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39 things we learned from Week 1

The New York Giants gave the Dallas Cowboys an opening with a minute and a half left in Sunday night's season opener, and Tony Romo exploited it.

The G-Men called a third-down pass with a three-point lead and 1:37 left in the game. Eli Manning let the ball fly rather than accepting a sack, gift-wrapping an extra 40 seconds and a tailor-made two-minute drill for one of the NFL's most clutch quarterbacks.

You read that right.

Minus the services of go-to receiver Dez Bryant, Romo orchestrated a picture-perfect 72-yard drive. He connected on five of six passes, including Jason Witten's buzzer-beating game-winner -- the dynamic duo's second touchdown connection in the game's final six minutes.

The fourth-quarter comeback marked Romo's 24th since replacing Drew Bledsoe as the starter 2006, giving him three more than any other quarterback over that span.

Now that Bryant is due to miss four to six weeks with a broken bone in his foot, the Cowboys will need that time-tested Romo-to-Witten partnership to carry the aerial attack.

  1. It wasn't pretty for Ryan Tannehill, but he'll take the win with special teams help from Jarvis Landry. The Dolphins' quarterback seemingly struggled all game. He was off target often on both short and deep passes. Tannehill never appeared in rhythm and should have been picked several times. Tannehill finished 22-of-34 passing for 224 yards and a score. He missed several wideout targets in the end zone -- one awful pass leading to tight end Dion Sims' leaving the game with an injury. Tannehill won't enjoy the game film, especially his comical fumble.
  1. Kirk Cousins moved the Redskins' offense consistently, if not explosively. Buoyed by a great ground game early, the quarterback was able to get the ball out of his hands quickly and made good pre-snap reads. Cousins was accurate, especially on intermediate and crossing routes. It wasn't all positive. He telegraphed a pass early in the contest that was picked. Unlike last year, however, the signal-caller didn't let the mistake snowball. Cousins didn't do anything to make coach Jay Gruden even consider a quarterback change.
  1. Alfred Morris carried the Redskins in the first half setting up scoring drives. Morris finished with 121 yards on 25 carries. The Redskins got away from the ground game in the second half, due to in part to game flow and several costly penalties. It's clear that the Redskins will pound the ball this season with Morris and rookie Matt Jones. They'll need the ground game, as DeSean Jackson left early with a hamstring injury and didn't return. The Redskins weren't able to stretch the field with D-Jax on the sideline.

--Kevin Patra

  1. The conversation in Seattle this week will be about offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell's decision to run Marshawn Lynch on 4th-and-1 in overtime with the Seahawks trailing by three. It was the sensible call, even if it would have shown true guts to throw a slant pass like they did in the Super Bowl. Rams defensive linemen Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald disrupted the play in the backfield, getting Lynch to the ground and earning the Rams' third win in their last four tries in St. Louis against Pete Carroll.
  1. It was fitting that Donald was part of the game-winning play. He was the best player on the field by far Sunday, one of many Rams defensive linemen to dominate their one-on-one matchups. Donald finished with eight tackles, three QB hits, three tackles for loss, and two sacks. Robert Quinn also had a big game in a great defensive effort. The Rams' offense and special teams essentially spotted the Seahawks 20 points. The Rams' defense still found a way to win the game.
  1. Nick Foles' first game as Rams starter was a big success. He led the team on a game-tying touchdown drive to end regulation, including a great third-and-15 throw on the run. Foles was efficient throwing the ball for 297 yards on 27 attempts, although he lost two fumbles, including a corner blitz that was returned for a touchdown. Scoring 34 points against Seattle without Tre Mason, Todd Gurley or starting receiver Brian Quick is amazing.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

  1. The Jets did something on Sunday they didn't manage until their final game last season -- they scored 30 points. Consider it a positive sign with new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. Ryan Fitzpatrick limited his mistakes to one interception (that was turned into a fumble recovery by Brandon Marshall) while Chris Ivory looked like a guy ready for a breakout season.
  1. Josh McCown's big effort end-zone dive on the end of Cleveland's opening drive ended in the worst way possible. He suffered a concussion on a hit and lost a fumble. A reminder that the Browns should be wary of their starter from both a performance and durability standpoint.

Manziel replaced McCown and showed some things. He threw his his first NFL touchdown pass -- a pretty rainbow to a wide-open Travis Benjamin for a long score -- and evoked memories of his Texas A&M days with some nice scrambles. But Manziel was reckless with the football, throwing an interception and losing two fumbles.

  1. Antonio Cromartie's season looked light it might have been in doubt after he was carted off the field after suffering a non-contact knee injury in the second quarter. The Jets got good news the next day, however. The team announced Monday that an MRI exam on Cromartie's injured left knee came back negative and that the cornerback is listed as week-to-week. Cromartie has not been ruled out of the team's Monday night matchup against the Indianapolis Colts.

-- Dan Hanzus

  1. Carolina's offense is running at a faster pace and with a third element (second running back) more often included in their read-option sets. This might be something to watch out for considering the way the league has found effective ways to defend against the traditional zone read. In fact, it might be a vital part of Carolina's scheme going forward. The Panthers' problems at wide receiver are very real, as evidenced by a wide-open touchdown drop by Ted Ginn, one of three on the team's starting two drives by their wideouts. Jerricho Cotchery is likely their most dependable target outside of tight end Greg Olsen.
  1. Gus Bradley's defense is the closest it has been to fitting an image reminiscent of the one in Seattle. On the first drive, backed up against their own goal line, the Jags received a big sack by Chris Clemons and a big pass breakup by Paul Posluszny. Posluszny also had a demoralizing pick a few drives later midway through the second quarter, which should have led to points. If their offense can catch up, look out.
  1. Blake Bortles looks 100 percent more comfortable in this offense than he did a year ago. The main reason? A power running game that can also morph into a reliable short passing game out of the backfield. Two running backs were drafted in the first round this year but that might have been because not enough teams at the back end of the first round considered T.J. Yeldon, who clearly established himself as the team's lead back on Sunday with 51 yards rushing and a few very shifty moves.

-- Conor Orr

  1. Between Ryan's disguised blitzes and a series of ill-timed offensive holding penalties, Luck couldn't find a rhythm. Although he didn't throw well and was burned on risky throws down the field, he got little help from his surrounding talent. T.Y. Hiltondidn't fight for Luck's first interception, and the second was tipped by Andre Johnson. Luck's receivers offered little playmaking ability after the catch and struggled to get open against a stingy Buffalo secondary. Johnson also dropped a two-point conversion in a disappointing Colts debut.
  1. It's only one game, but Tyrod Taylor's performance suggests his impressive preseason was no fluke. In addition to uncorking a perfectly placed 51-yard touchdown bomb to Percy Harvin, Taylor showed poise and command, escaping pressure in the pocket and keeping his eyes downfield. He also prevented a fourth-quarter pick-six with the awareness to bat down one of his own tipped passes. Ryan traditionally asks his quarterbacks to be caretakers supporting a strong ground game and a swarming defense. Taylor adds playmaking ability to that package.
  1. Colts owner Jim Irsay revealed after the game that X-rays on Hilton's left knee were negative, leaving the injury as a bad bruise which could sideline Luck's go-to receiver for a few weeks. First-round pick Phillip Dorsett, who showed rookie jitters on a pair of fumbled punts, was left out of the offense until Hilton exited. Donte Moncrief appears to be locked in as the No. 3 receiver, with the potential for a breakout season if Hilton does miss extensive time.

-- Chris Wesseling

  1. Brian Hoyer's first pass of the year: A dreadfully thrown lob that was picked off by first-round cornerback Marcus Peters at the Houston 13. The Texans quarterback struggled mightily before finally -- and unsurprisingly -- giving way to Ryan Mallett in the fourth quarter. Hoyer gave coach Bill O'Brien no choice, overthrowing too many targets and never looking comfortable. His pair of turnovers inside Houston's 15-yard line were inexcusable. That had plenty to do with a Chiefs defensive front that notched five sacks and controlled the line. Mallett, who led two scoring drives in relief, is bound to start in Week 2.
  1. Kansas City's offensive line is far from pristine, but Alex Smith made up for it by employing plenty of quick passes. Smith made wise decisions, threw accurately and showed immense comfort inside an offense he's come to know so well. The veteran signal-caller tossed three touchdowns during a 22-of-33 passing afternoon that saw Smith shred Houston's secondary for 243 yards. He calmly led the Chiefs on five straight scoring drives in the first half. The addition of Jeremy Maclin (5/52) paid immediate dividends, with the former Eagles star getting open downfield unlike any wideout did for this team in 2014.
  1. Travis Kelce notched 862 yards and five touchdowns off just 688 snaps last season. The Chiefs tight end will shatter those numbers in 2015. He was on the receiving end of a 10-yard touchdown strike and raced into the end zone for another 42-yard score -- all in the opening quarter. The 6-foot-5, 260-pound target brings a nasty mix of power and speed, which helped him pile up 106 yards off just six targets. Kelce hurt his abdomen during a violent first-half collision, but returned to the field soon after.

-- Marc Sessler

  1. It's like James Jones never left Green Bay. The veteran receiver remained in sync with Aaron Rodgers, despite a year apart. Jones finished with four catches for 51 yards and two touchdowns, including a beautiful snag with corner Alan Ball hanging on him. Jones clearly has the quarterback's trust and will keep youngsters Ty Montgomery and Jeff Janis on the sidelines for now.
  1. Matt Forte dominated the Packers' front seven for the Bears. The running back shouldered the Bears' offensive load with a vintage performance, gaining 141 yards on 24 carries, a touchdown run and five catches for 25 yards. Utilizing a plethora of stretch and outside-runs, Forte continually got on the edge, gobbling up yards. At 29, in a contract year, the back shows no signs of slowing down, still finding the ability to create creases and burst through holes.
  1. With Forte churning out yards, the Bears were consistently in positive down-and-distance situations, allowing Jay Cutler to make simple reads. The slow-paced offense also kept Rodgers on the sideline much of the first half. It looked like the strategy Dallas employed to protect Tony Romo last season. Of course, Cutler will Cutler. The quarterback didn't see Clay Matthews flashing in front of Martellus Bennett on a fourth-quarter interception that essentially sealed the contest.

-- Kevin Patra

  1. Denver pulled off the victory, but Peyton Manning's preseason troubles have poured over into September. The Broncos quarterback threw an outrageous 25 passes over the first two quarters, which flies in the face of Denver's so-called commitment to the ground game. Credit goes to Baltimore's air-tight defense, which held the Broncos to 3.2 yards per play in the first half -- the lowest output during Peyton's run with the Broncos -- and added a pick-six by cornerback Jimmy Smith. Completing 24-of-40 throws for just 175 yards, Manning was hit hard and sacked four times, more takedowns than Denver has allowed in a game since December 2013.

The Broncos are 1-0, but concerns over Manning's arm strength and velocity are tangible. How far we've come from Denver's opener two years ago, when Manning lashed Baltimore for 462 yards and seven touchdowns. Sure, the Ravens are well-versed in coach Gary Kubiak's offense, but this goes beyond game-planning. With Manning's deep ball shot, Baltimore angled to take away the short half of the field -- and it worked. Look for future opponents to follow suit.

  1. Both defenses were sensational. Joe Flacco was the first quarterback to encounter a Wade Phillips-led Broncos unit that caused all sorts of problems for Baltimore. The Ravens quarterback finished the first half 7 for 10 for just 27 yards as both teams combined for a mere 152 yards at the half. Flacco -- 18 of 32 on the day for just 117 yards -- threw a disastrous pick-six in the third quarter, which put Denver up for good in a game devoid of an offensive touchdown. Flacco nearly won it in the end with a gutsy two-minute drill, but his third-down pass was picked off in the end zone by Broncos safety Darian Stewart.
  1. The Ravens lost their defensive leader in Sunday's loss. Terrell Suggs was carted off the field in the fourth quarter. After the game, coach John Harbaugh announced that Suggs tore his Achilles and is out for the season.

-- Marc Sessler

  1. One late sequence showed the difference between these two organizations of late. Instead of asking Drew Brees to pick up six yards with under two minutes to go, coach Sean Payton called for a silly punt. This was a bad idea in any circumstance, especially with the Saints defense struggling to get stops.

Bruce Arians, on the other hand, coaches aggressively even with the lead. He risked stopping the clock by calling a pass on second down on the team's ensuing drive. Rookie running back David Johnson delivered, taking his first NFL touch 55 yards for a game-sealing touchdown.

  1. Palmer looked very sharp, rifling in some difficult passes into tight windows. His protection held up despite a lot of turnover in the preseason, although that likely had a lot to do with a poor Saints pass rush.
  1. The Cardinals could be without running back Andre Ellington once again. He left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury, and didn't return. Chris Johnson took all the carries after Ellington left the game, with David Johnson helping on passing downs. Arians indicated after the game that Ellington potentially had a PCL injury. 

-- Gregg Rosenthal

  1. The Chargers wiped out a 21-3 deficit behind some Hall of Fame-level quarterback play from Philip Rivers in the second half. He threw for 404 yards -- the seventh time he's reached 400 in a game -- with two touchdowns. His second scoring pass was the 254th of his career, pulling him even with Dan Fouts for the most in team history.
  1. The Ameer Abdullah summer of hype was justified. The Lions running back got right to work on his highlight reel, nearly juking Eric Weddle -- an All-Pro safety -- out of the building on a 24-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Abdullah finished with 94 yards from scrimmage and added a long kickoff return.
  1. Keenan Allen's sophomore slump is ancient history. The Chargers wide receiver torched the interior of Detroit's defense, finishing with 15 receptions for 166 yards. His biggest catch was a third-and-19 conversion midway through the fourth quarter, a play that set up the game-clinching touchdown. The 15 catches tied a franchise record set by Kellen Winslow in 1984.

-- Dan Hanzus

  1. A.J. Green may have earned a massive contract extension this week from the Bengals, but it was Tyler Eifert who earned his keep on Sunday. The third-year tight end matched his career total with two touchdowns against the Raiders and set a career-high with nine receptions and 104 receiving yards. After missing nearly all of last year with an elbow injury he suffered in Week 1, Eifert will be welcomed back to the Bengals rotation as a much-needed red zone threat for Cincinnati and the perennially-criticized Andy Dalton.
  1. Ah, Raiders quarterbacks. You never fail to underwhelm. Derek Carr had a rough start to his highly-anticipated sophomore campaign, going 7 of 12 for just 61 yards before he left with a hand injury near the end of the first half. Though the X-rays were negative, he didn't return and Matt McGloin played just well enough (23/31, 142 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT) to keep the Raiders from completely falling apart in the second half.
  1. While Jack Del Rio's Raiders coaching debut, on both sides of the ball, was notably miserable, Amari Cooper did show some burst that he flashed in the offseason. He only played one half with his starting quarterback, but on one short route from Carr, he broke the ankles of one poor Bengals defender and turned a small gain into a team-long 24-yard gain. It may be a tall task for the rookie, but the Raiders will need Cooper to pick up the slack to make Carr, and maybe McGloin, look like a bona fide starter.

-- Jeremy Bergman

  1. Mariota set an NFL record with four touchdown passes in the first half of his NFL debut. He had more scores than incompletions (three) on 16 attempts. While he caught a few breaks -- one fumble in the end zone was overturned -- Mariota's calm and accuracy from the preseason carried over.

The Titans implemented some packaged plays and other Oregon-like principles where Mariota was clearly comfortable and made the right decisions. Also reminiscent of Mariota's time at Oregon: He sat out the fourth quarter.

  1. Jameis Winston's first NFL pass was returned for a touchdown. The last quarterback to do that was Brett Favre. Like Favre, Winston is going to make a lot of mistakes early in his career. His 210 yards on 33 attempts don't look too bad, but Winston struggled to move the ball when the game was in doubt. Tampa's lousy protection didn't help him.

This was an insanely deflating result for a Bucs franchise that already struggles to sell tickets.

  1. There were a lot of positive signs for the Titans. They have been waiting for second-year running back Bishop Sankey to improve, and he set a career high with a modest 74 rushing yards and a touchdown on only 12 carries.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

  1. Tony Romo saved his best for last. After throwing two interceptions that turned into Giants points earlier in the game, Romo led the Cowboys on two scoring drives late in the fourth quarter to make amends. Romo is often feast-or-famine in the fourth quarter, and on the final drive, he feasted on the Giants' secondary that had given him trouble all night -- really -- going 5-for-6 for 72 yards in 1:16. On the touchdown throw, Romo initially fumbled the snap before firing a rope down the seam to Jason Witten for the 11-yard game-winning score. A Hall-of-Fame drive on opening night from a Cowboy great.
  1. Dez Bryant had one rough night. The wide receiver suffered a broken bone in his foot and is expected to miss four to six weeks, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told NFL Media's Desmond Purnell. He was taken to the locker room in the fourth quarter with a foot issue.

Earlier in the game, Dez went to the locker room with hydration issues. When he returned to the game, he was a non-factor, dropping a key third-down throw that halted a second-quarter drive deep in the red zone.

  1. Despite Romo's heroics, the Giants' secondary came to play. We expected New York's hodgepodge of abandoned misfit defensive backs to cower against Bryant and Dallas' aerial assault after their underwhelming preseason performance. But for the most part, Big Blue stood still -- at least through the first three quarters -- thanks to exceptional play from Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie -- who scooped and scored -- and Trumaine McBride. All hail Steve Spagnuolo, Giant Whisperer.

-- Jeremy Bergman

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