Colts in Three-Way Tie for Second Place in AFC South after Season-Opening Loss
INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts were in an unfamiliar situation on Sunday night. They lost the regular-season opener for the first time in four years.
That puts Indianapolis in another unfamiliar situation:
Second place in the AFC South.
The Colts, who had led or shared the lead in the South for 60 consecutive weeks, lost their 2008 regular-season opener – the first regular-season NFL game in Lucas Oil Stadium – to the Chicago Bears, 29-13, Sunday night. The loss put the Colts in a three-way tie for second place in the division with Jacksonville and Houston.
The Tennessee Titans, the only team other than the Colts to have won the division – the Titans won it in 2002 – won the opening weekend's only game between two AFC South teams, beating Jacksonville, 17-10, in Tennessee. It was the Titans' second consecutive victory over Jacksonville in a season opener.
The Colts, who led or shared the AFC South lead every week each of the past three seasons, have led or shared the division's lead in 95 of a possible 103 weeks since its 2002 inception.
A look at the rest of the AFC South and AFC:
Tennessee Titans (1-0)
Last week: The Titans beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, 17-10, at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday.
Next week: At Cincinnati (0-1).
Recent trend: Including the end of last season, the Titans now have won five of their last six regular-season games. They have beaten the Jaguars in the last two regular-season openers.
What happened Sunday: In a defensive battle, the Titans outgained the Jaguars, 309-189, doing so by emphasizing a powerful running game. The Titans took a 10-7 halftime lead and trailed just once, 7-3, in the second quarter, after which they outscored the Jaguars 10-0 before Jacksonville scored on a late field goal. Titans rookie running back Chris Johnson produced 127 scrimmage yards in his NFL debut and third-year quarterback Vince Young completed 12 of 22 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions before sustaining a left leg injury with 4:14 remaining. Backup Kerry Collins completed 2 of 2 passes for 65 yards.
Statistically speaking: The Titans, who were fifth in the NFL in total defense a year ago, were dominant against the Jaguars, allowing just 189 total yards and sacking Jaguars quarterback David Garrard seven times. Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth had Tennessee's first and last sacks of the game.
Coming up: The Titans will visit Cincinnati (0-1), after which they will play host to AFC South rival Houston (0-1) before playing host to the Minnesota Vikings on the final weekend of September.
Quote to note: "If you get seven sacks in a ballgame, it speaks volumes of what you're doing up front and the turnovers, definitely it was a huge day. We had to have that kind of day definitely to win this ballgame."
--- Titans Head Coach Jeff Fisher
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1)
Last week: The Jaguars lost to the Tennessee Titans, 17-10, at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday.
Next week: Home against Buffalo (1-0).
Recent trend: The Jaguars had been an NFL-best 9-4 in regular-season openers, including three of the last four. They had won nine of 12 games in September entering Sunday's game. They also had won four of six games against Tennessee, including three of four in Nashville.
What happened Sunday: After entering the game without their top reserve offensive linemen, the Jaguars had three more linemen sustain injuries. Tackle Maurice Williams and guard Vince Manuwai did not return. Jaguars quarterback David Garrard was sacked twice and he threw two interceptions as the Titans pulled away for the victory. The Titans all-but clinched the game when a 1-yard run by running back LenDale White with 3:47 remaining gave then a 17-7 lead.
Statistically speaking: The Jaguars were limited to 189 yards offense, including 33 yards rushing. Jacksonville finished last season second in the NFL in rushing.
Coming up: The Jaguars play host to the Buffalo Bills (1-0) on Sunday, then will visit the Colts (0-1) the following Sunday before playing host to Houston (0-1) on the final weekend of September.
Quote to note: "We had protection issues and timing issues throughout. We battled through it. We made some nice plays, but part of the problem was the way they rushed."
--- Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio
Houston Texans (0-1)
Last week: The Texans lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 38-17, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Next week: Home against Baltimore (1-0).
Recent trend: After finishing last season on a surge with three victories in the last four games and the first .500 season in franchise history, the Texans were out of the opener relatively quickly on Sunday. They fell behind 21-3 at halftime en route to their fourth opening-game loss in the last five seasons.
What happened Sunday: The Steelers controlled the game from the outset, taking a 21-3 halftime lead and a 35-3 lead after the third quarter en route to a 21-point victory at Heinz Field. The Texans faced 4th-and-1 at the Steelers 48 on the game's opening drive. Houston went for the first down, and quarterback Matt Schaub was stopped short despite officials initially ruling a first down. After officials spotted the ball short of a first down, a replay upheld the official's spot and Houston never regained momentum. "I felt good being aggressive right there, because I preach to our football team to be aggressive,'' Texas Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "After that it just kind of snowballed. . . . It's disappointing, but I need to start with myself."
Statistically speaking: The Steelers' offense controlled much of the game Sunday, with running back Willie Parker rushing for 138 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries and the Steelers rushing for 183 yards as a team. For the Texans, third-year defensive end Mario Williams had six tackles and two sacks, with Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson catching a game-high six passes for 112 yards.
Coming up: The Texans will play host to Baltimore (1-0) on Sunday before playing back-to-back road games at AFC South rivals – at Tennessee (1-0) on September 21 and at Jacksonville (0-1) on September 28.
Quote to note: "We got our tail kicked. We got manhandled."
New England (1-0): The Patriots won their regular-season opener with a 17-10 victory over Kansas City, but to many, the victory was lost in the news that quarterback Tom Brady – who threw an NFL-record 50 touchdown passes last season – sustained a knee injury and did not return. Various media resay Brady may miss the rest of the season.
Buffalo (1-0): The Bills improved last season under Head Coach Dick Jauron before losing their final three games to slip from playoff contention. On Sunday, they showed during a 34-10 season-opening victory over defending NFC West Champion Seattle that improvement could continue. Buffalo's special teams excelled Sunday, with Roscoe Parrish scoring on a 63-yard punt return and punter Brian Moorman throwing a touchdown pass to defensive end Ryan Denney on a fake field goal. The Bills won their season opener for a fourth time in 12 seasons.
New York Jets (1-0): The Brett Favre Era opened with a victory, with Favre – who joined the Jets during the preseason after 16 seasons with the Green Bay Packers – completing 15 of 22 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns. "I know I made the right decision," Favre said. "I'm a New York Jet. I don't know about a native New Yorkian, or however you say it. Hey, I'm happy to be a Jet."
Miami (0-1): The Dolphins, after a 1-15 season in 2007, had a chance to win the season opener. They rallied from a 20-7 deficit to within six, then drove deep into New York Jets territory before Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis intercepted Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington in the end zone with five seconds remaining. It was the fifth consecutive game the Dolphins had lost to the Jets.
Baltimore (1-0): In a seven-point victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, Ravens rookie QB Joe Flacco completed 15 of 29 passes for 129 yards and also ran for a 38-yard touchdown. The Ravens had the ball nearly 13 minutes longer than the Bengals, but the Bengals converted just 2 of 13 third-down tries and failed on both of their fourth-down attempts.
Pittsburgh (1-0): If it seems as if the Steelers always start quickly, it's because they do. Pittsburgh has won an NFL-best six consecutive season openers, a streak that continued with a 38-17 victory over the Houston Texans in Pittsburgh Sunday. That's the longest streak in the NFL since Miami won 11 consecutive openers from 1992-2002.
Cleveland (0-1): The Browns finished a game out of the AFC playoffs last season and many picked their game against the Cowboys to be one of the weekend's most competitive. Instead, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo completed 24 of 32 passes for 320 yards, including completions on his first nine pass attempts. The Cowboys outgained the Browns, 168 yards to 91, on the ground, and Dallas won the time of possession 36:14 to 22:31.
Cincinnati (0-1): Against Baltimore Sunday, Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer completed 10 of 25 passes for 99 yards and no touchdowns with one interception. His 35.2 rating was the lowest of his career. The Bengals have lost 9 of their last 11 games on the road.
San Diego (0-1): A preseason selection by many observers to win the AFC West and contend for the Super Bowl, the Chargers rallied to take a late lead but lost at home to Carolina on a touchdown pass on the game's final play. Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme took the last snap of the game with two seconds remaining, pump-faked and then threw the ball between two defenders to TE Dante Rosario in the back of the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown and the victory.
Denver (0-0): The Broncos will visit the Oakland Raiders Monday Night.
Oakland (0-0): The Raiders will play host to the Denver Broncos Monday Night.
Kansas City (0-1): The Chiefs had a very real chance to tie the defending AFC Champions late in the game. New England, which led 17-10 at the time, stopped the Chiefs on fourth-and-goal from the Patriots 5-yard line with under a minute to go.