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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

It's a long way from penthouse to basement

Several 2010 playoff teams, including Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Indianapolis, experience rude awakenings in one-sided opening-week losses. Good thing for them the season's 16 games.

September 11, 2011|Sam Farmer
  • Ravens running back Ray Rice strikes a pose after scoring a touchdown against the Steelers in the first half Sunday.
Ravens running back Ray Rice strikes a pose after scoring a touchdown against… (Nick Wass / Associated Press )

The NFL lockout is back.

It had to feel that way Sunday, at least, for a handful of last season's playoff teams.

Atlanta was shackled by Chicago in an 18-point loss.

Pittsburgh was pinned by Baltimore, 35-7.

Kansas City was handcuffed by Buffalo, 41-7.

"When things started going bad, they just went bad," Chiefs defensive tackle Kelly Gregg said. "Landslide."

At least they're not the Indianapolis Colts.

Without Peyton Manning — probably out for the season after neck surgery — the Colts are lost. At Houston, Manning's replacement, Kerry Collins, had a horrendous day. He lost two fumbles, both leading to Texans touchdowns, and was sacked three times in the 34-7 defeat.

"This wasn't the day, obviously, that we'd hoped for," said the 38-year-old Collins, signed less than three weeks ago. "But it's a long season."

That sounds more like a threat than a consolation for the Colts, who might want to track down the cellphone number of Jacksonville castoff David Garrard or try to figure a way to pry loose Carson Palmer from Cincinnati.

It's easy to overreact in the aftermath of Week 1, but there's no overstating the impact of losing Manning, the league's only four-time most valuable player.

Indianapolis was far from the only team reeling Sunday. In Baltimore, the Steelers committed seven turnovers in a stunningly one-sided loss. Since 2008, every regular-season game between these teams had been decided in the final six minutes or overtime.

This time, it was such a laugher that, mad as they were, even the Steelers had a hard time keeping a straight face.

"It hurts so much to lose," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said, but added: "It's hard not to chuckle at some of the things — tipped balls at the line of scrimmage, getting intercepted, balls coming out, fumbles, just everything didn't go our way."

The same could be said of the Chiefs, who suffered the most lopsided season-opening loss in their history, and their worst home loss since the Steelers stomped them, 45-0, 35 years ago.

Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick threw four touchdown passes, looking completely at ease in a stadium where the Chiefs won their first seven home games last season.

Clearly, Chicago knows how to protect its home turf. The Bears sacked Atlanta's Matt Ryan five times, and linebacker Brian Urlacher made a couple of All-DVR plays: a Superman-style diving interception, and a fumble return for a touchdown.

Bears running back Matt Forte had a terrific game, as did receiver/returner Devin Hester. But quarterback Jay Cutler said the offense should expect to do more.

"We still have to play up to the defense's level," he said. "They're still carrying us."

Remembering 9/11

At every game, the NFL honored those lost and the heroes on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The league and fans recognized the day in many ways, including the players' wearing a patch on their jerseys featuring a ribbon with stars and stripes with the dates "9/11/01" and "9/11/11."

Sleepy Browns

Down the stretch Sunday, the Cleveland Browns unveiled a new defensive scheme they'll never want to show again:

Their Zzz formation.

Cincinnati quarterback Bruce Gradkowski caught them asleep, ordering the snap before the Browns had even broken their defensive huddle and throwing a 41-yard touchdown pass to rookie A.J. Green. It was a pivotal play in the Bengals' 27-17 victory.

"The play is designed to catch them napping," Bengals running back Cedric Benson said. "We caught them napping."

Lions streak

Don't look now, but the Detroit Lions have won five in a row dating to the end of last season. In winning at Tampa Bay, 27-20, the Lions protected Matthew Stafford (never sacked) and had four scoring drives of at least 70 yards.

Was it perfect? No.

"I don't want to discount the value of a win, particularly a win on the road," Lions Coach Jim Schwartz said, "but we've got to play a lot better than we played today."

Maybe that's the most telling sign these Lions are a team on the rise. They've raised their standards.

Hitting a Ram nerve

The success of the St. Louis Rams could hang on a finger — the right index finger of star quarterback Sam Bradford.

There's concern that Bradford might have sustained nerve damage in that digit when it struck the helmet of a Philadelphia defender as the quarterback was following through on a throw.

Bradford said he'll be ready for next Monday's game at the New York Giants — "I don't see any way I'm not going to be on the field" — but the rest of the Rams will certainly have their fingers crossed.

Teammate Steven Jackson hurt his right leg while running virtually untouched for a 47-yard touchdown on the Rams' first offensive play of the season.

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