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NFL Preseaon games get under way, Chargers lose opener

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The NFL season began on Thursday night—preseason that is.  Yet is that any less of a reason to get excited?

For NFL enthusiasts who spent the summer living in fear, wondering if an entire season would be lost to what seemed like a never-ending labor dispute, the answer is no.

With the frenzy of player swapping that took place over the past couple of weeks during the free-agency period, several familiar names have found new homes in the NFL, all the more reason to get excited about the new starter that may have landed in your favorite football town and tune in for his debut . . . at least for the first couple of preseason plays.

Without further adieu, here’s a recap of some of the first preseason games already completed, with the goal of getting your gridiron juices flowing for the anticipated start of yet another year of professional football.

Seattle 24 San Diego 17

When Philip Rivers took the field at Qualcomm Stadium Thursday night, someone must have forgotten to tell him that he missed a few weeks of practice.

He certainly didn’t seem to have noticed.

Rivers played just one series for the Chargers, going 5 for 6 while leading an 89-yard scoring drive that included a beautiful 48-yard completion to Vincent Jackson and was capped off by an 8-yard TD reception by fullback Mike Tolbert.

And that was just one of a few bright spots for the Chargers.

They led 10-0 at halftime after their defense yielded just 85 yards in the first half, second-year pro Bryan Walters returned a kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter, defensive rookie Corey Luiget recorded four tackles and rookie quarterback Scott Tolzien put together some impressive offensive drives.

Yet for all of the Chargers success, the Seattle Seahawks just wouldn’t go away.

Tavaris Jackson made his debut as the starting quarterback set to replace long-time Seattle veteran Matt Hasselbeck, who departed for Tennessee a few weeks ago.  Jackson went 3-5 for 13 yards in just two series under center before ex-Chargers back-up Charlie Whitehurst took over the offense, going 14-20 for 115 yards and leading the Seahawks to 10 points.  Seattle tied the game up with four minutes left in the fourth quarter then capitalized on a Tolzien fumble less than a minute later with a 25-yard run for the eventual game-winning TD.

Other Notes: Charger’s running back Ryan Mathews rushed twice for a total of five yards and caught a 9-yard pass in his only series on the field.  For Seattle, wide receiver Sidney Rice, the highly touted free agent acquisition from Minnesota, did not play.

Philadelphia 13 Baltimore 6

A slew of impressive, newly acquired players including cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, quarterback Vince Young and running back Ronnie Brown all made their debuts for the Eagles on Thursday night, and the so-called “Dream Team” of the NFL this season did not disappoint.

Michael Vick was 4-6 passing in his only series on the field, throwing for 74 yards and a touchdown before being replaced Young, who went 3-5 for 45 yards while finishing out the rest of the first quarter.  Brown chipped in on the ground, carrying the ball nine times for 22 yards.  Star receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin both sat out preseason opener.

For the Ravens, quarterback Joe Flacco played two series and led the offense to a field goal on its first possession of the game.  He finished the night with 60 yard while completing 3 out of 6 passes.  Running back Ricky Williams, one of Baltimore’s big off-season acquisitions, was inactive for the game.

Though it was a game didn’t feature much flair once the starting offensive and defensive players were removed from the field, these are two teams with much to prove after each suffering disappointing exits early from the playoffs last year.  Expect both to be firing on all cylinders by the time the regular season begins.

Arizona 24 Oakland 18

In one of the biggest acquisitions of the off-season, the Arizona Cardinals finally landed a quarterback in fourth-year pro and former Eagles back-up Kevin Kolb, who was arguably one of the most sought after free agents on the market this year.

Yes, they may have paid $63 million and traded away both a starting cornerback and a future second-round pick for an unproven quarterback who has started only a handful of games, but they still have Larry Fitzgerald.  What more do you need?

Kolb completed four of seven passes for 68 yards in his Cardinal debut, finding Fitzgerald twice, once on a 43-yard pass that saw the star receiver jump back over the defender to steal away an under-thrown ball that seemed destined for an interception.

As for the Raiders, they were forced to settle for three field goals within Arizona’s 25-yard line as 10 penalties was the story of their day, the sloppy play no doubt the result of a new coaching staff (again) having only 14 days of mini-camp to work with a very young team.  In other words, don’t look for the Raiders to exit the AFC West basement too quickly this season.

New England 47 Jacksonville 12

New England didn’t loose any major talent during the off-season, instead acquiring one-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and Pro Bowl receiver Chad Ochocinco.

Tom Brady, as well as most of the other star players, didn’t even suit up for the game and the back-ups still put up 47 points on the Jaguars.

Yeah, the Patriots are going to be good again this season.

It was a game that saw two highly touted rookie QBs, Ryan Mallot of the Patriots and Blaine Gabbert of the Jaguars, go head-to-head, with Mallot coming out on top this time around.  He went 12-19 for 164 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut while Gabbert finished the day with 9 of 16 passes completed for 85 yards.

Tonight’s games include:

Cincinnati @ Detroit

Pittsburgh @ Washington

San Francisco @ New Orleans

Miami @ Atlanta

Tampa Bay @ Kansas City

Saturday will round out the first week of the NFL preseason with:

Green Bay @ Cleveland

Minnesota @ Tennessee

NY Giants @ Carolina

Buffalo @ Chicago

Indianapolis @ St. Louis

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