Week 1 in the NFL has a way of proving the point that things are never quite as good or bad as the media says it is when everybody is 0-0.
In 2 hours, 49 minutes Monday night, the 49ers went from decimated to dominant. The Vikings went from darlings to doormats. Norv, Teddy and Adrian went from Big Three to Larry, Curly and Moe.
Or so it will be told until the NFL shakes its snow globe again to see where its 32 teams will settle a week from now.
Fortunately for the Vikings, history tells us that Week 1 doesn’t always serve as a lasting harbinger in a league that’s neither marathon, nor sprint, but rather 16 days of Duck, Duck, Goose.
In 2001, St. Paul native, Heisman Trophy winner and then-rookie quarterback Chris Weinke led the Panthers to a big 24-13 upset of the Vikings at the Metrodome.
“I felt more nerves before a lot of college games than I did this one,” Weinke said that day.
Weinke and the Panthers finished the year 1-15.
The best Week 1 mirage, perhaps in NFL history, came in 2003 when the Patriots lost to the Bills 31-0. This was a delightful experience for former Pats and then-current Bills Drew Bledsoe and Lawyer Milloy. Especially Milloy, who had been released by Bill Belichick days before the regular season.
“I could be sitting up here and throwing out names and sticking it to them,” Milloy gloated. “But they know who they are.”
Fifteen weeks later, the Patriots capped a 14-2 regular season with, yep, a 31-0 win over the Bills. The won the Super Bowl while the Bills did what they’ve done every year since 1999: Not make the playoffs.
So let’s not make any long-last proclamations based on Week 1. Just remember that NFL perceptions tend to have the shelf life of a head of lettuce.
So here are some Week 1 observations with an expiration date of late Monday night:
Team of the Week
Speaking of Buffalo, how ’bout them Bills? Best win of the week.
Sports Illustrated called Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck-led offense the “scariest” in the league. But not Sunday when new Bills coach Rex Ryan clamped it down in a 27-14 victory that came with Rex’s best defender, tackle Marcell Dareus, serving a one-game suspension.
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore looks like the lockdown corner Ryan needs. According to the analytics site Pro Football Focus, Ryan called 30 blitzes on Luck’s 53 dropbacks. Luck actually was pressured only 11 times, but the defensive backs batted away eight balls, including four by Gilmore.
Luck finished with a 63.6 passer rating while getting an average protection time of 2.4 seconds, his lowest since the 2013 season, according to PFF.
Coach of the Week
Rex. Calling the perfect defense isn’t the only home run he’s hit in Buffalo.
He brought Greg Roman in from San Francisco as offensive coordinator. He named Tyrod Taylor his starting quarterback. The same Tyrod Taylor who posted a 123.8 passer rating Sunday.
He gave Percy Harvin a fourth team in four years. The same Percy Harvin who caught five passes, including a 51-yard touchdown, while making the Colts pay for using Vontae Davis to shadow Sammy Watkins.
And Ryan also gave guard Richie Incognito a place to play. Out of football since 2013 because of the bullying scandal in Miami, Incognito received PFF’s highest grade from the Colts-Bills game.
Next up: The Patriots in Buffalo on Sunday.
Dud of the Week
Eli Manning’s gaffe at the end of the Giants’ meltdown in Dallas is the obvious choice. But we’ll give a nod to Bucs coach Lovie Smith, whose career is going down in flames with him holding on tighter than ever to the Tampa 2 defense.
After his 2-14 debut as Bucs coach last year, Smith took the defensive play-calling duties from defensive coordinator and former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier. The results couldn’t have been any worse in Week 1.
The Bucs lost 42-14 to Tennessee, led by rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota, the player the Bucs passed on to select Jameis Winston No. 1 overall. Worse yet, Mariota toyed with the Tampa 2 in his NFL debut, showing the patience, accuracy and running ability to defeat the passive scheme.
In only three quarters of work, Mariota completed 13 of 16 passes for 209 yards and four TDs with no interceptions and a perfect passer rating of 158.3.
As for Smith, well, he remained imperfect at home (0-9) as Bucs coach.