The Buccaneers prevailed in their first game in defending their most-recent Super Bowl victory, but this was an extremely close call despite the nine-point spread. The Cowboys took the lead with a 47-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter, but left Tampa with too much time on the clock. Tom Brady had 1:24 remaining, and he made the most of it. He drove down the field to give Ryan Succop a 36-yard attempt, which he converted.
Tampa prevailed by a slim margin, but this would have been a much greater victory had they not made numerous unforced mistakes. It began in the first half when Ronald Jones had the ball ripped out of his hands by DeMarcus Lawrence, setting up a short field for the Cowboys. Leonard Fournette then had the ball pop out of his gloves and into the arms of a Dallas player for an interception, setting up yet another short field.
Despite this, the Buccaneers led for most of the game, and they nearly expanded that advantage on two occasions. Brady launched a perfect bomb to Chris Godwin, who dropped what would've been Brady's fifth touchdown of the evening. On a later drive, Brady fired a strike to Godwin, who reached the 1-yard line, but fumbled into the end zone. This would have been Brady's sixth touchdown, and it would have put Tampa up by two scores.
Brady was able to overcome the blunders with a victory, and he posted great stats in the process. Brady went 32-of-50 for 379 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions, neither of which was his fault (the other came on a Hail Mary.) It was a great fantasy performance for Brady, but he should have generated better numbers. As mentioned, he was robbed of two extra touchdowns by Godwin's blunders. His teammates also dropped five passes, so his completion percentage should have been higher.
Aside from the way the game ended, the biggest story to come out of his contest was either the great play of the Cowboy offensive line, or the horrid play by the Tampa defensive front. Dallas was down All-Pro guard Zack Martin entering this game, yet Dak Prescott had all night in the pocket. The Buccaneers had to resort to blitzing, and that proved to be ineffective as well. Shaq Barrett had a nice drive prior to halftime, but the Buccaneers generated no heat on the quarterback otherwise. It was extremely bizarre to see, so we'll have to learn if the Cowboys' blocking is better than we thought, or if Tampa's defense won't be as good as we expected.
Prescott was amazing against the Buccaneers, going 42-of-58 for 403 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Tampa suffered an injury to Sean Murphy-Bunting, which really hurt the depth of the secondary because safety Jordan Whitehead was already sidelined. Prescott fully took advantage of this by firing excellent passes to his talented receivers. This does not include Michael Gallup in the second half, as Gallup hurt his ankle.
Nevertheless, Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb were unstoppable. Cooper caught 13 of his 16 targets for 139 yards and two touchdowns, while Lamb hauled in seven balls for 104 yards and a score. Lamb made some great plays in this game, but he performed like a Tampa skill player; he dropped two passes, including one that resulted in Prescott's sole pick.
While the Cowboy passing attack was excellent, the ground attack was sorely lacking. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for just 33 yards on 11 carries. This can't be a surprise because Tampa has an elite run defense.
The Buccaneers couldn't run well either. Fournette, in addition to his drop, rushed for 32 yards on nine attempts, while Jones (4-14) was nowhere to be seen after his fumble.
Two of Brady's touchdowns went to Rob Gronkowski, who snatched all eight of his targets for 90 yards. Antonio Brown (5-121) and Godwin (9-105) both caught touchdowns. Mike Evans, on the other hand, endured a lackluster night. Evans registered just three catches for 24 yards. He dropped two passes as well. He looked like he was dealing with some sort of injury.
Eagles 32, Falcons 6
This was anticipated to be a matchup between two of the worst teams in the NFL. The Falcons were favored by 3.5 heading into this contest, so the public expected them to be slightly better than Philadelphia. This did not turn out to be the case, as the Eagles dominated this game in the final three quarters to cruise to an easy victory.
It appeared as though the Falcons would be competitive with a couple of opening drives that ventured into the red zone. The first possession concluded with a horrible pass behind Mike Davis that wasn't even into the end zone. This seemed to be just a hiccup for the Falcons, but they barely did anything offensively after that. In fact, Atlanta continued to worsen as the afternoon progressed. The team generated just 74 net yards in the second half despite battling a mediocre Philadelphia defense.
It's easy to say that Matt Ryan misses Julio Jones, but it's much more complicated than that. Ryan is no longer the quarterback he once was, and his offensive line suffered a huge loss with Alex Mack joining the 49ers this offseason. With poor protection, Ryan looked like a shell of his former self. He went 21-of-35 for 164 yards and a lost fumble, and this was one of his easiest matchups.
Atlanta's defense, meanwhile, is one of the worst units in the NFL. This was apparent in their inability to stop Jalen Hurts. The second-year signal-caller misfired just eight times versus the putrid Falcon secondary. Hurts went 27-of-35 for 264 yards and three touchdowns to go along with eight scrambles for 57 rushing yards. Hurts will be tested against the 49ers' defense next week after what was effectively a scrimmage.
Hurts' initial touchdown of the afternoon went to first-round rookie DeVonta Smith, who led the team with 71 receiving yards on sis catches. Hurts then fired scores to Dallas Goedert (4-42) and Jalen Reagor (6-49). Zach Ertz (2-34) didn't do as much.
Miles Sanders was a big part of the Eagles' offense, rushing for 74 yards on 15 carries, all while catching four balls for 39 receiving yards. Rookie Kenneth Gainwell was given nine carries, which he turned into 37 yards and a touchdown, but some of that came late in garbage time.
Atlanta's ground attack wasn't as strong. Mike Davis was limited to 49 yards on 15 attempts to go with three catches for 23 receiving yards. Curiously, Cordarrelle Patterson led the Falcons in rushing (7-54). Giving Patterson carries is a losing proposition, which the Bears learned previously. It's puzzling why the Falcons are making the same mistake.
Kyle Pitts' debut was disappointing. He caught four passes for 31 yards, but all of that came in garbage time. He had just one reception for a single yard when this game was in question. Still, he trailed only Calvin Ridley (5-51) in the box score. Ridley dropped a pass in the third quarter.
Steelers 23, Bills 16
The Bills were widely expected to win this game as a near-touchdown favorite. They led for most of the afternoon, but couldn't quite pull away from the Steelers. Their offense constantly sputtered, as they constantly made mistakes to shoot themselves in the foot. For example, Cole Beasley dropped a third-and-13 conversion and then dropped another third-down pass later in the game. Josh Allen also lost a fumble on a T.J. Watt strip-sack and threw an 8-yard backward pass on a fourth-and-1, which was one of the worst offensive play calls anyone has ever seen. As all of this was occurring, Allen was throwing inaccurate passes that were reminiscent of those he made in his second NFL season. The terrific Allen of 2020 was nowhere to be seen.
The Steelers also crushed themselves with mistakes early in this game, as Buffalo dominated the line of scrimmage. The running game wasn't working at all, while Ben Roethlisberger's lackluster passes were also off the mark. However, his receivers came up with some incredible catches in the second half to spark the offense. The Steelers ultimately took a 10-point lead, which proved to be insurmountable for Buffalo's struggling offense.
Allen threw 51 times, but managed to generate just 270 yards and a touchdown on his 30 completions. He helped his fantasy owners a bit with nine scrambles for 44 rushing yards, but this was a very disappointing performance overall. He endured some drops, but should've been able to overcome them. He overthrew Emmanuel Sanders for a potential touchdown, then failed to see an open receiver for a big gain. He also fired a low throw to Gabriel Davis, and he heaved a weird side-armed pass on another occasion. The accuracy and decision-making were far worse than what we saw from Allen in 2020.
It wasn't a great 2021 debut for Allen's receivers and blockers either. A pair of holding penalties negated two big plays on the second drive. There were also too many drops, as referenced earlier. Stefon Diggs led the group with nine catches for 69 yards. Beasley (8-60) was next, but he was guilty of three drops. Davis (2-40) caught a touchdown, but dropped a pass on the final offensive drive.
Zack Moss was ruled out prior to kickoff as a healthy scratch. This gave Devin Singletary all of the opportunities, though there weren't too many of them. He rushed for 72 yards on only 11 carries, though a big chunk of that came on a 25-yard burst. Singletary caught three passes, but for only eight receiving yards. It wasn't all positive for Singletary, who fumbled twice.
No Steeler player stood out as a great fantasy performer either. This was because Roethlisberger's meager stat line - 18-of-32, 188 yards, one touchdown - didn't facilitate any opportunities. Roethlisberger's offensive line was a huge question mark heading into this contest, and those concerns proved to be legitimate. Roethlisberger is lucky he wasn't picked, as an interception of his was negated by penalty.
Diontae Johnson caught Roethlisberger's sole touchdown, hauling in five balls for 36 yards in the process. He suffered an injury in this game, but missed only one drive. As far as yardage, he trailed JuJu Smith-Schuster (4-52) and Chase Claypool (3-45), who made an amazing, leaping catch in the second half. Both Johnson and Claypool drew defensive penalties on cornerback Levi Wallace while running deep routes.
Najee Harris didn't find much running room, as expected. He mustered only 45 yards on 16 carries. It was strange to see him catch just one pass after we were told how prominent he would be in the aerial attack.
Bengals 27, Vikings 24
It appeared as though the Bengals were going to have a long afternoon during the early stages of this game. Joe Burrow struggled to throw anything downfield because he wasn't getting proper protection, while the defense gave the Vikings a free touchdown when Eli Apple whiffed on a tackle during a third-and-24 play, then negated a sack in the red zone with a defensive hold. However, Minnesota's offense sputtered after that, thanks to poor blocking and constant penalties, giving the Bengals a chance to establish the lead. The Cincinnati offense finally opened up, with Burrow hitting his receivers for some deep strikes. This includes Ja'Marr Chase, who hauled in a 50-yard score.
The Bengals eventually established 21-7 and 24-14 leads, but their sketchy defense couldn't hold down the Vikings in the final quarter. Kirk Cousins engineered a terrific drive just prior to the conclusion of regulation, setting up the tying field goal. Cousins once again appeared as though he would lead a scoring possession in overtime, but Dalvin Cook made a critical mistake by losing a fumble near field goal range. Burrow took advantage of the opportunity, connecting with C.J. Uzomah on a fourth-and-inches to put his kicker in position to win. Rookie Evan McPherson drilled the 34-yard attempt for the victory.
Burrow finished with a stellar stat line, going 20-of-27 for 261 yards and two touchdowns. I did not expect him to have this sort of production after starting so sluggishly. However, Burrow, at times, looked like the same type of lethal passer from last year. He ran hot and cold, but it seemed as though he struggled at times because he didn't trust the protection. He also missed Mike Thomas for a big gain and was lucky that a defender dropped an interception. That said, Burrow had an amazing stretch in which he completed 10 consecutive passes, including a perfect 8-of-8 in the second quarter.
Of course, it helps Burrow that he has such talented receivers at his disposal. Chase, who had a laughable four drops compared to one reception from the preseason, made that look like a distant memory. He hauled in five of his seven targets for 101 yards, including his 50-yard touchdown. Tee Higgins (4-58) found the end zone as well. He also drew a deep interference flag to set up his touchdown. Higgins missed some action when he got an IV in the locker room, then spent time on the sidelines in overtime. It's likely that he was just dehydrated.
Joe Mixon had a great performance. The Vikings' run defense was expected to improve this season, but that didn't turn out to be the case. Mixon rumbled for 127 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries.
Cook was expected to be the better producer on the ground, but he was limited to 61 yards on 20 attempts, including his aforementioned killer fumble. He scored a touchdown to salvage his fantasy day, but this was a very disappointing output on his part.
I wouldn't blame Cook completely for this sluggish performance, save for the fumble. His offensive line did him no favors, which was not a shocking result. Minnesota's blocking unit struggled to protect Cousins as well. Cousins ended up with a great stat line - 36-of-49, 351 yards, two touchdowns - but much of that came in desperation time in the fourth quarter. The Vikings struggled to sustain drives because of their poor blocking and frequent penalties.
Both of Cousins' touchdowns went to Adam Thielen, who registered nine catches for 92 yards. Justin Jefferson snatched five passes for 71 yards on nine targets, but failed to find the end zone. He also appeared to fumble, but the officials ruled the play to be an incomplete pass. Second-year receiver K.J. Osborn did well with seven grabs for 76 yards, but I wouldn't trust him to sustain that production.
Cardinals 38, Titans 13
I was worried about Arizona's cornerback situation against A.J. Brown and Julio Jones, but it turns out that cornerback play doesn't really matter if the pass rush completely overwhelms the opposing offensive line. That's exactly what happened in this game, as Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt destroyed Tennessee's blocking, making Ryan Tannehill's afternoon a living nightmare.
Chandler Jones made an incredible play in the opening quarter, strip-sacking Tannehill to give the offense possession on the Tennessee 1-yard line. Kyler Murray found DeAndre Hopkins in the end zone on a play in which Murray scrambled, and Hopkins somehow planted both feet inbounds. Jones was once again devastating for Tannehill, breezing by Taylor Lewan to get another sack. These were just two of Jones' five sacks on the afternoon. Watt, meanwhile, made an amazing move to stuff Derrick Henry in the backfield near the goal line. Thanks to Jones and Watt's heroics, the Titans were limited to just six points in the opening half, all while averaging just 3.9 yards per play.
Murray, meanwhile, was magical. In addition to that pretty play to Hopkins, he made a terrific pass to Rondale Moore to move the chains on a third-and-long where he danced around the backfield for what seemed like 15 seconds. Murray accumulated 212 passing yards and three total touchdown by intermission. Tennessee's horrible defense had no answer for him.
Murray threw an interception in the third quarter, but that was his only blemish. He finished 21-of-32 for 289 yards, five total touchdowns (4 passing, 1 rushing) and the pick. He also scrambled five times for 20 rushing yards.
Murray threw a pair of touchdowns to two players. It should come as no surprise that one of those was Hopkins, who snatched six of his eight targets for 83 yards. Christian Kirk was the other; he hauled in all five targets for 70 yards.
James Conner was given more carries than Chase Edmonds, 16-12, but Edmonds saw more of the workload when the game wasn't a blowout. Edmonds outgained Conner on the ground anyhow, 63-53, and he also caught four passes for 43 yards.
Somehow, Edmonds outgained Derrick Henry on the ground, and it wasn't just a byproduct of game script. Henry found zero running room against Arizona's greatly improved front. He mustered just 58 yards on 17 carries.
Tannehill was responsible for two turnovers - an interception, and the aforementioned lost fumble - as he struggled the entire afternoon. He went 21-of-35 for 212 yards and a touchdown otherwise. He also scored on the ground after Henry was stuffed twice at the goal line.
Tannehill's sole aerial score was to A.J. Brown, who caught four passes for 49 yards. Julio Jones, conversely, did very little (3 catches, 29 yards). The announcers discussed how Tannehill and Jones didn't have positive chemistry.
Seahawks 28, Colts 16
The Colts thought they made a big splash by trading for Carson Wentz, giving them a legitimate quarterback for the first time since Andrew Luck retired. The Wentz era didn't begin on a positive note, but this loss wasn't the quarterback's fault. This result, quite simply, was a byproduct of two other elements.
The first element was Russell Wilson being unstoppable. Wilson misfired just five times against a secondary missing Xavier Rhodes. In fact, he had more touchdowns (3) than incompletions (2) in the first 33 minutes of regulation. He went 18-of-23 for 254 yards and four touchdowns. The Rhodes-less secondary stood no chance against Wilson's receivers, particularly Tyler Lockett, who made an early catch that showed him making an amazing adjustment on the over-the-shoulder grab. This was just the beginning of the Seattle onslaught, as the Seahawks couldn't be stopped except when Chris Carson lost a fumble in the third quarter.
Otherwise, the Colts had no chance against Wilson's offense. Lockett racked up 100 receiving yards and two touchdowns on just four catches, while D.K. Metcalf (4-60) found the end zone once. Gerald Everett joined the party with the fourth score, though he caught just two passes for 20 yards. Everett had a gain of about 15 yards negated by a penalty.
Save for his fumble, Carson performed well. He rushed for 91 yards on 16 carries, while catching three passes for 26 receiving yards. The second element, however, had to do with the pass rush.
Indianapolis' offensive line wasn't terrible in the opening half, but was miserable following intermission. Excluding designed screens, Wentz dropped back to pass 13 times while trailing by 11 points or fewer in the second half. He had a clean pocket on just six occasions. Wentz took some crushing hits, including one on a fourth-down try while down 11 in field goal range with 10 minutes remaining in regulation. That hit, which was a sack, ended all hope for the Colts. Indianapolis must protect Wentz better if it wants any chance of winning the division.
Wentz finished 25-of-38 for 251 yards and two touchdowns, with one coming in garbage time. He also lost a fumble, but that was on a botched snap on a fourth-down try in the third quarter.
Jonathan Taylor's rushing stats paled in comparison to Carson's, as he mustered just 56 yards on 17 carries. Taylor, however, was a big part of the passing attack. He caught six passes for a team-leading 60 yards. Nyheim Hines wasn't too far behind, with his six catches going for 48 yards.
Believe it or not, Wentz didn't just throw to his running backs. Zach Pascal caught both of Wentz's touchdowns, though one came late when the Seahawks stopped trying. It seemed likely that either Michael Pittman Jr. or Parris Campbell would pick up the slack with T.Y. Hilton sidelined. Instead, it was Pascal, who caught four passes for 43 yards and the two scores. Neither Pittman (3-29) nor Campbell (1-24) did very much. Jack Doyle (3-21) disappointed as well.
Chargers 20, Redskins 16
The Chargers have a penchant for losing close games, but perhaps that's in the past. They have a new coaching staff, which appears to have a better handle on clock management and late-game situations. Granted, it's a small sample size, but the new Charger regime is off to a great start.
It's usually the Chargers who make a perilous blunder to cost themselves a victory, but they were able to take advantage of the other team's mistake in this contest. The Redskins, with a 16-13 lead, were able to secure a Justin Herbert interception on an overthrow. The next play, however, was an Antonio Gibson lost fumble on his own 4-yard line, setting up the Chargers with an easy opportunity for a score. Herbert took advantage of it with a touchdown pass to Mike Williams to give his team a 20-16 lead.
Following a Washington drive that stalled near midfield, the Chargers took over with six minutes remaining. This is when their new-and-improved late-game management was prevalent. Herbert was magical on this possession. He converted a third-and-16 with a dart to Keenan Allen. He found K.J. Hill for a 19-yard gain on third-and-4. He lofted a pretty, 22-yard back-shoulder pass to Williams on a third-and-7. He then found Allen for a 9-yard connection on a third-and-4. That final conversion allowed the Chargers to kneel down because the Redskins were out of timeouts.
Herbert continued to build on his spectacular rookie season by going 31-of-47 for 337 yards, one touchdown and the aforementioned interception. He also lost a fumble on a play in which Chase Young hit his arm. These numbers won't bedazzle anyone from a fantasy perspective, but keep in mind that Herbert was battling one of the top defenses in the NFL. He'll be even better against the Cowboys next week.
The Redskins, meanwhile, didn't have nearly as much success with their starting quarterback. In fact, Ryan Fitzpatrick didn't make it the entire afternoon. He suffered a hip injury in the second quarter and never returned, so his final numbers were 3-of-6 for 13 yards. Taylor Heinicke did a good job as a replacement, however. He misfired on just on just four occasions, going 11-of-15 for 122 yards and a touchdown. He moved the chains well, both aerially and on the ground; he scrambled thrice for 17 rushing yards. Heinicke played well versus the Buccaneers in the playoffs last year, so all hope isn't lost for the Redskins if he has to start moving forward.
The top two skill-position producers in this game were the prominent pair of Charger receivers. Allen was a monster with his terrific route running, particularly on the final drive. He hauled in nine of his 13 targets for 100 yards, while Williams snatched eight of his 12 targets and a touchdown.
As for the Redskin receivers, Terry McLaurin was the only one on the team with more than 30 receiving yards. He caught four balls for 62 yards, which includes a ridiculous over-the-shoulder reception where he pinned his head below his waist somehow. If you haven't seen a replay of this, make sure you do.
Logan Thomas and Gibson were the only other Redskins with more than two receptions. They each caught three balls, with Thomas' 30 yards being accompanied by a touchdown. Gibson, who had 18 receiving yards, rushed for 90 yards on 20 carries. He had a mostly positive game, but cost his team the win with his fumble.
The Chargers didn't have as much success on the ground. Austin Ekeler gained 57 yards on 15 carries, and the amazing thing is that he didn't catch a single pass. He scored a touchdown, however, salvaging his fantasy afternoon. Promising rookie Larry Rountree (8-27) handled some of the workload.
Panthers 19, Jets 14
This game was billed as the ultimate Sam Darnold Revenge Game by Darnold and some members of his family, and no one else. Darnold had a great chance to show up his former team with a far better supporting cast. It didn't appear as though he would do that later, however, as he made some mistakes early in the game.
For example, on one promising second-quarter drive, Darnold overthrew Ian Thomas for a touchdown, then fumbled on a botched handoff with Christian McCaffrey on a fourth-and-1. The Panthers were stuck on zero for a while until Darnold's counterpart was intercepted to give the Panthers a field goal. This seemed to get Carolina going, at least for a little while, as Darnold eventually found Robby Anderson for a 57-yard touchdown to put his team up double digits. The Jets ultimately didn't offer any resistance, as the new coach-and-quarterback combination began the new Jets regime with a loss.
Darnold ultimately finished 24-of-35 for 279 yards and a touchdown. The stats say he did well, but Darnold left lots of points on the table with some rancid throws. This was a very easy matchup for him, so things will just get more difficult moving forward.
While Darnold didn't play all that well, he was better than Zach Wilson, who was making his debut. Wilson's final numbers look good - 20-of-37, 258 yards, two touchdowns, one interception - but they are misleading, as Wilson was just 6-of-16 in the opening half. He moved the chains once the Panthers went into prevent mode with a 16-0 lead.
That said, Wilson can't be blamed for his early struggles. His offensive line didn't give him a chance, as Wilson was under siege on most of his dropbacks. He also endured some incompetence from his teammates. Fellow rookie Elijah Moore dropped two passes, including one that would've gone for a 50-yard reception. Corey Davis and Michael Carter also had drops.
Wilson's sole interception occurred because he didn't see Shaq Thompson. He easily could've tossed a second pick, but Thompson dropped the ball. Wilson is also lucky he didn't lose a fumble; he dropped the ball in the pocket on one occasion, but was able to pounce on it. Wilson also skipped a pass to Braxton Berrios on a crucial third down in the second half.
Wilson made some nice plays, however, and that includes his first touchdown. This happened when he found Corey Davis in the end zone with an impressive heave. Davis ultimately caught both of Wilson's scores, as he snatched five passes for 97 yards otherwise. Besides Berrios (5-51), no other Jet registered more than three receptions. The aforementioned Moore struggled in his debut with one catch for four yards.
The Jets predictably failed to run the ball with their three pedestrian backs. Tevin Coleman (9-24) saw most of the workload, while Ty Johnson (4-15) and Michael Carter (4-6) tied for second in a contest with no winners. Coleman played just 17 snaps, and he was stuffed on a fourth-and-1 try.
Christian McCaffrey was obviously the heavy favorite to come away with the most rushing yards in this game. He did so, but couldn't quite get to the century mark, gaining 98 yards on 21 carries. McCaffrey, of course, made up for it with a tremendous receiving performance. He caught all nine of his targets for 89 receiving yards. He may have scored a touchdown had Darnold not botched a handoff.
Save for McCaffrey, D.J. Moore (6-80) led the Panthers in receiving, though he had a drop. Anderson's 57-yard touchdown was his only catch, but only because Darnold missed him badly a couple of times. Rookie Terrace Marshall saw six targets, but secured just half of them for 26 yards.
There was a major injury in this game, as the Jets' talented left tackle, Mekhi Becton, had to be carted off the field in the second half.
Texans 37, Jaguars 21
Trevor Lawrence never lost a regular-season game at Clemson, and he certainly was not expected to be defeated in his first NFL contest because he was battling the Texans. Widely the favorite to obtain the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Houston was a home underdog despite battling a team with a new coach and rookie quarterback.
If you were to tell someone that one of these teams would blow out the other, I'm sure most would have expected the Jaguars to be the team that earned the victory. Instead, Jacksonville was thoroughly embarrassed in every fashion. This includes its own aerial attack, which was stymied by a defensive unit devoid of talent.
Trevor Lawrence scored just 14 points in meaningful action against this miserable Houston defense, struggling to complete half of his passes in the process. It wasn't nearly all his fault, however, as his receivers didn't do him any favors. The Jaguars had SIX drops in the opening half alone. That said, Lawrence deserves some blame as well. He heaved a ghastly interception in the second quarter when he fired late across his body. His very next pass was also picked off because he didn't see Vernon Hargreaves while under pressure. He stared down his receiver, allowing Hargreaves to secure the easy pick.
Lawrence remained clean after that - save for two poor overthrows in D.J. Chark's direction - until his third interception, which occurred because he didn't see Christian Kirksey while attempting to throw to Laviska Shenault. Texans defensive coordinator did a tremendous job of confusing Lawrence with his zone defense. I imagine, however, that Lawrence will have the upper hand in future matchups.
Lawrence finished 28-of-51 for 332 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. Those numbers look good, but keep in mind that Lawrence was just 10-of-21 for 133 yards, one touchdown and two picks in the opening half. Most of his positive numbers came in garbage time. That said, I think Lawrence played well outside of five passes. Remember, six of his throws were dropped in the opening half, so he easily could've been 17-of-21 by intermission.
Chark and Marvin Jones were able to benefit from garbage time. They combined for just four catches prior to intermission, but finished with 3-86-1 and 5-77-1 lines, respectively. Don't feel too bad for Chark, however, because he dropped three passes in this game. Laviska Shenault (7-50) also picked up some second-half yardage, but couldn't find the end zone.
Urban Meyer is new to the NFL, and it's apparent that he didn't watch film of James Robinson last year. Not only did he waste a first-round pick on a running back; he also fed the ball to Carlos Hyde more than Robinson. Hyde had 44 yards on nine carries, while Robinson gained 25 yards on his five attempts. And before anyone tells me that Hyde's workload came in garbage time, Hyde opened the second half with carries on the first two plays. This workload split makes absolutely no sense, and it's a sign that Meyer doesn't belong in the NFL. That said, Robinson made some mistakes. He dropped two passes and fumbled, though the ball trickled out of bounds.
Despite Robinson being the best running back in this game, by far, he was either matched or beaten by Mark Ingram (26-85) and Phillip Lindsay (8-25), both of whom scored touchdowns. Lindsay appeared to fumble in the opening half, but the officials ruled the play to be an incompletion. David Johnson also found the end zone, but as a receiver. He caught three passes for 18 yards, but rushed for just 10 yards.
Tyrod Taylor did some damage on the ground as well, picking up for 40 rushing yards on four scrambles. It wasn't a surprise he did well as a rusher, but it was more shocking that he was effective as a passer - 21-of-33, 291 yards, two touchdowns - until you recall that Jacksonville has an abysmal defense. Taylor won't have nearly as much success in future matchups. That said, Taylor completed some pretty deep passes in this game. I just wouldn't count on much of that moving forward.
The same could be said for Brandin Cooks, but only because of the players around him. Cooks caught five passes for 132 yards, but this might end up being his best game of the year. Danny Amendola (5-34) and Johnson caught both of Taylor's touchdowns.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I can't believe the 49ers blew this cover (assuming you didn't get -7.5). What a disgusting way to begin the 2021 season. I feel like sending George Kittle an invoice after he had the ball doink off his helmet on the onside kick recovery.
For a lot of the afternoon, this game went as expected, with the 49ers opening up a big lead. They were up 38-10 in the third quarter, but the Lions came storming back behind Jared Goff late in the fourth quarter. There just wasn't enough time for Detroit to complete the comeback. Still, it was impressive fight from the rebuilding Lions in their first game under head coach Dan Campbell.
Detroit's opening drive moved into San Francisco territory, but Jamaal Williams stumbled on a fourth-and-1 to yield a turnover on downs. Jimmy Garoppolo, however, fumbled away the first snap of the year and Jamie Collins recovered the ball to set up a drive at the 49ers' 37-yard line. Jared Goff missed Amon-Ra St. Brown open inside the five, and that led to a missed 51-yard field goal for Austin Siebert. That sequence gave the 49ers good field position, and they took advantage with a drive that ended with Trey Lance throwing a short touchdown pass on his first career attempt to Trent Sherfield (2-23-1).
Detroit answered with Williams running well, Goff converting a fourth down to Tyrell Williams, and a short completion to T.J. Hockenson on third-and-goal to tie the game at seven points. San Francisco quickly retook the lead with a 29-yard pass to Deebo Samuel before rookie Elijah Mitchell exploded down the field for a 38-yard touchdown. The Lions ran the ball well to set up a 49-yard field goal for Seibert, and that cut the San Francisco lead to 14-10. The 49ers then quickly marched down the field at will, and JaMychal Hasty dove into the end zone.
In the final minutes before halftime, San Francisco blew the game open when Goff was hit as he threw, and Dre Greenlaw made an easy interception to coast down the field for a pick-six. The 49ers tacked on a field goal just before intermission to take a 31-10 lead into the locker room.
Midway through the third quarter, Deebo Samuel out-positioned Jeff Okudah, and after Okudah stumbled, Samuel raced down the field for a 79-yard touchdown. Detroit responded with a screen to D'Andre Swift that went for a 43-yard touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, Robbie Gould was good on a 52-yard field goal and Jamaal Williams had a short touchdown run that was followed by a two-point conversion to Hockenson. Next, the onside kick bounced off George Kittle's face mask and Detroit recovered. Goff threw some beautiful passes to move down the field, and he then hit Quintez Cephus for a touchdown and then the two-point conversion.
On a third-and-8 in the final minute, Garoppolo found Deebo Samuel for a first down, but Trey Flowers stripped the ball and the Lions recovered it at their own 30-yard line. A completion to Amon-Ra St. Brown moved the ball to midfield, and then Kalif Raymond made a leaping grab at the 25, but the drive stalled and Goff threw incomplete on a fourth down.
Garoppolo was 17-of-25 for 314 yards and a touchdown.
Mitchell ran for 104 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, replacing an injured Raheem Mostert.
Samuel made nine receptions for 189 yards and a touchdown. Kittle had four catches for 78 yards.
Goff completed 38-of-57 passes for 338 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
Jamaal Williams had a good game rushing (9-54-1) and receiving (8-56). Swift ran for 39 yards on 11 carries plus made eight receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown.
Hockenson caught eight passes for 97 yards and a touchdown.
It was widely reported that Lions rookie Penei Sewell struggled at right tackle in the preseason, but he played well in his first NFL game at left tackle. With Taylor Decker out, Sewell held his own in pass protection against a good 49ers defensive line, including notching a lot of one-on-one wins against Nick Bosa. Sewell was tough in the ground game, and Detroit had a ton of success running behind him. In the second half, Bosa had a tackle for a loss where he flew by Sewell and a coverage sack where Goff held onto the ball too long, but Sewell had a strong debut overall going against one of the better defensive ends in the NFL.
EDITOR'S NOTE: It's nice to see that while many things change, some things stay the same. Daniel Jones' poor ball security continued to haunt the Giants, as he coughed up the ball on a key moment of the game. During a tilting 4 p.m. slate of games, I'm glad this one worked out for us at least.
Vic Fangio apparently made the right decision to go with Teddy Bridgewater, as Bridgewater had his way with the Giants. The Broncos won by 20 points, but it easily could have been a lot worse as they had a turnover inside the five and had a dropped long touchdown. The bad news for the Broncos was Jerry Jeudy getting carted off the field with an ugly leg injury. However, Denver's defense was superb, Bridgewater was efficient, and the team's running game looks dangerous.
In the middle of the first half, Bridgewater led a drive that set up a field goal. The Giants responded with Daniel Jones engineering a drive that ended with Sterling Shepard catching an intermediate pass and then darting down the field for the 37-yard touchdown.
The Broncos moved down the field in response and were poised to take the lead, but Logan Ryan stripped Albert Okwuegbunam of the ball at the 3-yard line to protect the lead. Just before halftime, Bridgewater led a drive down the field, and he threw a short touchdown pass to Tim Patrick (4-39-1) for a 10-7 lead with just seconds remaining before intermission.
Early in the third quarter, K.J. Hamler got wide open for a 50-yard would-be touchdown after Adoree' Jackson busted in coverage, but Jackson lucked out when Hamler dropped the ball. A few plays later, Bridgewater connected with Jeudy for a third-down conversion, but James Bradberry landed awkwardly, bending Jeudy's leg the wrong direction and leading to Jeudy being carted off the field. On fourth-and-1 from the four-yard line, Bridgewater dodged a sack and tossed a short pass to Okwuegbunam (3-16-1), who made a superb run that saw him break a tackle and dive into the end zone for a 17-7 lead.
Jones responded by leading a drive deep into Denver territory, but he ran for yardage and fumbled the ball away at the 13. The Broncos added a field goal, and New York was pretty much done given its offensive struggles. Jones converted a fourth-and-4 with a quarterback draw, but in a goal-line stand, Kyle Fuller broke up two passes, including on fourth down. With just under five minutes remaining, Melvin Gordon put the game away with a 70-yard touchdown run.
Bridgewater completed 28-of-36 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns.
Gordon (11-101-2) and Javonte Williams (14-45) showed potential to be a tough running back tandem this season.
Jeudy was the Broncos' leading receiver with six catches for 72 yards.
Daniel Jones was 22-of-37 for 267 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for a score.
Saquon Barkley ran for 26 yards on only 10 carries.
Sterling Shepard led the Giants with seven receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown. Kenny Golladay caught four balls for 64 yards in his Giants debut.
On the bright side for the Giants in this ugly season opener, second-year left tackle Andrew Thomas played very well. He was rock solid in pass protection and looked massively improved over his rookie season.
Chiefs 33, Browns 29
The Chiefs prevailed against the Browns, but it looked dicey for a while. In fact, the final count was the only score in which the Chiefs had the lead. The Browns pounded Kansas City's defense into oblivion in the first half, establishing a 22-10 advantage at halftime.
Patrick Mahomes, however, proved to be the difference. He was truly incredible, especially in the second half. Mahomes torched the improved Cleveland secondary with only throws he could make in the NFL right now. The only time the Browns stopped Mahomes following intermission was late in the game when the Browns were running out the clock.
Even still, Mahomes needed a bit of help. This happened on special teams when the Browns' punter was called onto the field for the first time. Jamie Gillan dropped the snap, resulting in a tackle for a loss. The Chiefs took advantage by scoring the go-ahead touchdown, though they couldn't get the covering two-point conversion, which was especially tilting because Jared Goff converted a pair of two-point conversions to achieve an inexplicable back-door cover earlier in the day.
Aside from the botched two-point try, Mahomes was incredible, going 27-of-36 for 337 yards and three passing touchdowns. He also had a fourth score on the ground, scrambling five times for 18 rushing yards. This has to be discouraging for the Browns, who seemed to make all the right moves in the offseason to improve their defense.
Cleveland strengthened its secondary, yet it didn't matter against Tyreek Hill, who had an amazing performance. He caught 11 of his 15 targets for 197 yards and a touchdown. Travis Kelce, meanwhile, had the other two touchdowns, snatching six of his seven targets for 76 yards. No other Chief logged more than 29 receiving yards.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire didn't have much running room, mustering just 43 yards on 14 carries. He caught three passes for those 29 receiving yards referenced in the previous paragraph.
Nick Chubb easily outgained Edwards-Helaire, and Kareem Hunt nearly did as well. The Chiefs had no answer for Chubb, who tallied 83 yards on 15 carries. He also scored twice, but was guilty of a crushing fumble in the second half. Hunt (6-33) vultured a touchdown away from Chubb.
Baker Mayfield had a strong performance, at least until the final drive. He went 21-of-28 for 321 yards, but fired an interception on his final throw, which occurred because of pressure.
With Odell Beckham Jr. out, Jarvis Landry was expected to lead the team in receiving. He was close with his five catches for 71 yards. Somehow, David Njoku paced the team with 76 yards on three grabs. Anthony Schwartz (3-69) was close as well.
Adding injury to insult, left tackle Jedrick Wills was carted off the field in this game. The Browns' offense wasn't quite the same without him.
Dolphins 17, Patriots 16
Given that both the Dolphins and Patriots have young quarterbacks battling terrific defensive coaches, is anyone surprised that this was such a low-scoring affair? One would think that in a 17-16 result, the coaches had the upper hand for most of the afternoon. That wasn't completely the case, however, as both quarterbacks had some bright moments. Ultimately, however, a running back decided the game.
That running back is Damien Harris, who performed well throughout the affair. He handled almost the entire workload after Rhamondre Stevenson fumbled on his first and only carry. Harris reached exactly 100 rushing yards on 23 carries, and he had a touchdown negated by a hold, but it was his final attempt that was the killer. Trying to pick up extra yards in the red zone, with his team easily in field goal range to prevail, Harris coughed up the ball. The Dolphins pounced on it, giving them the victory in this divisional matchup.
The Harris fumble excused Tua Tagovailoa from being the goat in this game. Tagovailoa threw well at times, but he made a crucial blunder in the fourth quarter when he made one of the dumbest passes anyone has ever seen. While nursing the lead, Tagovailoa was in the process of falling down when he launched the ball up for grabs, giving the Patriots an easy interception. It appeared as though this was going to decide the game until Harris' fumble.
Tagovailoa went 16-of-27 for 202 yards, one touchdown and an interception. He nearly had a second pick, but a Patriot defender dropped the pass, which was thrown under heavy pressure. Tagovailoa looked great at times, but the ugly interception was inexcusable. Still, it should be considered that Tagovailoa was battling Bill Belichick in this game. He'll have much easier matchups on the horizon.
Tagovailoa's counterpart, Mac Jones, was extremely impressive in his first start, especially when considering that he was matching wits with Brian Flores. He had an ugly play early in the game where he took a 13-yard sack while trying to throw a backward pass to avoid taking the loss. I have no idea what he was trying to do on that play, and things nearly got worse when a potential interception of his was dropped. However, it's a positive that these plays didn't linger in his mind very much because the rest of the afternoon was very positive.
Jones seemed to get into a groove beginning in the second quarter. He began releasing quick, accurate passes. While many throws were short, he made some tremendous throws. His first was a 26-yard strike to Nelson Agholor in between two lineackers. He then fired an accurate pass to Agholor as he was getting hit for a 20-yard connection. Jones followed that up by escaping pressure and firing a ball to Kendrick Bourne, which was caught downfield, but negated by a hold. Jones, however, bounced back by lofting a pretty touch pass to James White for another 20-yard gain. His final impressive pass was an 11-yard connection to Jakobi Meyers, which was made as he was falling down.
Jones finished 29-of-39 for 281 yards and a touchdown. He made some early mistakes, but more than made up for it after that. Jones was great despite battling Flores, as his rookie campaign is ff to a great start.
Jones' sole touchdown went to Agholor, who led the team with 72 receiving yards on five catches. White (6-49) and Meyers (6-44) paced the Patriots in receptions.
The top receiver in this game was DeVante Parker, who registered four catches for 81 yards, which included a terrific 30-yard reception where he impressively tapped his feet inbounds. However, it was Jaylen Waddle who reeled in Tagovailoa's lone touchdown. Waddle snatched four of his six targets for 61 yards. Waddle made a great adjustment on an early 31-yard catch. Both Parker and Waddle dropped back-to-back passes in the opening half, but they redeemed themselves.
Much was made about the Dolphin running back workload in the preseason. Myles Gaskin was given most of the touches. He rushed nine times for 49 yards to go along with five catches for 27 receiving yards. His 14 total touches eclipsed Malcolm Brown and Salvon Ahmed's five each.
Saints 38, Packers 3
If any team were to win this game 38-3, most would've expected it to be the Packers. How could it not be, with the homeless Saints missing three of their top four outside cornerbacks and two of their top three wide receivers. The Packers, returning Aaron Rodgers were one more year, were favored by four in this neutral-site game, yet they wouldn't have covered as 34-point underdogs.
Rodgers will get some blame for this loss, but he barely touched the ball in the opening half. He was on the field for just three drives, with his team running just 14 offensive snaps prior to intermission. The Saints rushed the ball nearly 50 percent more alone! Green Bay's hideous defense looked completely inept trying to stop New Orleans' running backs. The Saints tallied 208 net yards in the opening half alone, compared to only 70 by the Packers, most of which were produced on the final possession of the second quarter.
Alvin Kamara and Tony Jones combined for nearly 150 rushing yards. Kamara picked up 83 yards on the ground on 20 carries, all while catching three balls for eight receiving yards and a touchdown. Jones, the new backup after beating out Latavius Murray in the preseason, rushed for 50 yards on just 11 attempts.
Jameis Winston chipped in with 37 rushing yards as well. His passing yardage wasn't impressive (148), but he was nearly flawless because the Packers' defense was "lethargic," as perfectly described by the FOX color analyst. Winston went 14-of-20 and threw five touchdowns. It was truly incredible to see Winston so efficient, especially when considering the lack of talent at receiver. His only mistake was an apparent interception, but that was negated by a completely bogus roughing-the-passer penalty.
The only Saint with more than 21 receiving yards was Deonte Harris, who caught two balls for 72 yards and a touchdown. New tight end Juwan Johnson (3-21) caught two scores. Marquez Callaway, conversely, was a disappointment with just one catch for 14 yards, as he had to deal with Jaire Alexander's excellent coverage.
Like the Saints, Green Bay had just one significant receiving output. Davante Adams was the only Packer who logged more than 32 receiving yards, and yet he caught five passes for only 56 yards. Marquez Valdes-Scantling (3-17) is worth noting, only because he saw eight targets.
Green Bay's receiving corps didn't stand a chance with Aaron Rodgers appearing to be lifeless for most of the afternoon. Rodgers went 15-of-28 for only 133 yards and two interceptions. The first pick was behind Adams in the red zone, while the second was a reckless deep shot. Rodgers played just three quarters, as No Cookie Jordan Love entered the game in the fourth quarter. Love was 5-of-7 for 68 yards, but lost a fumble in the red zone.
Given that the Packers were constantly trailing, their running backs didn't get much of a chance to do anything. Aaron Jones mustered only nine yards on five carries. A.J. Dillon (4-19) and Kylin Hill (5-14) both outgained him, thanks to some late-game opportunities.
Rams 34, Bears 14
Matthew Stafford didn't play in the preseason, so this was the first time anyone has seen him take the field in his new uniform. Despite the inexperience in Sean McVay's system, Stafford performed well in his Los Angeles debut. In fact, that was apparent immediately when Stafford ran a play-action bootleg and hit Van Jefferson with a 67-yard touchdown bomb to open the scoring in this game.
Stafford made some other deep completions to his receivers, including a 56-yard connection to Cooper Kupp. He did a great job of keeping the chains moving, converting 6-of-11 third downs. Stafford ultimately went 20-of-26 for 321 yards and three touchdowns. This wasn't the easiest matchup either, so things can only get better as Stafford gains more confidence and experience in McVay's system.
The NBC announcers made it known that Stafford has 2-hour breakfasts with Kupp every day, so it made sense that Kupp led the team in receiving in the 2021 opener. Kupp caught seven of his 10 targets for 108 yards and a touchdown. He made a great play on a third-and-13 when he broke numerous tackles to pick up the first down with a 15-yard gain. He also appeared to score a second touchdown, but replay review showed that he was down inches shy of the goal line. In addition to Kupp, Jefferson (2-80) and Robert Woods (3-27) also secured touchdowns.
Darrell Henderson, like Kupp, broke free for a nice gain to move the chains on a third-and-long. Henderson gained 70 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Sony Michel was given just one attempt.
Henderson ran well, but he was outgained by David Montgomery, who had a number of impressive runs versus the Rams' stalwart defense. Montgomery dashed for 108 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries. He missed some time with a minor injury, but appeared to be OK when he reentered the game.
Andy Dalton wasn't horrible, going 27-of-38 for 206 yards and an interception on a tipped pass. He didn't make any mistakes, aside from that interception, but he also didn't give the Bears the upside that Justin Fields possesses. Fields, by the way, played a few snaps. He completed both of his attempts for 10 yards and rushed into the end zone for a 3-yard score. I'd call for Fields to start, but Chicago suffered some injuries to their blocking unit in this game, with Jason Peters and his direct backup getting hurt.
Allen Robinson saw 11 targets, but the Rams did a great job of limiting his six catches to only 35 yards. Marquise Goodwin (4-45) and Cole Kmet (5-42) finished ahead of him on the box score.
Raiders 33, Ravens 27
It seemed as though the Raiders were in for a long night. Following a disastrous opening drive, which featured two injuries to Josh Jacobs and Denzelle Good, as well as a botched snap to push the team out of field goal range, the Raiders surrendered two touchdowns to Baltimore, one of which came on a 35-yard Ty'Son Williams sprint on a fourth-and-1 play.
Carr, meanwhile, was erratic. He had two dropped interceptions on the same drive, then heaved some inaccurate passes toward his receivers. On the rare occasions he was able to drill the ball to his targets, his teammates committed ghastly drops. It was a very frustrating time to support the Raiders, who looked like they were going to get run out of their new building.
Somehow, things began to change. It began when Hunter Renfrow drew an interference flag in the end zone to set up a touchdown for Jacobs, who returned to action after barely missing any time. The Raiders then stuffed Latavius Murray on fourth-and-inches to set up a field goal to inch closer. They were finally able to get over the hump when Lamar Jackson lost a fumble on a scramble, setting up Las Vegas with a short field, allowing the team to notch the tying score with another Jacobs run.
After the two teams exchanged scores, the Ravens took over in a 24-all affair. Jackson, at this point, decided to redeem himself for his prior fumble. He sprinted through the Raider defense with a 28-yard burst, breaking out of tackles in the process. Most importantly, he held on to the ball to move his team into kicking range. Justin Tucker connected, but the Ravens left too much time on the clock. Carr zipped two deep passes to Bryan Edwards, setting up the tying 55-yard field goal.
As if this game weren't wild enough, there was some incredible drama in overtime. Edwards, who had done nothing prior to the final drive in regulation, appeared to catch the game-winning touchdown, but was ruled inches shy of the goal line upon replay review. The Raiders still appeared to be in a great position to win, but following a false start, a Carr pass went through Willie Snead's hands and into the arms of a Baltimore defender. The Ravens suddenly had control of their destiny, but Jackson fumbled yet again. The Raiders, following an inexplicable delay-of-game penalty on the ensuing drive where they forgot to tell their kicker they were trying a field goal on second down, scored the decisive touchdown when Carr launched a ball to a completely uncovered Zay Jones.
There's a lot to unpack here, but the primary take-away is that the Ravens' offense didn't look very good. The Raiders legitimately outgained them by nearly 100 yards, and the blocking was rather pedestrian. Aside from a couple of instances, Jackson didn't get to scramble well, as the Raiders had a great defensive game plan for him. Jackson rushed for 86 yards on 12 runs, but those numbers are misleading. He also fumbled twice.
Jackson's passing stats were fine - 19-of-30, 235 yards, one touchdown - but again, he didn't have great opportunities because of inadequate blocking. This is definitely a concern for the Ravens moving forward because this was one of the easiest games on their schedule.
Jackson eclipsed Ty'Son Williams in rushing late in the game. Curiously, Latavius Murray had one more rush than Williams (10-9), and yet, Williams outgained Murray, 65-28. Both scored touchdowns, but it's obvious who the better running back is. There's no reason why Williams should've had just nine attempts. I imagine the Ravens will rectify this moving forward.
Williams, at least, logged three catches for 29 receiving yards. He trailed only Sammy Watkins (4-96) and Marquise Brown (6-69), who scored a touchdown.
The top generator of receiving yardage in this game was Darren Waller, who hauled in 10 of his 19 targets for 105 yards and a touchdown. Despite this, Waller should've enjoyed a better performance. He dropped two passes and had a long gain negated by a nonsense offensive pass interference.
Following Waller, Edwards (4-81) and Renfrow (6-70) were next on the stat sheet. It's amazing Edwards so productive despite having no catches prior to the final drive in regulation.
Carr finished with an amazing stat line despite whiffing on so many passes in the early stages of this game. He finished 34-of-56 for 435 yards, two touchdowns and an interception that wasn't his fault. Carr should've been picked on a couple of other possessions, but he also was victimized by several drops.
Jacobs endured a lackluster night as far as rushing yardage is concerned, mustering only 34 yards on 10 carries. He salvaged his performance with two touchdowns, but his owners watched Kenyan Drake catch five passes for 59 receiving yards.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.