Cowboys are their own worst enemies
There’s a new one-word mantra in Big D: Finish. Had the Cowboys finished either of their two respective halves of football, they’d be atop their division with a key win over an East rival. Instead, they’re in an early hole. The Cowboys outgained the Redskins, 380 yards to 250. Tony Romo was largely poised and efficient, completing nearly 66 percent of his passes with a touchdown and no interceptions. The Cowboy defense harassed Donovan McNabb into a 15-of-32 debut in burgundy and gold. But with four seconds left in the first half, Dallas offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was possessed by the spirit of Joe Pisarcik and decided to run a play, a shovel pass to Tashard Choice, whose struggle for stat-padding yardage led to a strip and a shocking touchdown by DeAngelo Hall. Then, with the ’Boys at the Redskins 13 on the game’s final play, Romo scrambled and found Roy Williams alone in the corner of the end zone — but right tackle Alex Barron had embraced Brian Orakpo like a long-lost love. Holding. Game over. “We made far too many mistakes,” Romo said in the night’s understatement, “and we weren’t able to overcome them.”
Chris Johnson: Still electrifying
It was vintage CJ out there against the still-hapless Raiders. The Oakland D was stout early, holding Johnson to a few timid, probing runs amid the tall timber. Then, like Keyser Soze, poof — he was gone. Johnson’s 76-yard sprint in the second quarter gave Tennessee an insurmountable 24–3 lead and propelled him to his 12th consecutive 100-yard game. It also provided more than half of his 142 yards, but that’s CJ’s MO. The home run, and the threat thereof, will be Tennessee’s primary offensive weapon this season. Johnson’s presence allowed receiver Nate Washington to run free for a tone-setting first-quarter 56-yard TD reception from Vince Young. “A lot of teams in this league are going to be fearful of what he can do,” Washington said of Johnson. “When (Young) faked it to Chris, I was able to see the safety and corner bite down. I was just able to run right by them.” Be afraid, AFC South. Very afraid.
Welcome back, Michael Vick
Michael Vick’s last start in the NFL came on the last day of 2006. In his first meaningful action since then, Vick almost salvaged a dogfight with the Packers, but in the end the Eagles were more bark than bite. (Sorry, I’ll stop now). After a concussion knocked starter Kevin Kolb out of the game, Vick keyed an explosive second half, completing 16-of-24 passes for 175 yards and a score and rushing for 103 yards, becoming only the third Eagle QB with 175 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in the same game since 1960. It wasn’t quite enough, as the Packers held on to win 27–20, but it was an impressive flashback to his Superman days in Atlanta. Andy Reid says there’s no quarterback controversy in Philly — Kolb’s still his guy — the results would seem to argue otherwise, as does Vick. “I feel like if I had been out there for four quarters, maybe we would've had a chance to win the game,” he said. He just might be right.
Sunday’s breakout star: Arian Foster
The helpful folks at Elias strike again, informing us that Arian Foster’s 231-yard performance was the second-best opening day rushing performance in NFL history, surpassed only by O.J. Simpson’s 250 yards to open his 2,000-yard 1973 season. Not bad for a former undrafted practice squadder. Foster shredded the Colts run defense all day, helping the Texans compile a franchise-record 257 yards on the ground in a physically dominant 34–24 win. His three second-half touchdowns enabled the Texans to hold off a Peyton Manning comeback attempt and back up some of that offseason smack talk. So, after years of teasing and tantalizing their fans, are the Texans finally ready to contend? I’m not ready to go there just yet — Houston has shown flashes before, only to self-destruct — but I am ready to anoint Foster as the opening week’s most pleasant surprise. That’ll have to do for now.
Petey still rules the West Coast, for now
Pete Carroll may have cultivated a surfer boy image during his stunningly successful tenure at USC, but he stalked the sidelines in LA with a determined gait, and he’s apparently brought that determination north to Seattle. But his rah-rah reputation is still certainly intact. Carroll’s Seahawks shocked the 49ers 31–6, and Petey loved every minute of it, imploring the Qwest Field crowd to join him in his celebrating his triumphant return to pro football. “He was probably the most enthusiastic person in the place,” said linebacker Lofa Tatupu. “Pete wants to get out there and hit.”