NFL – Week 1

It is finally back! NFL football is back!

The Patriots will be defending their title and hoping to add a record 7th at the end of this season, whilst the other teams’ main aim is to stop that from happening.

We saw our first overtimes and our first draw of the season in Arizona.

 

Thursday

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Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears

10-3

The NFL’s 100th season kicked off on Thursday with a low scoring 10-3 victory for the Green Bay Packers against their rivals – the Chicago Bears.

Former Bears safety Adrian Amos had a brilliant night – the first game of his NFL career in which he wasn’t donning a Bears uniform. He finished off the Packers’ triumph when he intercepted a poor choice from Mitchell Trubisky in the end zone with 1:58 to play.

Following Amos‘ interception, the visitors surprisingly were unable to run out the clock, however a final Packers defensive stop, ended emphatically with a Preston Smith sack to end the night. Green Bay’s defensive display limited Chicago to just 254 total yards.

Whilst neither side’s offense was that strong, the hosts struggled from their first offensive play to their last. They include a Tarik Cohen fumble after a quick pitch from Trubisky. Whilst that play was nullified by a defensive holding call, it was the start of a game in which Matt Nagy‘s calls were often too cute or gimmicky for their own good. Their only points were scored by kicker Eddy Pinerio, who became a footnote following an offseason in which kicking was at the forefront in Chicago.

Whilst it wasn’t a play-calling display of excellence for NagyTrubisky has to take the majority of the criticism – in what’s meant to be a big season for the QB, Thursday’s game indicated that his own still has a lot of developing.

Trubisky was 26 from 45 for 228 yards and that fateful interception. He never looked confident, he missed reads and rarely succeeded if his first read wasn’t open. It wasn’t all bad news for Chicago with glimpses of potential from rookie running back David Montgomery, and a solid game from receiver Allen Robinson (seven receptions for 102 yards).

The Bears defense held the Packers to 213 yards, but their offense just couldn’t find a way into the end zone.

Aaron Rodgers wasn’t exactly outstanding on Thursday (18 of 30 for 203 yards, 1TD), but he improved to 17-5 against the Bears with 46 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions. Somehow he is now 4-0 with eight TDs and no interceptions in four Week 1 starts against their hosts.

The game and all credit truly belongs to the Packers defense, but for now, the Bears still belong to Rodgers.

It wasn’t all plain sailing from the offense and Rodgers – they gave up two sacks in their first six offensive plays whilst picking up -17 yards. Sure they found the end zone to secure the win, but they never really rebounded. By the end of the affair Chicago had five sacks – two from Leonard Floyd – and obliterated their opponents running game. The Bears may just have found a new weapon in defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris (three tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack).

As the NFL immerses itself in an age in which offense rules the day, the 100th season began with a defensive slugfest that boasted only 13 combined points and 467 combined yards of offense.

It’s the second straight NFL game in which there was only one offensive touchdown scored. The last was the Patriots’ 13-3 Super Bowl LIII win over the LA Rams.

 

Up Next:

Vikings v Packers – Sunday, September 15 (1pmFOX)

Bears v Broncos – Sunday, September 15 (4:25pmFOX)

 

Sunday

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Los Angeles Rams v Carolina Panthers

30-27

With questions regarding Todd Gurley‘s health floating around this week all eyes were on the Rams’ backfield. The first half saw coach Sean McVay mix it up with Gurley and Malcolm Brown splitting touches. It was in fact Brown who made an early difference, scoring the first touchdown on a 5-yard rush and ending the half with five carries for 29 yards.

The second half was all Gurley – who only had 8 yards on five attempts in the first two quarters. He opened up in the third with a 25-yard rush on the Rams’ third play to push them into the red zone. He followed up with a 5-yard rush two plays later; the drive ended with a 27-yard field goal. In the fourth quarter the running back demonstrated his power on several timely runs to amass 58 yards, including two back-to-back runs for 12 yards to put the game to bed in the final two minutes.

Although Gurley‘s day ended with no touchdowns, 97 yards from 14 carries is certainly not a bad outing. Add that to Brown‘s 11 carries for 53  yards and two TDs and the Rams’ run game looks potent.

After a foot injury cut Cam Newton‘s preseason debut short, the Panthers quarterback got the chance to show off his surgically-repaired shoulder. His first throw of the game went to Christian McCaffrey, who ended the afternoon with a whopping 209 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns.

After taking a sack on the next play, Newton followed up with a 13-yard pass to DJ Moore for a first down, the subsequent drive would be cut short after a Moore fumble following a 15-yard reception. The play was indicative of an overall rough outing for Newton, completing 25 of 38 passes for 239, taking three sacks for a loss of 23 yards and turning the ball over twice.

 

Up Next:

Saints v Rams – Sunday, September 15 (4:25pmFOX)

Buccs v Panthers – Thursday, September 12 (8:20pmNFL Network)

 

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Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles

27-32

It took a while but once the Eagles’ offense took flight in the second half there wasn’t too much the Redskins could do.

After throwing for 112 yards in the first half, QB Carson Wentz helped lead four straight scoring drives to push the hosts to victory in his first game since his injury-plagued 2018 campaign. Three of those drives ended with a Wentz TD pass, including an impressive 53-yarder to DeSean Jackson in his first game back in an Eagles uniform; it was Jackson‘s second 50+ yard TD catch of the afternoon. He ended with a game-high 154 receiving yards, tying him with Cowboys great Michael Irvin for the most Week One 100-yard receiving games in NFL history.

Wentz, who signed a huge contact extension over the summer, ended the day 28-of-39 for 313 yards and three touchdowns. The run game also deserves praise; a quiet eight-carry, 20-yard output in the first half from Jordan HowardDarren Sproles and rookie Miles Sanders was all but forgotten after a 96-yard second half.

The Redskins offense looked promising in the first half with Case Keenum starting. Tight end Vernon Davis showed he still has it with a monstrous 48-yard catch-and-run touchdown to give Washington their first opening drive touchdown in Week 1 since 2004. Keenum started 4-for-4 for 71 yards and finished the half outshining Wentz with 257 yards and 16 completions on 22 attempts; he finished 30-of-44 with 380 yards and three touchdowns.

Terry McLaurin, the 2019 third-round pick, stepped up big time in the first half tallying three receptions for 104 yards, including a beastly 69-yard touchdown catch to give the visitors an early 17-0 lead.

Unfortunately for the Redskins penalties coupled with the Eagles’ offense controlling the game with lengthy scoring drives limited their own offensive performance in the second half. Washington’s O line, still without Trent Williams, accounted for all five of the team’s penalties for a loss of 45 yards. After a hot start McLaurin cooled off with five targets and three catches for 21 yards, all of which came with the game out of reach.

 

Up Next:

Cowboys v Redskins Sunday, September 15 (1pmFOX)

Eagles v Falcons – Sunday, September 15 (8:25pmNBC)

 

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Buffalo Bills v New York Jets

17-16

The Bills take the title for weirdest comeback of the day. They were shut out for the first 40 minutes and fell 16-0 behind before scoring on three consecutive possessions to win it. The Jets losing linebacker C.J. Mosely in the second half might have been the tipping point, though Josh Allen not giving the ball away like he did so often last season definitely helped – though he did have four turnovers, including a pick-six in the first half – the Jets will definitely lament not scoring off the other three turnovers.

Buffalo moved the sticks better than their AFC East counterpart and it eventually produced points. A costly roughing the passer penalty on third-and-10 extended a Bills drive late in the third quarter, resulting in a field goal. Devin Singletary heated up on the ensuing Bills drive, picking up 55 yards to set up an Allen touchdown scramble, before Allen capped off the comeback with a 38-yard throw to John Brown for the TD.

There was much anticipation about the development of Allen and Sam Darnold but the result was anticlimactic. Allen was obviously a mixed bag with turnovers and the late comeback, which included completing 5 of 7 passes on the go-ahead drive. His seven completions for 123yrds to Brown were a welcome sight for visiting fans. Darnold on the other hand didn’t have a turnover and connected on 28 of 41 attempts, yet it only amounted to 175 yards.

New York’s revamped O line is still a work in progress, Darnold was under constant pressure whilst being sacked four times having to resort to too many throws underneath. The shining light for NY is that even after more than a year away from the game, Le’Veon Bell still has it – the former Steeler caught a TD pass and a two-point conversion, and collected 92 yards from scrimmage on 23 touches.

 

Up Next:

Bills v Giants – Sunday, September 15 (1pmCBS)

Browns v Jets – Monday, September 16 (8:15pmESPN)

 

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Atlanta Falcons v Minnesota Vikings

12-28

The Vikings started how the meant to go on – a sack on their first defensive play, a blocked punt to end the Falcons’ first drive, a healthy Dalvin Cook showing what he can do, and Kirk Cousins finding Adam Theilen for a 23-yard touchdown – all within 2 minutes and 3 seconds – as Minnesota jumped to a 7-0 lead and rode it to a 28-12 win that was pretty much decided by halftime.

Just a season ago the hosts fell flat of living up to expectations of a Super Bowl, not even making it to the playoffs, and although it’s only Week 1, the Vikings looked every bit the team that can fulfill such high hopes. Their defense was stellar as it held a formidable Falcons offense at bay for the first three quarters and turned in three turnovers. The offense was balanced and special teams made quite the impact. Overall the hosts were outstanding in their season opener.

Running backs Dalvin Cook (Vikings) and Devonta Freeman (Falcons) each returned to action following injury-shortened seasons looking to rebound for their respective clubs. The contrasting outcomes for the RBs – who both attended Miami Central High – were very emblematic of their teams’ fates and outlooks. Cook was simply outstanding upon his return – it was on the second drive he began to shine with two carries covering 40 yards, including a 19-yard split to the end zone. He concluded his statement-making return with 21 carries for 111 yards and two TDs. Freeman had less than 19 yards rushing in his return, he was stifled and frustrated.

A day after scoring a huge extension, Julio Jones scored a touchdown, but it was too little too late. The score was his first in five games against the Vikings with Minnesota’s defense, mainly Xavier Rhodes, continuing to confound one of the game’s greatest receivers.

 

Up Next:

Eagles v Falcons – Sunday, September 15 (8:25pmNBC)

Vikings v Packers – Sunday, September 15 (1pmFOX)

 

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Baltimore Ravens v Miami Dolphins

59-10

In a very one-sided game all Lamar Jackson seemed to do was throw touchdowns. He completed his first 10 passes, including four for scores. The dual-threat QB exhibited his usual scrambling, only it was often a means for throwing – he ran just three times. Perhaps his most impressive trait of the afternoon was how he beat the coverage on multiple downfield throws, whilst finishing with a career-best five touchdown passes and 324 yards whilst playing just three quarters. The fact his 17 completions were also a career-high speak to his limitations as a passer last year, maybe a new footballing era has been born in Baltimore.

Rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown doesn’t get called Hollywood for nothing. He had a scintillating debut, catching long touchdown passes with his first two receptions. It started simple enough with a quick slant that he turned into a 47-yard scored, before getting behind the Miami defense and hauling in a deep strike from Jackson for an 83-yard TD. Speed kills, and Brown looked like a speed demon whilst catching four passes for 147 yards.

Miami on the other hand struggled to pass, didn’t bother running and their defense surrendered 390 yards by halftime, and 643 overall. Allowing 42pts in the first half of a season open is beyond bad, it’s more like watching college football than the NFL. In fact its an NFL record.

The second half saw a quarterback change for the Dolphins and backup Josh Rosen getting picked off on his very first snap with the club. Miami already appear to be in the fish tank.

 

Up Next:

Cardinals v Ravens Sunday, September 15 (1pmFOX)

Patriots v Dolphins – Sunday, September 15 (1pmCBS)

 

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Kansas City Chiefs v Jacksonville Jaguars

40-26

It took all but three offensive plays for reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes to remind everyone just how special he is. Its how long it took for the Chiefs to score their first touchdown of the season. It was a spectacular play from Sammy Watkins, who took a short ball over the middle and turned it into a 68-yard sprint to the end zone. Though it was Mahomes who just kept the Chiefs’ all-star offense rolling along, completing his first five passes for 141 yards in just two drives as K.C. leaped to a 10-0 lead.

The Jaguars’ already bad day reached a whole new level when they lost starting QB Nick Foles and saw linebacker Myles Jack ejected for punching Demarcus Robinson in the face.  Follow that with a stellar performance from the Chiefs offense (Travis Kelce – three catches for 88 yards, LeSean McCoy – 10 carries for 81 yards,  Mahomes – 378 yards, 3TD, 143.2 rating) and the hosts will be wanting to forget Sunday ever happened.

Watkins made the Jags defense miserable – matching his touchdown output for all of last season. The wide receiver finished with three touchdowns and 198 yards on nine receptions. This was Watkins at his best, it was a career-high for yards and TDs in a game.

Before leaving the field Nick Foles lofted his first touchdown pass a Jaguar to D.J. Chark, but his afternoon ended moments later with the former Super Bowl MVP on the sideline in pain. NFL Network’s James Palmer reported he’d suffered a broken left clavicle.

Rookie Gardner Minshew was cool and calm coming off the bench. The sixth-round pick completed his first 13 passes, went 9-for-9 for 128 yards at halftime and finished a losing effort with a terrific line of 22-of-25 for 275 yards, two touchdowns, a pick and a 122.5 rating. Whilst the Jags are hoping for the speedy recovery and return of FolesMishew‘s performance deserves at least some recognition after proving a level of confidence going forward that he can provide for the team.

 

Up Next:

Chiefs v Raiders – Sunday, September 15 (4:05pmCBS)

Jaguars v Texans – Sunday, September 15 (1pmCBS)

 

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Tennessee Titans v Cleveland Browns

43-13

The hosts entered with all the hype and looked like the steamroller everyone expected on a 73-yard opening drive touchdown, but then the Titans defense smothered Baker Mayfield along with all the positive vibes in Cleveland, resulting in yet another loss for the Browns, who haven’t won in Week 1 since 2004.

Dean Pees‘ defense dominated, racking up five sacks and three second-half interceptions, including a pick-six that was the icing on the cake for some Tennessee road celebrations. Cam Wake took advantage of a suspect Browns offensive line by sacking Mayfield 2.5 times, including one for a safety – his 100th career QB takedown. The Titans defense kept the Browns discombobulated with a bevy of pressures that didn’t allow Mayfield the time to find his weapons on the outside. With the game still in question, safety Kevin Board snuffed out Cleveland’s chances with an interception and on the next drive Logan Ryan undercut a pass for another pick.

Tennessee’s offense ran a balanced operation under new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. Using an array of play-action passes to find chunk gains and riding Derrick Henry, the Titans did well to protect a reshuffled O line, which stood out in comparison to the Browns struggles. Smith‘s best call of the day came on a throwback screen to Henry that was blocked perfectly for a 75 yard touchdown.

As for the visitors’ pass-catchers, rookie A.J. Brown (3/100) flashed his playmaking ability in space, leading Tony Romo to compare him to a young Anquan Boldin. Marcus Mariota made it clear how much he’d missed Delaine Walker last season, with the tight end catching 2 touchdowns on five receptions upon his return after missing all but one game in 2018.

Penalties destroyed Cleveland at every turn. The whopping 18 penalties for 182 yards were the most by a Browns team since 1951. On offense the flags shattered every positive play after the opening drive, and on defense the penalties gave Tennessee first down after first down. In the first half alone, the hosts’ miscues included a missed PAT, nine penalties (gave them 5 first downs), three sacks (one for a safety), 0-for-5 on third down, and starting left tackle Greg Robinson getting ejected for kicking an opponent.

 

Up Next:

Colts v Titans – Sunday, September 15 (1pmCBS)

Browns v Jets – Monday, September 16 (8:15pmESPN)

 

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Indianapolis Colts v Los Angeles Chargers

24-30 (OT)

The Chargers offense did incredibly well despite star running back Melvin Gordon still holding out. Austin Ekeler dominated the game and sealed the victory with a rushing TD in overtime, finishing the game with 18 touches, 154 yards and three touchdowns. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo Gordon plans to report to the Chargers in six to eight weeks.

Philip Rivers showed no signs of slowing down in his 16th season with L.A.. The 37-year-old quarterback went 25-of-34 for 333 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite target of the afternoon was Keenan Allen, who had eight receptions for 123 yards and one touchdown.

Of all the things that could’ve gone wrong for Indianapolis, the biggest surprise was kicker Adam Vinatieri who left seven points on the field with a missed extra point and two missed field goals. This is the first time this has happened in his 24-year career. He dealt with a “little bit of a knee issue” during training camp and the preseason but coach Frank Reich didn’t believe the injury was “anything that was going to be a problem”, though after his performance on Sunday, there is enough to cause concern for Indy.

On the other side of the field, L.A.’s rookie Ty Long outplayed Vinatieri. Long picked up punter and kicker duties after Michael Badgley suffered a groin injury on Friday. He made good on his only field-goal attempt (40 yards) and was a perfect 3-for-3 on extra points.

Jacoby Brissett had an impressive day in is first game as the Colts starter. If it wasn’t for poor performances by the defense and special teams in the first half, they could have won the game. There were far too many mistakes but BrissettTy Hilton (8/87/2) and Marlon Mack (25/174/1) kept them in the game. The QB finished with 21-from-27, 190 yards and two TDs.

 

Up Next:

Colts v Titans – Sunday, September 15 (1pmCBS)

Chargers v Lions – Sunday, September 15 (1pmCBS)

 

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Cincinnati Bengals v Seattle Seahawks

20-21

Seattle didn’t have much to celebrate offensively, they just got what they needed. Chris Carson picked up 21 of his 46 rushing yards on a crucial third down late in the game that allowed the Seahawks to milk the clock to under a minute. Carson scored two touchdowns in the first half, including a 10-yard reception on third down. That score was set up by a 42-yard pass to D.K. Metcalf (4/89). Russell Wilson mixed in his usual few spectacular plays and Seattle got away for a forgettable 233-yard output.

The Seahawks bring out the best in receiver John Ross who had the best day of his three-year career against the hosts. With A.J. Green sidelined and Zac Taylor pulling the offensive strings, Ross played the part of go-to receiver. He entered the game with 21 career catches for 210 yards and left with seven more for 158 yards and two touchdowns, including the speed demon sneaking behind a linebacker on a wheel route for a 33 yard score, before coming up with a jump ball downfield on a 55 yarder.

The Bengals showed signs of life on offense, out-gaining Seattle by nearly 200 yards and dominating time of possession, but at the end of the day they came away with no points on three trips to the red zone. Three fumbles, a missed 45-yard field goal and failing to capitalize on a recovered fumbled inside the Seahawks’ 20 finally caught up with them. Adding insult to injury running back Joe Mixon left in the second half after hurting his right ankle and did not return.

Andy Dalton registered the franchise’s first 400-yard passing game since Carson Palmer in 2010. It was ultimately in vain as the Seahawks held Cinci to just three second half points.

 

Up Next:

49ers v Bengals – Sunday, September 15 (1pmFOX)

Seahawks v Steelers – Sunday, September 15 (1pmFOX)

 

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San Fransisco 49ers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers

31-17

Last year the 49ers mustered just two interceptions the whole season, within one afternoon against Jameis Winston and the Bucs, they managed to top that with three picks, two of which they took to the house after scoring drives. The first came in the third quarter following a seven-play, 75 yard scoring drive that concluded with a 39 yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Garoppolo, giving the Niners a 14-7 lead. On the second play of Tampa’s ensuing drive, safety Richard Sherman picked off a pass intended for Peyton Barber and returned it 31 yards to extend the lead to 14pts.

The Bucs cut into that with a score and a field goal on two of their next three drives before 49ers’ Robbie Gould made it 23-17 late in the fourth. With the game on the line Winston threw a shortie into the waiting arms of San Fran’s Ahekllo Witherspoon who topped the game with a 25 yard TD return. It was a tough night for Winston who finished with 20-of-36, 194 yards, 1 TD, 3 sacks and a mere passer rating of 45.4).

With just nine game appearances to his name in the two years he’s been a Niner Garoppolo was looking to show the world why he’s one of the highest-paid players in the league. He nearly silenced his critics early with an eight-yard TD pass to Greg Kittle but an offensive penalty call negated the play. Things got worse for the former Patriot, later in the half Vernon Hargreaves came up with a pick-six to give the Bucs an early lead. But he did add to the winning effort with a TD pass to Richie James. Now that Week 1is in the books the QB will look to build on his solid day (18/27, 166 yards, 1TD, 80.2 passer rating) against the Bengals next week.

 

Up Next:

49ers v Bengals – Sunday, September 15 (1pmFOX)

Buccs v Panthers – Thursday, September 12 (8:20pmNFL Network)

 

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New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys

17-35

Dak Prescott dissected a porous Giants defense with a plethora of dimes, hitting receivers perfectly time after time en route to a four touchdown thrashing of a divisional rival. The quarterback started off on fire, earning a career-high 256 passing yards, finishing with 405 and completing 78% of his passes for a passer rating of 153.8.

Helping Prescott out was new OC Kellen Moore who deployed a host of play-actions to open up the middle of the field for the QB, repeatedly sending multiple players into motion, and calling plenty of shots downfield. His first game went off without a hitch – the Cowboys spread to Amari Cooper (6/100/1), Michael Gallup (7/158), Randall Cobb (4/69/1), Blake Jarwin (3/39/1), Jason Witten (3/15/1), Ezekiel Elliott (13/53/1) and even Tavon Austin (1/8) got in on the action. Whilst some of the explosiveness can be accredited to a disastrous Giants defense, you can’t take away the offensive mastermind of Dallas. They’re definitely a team to watch out for this season.

Now that Elliott‘s mission of becoming the highest paid RB in the league has been accomplished he could focus on the game. He got his feet wet, scored a touchdown, didn’t suffer an injury, and got to sit out the fourth quarter of the blowout. He took just 13 carries for 53 yards and the score, whilst playing just 32 players (per Next Gen Stats). Now he’s back up and running and squared away with the Cowboys we’ll be seeing a lot more of the old Zeke in weeks to come.

Now for New York’s most talked about player, Saquon Barkley. He popped a huge 59-yard run on the first play, setting up the Giants’ opening-drive score, before the Giants criminally underutilized their best player. The running back touched the ball just seven times in the first half. The epitome of his lack of ball came late in the third quarter with the Giants already trailing badly. After driving deep into the red zone, NY had third-and-short and fourth-and-short, Barkley didn’t touch the ball either play. The fourth-down call was a rollout with Eli Manning, which had zero chance of working and ended in a blown-up fumble. Barkley finished with 120 rushing yards on 11 carries.

 

Up Next:

Bills v Giants – Sunday, September 15 (1pmCBS)

Cowboys v Redskins – Sunday, September 15 (1pmFOX)

 

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Detroit Lions v Arizona Cardinals

27-27 (OT)

It was a very mixed display from Kyler Murray on his Cardinals debut. From the most horrendous start to being held just short of a storied comeback victory, it’s a debut he will never forget.

Before the comeback bid started the rookie QB rarely looked confident or settled and was visibly frustrated on and off the field, with a dismal 6-of-16 for 41 yards and an interception. His passer rating was horrendous at 19.8, just more than the 19 yards he lost on three sacks. As the second half wore on, the Lions lost their fire and Murray found his way. At this point the No.1 pick was 23-for-38 for 289 yards and a pair of touchdowns, the first of his career going to David Johnson and the second to Larry Fitzgerald, both in the second half. Following the second score, Murray (29/54, 308 yards, 2TDs, 1 interception in the game) found Christian Kirk for two points and sent the game into overtime, where it ended 10 minutes later.

In one night Murray managed to reduce a horrible inauguration for himself and rookie coach Kliff Kingsbury to salvage a tie. At least the QB provided evidence of his talent and skill in the arm that when utilized properly could bring a much needed turnaround for the franchise.

Just seven spots after Arizona drafted Murray out of Oklahoma, Detroit selected a tight end out of Iowa. T.J. Hockenson was the 2019 first-round pick who put on the best show in AZ on Sunday, turning in one of the best days for rookies across the board. He hauled in six passes from Matthew Stafford – Hockenson had 131 receiving yards, the most for any rookie TE in his first game. Unfortunately for the Lions the rookie’s first career touchdown – a 23 yarder – was the last of the day for the visitors, and unfortunately for Hockenson his impressive debut could be forgotten in the footnotes of a Lions collapse that gave way to a memorable showing from Murray. However, Detroit now have a new weapon, a beast over the middle and a possible star at his position.

 

Up Next:

Chargers v Lions – Sunday, September 15 (1pmCBS)

Cardinals v Ravens – Sunday, September 15 (1pmFOX)

 

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Pittsburgh Steelers v New England Patriots

3-33

For the first time this decade New England were without Rob Gronkowski on their payroll (though he was in the building and in uniform!), and they played like he never existed. Tom Brady (the first quarterback with 300+ passing yards in a game at the age of 42+ years old) threw just twice in the direction of a tight end (Ryan Izzo) and spread the ball to everyone, completing at least three passes to five different pass-catchers. Josh Gordon, less than a month since being reinstated, was the downfield threat New England needed in the big man’s absence.

Phillip Dorsett caught two touchdowns after grabbing just three over the last two seasons. Julian Edelman and James White were deployed in the same manner that won them their last two Super Bowls and spliced the Steeler’s secondary in the process. Just imagine what they’ll be like once Antonio Brown joins the team sheet.

Talking of Brown, his old team couldn’t replace his impact on the offense in their first go-around without the mercurial pass-catcher. With JuJu Smith-Schuster taking on Brown‘s No.1 role, James Washington, Donte Moncreif and Ryan Switzer scooped up the majority of Ben Roethlisberger‘s targets.

Whilst Switzer was a reliable security blanket (six catches from 6) and Washington on the receiving end of Big Ben‘s prettiest throw of the night, Moncrief was a drop-happy mess. On 10 targets he hauled in just three for seven yards (.70yrds per target). Meanwhile James Conner was a non-factor in the ground game.

Pittsburgh’s three points were its lowest output since a loss to the Eagles in Week 3 of 2016, the only other time Big Ben‘s Steelers had lost by more than 30pts.

The Patriots’ O line was without David Andrews (blood clots) but that didn’t phase them one bit. Dante Scarnecchia‘s offensive line let little past them in the season opener, displaying none of the discontinuity that one might expect from a brand new line. Isaiah Wynn enjoyed a strong first start on Brady‘s blind side. The same from Ted Karras, who filled in for Andrews at center.

There was cause for concern near the end of the game as right tackle Marcus Cannon left with a shoulder injury, but the Patriots now have depth along the line, having, in the aftermath of Andrews‘ injury, swung trades for backups like Korey Cunningham and Jermaine Eluemunor. The current champions remain ahead of the curve, and with the woeful Dolphins up next, they’re on pace for another victory next Sunday.

 

Up Next:

Seahawks v Steelers Sunday, September 15 (1pmFOX)

Patriots v Dolphins – Sunday, September 15 (1pmCBS)

 

Monday

 

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Houston Texans v New Orleans Saints

28-30

Regardless of the result this was Deshaun Watson‘s game. The Texans quarterback was battered and bruised by a ferocious Saints secondary, entering the medical tent twice in the first half with an apparent back injury and receiving treatment from a Texans staffer throughout the second half. Despite all this he grew more poised as the game went on, his connection with DeAndre Hopkins was in midseason form (8 rec, 111yrds, 2TDS).

Watson, who had five fourth-quarter comebacks to his name last season, “drove” the Texans 75 yards in just two plays and 13 seconds to steal the lead with under a minute left. Houston hadn’t scored since early in the third quarter, but with time running out, Watson uncorked his two best plays of the night to pull his team ahead – a 38-yard strike to Hopkins on the sideline and a picture perfect deep score to Kenny Stills, who they’d acquired in a trade just days ago. All this with an unsettled back and line. If not for the comeback king on the opposite side, Watson would have been hailed Monday Night Football’s hero. Though to many he still is.

The Saints just keep marching, doing the same thing that took them within a no-call of a Super Bowl appearance last year. Alvin Kamara, playing his first game without Mark Ingram in N.O., was as slippery as ever, racking up 169 yards on 20 touches. Despite the presence of Jared CookMichael Thomas was Drew Brees‘ favorite target once more (10 rec, 123yrds). 40-year-old Brees posted the 116th 300-yard passing game of his career, launching just six of his 43 attempts more than 15 yards through the air. He saved his best move for last, marching the hosts into field-goal range in three pass plays with 37 seconds left and just one timeout. None of these final plays went out of bounds, but thanks to two spikes and a timeout with two seconds left, Wil Lutz was gifted the opportunity to knock in his career-long game-winner.

Houston’s main defensive woe was J.J. Watt ‘not showing up’. In his first game without Jadeveon Clowney he didn’t even show on the stat sheet. No tackles, no sacks, no QB hits, nothing – it’s the first time in his 105-game career that Watt has enjoyed an oh-fer. He forced one holding call on right tackle Ryan Ramczyk, but other than that the Saints’ top-five O line handled Watt and Houston’s pass rush. Brees was sacked just once and without Clowney in the Texans’ front seven Houston will need to look for other names to put pressure on opposing QBs, assuming Watt is playing like the three-time Defensive Player of the Year that he is. When he’s not Clowney‘s absence will be magnified. 

 

Up Next:

Jaguars v Texans – Sunday, September 15 (1pmCBS)

Saints v Rams – Sunday, September 15 (4:25pmFOX)

 

Screen Shot 2019-08-27 at 09.59.29

Denver Broncos v Oakland Raiders

16-24

On Monday night Derek Carr performed as phenomenally as ever has for Oakland, going 5-for-5 for 58 yards, including an 8-yard score to Tyrell Williams, the team’s No.1 receiver now Antonio Brown has left.

It was the start the Raiders wanted and needed. It held true from the first emphatic drive to the final seconds that ticked away with a grinning Jon Gruden watching on. Carr finished with 22-of-26 for 259 yards, 1TD and a 121.0 rating, whilst Williams (6 catches, 105yrds, 1TD) also proved he can be a top target. As for the Gruden-helmed franchise, it was a sigh of relief and a fist pump for an exciting win, triumphing despite the distractions, scrutiny and fallout from the Brown rollercoaster going off the rails.

On the other side of the field were two bleak debuts and one underwhelming loss. Vic Fangio‘s first game as head coach and Joe Flacco‘s first game as Bronco’s starting quarterback were equally flat and unfulfilling. Flacco was immobile and erratic with his passes, often coming up short as he tried to navigate the Broncos offense that was shut out in the first half and held out of the end zone until he was able to find Emmanuel Sanders in the fourth quarter to make the game feel closer than it really had for most of the night. By the end Flacco‘s stat line looked fine – 21-of-31 for 268yrs, the TD and no picks), but they don’t really tell the story of Fangio‘s puzzling and disappointing debut.

It’s great news for the home fans – a pass rush has finally arrived in Oakland. In the aftermath of a turbulent offseason it almost seems like an afterthought that one of their prevailing problems has been providing the defense with a pass rush. Though the Broncos deserve some credit for their offensive woes on Monday, the Raiders defense was impressive, allowing just one touchdown, which didn’t come until the final quarter.

 

Up Next:

Bears v Broncos – Sunday, September 15 (4:25pmFOX)

Chiefs v Raiders Sunday, September 15 (4:05pmCBS)

 

ALL TIMES U.S. EASTERN

 

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