+ PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 17, CLEVELAND BROWNS 16. Cleveland's newest offensive incarnation with Brandon Weeden at quarterback and Trent Richardson at running back was enigmatic at best with 15 possessions ending with three field goals, seven punts an end-of-the-half possession and four interceptions. It was the type of afternoon that observers mercifully defaulted to the "these are rookies" argument led by a second-year head coach that's 4-13, concluding that it needs time for cohesion.
Chris Pokorny with Dawgs by Nature concluded:
I understand that a quarterback can look like a rookie, but Weeden was worse than that against the Eagles. In a game in which he did not face a ton of pressure, he missed several open receivers badly and finished the game 12-of-35 for 118 yards and 4 interceptions. Richardson was not very effective running the ball, having 19 carries for 39 yards, but it was Weeden's turnovers that prevented Cleveland from coming away with a win in Week 1.
It was Cleveland's masterful defense that enabled the Browns to sustain a six-point lead heading into the final moments. D'Qwell Jackson was one of four players that picked off Michael Vick Sunday, returning an interception 27 yards for a touchdown to give Cleveland a 16-10 lead early in the fourth. Vick might as well compliment a bruised ego with a bruised body. Cleveland's pass rush knocked Vick down 11 times, sacking the quarterback twice. Even Michael Vick's touchdown pass to Clay Harbor with 1:18 was a masterful strike again tight coverage by Cleveland's defense. A play that can only be awarded by a great play from the offense, rather than failed coverage by Cleveland.
And we have to admit that this was plenty impressive.
The Bengals will host the Cleveland Browns during next week's home opener.
+ DENVER BRONCOS 31, PITTSBURGH STEELERS 19. Understandably the headline of Pittsburgh's Sunday Night opener was Peyton Manning's return, after having sat out all of 2011 with a neck injury that required multiple surgeries and countless reports about his future. During his first game since 2010, Manning completed 19 of 26 passes for 253 yards passing against the Steelers with two touchdowns for a passer rating of 129.2.
Isaac Redman, replacing Rashard Mendenhall (possibly for a couple of weeks), only rushed for 20 yards on 11 carries and Ben Roethlisberger was somewhat erratic, despite generating two touchdowns; that might be explained with Denver's pass rush, generating four quarterback sacks. A Terry Porter 43-yard touchdown return with over two minutes remaining in the game, sealed Denver's win over the Steelers.
+ There were nine 300-yard passing performances by quarterbacks this weekend. The most impressive has to be Washington rookie Robert Griffin III, who completed 11 of 13 passes in the first half against the Saints, for 182 yards passing and two touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3. Griffin finished the afternoon with 320 yards passing, helping lead the Redskins to a surprising 40-32 win over the Saints in New Orleans and becoming the first player in NFL history to record at least 300 yards passing, two touchdowns and no interceptions in his debut.
Interesting enough, heading into Sunday there have been two NFL rookie quarterbacks that surpassed 300 yards passing in their NFL debuts during kickoff weekend. Peyton Manning was the first with 302 yards passing in 1998 and Cam Newton followed that up with 422 yards in 2011. NFL history was matched on Sunday. Griffin was joined by Colts rookie Andrew Luck, who posted 309 yards passing during Chicago's 41-21 thrashing of the Colts.
+ New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady won his 125th game in just his 160th career start, setting a record for fewest starts to reach that milestone. The previous mark was held by Peyton Manning with 184 starts. Brady also passed Fran Tarkenton (124) for the fifth-most wins by a starting quarterback in NFL history. He trails Brett Favre (186), John Elway (148), Dan Marino (147) and Peyton Manning (141).