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Star watch: Smith, Fox pick up opening day NFL victories Phillip Brents | Tue, Sep 11 2012 03:03 PM

The NFL season kicked off last weekend (Sept. 5 if you happen to be a Dallas Cowboys or New York Giants fan), and a pair of local boys figured prominently in two of the league’s biggest opening day victories.

San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith (Bonita Vista Middle School) completed 20 of 26 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Forty-Niners to a 30-22 “upset” win against the home-standing Green Bay Packers.

Smith connected with Randy Moss and Vernon Dean on a pair of scoring passes and the San Francisco defense took care of the rest in toppling the Super Bowl favorites on the road.

The resulting buzz around the league was incredible.

The headlines were set in bold type: Smith out-dueled Green Bay signal-caller Aaron Rodgers, the heir to NFL future Hall of Famer Brett Favre.

Rodgers completed 30 of 44 passes for 304 yards, two touchdowns and threw one interception, but two of the Packers’ TDs came late in the game after the San Francisco defense had held the hosts to just seven points through the opening three quarters of play.

To add insult to injury, David Akers also tied a league record with a 63-yard field goal for the visitors.

Once considered one of the NFL’s all-time busts, the former No. 1 draft pick proved last year’s amazing showing in helping lead the 49ers to the NFC Finals was no fluke.

Will San Francisco and Green Bay reunite in this year’s conference championship game?

Smith, now graced by years of experience and humility, as well as the Niners’ defense will likely have something to say about that as the season unfolds.

Busting loose
Fox (Castle Park, Southwestern College) and his Denver Broncos also created their share of NFL buzz following Sunday nights’ 31-19 victory against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers in a rematch of last year’s AFC wild card game.

Fox, who previously coached the Carolina Panthers to the 2004 Super Bowl, had to be pleasantly surprised with the Denver debut of veteran QB Peyton Manning.

Manning, the former wunderkind of the Indianapolis Colts, made his return to the NFL after nearly two years off due to rehabilitation from four neck surgeries.  He looked up to his four-time MVP form by completing 19 of 26 passes for 253 yards and two scores. He threw a 71-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas to reach the 400 TD plateau.

Only two other QBs — both retired — have thrown for more than 400 touchdowns. Dan Marino reached the 400 TD mark in his 227th game while Favre did it in 228 games.

Manning reached the magic number in his 208th game. But he still has some way to go to top the other two QB greats. Marino (1983-1999 with Miami) retired with 420 touchdown passes; Favre (1991-2010, primarily with Green Bay,) owns the NFL record with 508 TDs.

Favre’s record may never be matched. Manning is 36 and one brilliant game does not a comeback season make.

Tracy Porter, who denied Manning a Super Bowl victory as a member of the New Orleans Saints with a pick, returned an intercepted pass 39 yards in the game’s waning minutes to seal the Broncos’ heroic win.

As with the Smith and Rodgers duel, this one was another marquee quarterback match-up as Manning out-did Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, inarguably one of the league’s premier signal-callers.

Manning had not played in a NFL game for 611 days.

With 401 touchdown passes, Manning could conceivably pass Marino’s mark to become the league’s No. 2 all-time career TD leader this season.

Among active NFL quarterbacks, New England’s Tom Brady (currently No. 5 on the list) has thrown 302 touchdowns passes while New Orleans’ Drew Brees (No. 9 on the list) has 284 TD passes to his credit.

Interestingly, Denver’s John Elway (1983-98, sixth with 300 TDs), San Francisco’s Joe Montana (1979-94, 11th with 273 TDs) and the Chargers’ Dan Fouts (1973-87, 14th with 254 TDs) — all iconic names in the game — all rank far behind Manning in terms of number of touchdown passes thrown.

Favre is the only quarterback in NFL history to surpass 70,000 passing yards, 500 touchdowns, 300 interceptions and 10,000 passing attempts.

Fox owns a 79-74 career NFL coaching record. His teams have appeared in nine post-season games, posting a 6-3 record.

He coached nine seasons with the Panthers, recording a season bests of 11-5 in both the 2003 and 2005 seasons and a 12-4 mark in 2008.

Carolina dropped a hotly contested 32-29 contest to New England in Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston. 

The Broncos finished 8-8 during Fox’s first year there last season, losing to New England in the AFC division playoffs after stunning the Steelers in the opening round.

Fox also played defensive back at SDSU and was a defensive backs coach for the Chargers in 1992-93.

Among his coaching mentors are current Olympian coaches Gil Warren and Bing Dawson.

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