sacks using the strategy and registered a critical safety with pressure. However, the decision to bring a safety down in the box on a crucial third-and-one with less than two minutes left exposed Nathan Vasher in coverage, and allowed Rodgers to connect with WR Greg Jennings on the winning touchdown.

 

Seven from Sunday

A look at seven statistical highlights from games played in the first week of the 2009 season.

» Denver wide receiver Brandon Stokley caught a tipped pass and raced 87 yards for the winning score with 11 seconds remaining in the Broncos' 12-7 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. That reception was the longest winning touchdown from scrimmage in the final minute of the fourth quarter in NFL history.

» New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees threw a career-high six touchdowns passes in the Saints' 45-27 win over the Detroit Lions. Brees is the first player in NFL history to throw six touchdown passes on Kickoff Weekend.

» Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson rushed for 180 yards and three touchdowns in the Vikings' 34-20 victory over the Cleveland Browns. Peterson is the first player in NFL history to rush for at least 180 yards and three touchdowns on Kickoff Weekend.

» Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre started his 270th consecutive game in the Vikings' 34-20 win over the Cleveland Browns, tying Jim Marshall for the longest starting streak in NFL history. Marshall started 270 games in a row for Minnesota from 1961-1979. He played 12 games with Cleveland in 1960, but official records of starters were not kept before 1961. However, the Browns' internal records -- including highlight films, score sheets, game-day programs, newspaper clips and conversations with former players -- indicate that Marshall started the first game in 1960, but did not start the final 11 games of that season while playing a significant backup role.

» New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez made his first career start Sunday against the Houston Texans. Sanchez became the first rookie quarterback since Pro Football Hall of Famer Roger Staubach of the Dallas Cowboys (1969) to start on Kickoff Weekend for a team that finished the previous season with a winning record. The Jets posted a 9-7 (.562) record in 2008. Sanchez completed 18 of 31 passes (58.1 percent) for 272 yards and one touchdown in the Jets' 24-7 victory.

» At 26 years, 13 days old, Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (6,046) became the second-youngest player in NFL history to reach 6,000 receiving yards. Fitzgerald, who had six receptions for 71 yards against the San Francisco 49ers, trails only Randy Moss, who reached the milestone at 25 years, 270 days old.

» Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez, in his first game with the Falcons, had five receptions for 73 yards and one touchdown in the team's 19-7 victory over the Miami Dolphins. Gonzalez became the first tight end in NFL history -- and the 21st player overall -- to reach 11,000 career receiving yards (11,013).

Monday night

Bills at Patriots: Star wide receiver Terrell Owens makes his much-anticipated Bills debut in New England, where both teams will be sporting gear reminiscent of the old American Football League.
» Game preview

Chargers at Raiders: The Raiders will attempt to end an 11-game losing streak to the visiting Chargers in a game in which both teams will be wearing AFL throwback uniforms.
» Game preview

» AFL celebration | Legacy games
» Buy AFL gear at NFLShop.com

Injury report

» Brian Urlacher, LB, Bears: Wrist. More ...

» Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles: Rib. More ...

» Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Colts: Knee. More ...

» Leroy Hill, LB, Seahawks: Groin. More ...

» NFL.com blogs: More updates

Fantasy studs

Who was this week's best fantasy player? Was it Drew Brees and his six TD passes? What about Adrian Peterson? Check out all of Michael Fabiano's nominees and cast your vote.
» Vote for Week 1 fantasy stud

NFL.com blogs

Thanks to NFL Network's new channel, the NFL RedZone, Jason La Canfora was able to check up on all the exciting action on Sunday.

From Brandon Stokley helping bail out coach Josh McDaniels in his first game as Broncos coach to the 49ers' chances of being a playoff contender in the NFC West, here are thoughts as the NFL opened its 80th season of play.
» Week 1 observations

Photos

You've waited eight months for this, the first full Sunday of NFL action. Here are the best images from a Week 1 that featured some memorable games.

» NFL cheerleaders during Week 1
» NFL.com photo gallery archives


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