SPORTS

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September 19, 2001

NFL's first week: early success and failure, but not enough to place final bets on

Of course, first week is too early to tell how the NFL season will pan out, but it does give us a taste and can give an idea as to the accuracy of analysts' predictions. Joe Theisman on ESPN.com pegged the Dolphins, the Titans, the Raiders, the Giants, the Vikings, and the Rams to be at the top of their respective divisions. At press time, the Rams and the Raiders had won, and Minnesota had lost.

So on to the results. Buffalo blew a 6-0 lead at halftime to lose 24-6 to New Orleans. The Saints victory came in no small part due to the efforts of safety Sammy Knight, who contributed three interceptions which resulted directly in 10 points. Buffalo's new coach Gregg Williams was one among a bevy of rookie head coaches to lose in their debuts. The Bills offense sputtered as Rob Johnson looked uncomfortable in the new West Coast offense.

Carolina Panthers' rookie quarterback Chris Weinke performed well beyond expectations, going 13-22 with one TD and one interception. The Panthers upset the Vikings 24-13 as Daunte Culpepper threw three interceptions and the Viking organization looked mistake prone.

Jacksonville looked strong in their 21-3 victory over the Steelers. The Rams defense looked much improved, keeping them in their game against Philadelphia (Rams won, 20-17). The Fortyniner's receiving corps stole the show in their 16-13 victory over Atlanta.

Seattle edged out Cleveland 9-6 on a 52-yard, into-the-wind field goal by Rian Lindell in the final minutes. As the score attests, defense dominated the game for both teams.

The Packers dominated the Lions early in the 28-6 win. Charlie Batch had not caught on to the new offense and threw two interceptions.

The Bengals stuck it out for a 23-17 finish over the Patriots — a win which, for the Bengals at least, was fairly impressive. They diversified their attack — Jon Kitna threw for 193 yards while Corey ran for 104; the Patriots offense had Bledsoe (234 yards, 2 TD) and nothing else.

Tampa Bay's newly retooled offense played unimpressively, eking out a 10-6 win over Dallas, a team they should have flattened. The Raiders came out ahead by a nose in a nailbiter against rival Kansas City — the final score was 27-24. The Raiders led 24 to 17 with 3:10 left to play on a Rich Gannon TD pass. The Chiefs responded with a touchdown before the Raiders clinched victory with a field goal.

Indianapolis trounced the Jets 45-24, their hurry-up offense dominated the entire game. Testaverde almost averted an insulting 95-yard punt return by Chukie Nwokorie, but failed to muster a tackle. Baltimore's offense weren't pretty, but it produced enough points to beat the Bears 17-6 (whom we can probably write off for yet another year). The Chargers, a team with several rookie starters, managed an impressive 30-3 win over the Redskins.

Miami won its tenth straight opening game, 31-23 over Tennessee by virtue of outplaying the Titans on both sides of the field. Miami looked very good but has a very hard schedule -- their next four games are against teams that last year were at or better than .500.