What Have We Learned From Week 1 of the 2015 NFL Season

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Carlos Hyde, Colin Kaepernick

San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde, left, celebrates after running for a 10-yard touchdown with quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Here is What Have We Learned from Week 1 of the 2015 NFL Season, thanks to the AP Pro 32 for photos & help in this article.

                                                                                         Ups

  • Carlos Hyde runs wild on the Vikings– Carlos Hyde scored touchdowns on runs of 17 and 10 yards and finished with 168 yards rushing on 26 carries to lead the Niners to a 20-3 victory against the Minnesota Vikings in Jim Tomsula’s debut as head coach minus the interim status he had for the final game of 2010.Hyde wanted to outplay the better-known No. 28 on the field, Adrian Peterson. He did that and more.

    “That was also in the back of my head, to outdo a guy who’s been leading the NFL in rushing. That’s tremendous to outdo a guy like that, Adrian Peterson, a great running back,” Hyde said. “I used to watch his highlights. To be able to outrush him, that’s great.”

    Now, Hyde is the league’s leading rusher. Even if it’s only a small sample size.

  • Rams defense steps up to beat the Seahawks– Defense carried the St. Louis Rams in their opening victory over the Seattle Seahawks. As hoped, there was a carry-over from the end of last season when players became familiar with Gregg Williams’ system.”They’re one of the best defensive lines in the National Football League,” Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said after getting sacked six times in the Rams’ 34-31 overtime victory. “They made some plays.”

    It was an impressive response after a winless preseason. St. Louis dropped three of its first four games in each of the previous two seasons.

    “It certainly was a reward for them for all the hard work through camp, some of the negativity that emerged from our preseason games,” coach Jeff Fisher said Monday. “It was a great day.”

    Win at Washington this week — they opened as 2 1/2-point favorites — and they’ll be 2-0 for the first time since 2001. As it is, they are 1-0 for just the third time since 2005.

    Fisher is emphasizing that the team needs to clean up its mistakes.

    “The odds are really diminished,” he said after the Rams gave up two returns for touchdowns against the Seahawks. The defense was the equalizer.

    Marshawn Lynch was held in check with 73 yards on 18 carries. The sack total on Wilson equaled their two-game total from last season.

    Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald had two sacks apiece. Donald and fellow tackle Michael Brockers had big games, and combined on the tackle that threw Lynch for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-1 from the St. Louis 42.

    “Aaron, that was really one of the best games I’ve seen a defensive tackle play,” Fisher said.

  • Bengals Offense rolled in Oakland– The first throw went to tight end Tyler Eifert, who was out for all but eight plays last season.It wasn’t long before one went to Marvin Jones, who sat out all last season with injuries.

    The Bengals’ offense is intact and looking good.

    Cincinnati spread it out with multiple formations and lots of options during an opening 33-13 win in Oakland on Sunday that felt more like a long-delayed unveiling. The Bengals had expected to look more like this last year, but never had everyone on the field.

    “I’m happy that we did that,” said Andy Dalton, who was 25 of 34 for 269 yards with two touchdowns to Eifert. “It kind of sets the tone for the season.”

    The first time out, the Bengals started emptying their playbook.

    They went with four receivers and five receivers, loaded up with extra blockers for running plays, even had tackle Andrew Whitworth spread out in a slot position to block after a quick pass to a nearby receiver on one play.

    “We have some flexibility with our players and their ability to line up at different spots and do different things,” coach Marvin Lewis said.

    They also showed they can run as well as throw it, finding a better balance than in the past.

    “The first half and the beginning of the second half, I think we did a lot of great things,” said Jeremy Hill, who ran for 63 yards and two touchdowns. “We definitely showed what we’re capable of doing with all the weapons we have as an offense.

    “I think the sky is the limit for us, especially after just seeing some of the things we could do.”

    Their receiving group was hit hard by injuries last season, when they went 10-5-1, got a wild card and lost their opening playoff game for the fourth season in a row. A.J. Green missed significant time with an injured foot and a concussion that kept him out of the playoff loss at Indianapolis.

    In addition, Jones never got on the field because of foot and ankle injuries. Eifert suffered a severe elbow injury early in the season opener and never returned.

  • Panthers Defense wants to build more momentum– The Carolina Panthers defense was hoping to build off the momentum it had at the end of last season.They’re off to a good start.

    The Panthers defense forced three turnovers, recorded five sacks and scored a touchdown in a 20-9 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. They limited the Jaguars to 75 yards and no points in the second half despite playing without their top defender Luke Kuechly, who left in the second quarter with a concussion and did not return.

    “I think it speaks loudly about the leadership on the defense and the fact that we play great team defense,” Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said Monday. “Not taking anything away from Luke, but there is not one person that is more important than another on this defense.”

    Now the Panthers will turn their attention to a Houston Texans team that has questions at quarterback.

    Whether or not Kuechly will be around to lead Carolina’s defense remains to be seen, too.

    The NFL’s highest-paid middle linebacker has entered the NFL’s concussion protocol and his status won’t be known until later in the week, according to coach Ron Rivera. If Kuechly can’t play, strong side linebacker A.J. Klein will fill in at middle linebacker and rookie Shaq Thompson will start at strong side linebacker.

    Klein had six tackles, including one for a loss, and did a nice job directing the defense in the second half.

    Rivera said that while he was pleased with Klein’s effort “the thing that was even better is the other 10 guys didn’t feel like they needed to do more than they needed to” with Kuechly out.

    In other words, the Panthers have trust in Klein.

Downs

  • Buccaneers to rebound from that terrible home loss vs. the Titans– The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t concerned about a slow start mushrooming into another disappointing season.Coach Lovie Smith said Monday he is confident the struggling team is headed in the right direction, despite suffering one of the most deflating losses in franchise history in Jameis Winston’s debut.

    The Bucs went 2-14 a year ago for their worst finish in nearly three decades. They have not made the playoffs since 2007.

    If a four-touchdown loss to the Tennessee Titans is indicative of what is to come, they are in for another long season.

    Winston had his first pass as a pro intercepted and returned for a touchdown. The offense gained more than half of its yardage in the fourth quarter, and the Marcus Mariota-led Titans scored touchdowns on five of their first six possessions against what was expected to be an improved Bucs defense.

    “One disappointing game doesn’t define our season. We won’t let it,” Smith said.

    “If we had been on the other side, we wouldn’t be printing up Super Bowl tickets right now either. It’s just one game. The season isn’t made on it. … You have to keep that in perspective,” he added. “It’s not all bad to have more of a sense of urgency early on.”

    The Bucs (0-1) travel to New Orleans to face the Saints (0-1) on Sunday.

    Coaches and teammates talked at various times during training camp and the preseason about Winston’s resilience and ability to put poor plays or subpar performances or practices behind him.

    He was 16-of-33 passing for 210 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions in the opener — outplayed by No. 2 overall pick Mariota, who was 13 of 16 for 209 yards, four TDs and no interceptions.

    The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner, sacked four times, said he will learn from the experience.

    “Confidence has never been a thing for me. … I’m always going to be confident. This is just one game, I always can bounce back,” Winston said. “Things didn’t happen like I wanted it to happen, but you don’t get down on yourself. You don’t start, saying ‘boo-hoo’ and feel sorry for yourself,” he added. “Nobody really is going to feel sorry for you. All you’ve got is yourself, so you’ve got to bounce back and continue to play. I believe in our team … and I believe we’re going to bounce back. That’s what we do.”

  • The Giants not scoring a TD late cost them dearly– Eli Manning is taking the blame for two late blunders that led to the New York Giants’ collapse against the Dallas Cowboys, including one where he told halfback Rashad Jennings not to score.The bottom line though is that there is plenty of blame to go around.

    Coach Tom Coughlin accepted it again on Monday. Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo can have some, too, and so can defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, whose group gave up touchdowns on Dallas’ final two drives in a 27-26 loss on Sunday night.

    Manning was the focus of the blame Monday.

    After losing track of Dallas’ timeouts, the 12-year veteran says — on his own — he told Jennings not to score on two consecutive plays when the Giants had a first down at the Cowboys 4-yard line with 1:54 to play, and 23-20 lead.

    “I thought that they may let us score to get the ball back, so that’s why I informed Rashad if they let you score, just go down at the one-inch line. Don’t score,” Manning said. “He still ran hard, we got two yards on first down and second down, third down that was my_it’s still my mistake. That did not come from the sideline.”

    Manning believed Dallas had one timeout remaining when it had two. The problem was Manning didn’t realize Dallas did not use a time out with 1:54 when the Giants declined a penalty after a first-down pass to Odell Beckham Jr.

    In the final five minutes, NFL rules mandate that the game clock starts on the snap after all out of bounds plays and after all penalty enforcements. That allowed Dallas to use its final two time outs after runs of 2 and 1-yard by Jennings.

    To compound the problem, Manning threw the ball away and stopped the clock against on a third-down pass. He should have taken a sack and milked the clock.

    Manning talked to the offense Monday and acknowledged the mistakes.

    “Really the third-down decision is what bothers me more than anything,” he said. “I think not making the better decision right there and taking that sack. That would’ve made a bigger difference than anything.”

    Coughlin said he was unaware that Manning told Jennings not to score. He wanted a touchdown.

    “That’s all I ever wanted_was to get back to the 10 point lead,” Coughlin said. “Dallas has had success driving the ball late in the game against us for a couple years, and scoring late touchdowns to defeat us. By going up 10, that would not have been an issue.”

    There were other problems. Before the third-down pass play call, none of the coaches told Manning to take a sack if the play was not open.

    “I’ve got to be smarter in that scenario and understand that the clock is the most important thing there and that we weren’t going to go for it on fourth down,” Manning said. “So that’s bad management of the game in that scenario and understanding how important the clock was right there.”

    Josh Brown’s field goal gave the Giants a 26-20 lead with 1:34 left, but Tony Romo drove the Cowboys to a winning touchdown with seven seconds left.

    The loss was a brutal one for a team that was looking for a big start after missing the playoffs the last three seasons.

    “It hurts but it’s supposed to hurt when you play your tails off and you work hard and you do a lot of good things and don’t come out on top, it hurts,” Manning said.

  • Teddy Bridgewater looking to rebuild after horrible start in San Francisco– Teddy Bridgewater air-mailed his tight end. He missed open receivers streaking down the field. He even checked down on a Hail Mary.For a player whose biggest strength is supposed to be an unflappable demeanor, the Minnesota Vikings quarterback sure looked rattled in a ghastly season-opening loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night.

    “This is the first time I’ve really seen him like that,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Tuesday after reviewing video of the 20-3 defeat. “Usually he’s got so much composure but he did seem that way.”

    Bridgewater completed 23 of 32 passes for 231 yards and an interception. The statistics don’t look terrible on their face, but watching the performance in real time revealed a quarterback who more closely resembled a jittery rookie than the second-year pro who is supposed to be a key to a playoff run this season.

    His interception sailed about 10 feet over 6-foot-6 Kyle Rudolph’s head and right into Tramaine Brock’s hands. He held the ball far too long, which contributed to him being sacked five times, and he appeared to have difficulty dissecting the changing coverages of San Francisco’s aggressive defense.

    Highlighting the head-scratching season debut was a sequence at the end of the first half. With 3 seconds left in the second quarter and the ball at the San Francisco 45, the Vikings initially brought out struggling kicker Blair Walsh for a desperation field goal try. But after rethinking things, Zimmer decided to let Bridgewater have one more play only to see him throw the ball to the 19-yard line for a meaningless 27-yard completion.

    “I missed some easy throws, throws that could set us behind, behind the sticks or plays that could have resulted in big plays,” Bridgewater said after the game. “I’ll just have to try and continue to get better each week.”

    The performance by Bridgewater seemed to trickle down to the rest of the team. The defense was gashed for more than 200 yards on the ground, Walsh missed yet another field goal try and Adrian Peterson was a nonfactor in his highly anticipated return to the field.

    “I told the team at halftime, I said, ‘I don’t even know who’s out there today. I don’t know who this team is. I’ve never seen this side of us before,'” Zimmer said. “Never.”

    Bridgewater also is playing behind a makeshift offensive line that is playing without injured center John Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt. He was under duress often against the blitzing Niners, even running into rookie right tackle T.J. Clemmings in the backfield while scrambling to buy time on one play.

    Bridgewater completed 82 percent of his passes in the preseason, and his 64.4 completion percentage last season was the third best by a rookie in league history. The poise he has exhibited since being drafted in the first round has endeared him to coaches and teammates, who voted him a team captain before this season began.

    That composure was nowhere to be found in San Francisco on Monday night, but Zimmer said he is confident his young quarterback will rebound against Detroit in the home opener on Sunday.

    Bridgewater was picked off five times in two games against the Lions last season.

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