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NFL Week 1: What was the biggest surprise? [Updated]

September 12, 2011 |  8:00 am

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Writers from around Tribune Co. discuss the most surprising aspects of a very entertaining first week of the NFL season. Check back throughout the day for more responses and weigh in with comments of your own.

Ron Fritz, Baltimore Sun

Without question, the biggest surprise of the first week was the Baltimore Ravens' beatdown of the Pittsburgh Steelers, 35-7. The Ravens forced seven turnovers, a team record, and took away the Steelers' will at every turn.

It was a stunning victory. Yes, the Ravens were at home and were slight favorites, but a Joe Flacco-led team had never beaten a Ben Roethlisberger-led team. Two of the last three seasons the Steelers knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs.

The Ravens crushed the Steelers in every way possible -- on offense, defense and special teams. The Ravens' new offensive line? Baltimore rushed for 170 yards and Flacco threw three TDs and was sacked just once. On defense, Terrell Suggs (three sacks) made Roethlisberger his personal tackling dummy.

This isn't going to sit well in Pittsburgh. The rematch is Nov. 6.

[Updated at 9:16 a.m.:

Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times

The biggest surprise was the performance of several 2010 playoff teams. We knew the Colts were going to struggle without Peyton Manning, and they did. But Pittsburgh was routed at Baltimore in a game that's normally thisclose, and the Steelers were physically dominated.

Not only were the Kansas City Chiefs unable to protect their home field -- where they were 7-1 last season -- but they were crushed by Buffalo. And Atlanta couldn't generate anything close to a consistent offense against an admittedly tough Bears defense.

Typically, the biggest swing in teams happens between Weeks 1 and 2, so these teams better hope to swing upward -- and quickly.

Dan Pompei, Chicago Tribune

The biggest surprise of Week One was how poorly the Falcons played. They won 13 games a year ago and had been picked by many to be a Super Bowl team. They had a strong offseason, acquiring players including Julio Jones and Ray Edwards who seemed to be just what the team needed.

But on Sunday in Chicago they were thoroughly inept in a 30-12 loss. They were playing a tough opponent in the Chicago Bears, but the Falcons played so poorly that they would have been fortunate to have beaten the Baylor Bears.

Under Mike Smith the Falcons have been known as a team that avoids mistakes. But they made mistakes all over the field Sunday, including three turnovers, nine penalties and several missed tackles. It was the worst loss of Matt Ryan’s career, and a stunning one.]

[Updated at 10:46 a.m.:

Keith Groller, Allentown Morning Call

Perhaps it was fitting that on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, football fans near the nation’s capital and Pentagon got to mix a hearty rendition of “Hail to the Redskins” into their emotional day of patriotism and reflection.

Washington’s beatdown of the Giants may say as much about the problems with Big Blue as it says that maybe, just maybe, Mike Shanahan knew what he was doing when he bid adieu to Donovan McNabb and Clinton Portis and turned his offense over to the much maligned Rex Grossman.

Grossman threw for 305 yards, or about 275 more than McNabb in his Vikings debut.

Combine the Redskins' win with the Ravens’ thrashing of the Steelers and the Beltway boys fared pretty well on Sunday, giving those sports fans a diversion from yet another dreadful baseball season.]

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Photo: Members of the Baltimore Ravens celebrate an interception of a pass by Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, kneeling at right. Credit: Nick Wass / Associated Press

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