Detroit vs. New Orleans: Drew Brees showed he still runs one of the best offenses in the NFL and that the Lions’ defense has a lot of work to do this season. Matt Stafford looked good at sometimes an awful at others, making him a typical rookie QB. New Orleans’ defense looks much more improved, fast and physical as they gave the Lions fits all day. Overall, the Lions looked like a team much improved but still lacking in key areas. To be competitive, Detroit needs to be better on third downs, run the ball better and find a pass rush. Aaron Brown and Dennis Northcutt had nice returns and may have solved the return problems we have had since Eddie Drummond left town. To look at some players more closely:
Matt Stafford: By the second half it was apparent the Lions were not going to run the ball and were playing from behind all day. He showed patience in dumping the ball off but was not afraid to go long or try to fit the ball in tight coverage. Overall, he had a bad day against a rebuilding defense with some pieces missing (Pettigrew, Williams) and the Saints dropping 7 or 8 people in coverage. I would give him a C- rating, as he made some nice throws but some stupid ones too. He looked like a guy making his first start.
Louis Delmas: Had a nice fumble recovery returned for a TD and some hard tackles but a stupid unsportsmanlike conduct penalty hurt a good day overall for “the missile.”
Kevin Smith: Never really got started with the running game, made some nice receptions out of the backfield and picked up blitzes better than last year. Did not see Maurice Morris relieve him in the game.
Calvin Johnson: Made some great plays and should have scored a TD. Very well covered all day and made tough catches that he usually does. Best weapon still on offense, and best player on the team.
The Defense looked pretty bad and gave up a ton of yardage and points and had a bunch of stupid penalties. Gunther Cunningham never brought the blitzing pressure we have all heard about since he was hired, and that was probably because Brees would have shredded us for more. The run defense got good penetration at times but got shredded repeatedly. At least they did not miss tackles like last year. The Lions are not there yet, but they played a good team on the road and had some flashes of potential.
Minnesota vs. Cleveland: Brett Favre looked more like a game manager and Adrian Peterson looked amazing again. Cleveland has the potential to be really bad this season.
Dallas vs. Tampa Bay: Tony Romo looked great passing for a career high, but may have injured his ankle. Roy Williams and company look poised to take over for TO.
New York vs. Houston: Houston came out and put up an awful performance and Mark Sanchez got his first win. I know the Jet’s defense is better, but the number 3 offense in the league has to do better especially at home in perfect conditions.
San Francisco vs. Arizona: The Cardinals’ offensive troubles that took place in the preseason carried over into the real games too. Frank Gore was stuffed but Shaun Hill looked good and the Niners Defense did a good job with the Cards. Good upset for SanFran.
Philadelphia vs. Carolina: Carolina and Jake Delhomme looked very bad and the Eagles looked much better, but Donovan McNabb has broken a rib and could miss weeks. Kevin Kolb will start for now, and Michael Vick comes back in two weeks. I cannot wait to see where this QB situation goes.
Chicago vs. Green Bay: In what was maybe the game of the weekend, the Bears and Packers added a new chapter to their rivalry. The first half was a defensive battle with Cutler throwing three interceptions. The second half was highlighted by the Packers’ offense turning it on and the defense looking very much improved. Green Bay takes the game and early lead in the NFC North. Brian Urlacher may miss time with a wrist that needs surgery. That could be a tough loss for the Bears early in the season.