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Preseason Week 1 Notes

   by Al McMordie - 08/13/2011

Las Vegas bettors were all over the dogs and the unders in the first week of preseason, with mixed results. Plenty of dogs got the money, with even the Seahawks, Cardinals and Dolphins winning straight up, but the games were not the conservative, low scoring affairs you normally expect in Week 1.

Early preseason often means boring, vanilla game plans, yet there was a slew scoring. The Patriots along hung 47 on Jacksonville, the Cardinals and Raiders had QB question marks yet combined for 42 points, while the Broncos/Cowboys tallied 47.

That Dallas/Denver game was interesting because both new coaches, Jason Garrett and John Fox, know each other well. Garrett was a player when Fox was an assistant with the NY Giants and the two have remained friendly since. The two contacted each other a few days before the game to go over their game plans, which is highly unusual.

Fox is a conservative offensive coach anyway, a proponent of the ground game, so everyone figured the two coaches agreed to play it safe, not show anything fancy on offense and try not to embarrass the other. The first half was played like that (9-3, Denver), but points and yards exploded in the second half with the backups and both teams finished with over 340 total yards, plus over 100 yards rushing.

In their first test of 2011, the Broncos ran the ball with authority. On the opening drive, the Broncos' new tailback tandem of Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee combined for 40 yards rushing on six carries. And perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that Denver scored points, as their QB rotation is very good for preseason in Kyle Oron, Tim Tebow and Brady Quinn

The Cardinals and Raiders come into the season with question mark concerns, but they look improved. Arizona adds QB Kevin Kolb and tight end Todd Heap to a team that had horrendous QB play a year ago. Kolb played through the first quarter, completing 4 of 7 passes for 68 yards, including a long of 43 yards to Larry Fitzgerald. Kolb made good decisions, including opting to throw the ball to Fitzgerald when covered 1-on-1. That resulted in the 43-yard reception to the Raiders' 35.

Oakland only had 18 points, but the offense completed 23 of 36 passes in the preseason opener. QB Jason Campbell completed 6 of 9 for 66 yards, Kyle Boller was 7-for-8 for 42 yards and Trent Edwards completed 10 of 19 for 140 yards and a well-placed touchdown pass to David Ausberry.
But new Coach Hue Jackson has a sloppy team, as Oakland had penalties, three fumbles and injuries. Note that backup cornerbacks Walter McFadden and DeMarcus Van Dyke had major troubles against Arizona. And what of the new head coach? The Cardinals received the ball at the start of both halves because the Raiders made a mistake after winning the coin toss. Instead of electing to defer, the Raiders told the referee they wanted to play defense. D’oh! We’ve come to expect that kind of sloppiness, on and off the field, from the Raiders lately.

Speaking of QB play, the Chiefs better hope nothing happens to Matt Cassell this season after a 25-0 home loss to Tampa Bay. Coach Todd Haley said during training camp that the focus would be on preparing for the Sept. 11 regular-season opener and not the initial preseason game.

Fans who watched the Chiefs go about their business at a leisurely pace in training camp inevitably suspected the first preseason game would be a sloppy, mistake-filled mess and they got exactly that. Tyler Palko and rookie quarterback Ricky Stanzi have so little experience, and poor tackling was a problem on defense. That was understandable to an extent given that the Chiefs held few full contact drills at training camp. Both quarterbacks completed four of eight passes for 34 yards. Stanzi, a fifth-round pick from Iowa, was sacked four times and Palko twice. Looks like a long preseason for KC!

Finally, some coaches want to win more than others, even if it’s preseason. Seattle pulled off another win for fiery Coach Pete Carroll, coming from behind to win at San Diego, 24-17. He got backup QB Charlie Whitehurst to throw 20 passes (14 completions) for 115 yards. San Diego QB Philip Rivers, meanwhile, only threw 6 passes.

This is actually nothing new. A year ago the Seahawks beat Tennessee in the opener, getting a win for Coach Carroll while rolling up 322 yards. Carroll had hinted all week that he wanted to win in preseason and QB Whitehurst threw for 214 yards. Carroll bolted from the edge of the field to the bench in the second quarter to congratulate the defense following a three-and-out stop in the second quarter. He had a hug for Whitehurst for his first TD throw. Who says preseason is meaningless? Not the emotional Carroll. Actually, we should all jump for joy because football is back! Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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