Sunday, September 19, 2004

Opening weekend filled highlight reel

NFL insider

Mark Curnutte
A quick glance back at Week 1: Six players scored three touchdowns each, the most since the merger in 1970. The record was five in the 10th week of the 1975 season.

The six were Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis, Philadelphia's Terrell Owens, Green Bay's Ahman Green, Seattle's Shaun Alexander, Denver's Quentin Griffin and Kansas City's Priest Holmes. Owens was the only wide receiver among the group of running backs.

Speaking of running backs, 12 rushed for at least 100 yards, the most on opening weekend. Their teams were 9-3. There were 28 touchdowns rushing, second most since 1990. There were 31 on opening weekend in 2002. The league has to love this. Weekend games were closer than they have been in more than two decades. The average margin of victory was 8.4. That's the closest since 1983 (7.0).

NEW RIVALS: The Tennessee-Indianapolis rivalry appears to be one that has developed quickly after division re-alignment.

The Titans and Colts will meet today in Nashville. They are the two AFC South champions in the two seasons since the divisions were changed. In the last two years, the division was decided by the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Titans swept the series in 2002, the Colts in 2003.

ROCKY TOP: Of course, the Colts game brings quarterback Peyton Manning back to the state in which he played college ball. But Manning trails Tennessee's Steve McNair in direct competition, McNair holding a 3-2 edge, including the Titans' AFC playoff victory at the RCA Dome.

Manning has yet to miss a start and will make his 98th consecutive start at the beginning of a career, the longest career-opening streak by any quarterback in NFL history. He has missed only one snap in his career due to injury.

NUMBERS GAME: Minnesota Randy Moss has 41 receptions for 872 yards (a 21.2-yard average) and 10 touchdowns in eight Monday night games. No. 11 is this week against Philadelphia.

Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb has thrown just four interceptions in his past 10 regular-season games.

Stats Inc. reports that since 1999, teams that scored first during the regular season are 823-432-1. That doesn't count Week 1.

The Dolphins tied a franchise record with 14 penalties in their Week 1 loss to the Titans.

The Redskins' victory against Tampa Bay was the franchise's 500th in the regular season, a total only reached by Chicago (641), Green Bay (603) and the New York Giants (571). Joe Gibbs is responsible for a quarter (125) of those victories, despite coaching just 13 of the team's 83 seasons.

PIGSKIN POLITICS: The Washington Postnotes the Redskins are a strong indicator of how the presidential election will turn out. In the last 18 presidential elections, if the Redskins lost or tied the last game before the election, the incumbent party also lost. Green Bay visits Washington on Oct. 31.

RAVENS: In losing 20-3 at Cleveland, Baltimore failed to score an offensive touchdown for the 15th time in 81 games under coach Brian Billick and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh.

Tailback Jamal Lewis gained just 57 rushing yards on 20 carries, and the Ravens are now 2-10 in the last two-plus seasons when Lewis has 20 or fewer attempts.

BROWNS: Cleveland's home-opening victory was their first since 1995. Of course, the city didn't have a team from 1996-98. The victory was the Browns' first against Baltimore when both Jamal and linebacker Ray Lewis were playing. All Pro left tackle Jonathan Ogden was out with a knee injury.

STEELERS: Dick LeBeau's return as Pittsburgh's defensive coordinator was a success. Not only did the Steelers win, 24-21 against Oakland, but LeBeau's first-team defense had three sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.


Written from notes submitted by other NFL beat writers.

Curnutte's Power Rankings

No. Last week Team Record Comment
1 1 Patriots 1-0 Belichick worried about run defense
2 2 Eagles 1-0 T.O. opens up space for run game
3 4 Titans 1-0 Faces change, system keeps winning
4 3 Colts 0-1 Will win a lot of 40-35 games this year
5 7 Rams 1-0 Revived Faulk runs behind solid line
6 8 Seahawks 1-0 Can match '03 road win total (2) this week
7 11 Packers 1-0 Going for eight wins in a row over rival Bears
8 5 Panthers 0-1 Heart of offense gone with Smith, Davis
9 13 Broncos 1-0 Champ gives Shanahan genius tag back
10 10 Vikings 1-0 Have to be excited by CB Winfield
11 6 Chiefs 0-1 Loss was worse than 10-point margin
12 9 Buccaneers 0-1 First offense again fails to score TD
13 13 Redskins 1-0 Gibbs' return a triumphant one
14 14 Falcons 1-0 Broke 10-game losing streak in San Francisco
15 16 Jets 1-0 Just good enough to beat Bengals
16 12 Ravens 0-1 O-line injuries hurt run offense
17 15 Bills 0-1 Just 242 yards in total offense
18 21 Steelers 1-0 Old days return with run game, big-play D
19 17 Cowboys 0-1 Suspect secondary lets them down
20 28 Browns 1-0 Need to avoid letdown in Dallas
21 18 Bengals 0-1 Palmer good; team must fix run defense
22 19 Saints 0-1 Talented team is own worst enemy
23 23 Lions 1-0 Broke record 24-game road losing streak
24 24 Jaguars 1-0 Ready to face three playoff teams in row
25 22 Raiders 0-1 Good sign when Gannon threw downfield
26 25 Dolphins 0-1 Solid defense, struggling offense
27 26 Bears 0-1 Need more from QB Grossman to win
28 32 Chargers 1-0 It was just the Texans, guys
29 27 Texans 0-1 Four turnovers lead to loss
30 29 Giants 0-1 Defense, not QB, is biggest problem
31 31 Cardinals 0-1 Still feeling OK about close losses
32 30 49ers 0-1 Hoping to get QB Rattay back

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