Big Week 1 results often end up meaning little

September 13, 2004|By KEN MURRAY

TODAY, BETWEEN the euphoria that another season has begun and a city's gloom that the Ravens lost, it is worth remembering Week 1 results mean, well, next to nothing.

A year ago, six teams that would make the playoffs lost on the NFL's opening weekend. Most prominent were the New England Patriots, thrashed by Buffalo, 31-0. The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl.

The defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Philadelphia Eagles so convincingly in the first Monday night game of 2003 that it sparked immediate prophecies of a repeat.

As we now know, the Bucs finished 7-9 and the Eagles went to the NFC championship game.

So, Week 1 serves as little more than an introductory treatise on the War and Peace-length tome that is to follow.

That said, if you're a fan of the Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers or Tampa Bay, you might want to consider lowering your expectation level this season.

Those teams are in trouble.

Miami coach Dave Wannstedt would have been better off starting quarterback A.J. Feeley than benching incumbent Jay Fiedler after the first 30 minutes of what will be a long, tough season trying to score points.

Wannstedt is going to need all the loyalty he can find on this sinking ship, and benching Fiedler for the high-salaried Feeley at halftime of a 17-7 loss to Tennessee on Saturday was not a good message.

The Giants couldn't cover anyone in Philadelphia, least of all Terrell Owens, who caught three touchdown passes in his debut for the Eagles. Quarterback Kurt Warner was respectable in a 31-17 loss, but the Giants are just wasting time that rookie Eli Manning could use.

In San Francisco, the 49ers are so thin at quarterback - Tim Rattay has four career starts and Ken Dorsey none - that they should be favorites to get the first pick in April's draft. Rattay left yesterday's loss to Atlanta briefly with a shoulder injury, and that's a disaster scenario.

In Tampa, coach Jon Gruden loaded up with aging veterans in the offseason and his offense showed it. Quarterback Brad Johnson lost his best threat when Joey Galloway went down with a serious groin injury. This could be a patchwork offense all season.

AFC North review

The Pittsburgh Steelers took a page from their past yesterday. Much to the regret of the Cincinnati Bengals, so did they.

With defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau calling blitzes from anywhere, the Steelers swarmed around Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon and restored some of their lost defensive clout.

At least three times, Gannon was hit from behind just as he was about to throw the ball, fumbling twice. Steelers linebacker Clark Haggans had two sacks for a team that didn't get many turnovers or sacks last year.

On offense, Pittsburgh gave the ball to running back Duce Staley and he punched out 91 yards in a 24-21 win. For a week, anyway, the Steelers were back.

The Bengals, meanwhile, were inept trying to tackle Curtis Martin (196 rushing yards) in a 31-24 loss to the New York Jets. The good news was quarterback Carson Palmer played well in his NFL debut, but the 31 points his defense surrendered were too much to overcome.

The Bengals will regret pulling back their offer to defensive tackle Warren Sapp in the offseason. He would have made a big difference in their sorry run defense.

So far, so good

The Seattle Seahawks went to New Orleans with Super Bowl expectations and a recent history of playing poorly on the road (2-6 last year). In a 21-7 win over the Saints, they lent credence to the former and dispelled the latter.

Although quarterback Matt Hasselbeck started slowly, throwing a first-quarter interception, he finished with 246 passing yards and one touchdown. Running back Shaun Alexander ran for 135 yards and scored three touchdowns, but left with a right knee sprain that was not thought to be serious.

Better yet, the Seahawks, with 415 offensive yards, limited New Orleans to 281 yards. Defense has been Seattle's Achilles' heel for the past several seasons. If coordinator Ray Rhodes changes that, the Seahawks could go deep into the postseason.

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