The NFL got “Back to Football” as Kickoff Weekend featured exciting play and record-breaking performances. Among the highlights of Week 1:
•The 791 points scored were the most ever scored on Kickoff Weekend and the second-most ever scored in a single week in NFL history (837; Week 12, 2008).
•Five teams – New York Jets (48), Baltimore (44), Chicago (41), Atlanta (40), Washington (40) – scored at least 40 points on Kickoff Weekend, the most in NFL history. In three previous seasons (1920, 1947, 1954), four teams scored at least 40 points in the season opener.
•Five rookie quarterbacks – ROBERT GRIFFIN III (Washington), ANDREW LUCK (Indianapolis), RYAN TANNEHILL (Miami), BRANDON WEEDEN (Cleveland), RUSSELL WILSON (Seattle) – started on Kickoff Weekend, the most since at least 1950.
•ROBERT GRIFFIN III (320 yards) of Washington and ANDREW LUCK (309) of Indianapolis became the first pair of rookie quarterbacks to each pass for at least 300 yards on Kickoff Weekend. In fact, entering 2012, only two rookies in NFL history had ever passed for at least 300 yards in a season opener: PEYTON MANNING (302 yards, 1998) and CAM NEWTON (422 yards, 2011).
•Washington’s ROBERT GRIFFIN III became the only player in NFL history to pass for at least 300 yards and two touchdowns without throwing an interception in a player’s NFL debut. Griffin completed 19 of 26 passes (73.1 percent) for 320 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 139.9 passer rating in the Redskins’ 40-32 win at New Orleans. He is the first rookie quarterback to throw for at least 300 yards and win a season opener.
•Denver quarterback PEYTON MANNING (401) joined BRETT FAVRE (508) and Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (420) as the only quarterbacks with 400 passing touchdowns. Manning, who threw two TD passes in Denver’s 31-19 win over Pittsburgh, accomplished the feat in the fewest games (209; Marino, 227 and Favre, 228) and in the fewest attempts (7,226; Favre, 7,699 and Marino, 7,820).
•New England quarterback TOM BRADY won his 125th career start as the Patriots defeated Tennessee 34-13. Brady reached the milestone in the fewest starts (160) in NFL history, besting PEYTON MANNING’s mark (184). Brady passed Pro Football Hall of Famer FRAN TARKENTON (124) with this 125th victory and trails only BRETT FAVRE (186), Hall of Famers JOHN ELWAY (148) and DAN MARINO (147) and Manning (142).
•San Francisco wide receiver RANDY MOSS registered his 154th career touchdown reception in the 49ers’ 30-22 win at Green Bay. Moss moved into sole possession of second place in NFL history with that TD catch and trails only Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (197).
•Baltimore’s ED REED had a 34-yard interception-return TD in the Ravens’ 44-13 win over Cincinnati. He has an NFL-record 1,497 interception-return yards in his career, passing Pro Football Hall of Famer ROD WOODSON (1,483).
•San Francisco kicker DAVID AKERS tied an NFL record with a 63-yard field goal. The others to accomplish the feat are TOM DEMPSEY (11/8/70), JASON ELAM (10/25/98) and SEBASTIAN JANIKOWSKI (9/12/11).
What’s in store for us this week? Here’s a look at a few interesting storylines heading into Week 2:
CHICAGO BEARS (1-0) at GREEN BAY PACKERS (0-1) (Thursday, NFL Network, 8:00 PM ET)
NFL Network kicks off its expanded 13-game Thursday Night Football schedule when the Packers host the division-rival Bears. The teams will meet for the 185th time (including playoffs), the most-played rivalry in NFL history.
“It’s the most-played rivalry in the NFL,” says Bears head coach LOVIE SMITH. “It’s a good rivalry. Normally, these are good football games and we’re glad to be a part of the history.”
The Bears opened the season with a 41-21 victory over Indianapolis. Quarterback JAY CUTLER passed for 333 yards and two touchdowns and wide receiver BRANDON MARSHALL had nine catches for 119 yards and a score. Marshall’s 119 receiving yards are the most in a Bears debut since HARLON HILL (140) in 1954.
“When you add ALSHON JEFFERY (80 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut) with Brandon Marshall, all of a sudden this Bears team has a receiving corps,” says NFL Network analyst STEVE MARIUCCI.
The Packers look to bounce back from a Kickoff Weekend loss to San Francisco. Quarterback AARON RODGERS passed for 303 yards and two touchdowns, including nine completions to wide receiver RANDALL COBB. Cobb, who had a 75-yard punt-return touchdown against the 49ers and an 108-yard kickoff-return TD in last year’s opener, is the only player in NFL history to have a kick-return touchdown in Week 1 in each of his first two NFL seasons.
“As a team, when you lose, you want to get right back on the field,” says Green Bay linebacker A.J. HAWK. “We’re ready for Thursday. I think everyone on this team feels the same way. We need to get back on the field and show what we are.”
NEW YORK JETS (1-0) at PITTSBURGH STEELERS (0-1) (Sunday, CBS, 4:25 PM ET)
The Jets kicked off the season by scoring an NFL-best 48 points in the team’s 48-28 win over Buffalo. New York became the third team in NFL history to score a touchdown via the rush, pass, interception-return and punt-return in a season opening game (1982 Miami, 2003 Detroit): quarterback MARK SANCHEZ threw three touchdown passes (two to rookie STEPHEN HILL, one to JEREMY KERLEY), running back SHONN GREENE rushed for a TD, cornerback ANTONIO CROMARTIE returned an interception 40 yards for a score and Kerley added a 68-yard punt-return TD.
“This was a tremendous performance by our football team,” says Jets head coach REX RYAN. “But we have some things to correct and look forward to getting back on the practice field and getting that done.”
The Jets will travel to Pittsburgh for the first time since the Steelers defeated New York in the 2010 AFC Championship Game (1/23/11).
Pittsburgh will look to bounce back from Week 1’s road loss at Denver. The Steelers aim to continue their success at Heinz Field as the team has won nine consecutive home openers.
“This week is very important,” says Steelers running back JONATHAN DWYER. “Every week is important. The first didn’t go as we wanted, but we are going to make sure we put ourselves in a better situation this week.”
DETROIT LIONS (1-0) at SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (1-0) (Sunday, NBC, 8:20 PM ET)
Two 2011 playoff teams will meet in San Francisco on Sunday night. Both teams are coming off Kickoff Weekend wins.
The teams met last year in Detroit with the 49ers defeating the Lions 25-19 in Week 6, San Francisco’s eighth consecutive win in the series. In that contest, 49ers running back FRANK GORE rushed for 141 yards and a touchdown.
Detroit quarterback MATTHEW STAFFORD threw a game-winning touchdown pass with 10 seconds remaining to lead the Lions to a 27-23 win over St. Louis in Week 1. The TD pass was Stafford’s third game-winner in the final minute of a fourth quarter, passing Pro Football Hall of Famer BOBBY LAYNE for the most in team history.
“We’ll be ready for it,” says Lions head coach JIM SCHWARTZ about playing in primetime. “It’ll be an exciting game. And it’s going to be decided on the field in the 60 minutes we play.”
In San Francisco’s Kickoff Weekend victory at Green Bay, ALEX SMITH passed for two touchdowns and Gore rushed for 112 yards and a score. Smith, who completed 15 passes to wide receivers, has now won 15 of his past 18 starts.
“I’m really excited about the way our guys played and fought and handled themselves out there in Green Bay,” says 49ers head coach JIM HARBAUGH, who is now 2-0 in his career on Kickoff Weekend. “It was an exciting game for us. Now we’re back for a great week of preparation and a great week of work.”
DENVER BRONCOS (1-0) at ATLANTA FALCONS (1-0) (Monday, ESPN, 8:30 PM ET)
PEYTON MANNING and the Broncos will travel to Atlanta to face MATT RYAN and the Falcons on Monday night. Both clubs started the year with wins as Denver knocked off Pittsburgh 31-19 and Atlanta defeated Kansas City 40-24.
Manning threw two touchdown passes in his Broncos debut and became the third player with 400 career passing TDs. The defense limited the Steelers to 284 total yards and cornerback TRACY PORTER sealed the game with a 43-yard interception-return touchdown.
“This team is still forming its identity,” says Manning. “As you’re feeling yourself out, when you can get a win in that process, that’s a nice thing. We’ve got an extremely tough schedule and going on the road to Atlanta. But it’ll be nice to go in there 1-0 as opposed to 0-1.”
The Falcons will also be going into this contest 1-0. Ryan passed for 299 yards and three touchdowns – including two to wide receiver JULIO JONES (six catches, 108 yards) – as Atlanta racked up 40 points. Defensively, linebacker STEPHEN NICHOLAS led the team with 12 tackles and added an interception.
“It’s always nice to get a win in your first game of the season,” says Atlanta head coach MIKE SMITH. “I really felt that we came out very quickly and strongly on offense.”