SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 08: Running back Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers carries the ball against the Green Bay Packers in the fourth quarter at Candlestick Park on September 8, 2013 in San Francisco, California. The 49ers defeated the Packers 34-28. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Tom Pelissero goes deep in breaking down Week 1 and looking ahead.
The Tennessee Titans shut down the Steelers in Pittsburgh. The New York Jets rallied to beat Tampa Bay thanks to a boneheaded late hit by Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David.
Yet the most surprising development in Sunday’s early games was the Buffalo Bills almost beating the New England Patriots, who kicked a field goal with 5 seconds to go to win 23-21.
In one goal-line sequence, quarterback Tom Brady barked at receiver Danny Amendola for lining up in the wrong spot, two receivers collided in pattern and Brady missed Kendrell Thompkins in the back of the end zone, then took a 10-yard sack to scuttle the drive.
With so many new parts -- and with Wes Welker in Denver and Aaron Hernandez in jail -- and the Patriots’ best weapon, tight end Rob Gronkowski, not ready to return from back surgery, some growing pains are unavoidable. But this was not the dominating showing usually expected from a Bill Belichick team that has extra time to prepare.
Brady did complete all seven of his passes on the final drive, moving the Patriots 49 yards in 12 plays to set up Stephen Gostkowski’s 35-yard winner. The Bills, with their new coach and rookie quarterback, probably caught New England at the right time. They just didn’t close the deal.
Discipline for Suh?
Newly voted a team captain, Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh called a players-only meeting last week to preach about avoiding dumb penalties. He provided a reminder early in Sunday’s 34-24 win over the Minnesota Vikings he’s still the guy most likely to commit them.
A hefty fine and maybe even another suspension are in order after Suh dived into Vikings center John Sullivan’s left knee -- the one that required microfracture surgery in January --several yards behind the play, drawing a flag that wiped out DeAndre Levy’s toucdown off an interception return.
Suh, 26, has been fined several times for on-field conduct and was suspended two games in November 2011 for stomping on Green Bay Packers lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith. That makes him a repeat offender, and Sunday’s incident was inexcusable.
The Lions have to make a long-term decision on Suh in the next 18 months, with his rookie contract set to void after the 2014 season. There’s no doubt about his talent. But if your team captain is trying to take out a guy’s knee, is it any wonder discipline continues to be Detroit’s weakness?
- New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and former defensvie coordinator Gregg Williams, now an assistant with the Titans, returned from their bounty suspensions in style. Payton’s offense racked up 419 yards and new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s defense made a key stand in a 23-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Tennessee held the Steelers offense scoreless until late in a 16-9 upset.
As if the offensive ineptitude wasn’t bad enough for the Steelers, they lost two key players -- center Maurkice Pouncey (ACL and MCL injuries) and linebacker Larry Foote (ruptured biceps) -- for the season.
- Colts quarterback Andrew Luck looks poised to take a big step forward. He completed 18 of 23 passes for 178 yards, two touchdowns and -- most important -- no interceptions in Sunday’s 21-17 win over the Oakland Raiders. The biggest question is his offensive line.
- A Seattle Seahawks offense that scuffled in a 12-7 victory over the Carolina Panthers sure could use wide receiver Percy Harvin -- and there is a chance he returns as soon as Week 7 at Arizona. He’s progressing in his rehabilitation from hip surgery more quickly than expected.
The Seahawks might start thinking about taking some carries away from Marshawn Lynch, who averaged 2.5 yards on his 17 carries Sunday. Robert Turbin, who ran three times for 17 yards, and rookie Christine Michael both can bring some juice.
- It’s tough to explain why Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard isn’t getting more opportunities, too. Veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ 14 carries in Sunday’s 24-21 loss to the Bears generated only 25 yards. Bernard ran four times for 22 yards.
- Is there any more dangerous combination than Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall? Cutler, who’s playing for a new contract, threw Marshall’s way 10 times Sunday and completed eight of them for 104 yards and a touchdown.
- The St. Louis Rams got a lot out of their new offensive weapons in a 27-24 win over the Arizona Cardinals. Free-agent prize Jared Cook caught seven passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns, and top draft pick Tavon Austin caught six for 41 yards.
Player of the day
san francisco Colin Kaepernick says Clay Matthews’ words didn’t bother him, and neither did the late lick the Green Bay Packers’ star pass rusher laid to back it up.
All Kaepernick did was turn in one of the best performances of his young career Sunday, passing for 412 yards and three touchdowns in the San Francisco 49ers’ 34-28 triumph.
“If intimidation is your game plan,” Kaepernick said afterwards, “I hope you have a better one.”
The third-year quarterback was two steps out of bounds when Matthews jumped onto his back and slammed Kaepernick to the ground in the second quarter, setting off a scene wild enough that officials inadvertently gave the 49ers an extra down while sorting it out.
Kaepernick took advantage as he did most of the day, throwing a 10-yard touchdown on the next snap to Anquan Boldin, who also caught the pass on fourth-and-2 late that all but iced the decision.
“He could have tried to stick it in to Anquan on the break,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “But he kept the play alive, just cool as could be, and then made a perfect strike. I think that pretty much summed up his whole day.”
Kaepernick outdueled former MVP Aaron Rodgers and withstood the jawing from Matthews that started with talk during the week about testing the bounds of the rules on hitting read-option quarterbacks.
“We talked to each other a lot today,” Kaepernick said.
In the end, the 49ers’ game plan wasn’t heavy on zone reads, and Kaepernick showed he can’t be pigeonholed as a quarterback while completing 27 of 39 passes against the Packers’ banged-up secondary.
Kaepernick ran only seven times for 22 yards, including a 15-yard scramble on third-and-9 late in the third quarter. Two plays later, Matthews snuffed out a quarterback keeper and yelled in Kaepernick’s face as he got up.
That drive ended in a field goal, and the Packers took their only lead at 28-24 with 8:26 to go. Kaepernick came right back, running for 5 yards and then hitting Boldin for a 43-yard gain to set up the deciding touchdown.
“Really special performance by him,” Harbaugh said. “Some laser-like throws, downfield pinpoint accuracy. Managing the chaos of the game.
“He never blinked, never flinched at any time. Just kept executing. Just consistently really good.”
3 Safeties in the first quarter of Sunday’s early games. Titans kick return Darius Reynaud posted the first when he fielded the opening kickoff at the 1-yard line, stepped back and kneeled down in the end zone. The Steelers didn’t score again until there was 1:23 to go.
0 Points scored by the Jaguars offense in a 28-2 loss to the Chiefs. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert was 16-of-35 passing for 121 yards with two interceptions before getting the hook.
2 Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on Panthers running back Armond Smith, who got a tongue-lashing from wide receiver Steve Smith after being flagged in the fourth quarter for not returning immediately to the field as a gunner.
7 Teams that have cut Browns wide receiver Tori Gurley, who was promoted from the practice squad Saturday, made his NFL debut and had a 15-yard catch in a 23-10 loss to the Dolphins. Gurley previously spent time with the Packers, Vikings, Raiders, Bucs, Chargers and Ravens.
175 Dollars quarterback Tim Tebow, waived Aug. 31, counts against the Patriots’ salary cap this season.
Monday: Times two
Philadelphia at Washington, (AT)
6:55 p.m. ET, ESPN(AT)
Houston at San Diego, (AT)
10:20 p.m. ET, ESPN(AT)
Will officials let anyone breathe on Robert Griffin III after seeing Clay Matthews’ flying takedown of Colin Kaepernick on Sunday?
The answer comes in the early portion of tonight’s doubleheader, with RG3 making his return from knee reconstruction as the Washington Redskins visit Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles.
In the late game, J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans visit the San Diego Chargers, who have such low expectations locally they needed an extension to sell tickets and avoid a blackout for the season opener.