Did I Just See That? Opening Week in the NFL a Wild One
by Trevor Whenham - 09/12/2006
This has been a very odd opening weekend in the NFL, but then again opening weekend is almost always odd. There were some happenings that I took in stride, but other things were so bizarre that I almost got whiplash doing a double take to make sure that I had really seen what I thought I saw. Over the weekend, these were the gems, the times when I asked myself 'Did I just see that?'
--The Chiefs were 3rd-and-5 from Cincinnati's 11. To the surprise of everyone -- including Larry Johnson -- the coaching staff called a running play. Johnson got nowhere and the team had to settle for a field goal. When asked afterwards why he hadn't gone for the more logical pass, offensive coordinator Mike Solari said that he had mistakenly thought it was second down. If he had known what down it was, he said, he probably would have called for a pass. Really, though, it's so hard to keep track of that kind of thing, so you can't really blame him. That complete and incomprehensible ineptness was pretty much indicative of what the K.C. offense had to offer. How does Herm Edwards make every offense he touches so bad so quickly?
--Turns out counting downs is pretty hard after all. Renowned football genius Willis McGahee struggled with it, too. Dick Jauron wanted to prove that he deserved his new coaching gig, so with his team up 17-7 on the Pats he went for it on 4th-and-1 from New England's 7 instead of kicking a field goal to pad the lead (three points that would have come in very handy in the end since they lost by two). McGahee was given the ball, tried to go right, ran into a wall and the drive ended. After the game McGahee said that he thought it was third down. Does that mean he would have tried harder if he knew he didn't get another chance?
--Mike Nugent missed an extra point in the Jets game. How does a kicker that isn't in high school miss an extra point? Especially when that kicker is supposed to be some sort of kicking prodigy. Luckily for Nugent, however, that wasn't the worst convert play of the weekend. That honor goes to Minnesota. Five minutes into their game, the Vikings found the end zone. Likely suspecting that they wouldn't see the end zone again, they decided to go for a two-point conversion, which they missed. Nothing like making a statement early by storming out to a 6-0 lead.
--Chad Freaking Pennington!!! I spent the entire offseason coming up with a hundred different clever phrases I could use to explain how bad the Jets quarterbacking was this year, then Pennington comes out and lights it up. Sure, it was only against Tennessee, but 319 yards and 2 touchdowns is frankly more than I thought he was going to get all season. He spread the ball around, he found Laveranues Coles whenever he wanted to and he made the Titans look silly. All that after being the first QB ever to come back from two straight shoulder surgeries. In related news, Kerry Collins and Aaron Brooks are now running out to find a shoulder surgeon who can work quickly.
--Is it possible that Oakland is really that bad? There were absolutely no highlights for the home team in their game. I take that back, Robert Gallery did have a very nice quarterback sack. Unfortunately, he stills plays on the O-line and the QB he sent flying was his own. I know Shawne Merriman is hard to block and all, but that probably doesn't help the offensive cause much. The most interesting proposition to watch for the rest of the season is whether head coach Art Shell or offensive coordinator Tom Walsh will be the first to resign. Both guys looked as sharp as a spatula and as happy as road kill by the second half.
--Apparently two brothers played against each other in the game on Sunday night. I'd tell you more, but I don't know the details because NBC never mentioned anything about it the whole game.
--Speaking of terrible, awful teams, did you see the Packers play? Wow. How do you tell a legend that it's time to ride the pine? Here's the depressing thing for Packers fans - there isn't a single game on their schedule that is clearly winnable. Up until this weekend I would have given the Pack the edge against San Francisco, but the Niners showed that they are slowly but steadily on the rise, while the Pack appears to be Ahman Green playing 1-on-11. Even the Jets showed a spark that the Pack was missing. Where are the Raiders when you need them? I'm actually cheering for 0-16 to happen, not because I hate the Pack (I don't), but because that would be almost as big an achievement as 16-0 would be. That's the only way that Favre's last season is at all memorable.
--What is wrong with home teams? The road teams went 11-5 straight up on the weekend, and a ridiculous 12-4 ATS. Try to explain that. That's what makes handicapping so much fun - ridiculous and completely inexplicable biases.