NFL Musings, Week 1: Marcus Mariota is Pro-Ready and Imagining Bridgewater in Houston

By Jason Lisk
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Week 1 continues tonight with Philadelphia-Atlanta and Minnesota-San Francisco, but the first wild opening Sunday is in the books. Every week, we’ll take a look at some of the biggest surprises, cool info, and interesting stories from the action.

Marcus Mariota Shows He Might Be “Pro-Ready”

Remember all the draftnik talk about how Jameis Winston was “Pro-Ready” because he played in a pro-style offense, while Marcus Mariota played in the Oregon spread? Yeah, about that …

All Mariota did was finish with a perfect passer rating in his first game. He also threw for four touchdown passes in the first half. How’s this for a historical note? Mariota is only the second rookie quarterback since 1960 to throw more than two touchdown passes in the season opener. The other? Fran Tarkenton in 1961, who also threw for four touchdowns. I’d say when you match that in your first game, you are pro-ready.

[Related: Jameis Winston’s First Pass was a Pick-Six]

Also, if coaches can adapt systems so that Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, and now Marcus Mariota can immediately turn in hugely efficient performances, maybe we need to evaluate what it even means to be pro-ready.

Imagining a Less Savage World for Houston

Brian Hoyer’s stronghold on the quarterback job–awarded to him just a few weeks ago and chronicled on HBO’s “Hard Knocks”–lasted less than four quarters in Houston. The 27-9 halftime deficit wasn’t all Hoyer’s fault, though he certainly didn’t help matters. Hoyer came out and threw an interception on his very first throw as a Texan. He was sacked four times, fumbling once.

Ryan Mallett replaced him halfway through the fourth quarter, and Houston went on two scoring drives to make the final result appear more palatable to those who didn’t watch the proceedings. However, it now seems like we could be watching a Hoyer-Mallett dance all season at the position.

It’s easy to wonder, though, what could have been on draft day in 2014. There is plenty of armchair quarterbacking when it comes to the draft (hey, everyone passed on Tom Brady five times, can you imagine?), but a very real and heavily discussed scenario was in play for Houston. In Bill O’Brien’s first year, they needed a quarterback. The draft rumors were that Houston had fallen in love with Pitt’s Tom Savage, and they would eventually take him in the 4th round.

Teddy Bridgewater was available late in the first, and Houston could have traded into that round (they held the 33rd overall pick), but instead it was Minnesota trading up just ahead of them to #32 to make the pick.

So now, Savage is still not even in the mix to start in his second year, the team had so much confidence after drafting him and seeing him in action that they traded for Mallett, and then signed Hoyer to replace Ryan Fitzpatrick. Musical chairs in Houston, and with J.J. Watt in his prime and appearing to again play for a team with a giant question mark at the position, we can only wonder “what if.”

The Old Colts got Stampeded in Buffalo

The Colts came into this year as one of the Super Bowl favorites, after reaching last year’s AFC Championship Game and adding both Frank Gore and Andre Johnson as weapons for Andrew Luck as he enters his prime.

They left Buffalo with more questions than answers. Only Oakland went deeper into a game before scoring on Sunday, as Indianapolis was shutout for the first 44 minutes of the game, and trailed 24-0 late into the third quarter.

As for the big name veteran signings, it was hardly the debut envisioned. Gore left the game at one point with cramps, and finished with 31 total yards on 10 touches. Johnson had only 24 yards on 4 catches, despite the Colts being in catch-up mode and throwing 49 passes. Add in a T.Y. Hilton knee injury that could have him missing time, and the offense now has question marks.

Of course, Buffalo’s defense was a big part of that. Rex Ryan should be sending Doug Marrone a new pair of shoes, because he found his dream team: unheralded QB, dominant defensive line, and plenty of talent to attack opposing offenses. This won’t be the last good offense that Buffalo encircles this year.

Carson Palmer and Arizona Win Again

Arizona beat New Orleans at home 31-19. Perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising. This one sneaks up on you, because Carson Palmer has yet to start a playoff game in the desert. But with that victory, the Arizona Cardinals are an unbelievable 14-2 in the last 16 games started by Palmer.

Denver’s Defense Saves a Dreadful Offensive Performance

Denver’s defense looks really good, with Wade Phillips in charge. That’s good, because the battle of “elite” quarterbacks was anything but. Nary an offensive touchdown was scored in the opener, with Flacco’s pick-six to Aqib Talib negating Manning’s earlier interception by Jimmy Smith.

Joe Flacco had a terrible day against the Denver defense, and Baltimore’s offense managed only 173 total yards. Flacco threw for 117 yards on 32 attempts, which is the type of performance that would have people retiring Peyton Manning or Tom Brady.

Speaking of Manning, though, expect the talk about whether he is done to pick up if the offense doesn’t start clicking soon. Denver had 219 total yards. That’s by far the lowest of the Manning era in Denver. The second lowest? Last year’s Divisional Playoff Round loss to Indianapolis at home. Two of Manning’s worst 7 games by yards per attempt have come in his last two starts.

Over his last eight games, Manning has totaled 1,812 yards (6.56 YPA), 10 TD, and 7 INT.

Kam Chancellor Gets a Bargaining Chip as the Seahawks Pass Defense Got Torched strongy The Rams

The Seattle Seahawks managed to lose a game where they got a punt return TD from rookie Tyler Lockett and also scored on a fumble recovery. How rare is that? Here’s the last game where a team lost while having both a punt return and fumble return TD in the same game: Detroit to Carolina in 2003. Hey, any time you can cite a Joey Harrington and Mike McMahon classic, you’ve got to do it.

Seattle also won the turnover battle 3-1, so this one should be somewhat concerning, not because it was a close loss on the road, but how it developed.

Seattle rallied from a big deficit to take a fourth quarter lead, only to surrender it back and lose in overtime. The offense was okay, not great, but that’s to be expected against the Rams’ front four. On the other hand, you don’t expect a team down to its third-string running back (Benny Cunningham) and where Jared Cook, Cunningham, Stedman Bailey, and Lance Kendricks are the top receivers to light you up.

10.2 yards per attempt yesterday was the most allowed in a game since the start of the 2012 season. The only other time that Seattle’s vaunted pass defense has allowed more than 9.0 yards per pass was in a road loss at Miami back in 2012.

Not to worry, Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay are up next, and another subpar passing defense performance could mean an 0-2 start.

Meanwhile …

Yeah, that’s funny, but in fairness, going 1-0 is one of those clichés that Wilson tweets about all the time, in between live-tweeting Deuteronomy.

THE NO-HUDDLE ATTACK

Green Bay 31, Chicago 23: The Bears were in it most of the game, but missed a 4th and goal from the 2 trailing 24-16, then Cutler threw an interception on the next possession. What does it say when James Jones can be rejected by multiple teams and come in and catch two touchdowns with Aaron Rodgers?

Carolina 20, Jacksonville 9: Sorry Jags fans, but despite Yeldon showing flashes early, the offense was dreadful. Bortles was again barely over 50%, and took 5 more sacks a year after he led the league with 55 sacks taken. At least you have the pool.

New York Jets 31, Cleveland 10: The Browns last won a season opener in 2004. They are 1-16 in the first game since coming into the league in 1999. Sorry for sinking you deeper into depression.

Miami 17, Washington 10: The Washington defense actually played really well in this one, holding Miami to 256 yards and shutting down the Miami offense in the first half. Also, something something Suh.

San Diego 33, Detroit 28: Keenan Allen had 15 catches! San Diego rallied, and rookie 5th round pick Kyle Emanuel, out of North Dakota State, had a sack and a sweet diving interception off a deflection in his first career start.

Cincinnati 33, Oakland 13: Tyler Eifert had his breakout game, and well, there’s always next year in Oakland. Or, maybe not, based on all the offseason relocation talk.

Dallas 27, NY Giants 26: The decision to pass on 3rd and goal from the 1 was costly. Odd decision, and it also does not bode well that the Giants lost a game like that where they handily won the turnover battle.

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