By: Barry Barnes, Founder/Senior Writer
Let the games begin.
Football has returned to the masses, and the conversations around barbershops, water coolers, coffee shops and offices alike officially began their ‘who was better’ and ‘who scrub it up’ takes center stage. Well, let’s not look at ‘who scrub it up,’ per se, and take the games for what they were worth – with some reaction from the participants who performed with more insight.
“The best thing we can feel good about tonight with the preseason is we came out and took care of the ball,” said Cincinnati Bengals’ head coach Marvin Lewis after their team’s victory over the Atlanta Falcons Aug. 8, 34-10. “You want to make sure that you take care of the football that the quarterbacks and receivers take care of the ball we will continue to stress that as we go through.
“There were some areas on offense where we had a couple of false starts in the area of third down,” he continued. “We have to get that corrected a little bit and understand what we are doing but all in all we were pleased.”
Lewis’ trademark discipline, hard-nose defense was the star of the evening against the Falcons (0-1) as they allowed a total of 268 yards.
The Bengals (1-0) had several offensive standouts for the evening in quarterback Josh Johnson, who completed nine out of 16 attempts for 100 yards and a touchdown, along with four carries for 64 yards, and wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, who had two huge receptions for 59 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown and had a 71-yard punt return for a score.
Nevertheless, it’s all about the defense and Lewis will have difficult decisions to make on cut-days.
“It felt good to go up against something different than our own offense,” said linebacker Rey Maualuga. “Preseason is a chance and opportunity for us to see where we are at. To see what we need to work on. To find our strengths and weaknesses. I think we came out and accomplished what we wanted to come out and do.
“We gave up some big plays, here and there,” he continued. “For the most part, everyone was hustling and running to the football. That what preseason is for, to see what players can do. Obviously, we can’t keep everyone on the roster, so it’s a chance to see what you can do.”
Speaking of being on a roster, newly acquired linebacker for the Cleveland Browns (1-0) Paul Kruger stated it feels right wearing his new uniform, after winning a Super Bowl in Baltimore with the Ravens, and he is happy with things in camp.
“It’s different for sure,’ said Kruger after the team’s victory over the St. Louis Rams (0-1) Aug. 8, 27-19. “But I have been able to be here for a couple of months and work with these guys and spend a lot of time. It feels right. We are becoming a family. Our defense has really been coming together the past couple of weeks, especially in camp. We are right where we need to be.”
Quarterback Brandon Weeden will be the key for the Browns’ success this upcoming campaign, and beyond. After two solid scoring drives of completing 10 out of 13 attempts for 112 yards and a touchdown, the second-year player is on target, despite the communication being a little shaky.
“Just the communication in the headset from the sideline, just how it all functions,” said Weeden. “Not necessarily the scheme, I wouldn’t say. We have a great staff for each position. Just how it all functions and how much time we are going to have after we called the play in the huddle. How much time we are going to kill or shift or whatever it may be.
“That was the only unknown I really had but, that was fantastic tonight,” he continued. “I thought we played fast getting in and out of the huddle. We definitely made good decisions and were receptive to everything we did.
“Overall, the communication was great, which allows us to play a little faster. Just knowing where to go with the football,” he added. “I think I pretty much made pretty good decisions tonight. The guys around me made big plays. Overall, it was pretty good.”
The Ravens’ first unit offense did not look as sharp against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1), but their reserves were aggressive, and Baltimore native, wide receiver LaQuan Williams was at the center of attention after making big catches, recovering a fumble on special teams and scoring a 21-yard touchdown in the team’s dominating win, 44-16.
“LaQuan played really well. It was good to see him step up and make plays,” said Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh. “Here’s a guy that just brings his lunch pail every single week. He puts on his blue collar work shirt and goes to work. And to see him make those plays – he’s got tremendous talent. He flashes a lot. But he made plays with consistency, stacked plays. That was good to see.”
The Ravens (1-0) welcomes 17-year veteran receiver Brandon Stokley and tight end Dallas Clark, who both signed one-year deals over the weekend to soften the blow of losing star tight end Dennis Pitta, who may return near season’s end after sustaining a hip injury in training camp.
However, Williams may have sum things up for the defending champs’ mental approach towards this season.
“Different team, same thought process. Come out and just dominate and win every game.”
While the Ravens look to dominate and win each game, quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots (1-0) are looking to take one play at a time. Clearly, the Patriots looks like a well-oiled machine and was the most impressive squad of the opening week.
“Well, we’re a better football team now than we were when we started the week,” said Brady who led two 80-yard touchdown drives, without breaking a sweat, in the team’s win over the Philadelphia Eagles (0-1) Aug. 9, 31-22. “But we’ve got to be a better football team at the end of next week than we are tonight. So it’s a building process and we’re trying to make one play turn into two good plays turn into three good plays and it’s not all going to go perfect, it’s going to be hard.
“This sport is – once you think you’ve got it figured out its going to kick you right back in the butt,” he continued. “So we got a long way to go but it was fun to get out there and play for the first real game in seven months.”
The San Francisco 49ers (0-1) and Denver Broncos’ contest was a standstill as both starting signal callers in Colin Kaepernick and Peyton Manning had one series a piece. Kaepernick led a scoring drive.
Both defenses laid wood, but the Broncos (1-0), who defense scored the only touchdown of the game after a fumble, applied the stake to furnish the win in the lowest output of the week, 10-6.
“As a team, we did well overall. At the end of the day, we still have a lot of corrections to make,” said Broncos’ safety Rahim Moore. “We did make mistakes in all phases of the game. Tomorrow, we’re going to go back to the drawing board, fix them and get ready for Seattle (Seahawks).”
While the Broncos are preparing for the Seahawks (1-0), you prepare for more training camp and exhibition play for Week Two, NFL style.
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