N.F.L. Week 1: Recap and Highlights From Sunday’s Games

It was a week of superstars showing off new uniforms, many players choosing to stay in the locker room for the national anthem, teams playing through horrible air conditions out west, and stadiums being mostly empty because of coronavirus precautions. But a few shocking upsets provided a thrilling Sunday, reminding everyone that football games can go sideways quickly.

Here’s what we learned:

  • These are not Tom Brady’s Patriots. In his first game for New England, quarterback Cam Newton led the team to an easy win over the Miami Dolphins by throwing for 155 yards and rushing for 75 more along with two touchdowns. The 75 rushing yards are more than Brady had in 14 of his 19 seasons as New England’s starter, with the veteran’s single-game high being just 31 yards. Not to be outdone entirely by Newton, Brady showed he is still nearly unstoppable in short-yardage situations by running for a 1-yard touchdown early in Tampa Bay’s game against the New Orleans Saints.

ImageGardner Minshew of the Jacksonville Jaguars completed 19 of 20 passes and threw three touchdowns in his team’s upset of the Indianapolis Colts.
Credit…Douglas Defelice/USA Today Sports, via Reuters
  • When they say “on any given Sunday,” that includes Week 1. The Jacksonville Jaguars, the Chicago Bears and the Washington Football Team looked like basement dwellers coming into the season, but all three are 1-0 after Jacksonville and Washington delivered shocking upsets of well-regarded teams (the Indianapolis Colts and the Philadelphia Eagles, respectively) and the Bears engineered a thrilling fourth quarter comeback over the Detroit Lions. You might want to wait a week or two before hopping on these bandwagons — people were skeptical for a reason — but Jacksonville’s Gardner Minshew had a day to remember, completing 19 of 20 passes and throwing three touchdowns, while outdueling Philip Rivers in the veteran’s debut for the Colts.

  • The spirit of Jameis Winston lives on for Tampa Bay. Tom Brady, a 43-year-old six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, was brought over from the Patriots to stabilize a wildly volatile position for the Buccaneers, but in his first start he looked a lot like Winston, his predecessor as Tampa Bay’s starter. Brady had his moments where you could see the magic, but he also threw two interceptions, including a pick-six, letting Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints get an easy win at home. Winston, who had a front-row seat from the New Orleans sideline, set some lofty goals for Brady, however, with 33 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions last season.

  • The Packers should have drafted Aaron Rodgers’s heir apparent years ago. Much was made of Rodgers being miffed that Green Bay used its first-round pick on Jordan Love, a quarterback out of Utah State. Rodgers said the right things in interviews, but he seemed to do so through clenched teeth. Known for playing well with a chip on his shoulder, Rodgers responded to the perceived slight by throwing for 364 yards and four touchdowns in Sunday’s road win over the rival Minnesota Vikings. If Rodgers can play like that every week, the Packers might want to draft a quarterback next year too.

Credit…Terrance Williams/Associated Press
  • Plans change quickly with running backs. Only one running back — Kansas City’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire — was taken on the first day of this year’s draft, but this year’s crop of rookies is already looking particularly strong. Edwards-Helaire found himself starting for the Chiefs after Damien Williams opted out of the season, and he ran for 138 yards in Kansas City’s win over Houston on Thursday. Jonathan Taylor, a second-round pick out of Wisconsin, had 89 yards from scrimmage in the Colts’ loss to Jacksonville on Sunday, and J.K. Dobbins, a second-rounder out of Ohio State, had two touchdown runs in Baltimore’s romp over Cleveland. With Marlon Mack likely out for the rest of the season, Taylor will now compete with Nyheim Hines for the starting job in Indianapolis.

  • Sometimes the obvious call is the right call. In a classic case of overthinking things, Carolina faced a fourth-and-inches play in the closing minutes of the team’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders. With just about everyone in the world expecting a run, or pass, to Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers’ superstar running back, Teddy Bridgewater instead handed off to fullback Alex Armah, who was crushed to the ground at the line of scrimmage for no gain, ending Carolina’s comeback attempt. McCaffrey finished the day with 134 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. Armah carried the ball twice for 1 yard.

Credit…John Munson/Associated Press
  • Josh Allen keeps things exciting — sometimes too exciting. The Bills’ third-year quarterback threw for a career-high 312 yards in a 27-17 dismantling of the Jets, making him the first Buffalo quarterback to top 300 yards since Tyrod Taylor did it in 2016, and just the second to do it since 2014, according to Pro Football Reference. Allen threw two touchdown passes, and ran one in as well, while leading the Bills with 57 rushing yards. Lest Buffalo fans get too excited, Allen also had two fairly brutal fumbles in Jets territory that could have cost his team dearly if the Bills’ defense wasn’t so proficient that the damage resulted in just 3 points.

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