Donald shines, Street makes first catch in NFL debuts


By Jack DeMarco / Staff Writer

To no one’s surprise, workhorse and defensive superstar Aaron Donald led the pack of Panthers in the NFL with a strong opening day performance. Just as Donald dominated the trenches for the Pitt defense a year ago, he showed up in convincing fashion for the struggling St. Louis Rams in his debut. 

Not only did he finish the afternoon with four total tackles against the Minnesota Vikings, but he also delivered a punishing hit to the prolific running back, Adrian Peterson. This highlight play was one of his two tackles for losses as he erupted through the line of scrimmage with his lightning quickness. With the Rams resorting to their third-string quarterback in a subsequent 34-6 loss to the Vikings, Donald was one of the few bright spots for the Rams’ home opener.

LeSean McCoy was part of a stagnant Philadelphia Eagles offense that went into the locker room trailing 17-0 to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who went 4-12 last season. The Eagles turned around its dismal first half performance and rattled off 34 unanswered points to win 34-17. McCoy’s complement, Darren Sproles, provided much of the turnaround — he ripped off a 49-yard touchdown to get the Eagles on the scoreboard. All in all, McCoy wasn’t his usual self, only capping the day off with 74 yards on 21 carries. Although it was not a horrible outing, McCoy will definitely be hungry for week two, where the Eagles will travel to Indianapolis to take on the Colts on Monday Night Football.

K’Waun Williams started his NFL career in familiar territory in a contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. In the game, Cleveland’s hopes for a historic comeback were shattered when Shaun Suisham’s 41-yard field goal propelled the Steelers to a 30-27 victory after squandering a 27-3 halftime lead. The Browns’ defense forced five punts on the Steelers’ six second half possessions, thanks to the contributions of Williams and teammate Jabaal Sheard, who played for Pitt from 2007-10.

All three of Williams’ tackles came in the second half, one of which was an impressive special teams play. During a Browns kick-off, Williams’ lockdown tackle was key in pinning the Steelers on their own 10 yard line. Sheard also wrapped up his day in Pittsburgh with three tackles.

Larry Fitzgerald and the Arizona Cardinals closed out the opening weekend of the NFL season with a Monday night matchup against the San Diego Chargers. The Cardinals escaped with a 18-17 win as Fitzgerald finished with an unproductive evening. Fitzgerald only hauled in one reception for 22 yards as much of the air attack involved third-year receiver Michael Floyd.

Defense and special teams dominated the action in Dallas as the San Francisco 49ers cruised to a 28-17 victory over the Cowboys. Entering his 11th season in the NFL, former Pitt punter Andy Lee had an effective outing for the 49ers. Of his four punts, three were inside the 20-yard line, and the field position challenges for the Cowboys contributed to the team’s offensive woes throughout the game.  

On the other side of the same game, wide receiver Devin Street saw most of his opportunities come after the Cowboys’ top wideout Dez Bryant went to the sidelines due to injury concerns. Street had two catches for 18 yards while being targeted three times. Look for the Cowboys to utilize Street more because its passing game struggled mightily Sunday afternoon. Specifically, quarterback Tony Romo threw 13 incompletions and three interceptions, and he failed to develop a rapport with any of his wideouts.  

In his four years at Pitt before graduating last year, Street gave former Panthers quarterbacks Tino Sunseri and Tom Savage plenty of comfort, and the same should be true for him and Romo as the year progresses.