NFL Game Capsules (Sunday, September 11th)
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Baltimore, MD (Sports Network) - Joe Flacco passed for 224 yards and three touchdowns and the swarming Ravens defense forced seven turnovers Sunday in a season-opening 35-7 rout of the Steelers. Indeed, the NFL's grittiest and most competitive division rivalry turned into something it hasn't been in four years: a blowout. Baltimore scored more points against Pittsburgh than it ever has in 34 games in the regular season or playoffs, getting 21 of them from turnovers. The Ravens intercepted Ben Roethlisberger three times and forced four fumbles in the game, building a 21-7 lead by halftime and keeping their foot on the pedal in a thrill-a-minute dismantling that looked nothing like the previous six regular season meetings that were all decided by four points or fewer. The final turnover, on Roethlisberger's fumble late in the fourth quarter, led to Billy Cundiff's 30-yard field goal for the final margin.
Final Score: Chicago 30, Atlanta 12
Chicago, IL (Sports Network) - Jay Cutler finished with 312 yards and two touchdowns, while Matt Forte contributed 158 total yards of offense as Chicago rocked Atlanta, 30-12, in the 2011 season opener from Soldier Field. Cutler completed 22-of-32 passes with an interception for the Bears (1-0), who are looking to build off an 11-5 campaign which included an NFC North crown and appearance in the conference title game. Forte racked up 68 yards rushing on 16 carries and five receptions for 90 yards and a score, while Robbie Gould kicked three first-half field goals and Brian Urlacher returned a fumble for a touchdown in Chicago's second straight home-opening victory. Matt Ryan went 31-of-47 for 319 yards and was picked off once for the Falcons (0-1), who finished 13-3 a season ago and won the NFC South. Michael Turner gained 100 yards on 10 carries, also contributing 40 yards on three receptions. Kroy Biermann returned an interception 50 yards for Atlanta's lone score on Sunday. The Falcons lost in Chicago for the first time since 2005.
Final Score: Cincinnati 27, Cleveland 17
Cleveland, OH (Sports Network) - Rookie wide receiver A.J. Green caught a 41- yard touchdown pass from Bruce Gradkowski late in the fourth quarter for the lead, as the Cincinnati Bengals earned a 27-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns. Green, the fourth overall pick, registered his first career reception and touchdown with the go-ahead score for the Bengals (1-0), who went 4-12 in 2010. Gradkowski spelled injured rookie starter Andy Dalton to begin the second half and completed 5-of-12 passes for 92 yards. Dalton, the 35th overall pick out of TCU, went 10-of-15 for 81 yards and a touchdown before suffering an injured right wrist. Cedric Benson rushed for 121 yards and a score on 25 carries. Colt McCoy threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns against an interception on 19-of-40 passing for the Browns (0-1), who finished 5-11 a year ago and played their first game under new head coach Pat Shurmur. Peyton Hillis carried the ball 17 times for 57 yards.
Final Score: Houston 34, Indianapolis 7
Houston, TX (Sports Network) - There appears to be a clear changing of the guard in the AFC South. Without an injured Peyton Manning, the perennial division champion Colts were simply dreadful and the playoff-starved Houston Texans looked like true contenders in a 34-7 rout to open the season at Reliant Stadium. Matt Schaub threw for 220 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for the Texans (1-0), who dominated without injured running back Arian Foster. The NFL's leading rusher from a year ago sat out because of a hamstring issue, but was clearly not missed as Houston turned two Indianapolis turnovers into a pair of first-quarter touchdowns and built a 34-0 halftime lead en route to their second straight season- opening win over the Colts. Ben Tate ran for 116 yards and a touchdown for Houston, while Derrick Ward started in Foster's place and added 39 yards on 11 carries with a score. Kerry Collins, lured out of a brief retirement in late August because of Manning's neck problems, was not nearly a capable replacement. He completed 16-of-31 passes for 197 yards with a touchdown for the Colts (0-1), who have lost consecutive season openers for the first time since 1997 and '98.
Final Score: Jacksonville 16, Tennessee 14
Jacksonville, FL (Sports Network) - Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 97 yards and a touchdown as the Jacksonville Jaguars took down the Tennessee Titans, 16-14, in the season opener for both teams. Luke McCown, making his first start since December 2007 after the sudden release of David Garrard earlier this week, completed 17-of-24 passes for 175 yards for the Jaguars (1-0). Matt Hasselbeck, in his first game as Tennessee's quarterback, went 21-for-34 through the air for 263 yards and two scores, but tossed an interception in the final minute of the game to seal the loss for the Titans (0-1). Kenny Britt caught five passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns in Mike Munchak's debut as the Titans head coach. Munchak took over when Jeff Fisher was not retained after 17 seasons at the helm. Chris Johnson, who held out all of the preseason before signing a four-year contract extension worth $53 million -- $30 million guaranteed -- rushed nine times for 24 yards and added six receptions for 25 yards.
Final Score: Buffalo 41, Kansas City 7
Kansas City, MO (Sports Network) - Ryan Fitzpatrick matched a personal best with four touchdown passes, Fred Jackson rushed for 112 yards on 20 carries and the Buffalo Bills opened the 2011 season with a resounding 41-7 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Fitzpatrick connected on 17-of-26 passes and finished with 208 yards for Buffalo (1-0), which is coming off a 4-12 campaign. Last season, the Bills began the Chan Gailey era with eight consecutive defeats. Scott Chandler made five catches for 63 yards and two touchdowns. Matt Cassel completed 22-of-36 passes for 119 yards with one touchdown and one interception for the Chiefs (0-1), who went 10-6 last season -- a six-win improvement, the largest in team history -- and captured the AFC West title for the first time since 2003.
Final Score: Philadelphia 31, St. Louis 13
St. Louis, MO (Sports Network) - Michael Vick threw for 187 yards and two touchdowns while running for 98 yards, leading the Eagles to a 31-13 victory over the Rams in their much-anticipated season opener. Vick completed 14- of-32 passes and tossed his scores to LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson. McCoy added 122 rushing yards and another touchdown, while Jackson caught six passes for 102 yards. The Eagles (1-0) are coming off a 2010 season in which they went 10-6 and won the NFC East before losing to Green Bay in the wild card round of the playoffs. They have high hopes for 2011, with Vick under center to command their potent offense and a defense that features several big additions. Philadelphia signed All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and acquired cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie from Arizona. St. Louis (0-1) is trying to build itself back into a contender, going 7-9 last season after posting just six wins in the previous three. But the Rams got off on the wrong foot Sunday, as second-year quarterback Sam Bradford (hand), running back Steven Jackson (quadriceps) and wide receiver Danny Amendola (dislocated left elbow) all suffered injuries.
Final Score: Detroit 27, Tampa Bay 20
Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - A new season has sparked new hopes in Detroit, and Matthew Stafford and a strong defense led the way in the Lions' season- opening 27-20 win over Tampa Bay. Stafford passed for 305 yards and three scores, two of which went to Calvin Johnson, as the Lions (1-0) opened the season with a win for the first time since 2007. Last season, Detroit finished just 6-10, but won its final four games of the season to triple its win total from 2009. The defense, led by last year's rookie of the year Ndamukong Suh, prevented Tampa Bay from generating much offense until a late drive made it a one-score game. Prior to that score, Tampa Bay had managed just two field goals and an interception return for a touchdown. Johnson caught six passes for 88 yards while Tony Scheffler caught the other score for Detroit, which won in overtime last season in Tampa Bay to snap an NFL- record 26-game road losing streak. Josh Freeman went 28-for-43 with 257 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Mike Williams caught the touchdown for the Buccaneers (0-1), who finished last season with a mark of 10-6 after going just 3-13 in 2009.
Final Score: Arizona 28, Carolina 21
Glendale, AZ (Sports Network) - Rookie defensive back Patrick Peterson returned a punt 89 yards for the go-ahead score, as the Arizona Cardinals downed the Carolina Panthers, 28-21, in a frenetic regular-season opener. Peterson, the fifth overall selection out of LSU, overshadowed the debut of No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton, who threw for 422 yards and two touchdowns against an interception in the loss. The 2010 Heisman Trophy winner drove the Panthers deep into Arizona (1-0) territory in the waning minutes, but failed to convert a 4th-and-5 from the 11-yard line. Steve Smith caught eight passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns for the Panthers (0-1), who went 2-14 a season ago. Kevin Kolb, acquired by the Cardinals in the offseason from Philadelphia, enjoyed an impressive debut, throwing for 309 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-27 passing. Beanie Wells ran for 90 yards and a score on 18 carries for the Cardinals, who finished 5-11 last year.
Final Score: San Diego 24, Minnesota 17
San Diego, CA (Sports Network) - Fullback Mike Tolbert accounted for three touchdowns, including the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter that sent the Chargers to a 24-17 victory over the Vikings. Tolbert rushed for one touchdown and caught two from Philip Rivers, who finished with 335 yards on 33-of-48 passing, with two interceptions. Rivers' 19-yard connection with Tolbert provided San Diego (1-0) with its first lead of the game. Tolbert hobbled off the field later in the game with an apparent leg injury, but his performance was a big factor in the Chargers starting the season with a win. They were 9-7 last year and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2005. Percy Harvin gave the Vikings (0-1) the lead with a 103-yard return on the game's opening kickoff, and Minnesota went into halftime with a 17-7 lead. But the Vikings were shut out in the second half, when new quarterback Donovan McNabb was largely a non-factor. He was acquired from Washington during the offseason, but finished with just 39 yards on 7-of-15 completions, with one touchdown and an interception.
Final Score: San Francisco 33, Seattle 17
San Francisco, CA (Sports Network) - Ted Ginn Jr. picked up San Francisco's anemic offense with two scintillating special teams touchdowns late in the fourth quarter, helping the 49ers pull away from the Seattle Seahawks, 33-17, in Jim Harbaugh's debut as an NFL head coach. Seattle pulled within 19-17 with four minutes to go in regulation before Ginn returned a kickoff 102 yards for a score. He took a punt 55 yards to the end zone a short time later to seal the win. David Akers connected on four short field goals and Alex Smith conservatively completed 15-of-20 passes for 124 yards for the 49ers, who plucked Harbaugh from Stanford following a 6-10 campaign last year. Tarvaris Jackson threw an interception and lost two fumbles in his first start under center for the defending NFC West champion Seahawks.
Final Score: Washington 28, NY Giants 14
Landover, MD (Sports Network) - Rex Grossman threw for 305 yards and two touchdowns against a patchwork Giants defense, and Ryan Kerrigan returned an interception for a touchdown, leading the Redskins to a 28-14 victory on Sunday. Washington bounced back from deficits of 7-0 and 14-7 in the first half, with Tim Hightower scoring on a short run and Grossman throwing touchdown passes to Anthony Armstrong before halftime and Jabar Gaffney late in the fourth quarter. In between, the rookie linebacker Kerrigan tipped an Eli Manning pass to himself at the line and ran it in for a go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. The Redskins (1-0) held New York scoreless after Ahmad Bradshaw's six-yard touchdown run with 2:48 remaining in the first half. The hobbled Giants (0-1) were missing a long list of injured players on defense, including captain Justin Tuck, who was inactive because of a neck injury. Fellow defensive end Osi Umenyiora and rookie cornerback Prince Amukamara were among the list of players who had long been ruled out of the game. Manning was 18-of-32 for 268 yards, while Hakeem Nicks caught seven passes for 122 yards and Ahmad Bradshaw rushed 13 times for 44 yards.
Final Score: NY Jets 27, Dallas 24
East Rutherford, NJ (Sports Network) - Darrelle Revis' late interception led to Nick Folk's game-winning 50-yard field goal with 27 seconds remaining, as the New York Jets scored the final 17 points to stun the Dallas Cowboys, 27-24, in the season opener for both teams. With the score tied, Tony Romo dropped back with less than a minute to play. Romo tried to throw a pass to a hobbled Dez Bryant, but Revis stepped in front of the pass and returned it 20 yards to the Dallas 34. A two-yard run by Shonn Greene and two incompletions led to fourth down. Folk had no trouble booting the ball through the uprights to give the Jets an improbable victory. Dallas came into the game with an all-time record of 241-0-1 when leading by 14-or-more points in the fourth quarter. Twin brothers Rex and Rob Ryan were on opposite sidelines for the ninth time. The brothers clashed for the first time in 1987 when Rex's Eastern Kentucky Colonels defeated Rob's Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, 20-10. Rex, the head coach of the Jets, got the best of Rob, the defensive coordinator of the Cowboys, again. The duo's previous matchup came in 2010 when Rex's Jets defeated Rob's Cleveland Browns, 26-20 in overtime. Currently, Rex leads the series 6-3.