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The Cardinals looked downright awful in their 30-3 loss at New England but saw a glimpse of their future. First-round pick Matt Leinart finally saw his first action after ending his much publicized holdout. Leinart looked good in his first possession at the helm, leading Arizona to its only score of the game. He struggled in his ensuing possessions but didn’t get much help from his teammates. As a team, the Cardinals were outgained by 335 yards and trailed in time of possession by over 24 minutes.
Head coach Jim Mora was unhappy with his team’s performance in Atlanta’s 38-10 loss to Green Bay and changes could be made before the start of the season. Running back T.J. Duckett has been the subject of numerous trade rumors and the Falcons could use help at numerous positions. Atlanta is lacking a solid No. 3 receiver following the season-ending injury to Brian Finneran and could use Duckett to bring in a capable replacement. The Falcons could also use depth in the secondary.
Carolina Panthers Carolina came away with a 17-10 win over Jacksonville but the first-string running game continues to provide very little. Much of the blame can be placed on the offensive line, which has failed to open up holes for starter DeShaun Foster or first-round pick DeAngelo Williams. Each back carried the ball four times, with Foster gaining 10 yards and Williams seven. The O-line has also failed to provide quarterback Jake Delhomme much time in the pocket. If the Panthers are to contend this year, they must develop a solid rushing attack.
Defense and special teams were all the Bears needed – and all they got – in their 24-3 romp over San Diego. Chicago grabbed an early 14-3 advantage behind a Brian Urlacher interception return for a touchdown and a Rashied Davis kickoff return for a touchdown and never looked back. While the defense and special teams play may be where head coach Lovie Smith wants it, the offense is nowhere near. The Bears strained their way to just 189 yards with little to brag about in the passing or running game. Rex Grossman once again struggled behind center but Smith put any quarterback controversy to rest by declaring that Grossman will be the starter come Week 1 of the regular season.
Drew Bledsoe had a very strong preseason debut, completing 12 of 16 passes for 156 yards and two scores, but backup Tony Romo also had a strong outing – 6 of 8 for 138 yards and a touchdown – that may keep the quarterback controversy going for another week. Neither QB looked like they needed the injured Terrell Owens, spreading 18 completions around to 10 receivers with Terry Glenn, Miles Austin and Sam Hurd each hauling in a touchdown. Starting left tackle Flozell Adams left the game with an injury during the opening drive. His status remains up in the air.
The Lion defense kept the team in the game by forcing four turnovers but it wasn’t enough to overcome a poor offensive effort in losing 20-16 to Cleveland. Detroit picked off two passes and recovered two fumbles but the offense didn’t produce enough to pull off the win. The quarterbacks threw for 220 yards but weren’t efficient with their throws, completing just 18 of 38 passes. The running game was practically non-existent in the first half as the Lions ran for a mere three yards on nine carries.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers rebounded from a poor performance in their preseason opener with a 38-10 blasting of Atlanta at Lambeau Field. The offensive line played much better, allowing Brett Favre more time to make plays, and he did just that. Favre completed 16 of 22 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. The Green Bay defense also showed the ability to make plays with three interceptions, with two of those picks leading to touchdowns and the other resulting in a field goal.
The quarterback tandem of starter Brad Johnson and third-stringer Tarvaris Jackson paved the way for new head coach Brad Childress’ first win, a 17-10 victory over Pittsburgh. Both quarterbacks went 9 for 11 and led scoring drives while second-stringer Mike McMahon may be playing himself into the third-string QB. McMahon completed just 1 of 7 passes and threw an interception. In off-the-field news, starting wideout Koren Robinson’s status on the team is still uncertain after Robinson was arrested for drunken driving.
New Orleans Saints
Shreveport was not good for the Saints as they were vehemently outplayed by Dallas in a 30-7 loss. The first-string offense was shutout while the first-string defense surrendered 17 points. New Orleans was outgained by 160 yards and trailed by more than 15 minutes in time of possession. Two bright spots came from the return of Deuce McAllister and the play of backup QB Todd Bouman. McAllister, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last season, rushed for eight yards on two carries. Bauman had his second consecutives strong outing, completing 13 of 16 passes for 117 yards.
New York Giants
The Giants showed why they will contend for the NFC crown this year in their 17-0 blanking of Kansas City. The New York first-team offense B with Tiki Barber and Jeremy Shockey back in the starting lineup B put two touchdowns on the board and let the defense do the rest. The Giants held Kansas City, which led the NFL in offense a year ago to only 111 yards.
The Eagles went through some ups and downs in their 20-10 loss to Baltimore. On offense, the “up” came in the form of the return of Correll Buckhalter, who saw his first regular season action since 2003. The “down” came in the starting wide receiver=s inability to get open, thus forcing Donovan McNabb to throw numerous passes away. On defense, the front seven put consistent pressure on the quarterback with seven sacks, but the secondary got shredded to the tune of 263 yards on 18 of 27 passing.
San Francisco 49ers
For all the good that came in San Francisco’s 28-14 win over Chicago last week, an equal amount of bad came in its 23-7 loss to Oakland this week. Quarterback Alex Smith seemed to regress greatly from last week’s breakthrough outing, throwing two interceptions and completing just 6 of 12 passes. The 49er defense also relapsed, allowing 394 yards to a Raider offense that was next to stagnant in its previous two contests. The lone bright spot came from running back Frank Gore, who ran six times for 42 yards. San Francisco will need Gore to have a good season this year, especially after trading away last year’s starter Kevan Barlow.
The Seahawks looked to be back to their 2005 form in downing Indianapolis 30-17. The defense returned two Colt turnovers for touchdowns and the quarterbacks put forth a very efficient effort, going 20 of 26 for 207 yards. The biggest development for Seattle may have come in the return game, where Josh Scobey returned a kickoff 55 yards and Peter Warrick returned a punt 25 yards. The return game was Seattle’s biggest weakness last season, as it averaged just 22.1 yards per kick return and 5.7 yards per punt return.
St. Louis Rams
The Rams’ new look running game that ran through the Colts for 202 yards last week looked a lot less impressive against Houston, gaining only 61 yards on 27 carries. St. Louis appeared to be putting more of an emphasis on the passing game with four quarterbacks combining for 45 pass attempts. The Rams lost 27-20 to the Texans but the result may have been skewed by the quality of players on the field. Houston played most of its starters the entire first half while St. Louis removed its starters after the first quarter. The Rams were outscored 10-0 in that decisive second quarter.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sixth-round pick Bruce Gradkowski is becoming the story of the Tampa Bay training camp and his play could lead to the No. 2 quarterback role. Gradkowski’s 134.1 quarterback rating and three touchdowns lead the NFL while his 297 passing yards are second in the league. The rookie out of Toledo was 11 of 14 for 193 yards and a touchdown in Tampa’s 13-10 loss to Miami. Starters Cadillac Williams, Joey Galloway, Derrick Brooks, Shelton Quarles and Simeon Rice all sat this one out.
A usually strong Redskin run defense fell apart against a suspect Jet running game in Washington’s 27-14 loss to New York. The Redskins allowed 216 yards rushing to a Jet squad that totaled just 44 yards rushing a week ago. Head coach Joe Gibbs has not been happy with his team’s effort and the offensive unit seems to be slow to pick up on new offensive coordinator Al Saunders’ system. The quarterbacks have been especially bad, combining for a 50.2 passer rating and a 5:1 interception-to-touchdown ratio.