Last 7 Super Bowl champs start 2012 with upset losses
The long-awaited start of the National Football League’s 2012 season is finally behind us and with some stunning results–the last seven world champions started the new season this past weekend with losses, with all but one being categorized as an upset.
However, it must be pointed out that two of those Super Bowl champs were multiple winners—the New York Giants, which won Super Bowls XLII in 2008 and XLVI this past February and the Pittsburgh Steelers, winners of Super Bowls XL in 2006 and XLIII in 2009.
The other Super Bowl winners who felt the sting of defeat Sunday included the New Orleans Saints, winners of SB XLIV in 2010, the Green Bay Packers, winners of SB XLV in 2011 and the Indianapolis Colts, winners of SB XLI in 2007.
But the trend of Super Bowl winners getting zapped in their first game this season started last Wednesday night when our Dallas Cowboys traveled to the Meadowlands in New Jersey to take on the New York Giants, who were favored by as many as six points prior to the match-up, but had dwindled down to 3 ½ points by kickoff.
The Cowboys and Giants played on fairly even terms in the first half with the Pokes holding a slender 7-3 lead at the intermission. But the second half was not nearly as close as the 24-17 final score indicated as Dallas rolled up a whopping 433 total net yards against New York’s heralded defense while the Cowboys’ work-in-progress defense limited the defending world champions to 269 total net yards.
This opening victory could very well have been one of the best performances of the Dallas Cowboys—and especially quarterback Tony Romo– in several seasons. Romo, who threw an early interception, rebounded nicely to connect on 22-of-29 passes for 307 yards and three touchdowns.
The fact New Orleans is playing without a “real” head coach may have affected their performance Sunday afternoon in the Louisiana Superdome as the Saints played “catch-up” the entire game and lost 40-32 when they ran out of time. New Orleans was favored by as many as 9 ½ points, but was a 7 ½-point favorite at kickoff.
But the loss probably was not caused by the lack of coaching as much as by the emergence of 2011 Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, who was the first-round pick of Washington and the Redskins’ starting quarterback who simply goes by the handle RG3.
RG3 burned the Saints’ defense for 320 passing yards, completing 19-of-26 passes, two touchdowns and a phenomenal quarterback efficiency rating of 139.9.
“I’ve won a high school state championship and a bowl game in college, but to play in the NFL, the pinnacle of it all, and win your first game against Hall of Famer in Drew Brees, it’s at the top,” Griffin told the Associated Press Sunday while cradling the game ball he had just been given.
“After the game, (Brees) told me he was proud of me,” Griffin continued. “That’s big for him to say after he just lost the game.”
The Saints hoped to begin the 2012 season with a defiant show of force in the wake of the bounty scandal that overshadowed the off-season. But instead, New Orleans spent much of the game trying to catch up to a Washington offense powered by youth.
Brees dismissed the idea that distractions from the bounty probe, which resulted in a season-long suspension for head coach and offensive mastermind Sean Payton, was to blame for New Orleans’ shaky start to the 2012 season.
The Green Bay Packers were favored by 4 ½ points over the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field Sunday afternoon but lost 30-22 after trailing 16-7 at halftime and 23-7 going into the final period.
The Pack scored a couple of fourth-period touchdowns which were interspersed by a 21-yard TD dash by 49ers’ running back Frank Gore which virtually put the final nail in Green Bay’s coffin.
But it was San Francisco’s defense that kept Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers out of the end zone most of the game. Green Bay lost only once in the 2011 regular season, but the 49ers were more than ready for the challenge.
The 49ers veteran kicker David Akers tied an NFL record by booting a 63-yard field goal that bounced off the crossbar and then made it through the uprights as time expired in the first half.
Pittsburgh had to start the season on the road Sunday night at Denver in a game that was rated a toss-up at kickoff time. It looked as if the Steelers would come up with a victory, leading 19-14 early in the fourth period.
But to the delight of the 76,823 who came out to see quarterback Peyton Manning in a Broncos uniform for the first time after he sat out the entire 2011 season with a serious neck injury, the four-time Most Valuable Player didn’t disappoint them.
Manning led the Broncos on three consecutive 80-yard touchdown drives with the final one putting Denver ahead for good 22-19 with 9:23 left in the contest and the Broncos went on to win 31-19.
And speaking of Peyton Manning, his injury and absence last season was directly responsible for the demise of the Indianapolis Colts, which had been a force to be reckoned with during his tenure with the franchise.
But without Manning last year the Colts had a miserable time even winning a game until the latter part of the season when the divisions had been clinched and these teams were resting their impact players.
Indianapolis was never favored in a game last season, and the same was true for the first game of this season where the Chicago Bears were a 10-point favorite Sunday and delivered a 20-point victory over the hapless Colts, 41-21.
The most promising team during the training camp and exhibition season has been our own Houston Texans, who some knowledgeable football people claim can make it to the Super Bowl this year.
But the Texans started off like they did a couple of years ago when they would play conservatively early, get behind and then catch up and go ahead in the second half, only to falter in the waning minutes on some stupid play that would cost them the victory.
After trailing 3-0 for the first quarter-and-a-half, the Texans caught fire and created four turnovers that resulted in 24 straight points and a 24-3 halftime lead. Houston got into the red zone a few times in the second half, but had to settle for only a pair of field goals and gave up a 72-yard punt return for Miami’s only touchdown for the 30-10 final score.
KWICKIES…It looks like the Houston Astros are on some kind of tear going into Monday’s action against the Chicago Cubbies at Minute Maid Park in Houston. They have won four of their last 10 games, which is a bit better than their current .314 winning percentage for the season. But it’s only a matter of time when the Astros lose four more games and that 100th loss occurs for the second year in a row.
Bridge City’s Matt Bryant started the 2012 NFL season by making all four field goals he attempted Sunday in the Atlanta Falcons’ 40-24 victory over the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. The 10-year veteran made kicks of 34, 21, 30 and 41 yards in addition to four PATs for a 16-point game.
And while on the subject of field goals, San Francisco’s veteran kicker David Akers tied an NFL record with a 63-yard boot that hit the crossbar and bounced through the uprights. His kick tied the record set by New Orleans Saints’ Tom Dempsey in 1970 and tied by Denver’s Jason Elam in 1998 and Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski in 2011. Matt Bryant kicked one 62 yards in 2006 when he played for Tampa Bay.
JUST BETWEEN US…After watching football games for more than half a century, it’s difficult to get too impressed with what I see on the gridiron. But last weekend I’ve really taken notice to the relentless way the West Orange-Stark Mustangs are operating both on offense and defensively against larger schools. Hopefully that will continue Friday night at Butch Thomas Complex in Beaumont against Central. I’m also impressed with Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel of Kerrville Tivy and the way he handled himself in his initial collegiate game. However, it looked like the same old Aggies who jump out to a first-half lead and then can’t put anything on the scoreboard after halftime, much like they did when they were playing against the “rum-dum” teams in the Big 12. And thirdly, I’m impressed with Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III (RG3) and the way he passed for 320 yards against a pretty good New Orleans Saints’ defense in his first-ever NFL game.