It was an exciting first week of regular season action in the NFL, with defending Super Bowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens, kicking off the season against the Denver Broncos.
Peyton Manning stole the show, the Broncos veteran quarterback making a record-equalling seven touchdown throws – the most in a single NFL game – during a 49-27 win.
The visiting Ravens had started the game the stronger: Vonta Leach catching a short touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to give Baltimore a first quarter lead.
Despite Julius Thomas’ consecutive touchdown catches at the start of the second quarter for the Broncos, running back Ray Rice found his way into the end zone, while Justin Tucker’s field goal ensured the Ravens went in at half-time leading by 17 points to 14.
But the second-half was all about Manning, as six-point catches from Andre Caldwell, two from new signing Wes Welker and two more from Demaryius Thomas added 35 quick-fire points to the Broncos score.
The Ravens, struggled both on the ground – where they managed just 58 rushing yards – and on defence, where the losses of the retired Ray Lewis and Ed Reed – linchpins of the Baltimore defence for the last decade – were clear for all to see.
Flacco did his best to keep the Ravens in touching distance with a touchdown throw for Marlon Brown, while Tucker added an additional three points from a field goal, but these scores were simply consolations.
Manning ended the game with 462 yards, along with his seven touchdowns and no interceptions, while 27 of his 42 passes were completed. Flacco’s stats were respectable: 34 of 62 for 362 yards and two touchdowns, but he also conceded two crucial interceptions.
Baltimore’s struggles began a bad week for the AFC North division, whose four representatives all lost their opening encounter – the only quartet in the league to do so.
A late touchdown from the Chicago Bears enabled them to edge the Cincinnati Bengals 24-21, Brandon Marshall making the crucial catch from Jay Cutler mid-way through the fourth quarter.
Cincinnati had led by 11 in the third, helped in no small part by star-man A.J. Green, who managed two touchdowns and 162 receiving yards on the day – but some sloppy play, including two interception throws from Andy Dalton, eventually cost them.
The Miami Dolphins eased past the Cleveland Browns 23-10, despite trailing 7-6 at half-time. It was a miserable day for Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden, who had three first-half interceptions and struggled throughout the game.
Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers were stunned 16-9 by the Tennessee Titans in a close-fought match-up. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times as Pittsburgh endured a torrid afternoon, while the Titans Jake Locker got the nod over Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback and helped engineer a famous victory.
Elsewhere, the New England Patriots needed a 35-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski to avoid what would have been a huge upset against AFC East divisional rivals, the Buffalo Bills, who have now won just one of their last 20 matches against the Patriots.
Tom Brady helped engineer the 23-21 win – the Patriots tenth consecutive win on opening day – with 288 passing yards and two touchdowns, but Buffalo fought valiantly, with rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel completing 18 of his 27 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns.
One rookie quarterback was on the winning side last weekend as Geno Smith led the New York Jets to an 18-17 win over Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers only had themselves to blame however as a late penalty moved the Jets into field goal range, and allowed Nick Folk to snatch the winning points with seconds remaining.
It was a good day for last year’s Super Bowl runner’s up, the San Francisco 49ers, who defeated the Green Bay Packers 34-28 at Candlestick Park. The first three quarters were all tied at seven points apiece, and while both teams grabbed their fourth touchdowns in the final quarter, two field goal scores from Phil Dawson edged the game in the home side’s favour.
It was a big day for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns, while San Francisco’s new signing at wide receiver – Anquan Boldin – caught for 208 yards and a touchdown.
The Packers weren’t the only 2012 season division winners to struggle on opening day. Last year’s regular season leaders, the Atlanta Falcons, were beaten 23-17 by the New Orleans Saints (the second year in a row their first loss of the season has come against the Saints, although last year they were 8:0 at the time), the NFC East winners, the Washington Redskins, were stunned 33-27 by a new-look Philadelphia Eagles, and the Houston Texans had to fight from 21 points down to overcome the San Diego Chargers 31-28, the biggest comeback in Texans’ franchise history.
There was more luck for two of last year’s wild card teams however – the Seattle Seahawks bested the Carolina Panthers 12-7, and the Indianapolis Colts beat the Oakland Raiders 21-17.
In a series of all-divisional clashes the Dallas Cowboys defeated the New York Giants 36-31, the St. Louis Rams edged the Arizona Cardinals 27-24, and the Detroit Lions beat the Minnesota Vikings 34-24.
Finally, in the match between last year’s worse two teams, the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 28-2, giving Andy Reid a big win in his first match in charge, while new Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith made two touchdown throws.
Full List of Week One Results:
Ravens 27 (at the) 49 Broncos, Patriots 23 (at the) 21 Bills, Titans 16 (at the) 9 Steelers, Falcons 17 (at the) 23 Saints, Buccaneers 17 (at the) 18 Jets, Chiefs 28 (at the) 2 Jaguars, Seahawks 12 (at the) 7 Panthers, Bengals 21 (at the) 24 Bears, Dolphins 23 (at the) 10 Browns, Vikings 24 (at the) 34 Lions, Raiders 17 (at the) 21 Colts, Packers 28 (at the) 34 49ers, Cardinals 24 (at the) 27 Rams, Giants 31 (at the) 36 Cowboys, Eagles 33 (at the) 27 Redskins, Texans 31 (at the) 28 Chargers.
Week Two Fixtures:
Jets (1:0) at the Patriots (1:0), Rams (1:0) at the Falcons (0:1), Chargers (0:1) at the Eagles (1:0), Cowboys (1:0) at the Chiefs (1:0), Dolphins (1:0) at the Colts (1:0), Titans (1:0) at the Texans (1:0), Redskins (0:1) at the Packers (0:1), Browns (0:1) at the Ravens (0:1), Panthers (0:1) at the Bills (0:1), Vikings (0:1) at the Bears (1:0), Saints (1:0) at the Buccaneers (0:1), Lions (1:0) at the Cardinals (0:1), Jaguars (0:1) at the Raiders (0:1), Broncos (1:0) at the Giants (0:1), 49ers (1:0) at the Seahawks (1:0), Steelers (0:1) at the Bengals (0:1).
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