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Bad decisions costly in Week 1

BARRY WILNERSeptember 9, 2013

Maybe the first week of the season is a time to get the kinks out. That theory can’t sit too well with Greg Schiano, Tom Coughlin, Mike McCarthy and Doug Marrone, coaches whose teams all lost in great part because of undisciplined play.

Penalties ranging from silly to absurd (see Levonte David, LB, Tampa Bay). Turnovers. Poor routes by receivers. Missed blocks, most egregiously the ones that get quarterbacks blasted. Even poor decisions by those very coaches.

This is the NFL? It sure was in Week 1.

“I’m totally, totally disappointed and embarrassed by that kind of football,” Giants coach Coughlin said after a six-turnover debacle at Dallas. “That’s sloppy, sloppy football.”

Not the kind of football a Coughlin team often plays, which might make the Giants the worst offenders. That perhaps makes such a pathetic performance even more annoying for the always red-faced Coughlin, whose emphasis on being protective of the ball never diminishes.

“It was a total disregard of the carelessness for the ball and lack of understanding of that’s how you lose,” Coughlin said. “You’re not going to win anything with minus-5 in turnovers. There’s just no way.”

Teams also won’t win very often by committing double-figure penalties, which Tampa Bay did at the Jets, 13 in all, nine in the first 19 minutes. Unlucky No. 13 was the most damaging because it cost the Bucs a victory.

New York trailed 17-15 and was desperately trying to move the ball downfield in the final moments when rookie quarterback Geno Smith scrambled for 10 yards to the Buccaneers 45 — way too far to expect Nick Folk to kick a field goal. But as Smith clearly stepped out-of-bounds, he was hit by David, drawing a 15-yard penalty, the Bucs’ third of the game.

Folk then nailed the winning kick.

While Tampa Bay teammates rallied around the second-year player in support after the game, there really was no ignoring the impact of his out-of-control play.

“We’ve got to play on the edge. That’s the way we play,” Bucs coach Schiano said. “We’ve got to be smart about it. The strike zone is decreasing in the National Football League, and we’ve got to make sure we stay within the rules. It doesn’t mean you can’t be as physical, but we have to try to be better that way.”

The Bills also had 13 flags thrown on them in their last-second loss to New England, with three penalties declined. Twice, they had 12 men on the field. On the Patriots’ very first play from scrimmage, DT Marcell Dareus lined up offside.

“I think the No. 1 thing we’re focusing on is, not to take anything away from those guys because they made plays, too, but we gave them a lot of help,” rookie Bills coach Marrone said. “There’s things that we did to hurt ourselves that put us in this situation. If we take care of those things, I think there’s a different outcome.”

The outcome in San Francisco wasn’t decided by careless mistakes so much as by old-fashioned execution: The 49ers did more things right than the Packers did. A brutally physical game from the outset, as Packers linebacker Clay Matthews promised, it also was marred by a wild play in which Matthews seemed to be delivering a message.

Leading into the rematch of a January divisional playoff game won handily by San Francisco’s rushing attack, Matthews promised Green Bay would target mobile 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick at every opportunity. Matthews, in particular, managed to do that for much of Sunday’s game.

But he went way too far when he wrapped his right arm around Kaepernick’s lower neck area well out of bounds in the second quarter. Matthews was flagged, as was Niners tackle Joe Staley for defending Kaepernick — a penalty the NFL said Monday was incorrect.

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh still was angry about the play a day later.

“Like I said last week, usually a man will tell you his bad intentions if you just listen,” Harbaugh said of Matthews. “That certainly was a cheap shot, launching, clotheslining to the neck-head area.

“Bad play.”

One of many on an undisciplined Sunday for losing teams.


AP Sports Writer John Wawrow in Buffalo, Janie McCauley in San Francisco and Fred Goodall in Tampa contributed to this story.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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