Tuesday, September 13, 2011

NFL Week 1 Awards: Tom Brady is Best at Start of New Season

All the excitement of the start of a new season has passed, but the games did not fail to live up to the hype. The NFL is celebrated for its parity and unpredictability and there were plenty of surprises to be had.

Still, many of the regular top performers put up huge numbers in Week 1 making for a very entertaining start to the new season.

Who was the best of Week 1? Who was the worst? And who had the toughest breaks?

MVP of the Week

Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

There were many great candidates, but Tom Brady got the job done in prime time Monday night. He set a franchise record with 517 passing yards. He had four touchdown passes and had only one interception and averaged 10.8 yards a completion, essentially getting a first down every time he threw.

Brady spread the love to all of his teammates, completing a pass to eight different receivers.

Also, every time the Miami Dolphins were able to muster up a score Brady lead the Patriots down the field with quick-strike answers. After Miami took almost eight minutes to score first the Patriots scored in about three minutes.

And he put the nail in the coffin when after the Dolphins failed to convert a fourth and goal Brady connected with Wes Welker for a 99-yard touchdown.

Whatever Brady did against Miami it was a success. There was just no stopping him whatsoever.

Honorable Mentions: Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo Bills; Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers; Brian Urlacher, LB, Chicago Bears

Bust of the Week

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

For the first time ever Roethlisberger lost to a Joe Flacco-lead Ravens squad. And Roethlisberger certainly did his part to help Flacco out. He missed on 19 of his passes and for worse he threw three interceptions and lost two fumbles.

Whether it was just a bad day or he decided not to show up for the game, you cannot make those mistakes against the Ravens. They thrive on capitalizing on opponents mistakes and Roethlisberger should know that better than anyone.

It’s not solely Roethlisberger’s fault the Steelers lost, but he had a miserable game.

(Dis)Honorable Mentions: Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants; Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys; Pittsburgh Steelers Defense

Surprise of the Week

Cincinnati Bengals

Sure, the Browns aren’t Super Bowl-bound but the Bengals weren’t even supposed to win this game. Not only did they win but it was also a fourth-quarter comeback. And not only was it a fourth-quarter comeback but it was orchestrated by their backup quarterback, Bruce Gradkowski, who went 5-12 for 92 yards, a touchdown and zero interceptions.

Both big-time rookies got the monkey off their backs early with starting QB throwing a TD pass before he left with an injured wrist and WR A.J. Green caught his first TD pass of his NFL career. So both players will feel less pressure to score next time on the field.

Running back Cedric Benson, who many thought would see as many as nine or 10 guys in the box (probably a little hyperbolic), rushed for 121 yards on 25 carries including scoring the game-winning touchdown.

A good day for a team many predict to have a long, rough year.

Honorable Mentions: Ted Ginn Jr., WR, San Francisco 49ers; Buffalo Bills; Mike Tolbert, RB, San Diego Chargers

Disappointment of the Week

Atlanta Falcons

On the other hand, many people predicted the Falcons would reach the Super Bowl. They have their work cut out for them though after an 18-point loss to the Chicago Bears.

Usually a steady, consistant quarterback, Matt Ryan committed two turnovers (one interception and one fumble, which was returned for a touchdown).

Last season the Falcons were one of the league’s most disciplined teams in regards to penalties. However, against the Bears they committed more penalties (9-8) for more yards (65-56) than the Bears did.

(Dis)Honorable Mentions: Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans; Kansas City Chiefs; Donovan McNabb, QB, Minnesota Vikings

Rookie of the Week

Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers

Love him or hate him (I think there are more of the latter) the kid did good work against the Cardinals. He didn’t get the win, but statistically he was phenomenal.
Newton set a rookie debut record with 422 passing yards. He had more touchdowns (two) than interceptions (one), which is a nice change of pace from Newton’s preseason. He also had 18 rushing yards and another score, meaning he accounted for all of Carolina’s scoring.

If the running game struggles like it did against the Cardinals and like it last season they may need Newton to play like this every week. So it was promising to see.

Also good to see for the Panthers’ sake was the chemistry Newton had with WR Steve Smith. Many expected Newton to go to TE Greg Olsen more frequently, but Smith had eight catches for 178 yards and two touchdowns. That already matches his TD total from last season. He also hasn’t had a 100-yard receiving game since Week 16 of 2009, and in the previous two seasons he’s only had two 100-yard receiving games.

Newton won’t put up these numbers every week, but it looks like he can play. And if he can continually hook up with Smith like this and reenergize his career, the Panthers could start climbing out of the NFL basement much faster than anticipated.

Honorable Mentions: Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers; Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona Cardinals; Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Washington Redskins

Tough Luck

St. Louis Rams

It wasn’t bad enough that they had to play the much-critically acclaimed Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1. They not only lost the game but five starters left the game with injuries and they could not have been more important players as the Rams hope to win the NFC West this season.

QB Sam Bradford left in the fourth quarter with a bruised index finger on his throwing hand. RB Steven Jackson did not play at all after he scored the first touchdown of the game thanks to a strained quadriceps, and he is questionable for the game against the New York Giants next Monday. Both WR Danny Amendola (dislocated collarbone) and CB Ron Bartell (fractures in his neck) left the game and are out in Week 2.

Starting left tackle Jason Smith also didn’t last long due to a high ankle sprain.

Honorable Mentions: Indianapolis Colts without Peyton Manning, Players to miss the rest of the season because of ACL tears, New York Giants fans

Photo Credits.
Tom Brady: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

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