Point/Counterpoint: Which NFL team had the best performance in Week 1?

BY DI STAFF | SEPTEMBER 09, 2014 5:00 AM

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Miami Dolphins

The lasting image from the first Sunday of NFL action is that of a frustrated Tom Brady, head down on the bench, clearly upset with the performance of his team, the New England Patriots, against the Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins produced the most shocking Week 1 performance, not only in upsetting the Patriots but in how they did so.

Miami was a 4.5-point underdog going into Sunday’s game and came away with a 13-point win. While the Dolphins did beat the Patriots last year in Week 14, the win over a division rival is especially shocking considering New England’s 10-game Week 1 winning streak.

New England was absolutely dismantled by the Dolphins in the second half. The Dolphins scored 23 unanswered second-half points after going into the half down 20-10.

Miami pounded the ball on the ground, with Knowshon Moreno, in his Dolphin début, running for 134 of Miami’s 191 total yards on the ground, which provided the bulk of Miami’s offense. Moreno sealed the deal with a short touchdown run with just under four minutes in the game, extending the Dolphins’ lead to 10 points.

The defense had its fins up in the second half as well, limiting New England to just 67 total yards in those 30 minutes. Miami brought the heat on Brady as well, sacking him four times during the game and limiting him to 249 passing yards. New England gained just 315 total yards.

The most statistically shocking aspect of the game was how disciplined the Dolphins were compared with the Patriots. The Dolphins were penalized four times for only 23 yards, compared with the Patriots’ nine for 100. Miami was even better in terms of third down, converting on seven of 13, compared with New England’s five of 17.

One positive for New England, however, was that, despite missing most of last season, the Gronk Spike was in midseason form.

Despite a shaky first half, Miami turned things around to deliver the best half of football and best all around performance on the first Sunday of the season.

— by Ian Murphy

Seattle Seahawks

There was no Fail Mary needed on Sept. 4 when the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers kicked off the first game of the 2014 NFL season. After the opener, the Seahawks looked like a team determined to hoist another championship banner this season, outplaying the Packers in every aspect of the game.

This season, the Seahawks returned four of the five offensive-line starters from the Super Bowl and are breaking in second-round pick Justin Britt at right tackle.

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson had an outstanding performance in the first half, throwing a 33-yard touchdown pass to Ricardo Lockette, and adding a 15-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Coleman in the fourth quarter. Wilson finished 19-of-28 for 191 yards.

Marshawn Lynch ran for 110 yards and 2 touchdown, and despite getting limited carries during training camp and preseason, Lynch looked as though he has returned to “Beast mode,” averaging 5.5 yards per carry and recording his 20th 100-yard game since the start of the 2011 season.

This team looks as deep as it was a year ago, and it might be even better with explosive receiver Percy Harvin on the field and healthy.

Although it lost some experience on the defensive line in free agency, Seattle's defense looked nearly as swarming and strong as it did in February, when the Seahawks defense silenced the record-breaking offense of the Denver Broncos.

Last week’s victory was a promising first step in a 20-week marathon, as the Seahawks face the daunting challenge of winning back-to-back Super Bowl championships, a challenge no franchise has been able accomplish since the New England Patriots in 2003 and ’04.

— by Erin Erickson

Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings and new head coach Mike Zimmer held the St. Louis Rams to only two scores on Sunday: two field goals. This is a promising sign for Viking fans everywhere, as Zimmer was expected to produce defensive results given his well-known defensive coordinator background for Dallas, Atlanta, and Cleveland before landing his first head-coaching job in Minnesota.

The defensive scheme for the Vikings has definitely changed under Zimmer since last season, when they gave up the most points in the league. Minnesota fans can expect to see more man-to-man coverage, defensive trickery, and aggressive blitzing from the purple uniforms this year — much like they showed Sunday.

As for the offense, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one surprised. The Vikings were out ahead of the Rams from the beginning, never trailing in the game. The score was 13-3 in the third when Cordarrelle Patterson rumbled his way to a dirty 67-yard touchdown, during which he shed three St. Louis would-be tacklers.

The Vikings didn’t have a single turnover, either. And one of the hallmarks anyone knows to look for in a good team is lack of turnovers and lack of mistakes. Matt Cassel was 17-of-25 in the contest and also added 2 touchdowns, one of which was largely set up by cornerback Josh Robinson’s interception. When you see a team that can capitalize and score on the opponent’s turnovers, that is yet one more hallmark of a good team.

It might seem easy to dismiss this victory and say that the Rams are no good this year, they had backup Shaun Hill at quarterback, and there was no way they were going to win the game anyway.

But the Vikings never let up — they stepped right on the Rams’ necks when they had them down and kept on scoring. That’s a hallmark of a great team, a team that never lets up.

— by Josh Hicks

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