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The Schein Nine

Derek Anderson, Knowshon Moreno headline Week 1 surprises


You beautiful, delicious, intoxicating devil.

After waiting -- seemingly forever -- for the 2014 NFL campaign to begin, the opening Sunday was simply sensational. The window at the end of the early batch of games was pulsating, with a bevy of gripping finishes.

All in all, it was a day filled with shockers, jaw-dropping moments and some genuine drama. It's a new season in the NFL, but the same old mantra applies: Expect the unexpected.

With that in mind, here are our biggest surprises from a fantastic first Sunday, Schein Nine style:

1) Derek Anderson beats the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay.

Cam Newton wasn't healthy enough to play, so you figured backup Derek Anderson would serve as fresh meat for Lovie Smith's defense. Heck, you figured this would've been a tough spot for Newton, with Tampa reborn and Carolina's lack of depth at receiver.

You gotta love sports.

Anderson, four years removed from his last NFL start, somehow rocked steady and got the football to promising rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who is an absolute beast with great hands and physical prowess.

Tampa couldn't run, Josh McCown didn't have the magic he displayed last year in Chicago, and the Bucs' defense couldn't get Anderson to turn it over. The result for Carolina: A 20-14 road win within what figures to be a highly competitive division.

I'm shocked.

2) Patriots "didn't do anything well enough" against Dolphins.

The statement in quotes comes directly from Bill Belichick's postgame news conference. It's actually an assertion he made three times, the latter two in describing the Patriots' inept play during the second half, which was brutal indeed. The Pats simply were outclassed in the final 30 minutes. The supposedly revamped defense couldn't tackle. Darrelle Revis didn't look rejuvenated, starting his Patriots career a far cry from the star corner we saw before he tore his ACL in 2012. And following last month's questionable Logan Mankins trade, the offensive line couldn't block for Tom Brady.

The Patriots blew a double-digit lead to an inferior team, as Miami outscored New England 23-0 in the second half to earn a 33-20 win.

The Dolphins do deserve a ton of credit, though. Cameron Wake, always underrated on a national scale, led the charge against Brady. Meanwhile, Knowshon Moreno had a powerful Miami debut, bowling over New England for 134 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

For New England, its the first season-opening loss since back in 2003, which occurred days after the Pats abruptly cut Lawyer Milloy.

The Patriots were an en vogue Super Bowl pick, while Joe Philbin was supposed to be on the firing line in Miami. Guess this is why they play the games ...

3) "Saint Doug" gets needed win in Chicago.

The last month was pretty rough in the land of the Buffalo Bills, factoring in injuries, reports of coach/management dissention (and a self-applied "Saint Doug" nickname for the head man) and EJ Manuel's inability to complete the forward pass.

Consequently, Chicago was a popular "survivor pick" in Week 1, given the Bills' chaos and the host Bears' plethora of weapons.

Not so fast.

Manuel looked like a legit quarterback, 30-something running back Fred Jackson only seemed to gain strength as the game rolled on and Buffalo's defense made plays.

Doug Marrone's team showed great character -- the Bills jumped out to a surprising lead, allowed the Bears to tie it up, but then found a way to prevail in overtime, 23-20.

Marrone's future remains uncertain, with new ownership coming down the pike. That's not fair. Marrone can coach. Getting his team to beat a more talented Bears team -- in Chicago -- proves it.

And Chicago, in a year appropriately loaded with major expectations, better get it right -- and fast. Next on the schedule: a Sunday night trip to Levi's Stadium for the San Francisco 49ers' official opening of their new home.

4) Remember the Titans.

Apparently, I forgot.

I loved Tennessee's hire of Ken Whisenhunt, who did, after all, guide the Arizona Cardinals to a Super Bowl in his first go-around as a head coach. I thought Whisenhunt would add toughness and accountability. But to pound the Chiefs in Kansas City? That was wild to watch.

My guy Alex Smith had his worst game in years with three picks. When I talked to John Dorsey last week on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports," the Chiefs general manager spotlighted the youth on the offensive line. This proved to be a foreboding discussion, as second-year offensive tackle (and 2013 No. 1 overall pick) Eric Fisher looked a fish out of water. And the Kansas City offense, as a whole, looked totally lost. The Chiefs clearly missed suspended receiver Dwayne Bowe.

In the preseason, I saw Tennessee as the last-place team in the AFC South. This was a heck of a win.

5) Ice, ice baby.

Viewers of HBO's "Hard Knocks" saw Mike Smith stressing toughness throughout the entire month of August. Well, his Atlanta Falcons certainly showed it in a huge win over the New Orleans Saints.

A "huge win" -- in Week 1 of the season ... Hyperbole?

Absolutely not.

After last year's 4-12 flop, Atlanta needed a start like this at home, knocking off the widespread favorite in the NFC South.

Matt Ryan was, in my opinion, the best player in the NFL in Week 1. The Falcons QB completed 31 of his 43 passes for a team-record 448 yards, hurling three touchdown strikes against zero interceptions. But this performance went beyond raw statistics; Ryan outplayed Drew Brees and befuddled Rob Ryan's talented defense. Truly impressive stuff.

Last month, I wrote that Atlanta's passing attack would sizzle, with Ryan feeding the dynamic duo of Julio Jones and Roddy White, among others. But I'm gonna be honest: I didn't expect this group to outshoot the big, bad Saints.

6) Brian Hoyer shows moxie.

The great Ben Roethlisberger pulled another rabbit out of his hat, securing a home win for the Pittsburgh Steelers with his clutch play down the stretch.

NFL Replay


Relive the Pittsburgh Steelers' 30-27 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. ET on NFL Network.

But there's no need for Big Ben's last-minute heroics if the Cleveland Browns don't admirably come all the way back from a 27-3 halftime deficit. And the comeback was led by Brian Hoyer, the man who beat out media darling Johnny Manziel for the starting job. I've called Hoyer a backup, but I have no problem giving credit where credit's due. He did a fine job playing steady football on the road, deftly directing the Browns to four scores in their first four drives of the second half to tie the game at 27 apiece.

Now, first-year Browns coach Mike Pettine quickly established his feelings postgame: "There are no moral victories in this league." And that's the takeaway you'd expect from any NFL coach. But it's impossible to not be encouraged by the resiliency from Hoyer and Co.

7) Chad Henne to Allen Hurns.

Or was that Joe Montana to Jerry Rice?

Jacksonville's stopgap quarterback -- filling the role until rookie Blake Bortles is deemed ready -- hooked up with the undrafted free-agent receiver for a pair of first-quarter touchdowns. At halftime, the Jaguars led the host Eagles 17-0 -- a score that had folks scratching their heads nationwide.

Of course, Philadelphia roared back with 34 unanswered points after the break to earn the win. But you'll never forget the day Allen Hurns, with four catches for 110 yards and two scores, beat you in fantasy football. Or the day you left him on your bench. Or the day you simply learned his name.

8) Game plan for Joe Flacco is completely wacko.

Gary Kubiak didn't exactly dazzle in his first game as Baltimore's play caller. The Ravens didn't score in the first half, eventually losing 23-16 at home to the division-rival Bengals.

NFL Replay


Relive the Cincinnati Bengals' 23-16 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET on NFL Network.

In what universe does it make sense to have Joe Flacco throw the ball 62 times? Especially in a game when he can't hit the broad side of a barn. And while we're talking about the Ravens quarterback, what on Earth was he thinking at the end of the first half?

In the postgame, Flacco accurately summed up the first offensive performance of the Kubiak era: "We just played about as bad as you can, in terms of just simple fundamental things -- throwing, catching, running routes, staying up, just running the ball, couple mental busts." Yup, poor effort across the board.

9) Don't sleep on the Vikings.

Congrats to Mike Zimmer on getting his first career win as an NFL head coach. He should've been a head coach in this league a long time ago.

Zimmer is a defensive guru, so it was no surprise seeing his Vikings D suffocate a Rams offense that lacked a legit quarterback. But it was surprising -- even for someone like me, who pumped up this Minnesota offense in August -- how well Matt Cassel and Co. clicked on the road against the Rams' defense.

Cassel, the 32-year-old veteran many believe is just keeping the seat warm for rookie Teddy Bridgewater, was an efficient 17-for-25 passing with two touchdowns and a 113.7 quarterback rating. Cordarrelle Patterson showed off his game-breaking ability, particularly on a breathtaking 67-yard touchdown run. Greg Jennings had a mesmerizing touchdown of his own. Adrian Peterson was Adrian Peterson.

Long story short: Norv Turner's group had it humming. This is a sneaky team in a tough NFC North.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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