The new season started much like the last season ended -- with the young generation of NFL quarterbacks stealing the show. Colin Kaepernick barely ran against the Green Bay Packers but threw for more than 400 yards in an electric performance as the San Francisco 49ers won at home.
Russell Wilson was flawless in the Seattle Seahawks' final three drives, making a number of ridiculous improvised plays to win in a comeback over the Carolina Panthers. Andrew Luck completed his first eight passes, with two touchdowns in his first two drives. And he ran in the Indianapolis Colts' game-winning touchdown against the Oakland Raiders.
This young crop of quarterbacks isn't going away. Their development might be the story to watch above all others this NFL season.
Here's what else we learned in Sunday's 13 games:
1. The lack of playmaking ability on the Steelers' offense was striking. Ben Roethlisberger misses Mike Wallace and Heath Miller in the passing attack, and impressive rookie Markus Wheaton remains behind Jerricho Cotchery in the third-receiver role.
2. Pittsburgh's running backs were a blatant mess. There was no sustaining element in the ground game, with the Titans winning the battle of the trenches. Isaac Redman didn't help matters with two fumbles, including one into the end zone that ruined a scoring opportunity. Le'Veon Bell will be welcomed back with open arms. Just don't expect to see him in action next week.
3. The difference between the 2012 and 2013 Titans is backbone. They have it this year. Tennessee rushed 42 times to just 15 for the Steelers. The hard-hitting Tennessee defense sacked Roethlisberger five times and held Pittsburgh to its fewest points in a game since late in the 2011 season.
1. Tom Brady will have to be patient with his rookies. Tight end Zach Sudfeld had a key drop that led to an interception. Kenbrell Thompkins made a number of errors, catching four passes on 14 targets. Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola saved this game with a number of tough grabs in the second half.
3. Bill Belichick always tries to take away an opponent's biggest weapon. It worked Sunday: C.J. Spiller had just 55 yards on 15 touches. (Fred Jackson went for more than 100 yards.) The Patriots' defense played well when it mattered; Buffalo had just three first downs in its last five drives.
1. We have no idea how Russell Wilson ended up with 320 passing yards. The Panthers pressured him all day, Seattle barely moved the ball, and then Wilson made magic in the fourth quarter on command. Just like last year.
2. Game 1 of the Mike Shula era wasn't inspiring. The Panthers played like they were trying to protect a four-point lead most of the day. There was a lot of run-run-pass play-calling.
3. The Panthers lost despite totally shutting down Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks' running game. Cam Newton lacked any semblance of a vertical passing game. We're not sure which receiver is going to fill that role for Carolina; Steve Smith might not be that player anymore.
1. Roddy White couldn't push off his sprained ankle. Playing behind Harry Douglas, he essentially was a non-factor. With Tony Gonzalez and Steven Jackson looking just a step slower in 2013, the Falcons' offense isn't as imposing right now as it was billed to be.
3. The Saints' offense is exactly what we've come to expect. Of note is that Kenny Stills has taken over the deep-threat role, and Pierre Thomas remains more effective and more trustworthy than Mark Ingram.
1. Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden looked nothing like the rock star of August. Sputtering out of the gate, he tossed three interceptions before halftime. We love his strong arm, but Weeden's missing a chip when it comes to sustaining drives that lead to points. He's frustrating to watch.
2. Either Cleveland's defense is this good, or Miami's run game is this bad: The Dolphins rushed 23 times for 20 yards. Our much-ballyhooed "Making the Leap" candidate Lamar Miller was abysmal, gaining 3 yards on 10 totes. It says a lot about Cleveland's vastly improved interior line.
3. Mike Wallace's Dolphins debut was a dud. With Ryan Tannehill running for his life and getting sacked four times on the day, Wallace caught only one pass for 15 yards. Despite being on the winning side, Wallace was angry after the game, telling The Miami Herald: "I don't feel like talking."
2. Some things change and some things stay the same. The Lions won the game but left at least 21 points on the field. Myriad penalties (11) and two turnovers display a team still not mentally prepared to make the leap.
3. Christian Ponder is his own worst enemy. Not all of the Vikings' turnovers were solely on him, but he continues to make terrible mistakes. The falling-away forced interception at the end of the half that led to a momentum-changing score for the Lions is inexcusable for a third-year pro.
1. We didn't make much of it when Josh Freeman was stripped of his captaincy, but this game got us thinking. Miscommunications on the field led to a lot of obvious tension on the sideline. The Bucs lapsed back into "youngry" mode, finishing with 13 penalties for 102 yards.
2. We're not ready to count the Jets as AFC contenders, but their defense will keep them in games this season. Rex Ryan did what he does, confusing the opposing quarterback with multiple looks. The defensive line -- the new area of strength for the unit -- put consistent pressure on Freeman. Top draft pick Dee Milliner was picked on early but had a much less eventful second half. Doug Martin was held to 2.7 yards per carry, an impressive achievement.
3. Kellen Winslow set a goal of 100 catches with the Jets this season. He's off to a great start, posting a team-high seven catches and one touchdown. He'll be Geno Smith's security blanket this season if the tight end's knees hold up.
1. Alex Smith was very Alex Smithy (in a positive way), and Jamaal Charles fits Andy Reid's model of a versatile back who can build momentum on the ground and reliably haul in passes. The Chiefs dodged a bullet when Charles' second-half quad injury wound up as nothing serious.
2. The Jaguars scored two points, which pretty much says it all. Blaine Gabbert specialized in three-and-outs, missed targets and failed dumpoffs against the Chiefs. He also was plagued by drops. The 178 yards in total offense are deceiving. Most came in garbage time and none when it mattered.
3. It only gets worse for Gabbert: He needed 15 stitches woven into his right (throwing) hand after the game, per The Associated Press. Jacksonville plans to stick with him as the starting quarterback if he's healthy, NFL Media's Steve Wyche reported, but Gabbert has to be feeling Chad Henne's breath on his neck after this one.
1. Matt Forte won't be subbed out on every short-yardage play like we've seen in years past (fantasy football fans, all stand and applaud). A goal-line score and a fourth-and-1 carry prove new Bears coach Marc Trestman isn't afraid to keep Forte on the field.
2. Jay Cutler looked more comfortable in Trestman's offense in the second half than in any other time he's been in Chicago. The quarterback's production finally could live up to his potential if that level of comfort continues.
3. The Bengals continue to stub their own paws. Three turnovers and eight penalties signaled the troubles. An unnecessary roughing penalty on Rey Maualuga that cost the team a chance to get the ball back at the end of the game underscored the issue. Too bad for us the "Hard Knocks" cameras no longer are around to catch the saltiness from coaches that is likely to ensue this week.
1. Terrelle Pryor might pull off the impossible this season: He could make the Raiders fun to watch. Pryor was far from perfect, but he made several big plays with legs and arm. He actually was the NFL's leading rusher Sunday. We're sure he quieted some of the doubters in his own organization.
2. Andrew Luck came out of the gate on fire, starting 8-of-8 passing for 113 yards and two touchdowns. The Raiders slowed down Indy's attack after that, but Luck came through again when it counted, engineering a drive that ended with his go-ahead 19-yard touchdown run. Luck looks every bit the part of a legit MVP candidate.
3. Disappointing start for Colts playmakers not named Reggie Wayne. T.Y. Hilton -- a "Making The Leap" candidate -- didn't even start catching Luck's attention until the second half. Coby Fleener and Darrius Heyward-Bey combined for four catches, while Ahmad Bradshaw had a very quiet Colts debut.
1. Clay Matthews played like a man possessed, but the Packers had no answer for the Colin Kaepernick-Anquan Boldin connection. Boldin and Vernon Davis exploited the middle of the field all game while the Packers were preoccupied with a read option that was used sparingly by 49ers coordinator Greg Roman.
2. Eddie Lacy had no room to run early on. The rookie was benched in the second quarter after fumbling, but he salvaged his afternoon with a 31-yard tackle-breaking screen pass and an impressive fourth-quarter drive capped off by a diving touchdown. He has difference-making talent in the Packers' rushing attack.
3. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are fully healthy and at the top of their games for Green Bay after missing most of August with injuries. Nelson, in particular, was spectacular after the catch and on back-shoulder sideline throws.
2. It didn't take long for Tyrann Mathieu to showcase those ball-hawking skills that made him a star at LSU. The Cardinals rookie saved a touchdown by tracking down Jared Cook. Speaking of Cook, he was dominant. Where was that guy in Tennessee?
3. The best subplot of the afternoon, in any game? Larry Fitzgerald is Larry Fitzgerald again. Crazy how that can happen when you have a professional quarterback throwing the ball. The Cardinals' receiving trio of Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd has serious potential.
1. This is the type of game the Cowboys usually lose. Dallas usually is the team self-destructing with six turnovers. Tony Romo, not Eli Manning, usually is the one throwing the game-clinching interception. It was an ugly win, but perhaps it's a good sign for Dallas.
2. David Wilson was benched after losing two fumbles. Giants coach Tom Coughlin refused to put Wilson in the game, and it hurt when backup Da'Rel Scott bobbled a ball with the game on the line. Coughlin might not have any choice but to go back to Wilson as his running back.