Losers aren't often pitied in sports, and that means that great individual performances are always overshadowed by the result. Four NFL players know that feeling after Week 1 and, despite suffering defeat on the opening day, can take some small personal satisfaction from outstanding individual performances.
They include a premier pass-rusher and a wide receiver who reminded everyone that age and a rookie quarterback won't stop him from making plays. Here are the four best performances in defeat from Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season:
Clay Matthews, OLB, Green Bay Packers
Clay Matthews is the only member of the Green Bay Packers' defense to emerge with any credit following the unit's first-week horror show against the San Francisco 49ers.
The ultra-athletic, high-intensity rush linebacker logged 2.5 sacks and was the only Packers defender who posed a threat to the 49ers' offense. The problem for the Packers is that Matthews was the only threat last season, when their defense ranked last in the NFL.
On the evidence of Week 1, it seems Matthews should expect to once again carry the load for a unit that could undermine a team who were Super Bowl winners just two seasons ago.
Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Reggie Wayne was simply superb in a losing cause against the Chicago Bears. The veteran wideout proved that he has lost none of his skill and savvy, as he outwitted the Bears' zone concepts to catch nine passes for 135 yards.
Even at 33, Wayne is still set to be the featured target for rookie quarterback Andrew Luck. If the Indianapolis Colts are going to improve on 2011's 2-14 mark, the Luck to Wayne connection looks like it will be key.
Randy Starks, DT, Miami Dolphins
It's got to be hard to take any solace from a 30-10 defeat on opening day. However, at least the Miami Dolphins know that defensive lineman Randy Starks can handle the team's transition to a 4-3 defense.
The nine-year pro recorded six tackles and notched two sacks against the Houston Texans. His efforts helped keep the game close for much of the first half, before rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill's three-interception tailspin.
Moving from the 5-technique, 2-gap defensive end position in a 3-4, to defensive tackle in a 1-gap scheme is not easy. Yet if Week 1 is anything to go by, Starks is proving that he can be a key playmaker for an underrated Dolphins defense this season.
C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills
C.J. Spiller's performance in a 20-point defeat to AFC East rivals the New York Jets, was breathtaking. Consider these numbers: 14 carries for 169 yards and a touchdown, at 12.1 yards per carry. Throw in two catches for 25 yards just for good measure.
The speed Spiller showed on his 56-yard touchdown run was nothing short of phenomenal. That single play reminded everyone just why the Buffalo Bills used a first-round pick to select him in the 2010 NFL draft.
The fact that he now appears to be developing into the dynamic playmaker the Bills hoped they were getting, has to excite the team and its fans, despite their opening-day drubbing.
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