Week 1 ProDucks Recap: Mariota gets banged up but Freeman and Thomas shine
With week one of the NFL season officially over, it was an up and down beginning for former Oregon football players.
On one end, running back Royce Freeman proved worthy of his starting role when he ran for 71 yards on 15 carries in his NFL debut. On the other end was quarterback Marcus Mariota struggling mightily in the opening game and leaving with an injury.
Here are how some of the key Oregon football players fared with their respective NFL teams.
QB Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans: 27-20 loss to Miami
In what is being viewed as the biggest year of his career, Mariota and the Titans got off to a slow and bad start in the season opener. He threw for 103 yards on just 9-of-16 passes and two interceptions in Tennessee’s 27-20 loss.
The Titans were unable to move the ball consistently with Mariota at the helm as the Dolphins defensive line completely overwhelmed Tennessee’s starting offensive group.
Adding to Mariota’s poor performance was the fact that he was hurt in the first half on what could be perceived as a cheap shot by Miami’s William Hayes. After handing the ball off to running back Derrick Henry, Mariota was hit low and hard by Hayes, causing him to fall on his right arm.
"I just couldn't feel my fingers," Mariota told reporters after the game. "I couldn't feel my hand. It was one of those things. I couldn't grip the ball. "
After briefly leaving the game, Mariota returned and promptly threw two interceptions, causing him to exit the game for good. His status is currently unknown for Sunday’s game.
“We are hopeful that we’ll get a good report back on his arm, so we can move forward with having him as our quarterback,” Tennessee head coach Mike Vrabel told reporters.
RB Royce Freeman, Denver Broncos: 27-24 win over Seattle
After having one of the best fall camps in Denver, Freeman earned the starting job as a rookie entering the 2018 season. And in his first professional game, he didn’t disappoint.
Freeman finished the game against Seattle by carrying the ball 15 times for 71 yards. Although he failed to get into the endzone, his presence was felt by the entire team in Denver’s 27-24 win.
"I was proud of Royce for how he ran downhill," Denver head coach Vance Joseph said. "It’s a single-high [safety], it’s a loaded-box defense every play, so it wasn't going to be easy running the football against these guys. But, we stayed with it and it worked out for us.”
Freeman’s bruising running style came up big when the Broncos needed it most; midway through the fourth quarter and clinging to a three-point lead.
Needing to eat up clock, the Broncos turned to Freeman and he rewarded them with four consecutive carries totaling 37 yards. He forced the Seahawks to burn two timeouts before the two-minute warning came, helping clinch the victory.
“I feel like I have that as part of my game," Freeman said. " And like I said before, when your number is called, it’s just going out there and executing it. We were in a late game situation and my number was called.”
WR De’Anthony Thomas, Kansas City Chiefs: 38-28 win over Los Angeles Chargers
Although without a starting role, Thomas made his presence felt when his Chiefs scored the 38-28 upset victory over the Chargers in Los Angeles.
Thomas opened up the third quarter scoring when he took a one-yard shovel pass from quarterback Patrick Mahomes and coasted into the endzone untouched. It was the only touch Thomas got on the offensive side of the ball.
Late in the second half is when Thomas made his presence felt even more.
With Los Angeles threatening midway through the fourth quarter, the Chiefs were forced to punt and give the ball back to the Chargers, along with the momentum. Thomas had different ideas when he forced Los Angeles returner JJ Jones to fumble the ball, which was recovered by Kansas City. The Chiefs converted that turnover into a touchdown, putting the game out of reach and securing the win.
DE’s DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead, San Francisco 49ers: 24-16 loss to Minnesota
Buckner and Armstead arrived on campus to Oregon together and now they’re starting on the same defensive line with one another in the NFL.
Both players had a great start to the 2018 season but unfortunately it wasn’t enough as the 49ers fell 24-16 to Minnesota, a team with legit Super Bowl aspirations.
Buckner — starting at left defensive end — finished with seven tackles and 2.5 sacks. Armstead — starting at right defensive end — finished with five tackles and one tackle for loss. Combined, these two make up the two-thirds of the starting defensive line and are staples of San Francisco’s defense moving forward.
**-- CB Terrance Mitchell, Cleveland Browns:** Mitchell finished with six tackles as he got the starting nod in Cleveland’s 21-21 tie to Pittsburgh
-- LB Kiko Alonso, Miami Dolphins: Alonso took down former college teammate Marcus Mariota when he racked up six tackles, all solo, in Miami’s victory over the Tennessee Titans.
-- RB LeGarrette Blount, Detroit Lions: It was an altogether forgettable performance when Blount finished his season opener with four carries for negative-three yards, Detroit’s 48-17 loss to the New York Jets.
-- S Patrick Chung, New England Patriots: In New England’s 27-20 victory over Houston, Chung finished with four tackles.
-- RB Jonathon Stewart, New York Giants: Stewart only received two carries for eight yards in New York’s 20-15 loss to Jacksonville.