The first official week of NFL action came to an end on Monday night with not one but two primetime showcases. The first featured two of the league’s most explosive offenses in a contest between the Saints and Texans in the Superdome. The second gave us our first look at the AFC West with a divisional showdown between the Raiders and Broncos at the Coliseum.
And we couldn’t have asked for better.
There were explosive runs and crazy catches, a back-and-forth fourth quarter in New Orleans that featured three scores in the final minute and a game-winning 58-yard field goal, and a Raiders offense hungry to make a statement.
This season's first edition of Monday Night Football gave us a lot to work with, but here are four key takeaways––one for each team––worth noting:
The Texans’ running game is just fine
No, Laremy Tunsil didn’t really look like he was worth the king’s ransom of draft picks Houston surrendered to the Dolphins in his first week on the job. And no, there’s no reasonable explanation behind why Jadeveon Clowney’s departure meant J.J. Watt (no tackles, no sacks, no nothing) would disappear, or why Romeo Crennel decided to play prevent defense with the game on the line, knowing Drew Brees was under center. But the Texans do have something worth celebrating alongside Deshaun Watson’s elite showing.
Even without Lamar Miller, Houston’s ground game might just turn out more than okay.
Carlos Hyde burst onto the scene in his Texans debut, rushing for 83 yards on 10 carries and breaking tackles like it was nobody’s business. Duke Johnson added 57 yards on nine carries and broke free out of the backfield for 33 yards on four catches.
With Hyde to turn to for short-yardage situations and power runs inside, and Johnson to rely on as a dynamic runner who can make plays in the slot, the Texans’ Plan B seems just fine.
Saints keep marching on
The Saints were desperate to forget that dreaded no-call and move on from one of the most devastating losses in recent memory. Winning their first season opener since 2013 was a good way to start.
Even at 40 years old, Drew Brees continues to put on MVP-caliber performances. His 370 yards and two touchdowns, coupled with the ice in his veins and surgical clockwork, helped march New Orleans into field-goal range on the type of perfectly-executed, game-sealing drive that’s become expected from the future Hall of Famer. Brees had the help of an electric Alvin Kamara, who racked up 169 total yards on 20 touches in the Saints’ 30-28 win.
There were some cracks. The Saints surrendered 180 yards rushing and saw a six-point lead evaporate in 13 seconds after giving up two Watson bombs. Eli Apple and P.J. Williams were consistently exploited, and if the Saints hope to hold up against explosive offenses like Houston’s, those holes will need to be addressed.
That being said, fans in New Orleans can rest easy after Monday night. Their team’s still got it.
The fans in Oakland said it. The players were probably thinking it. The Raiders entered Monday night’s showdown against the Broncos ready to put the Antonio Brown drama behind them, and with a statement 24–16 win over Denver, if nothing else, they seemed to achieve exactly that.
Derek Carr finished the game 22-of-26 for 259 yards and a touchdown pass in the outing. Tyrell Williams (six catches, 105 yards and a touchdown) and Darren Waller (seven catches, 70 yards) made their presence known. Josh Jacobs added 85 yards and two scores on the ground, and Oakland is now 1–0 to start the season.
Maybe the Raiders used it all as motivation. Maybe it was the fact that it was the team’s final MNF showing at the Coliseum. Maybe the Broncos were just that bad. Either way, the Raiders got the win, one that will carry them into Week 2 in the direction they desperately needed to go: forward.
Bad start for Broncos
The offense couldn’t get it done. The defense couldn’t get it done. The special teams couldn’t get it done.
John Elway tried to remake the Broncos this past offseason, and his team still got beat in all three phases on Monday.
The outcome was closer than it should have been. Joe Flacco appeared uncomfortable throughout the entire affair, unable to stay upright in the pocket and terribly out of sync in an offense that felt unprepared. Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, who combined for 26.5 sacks between them in 2018, were rendered complete non-factors on the other side of the ball. In fact, by the game’s end, Denver’s defense had failed to register a single sack.
And despite several cut-day additions on special teams, the unit opened the 2019 season the way they ended it in 2018: letting the Raiders’ Dwayne Harris break away for a huge kick return.
There’s still a lot of football to be played. But it’s safe to say that, after Monday’s performance, the Vic Fangio era in Denver isn’t off to a hot start.
NOW ON THE MMQB: The story behind Lamar Jackson's and Dak Prescott's big opening week … Overreacting to the first week of NFL action? Conor Orr sheds light on what's really worth worrying about ... There were a lot of highs and lows for Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury in their Cardinals debut. Review them all here.
WHAT YOU MAY HAVE MISSED: Can the values that are learned on the field help unite a divided nation? Larry Fitzgerald reflects on what football has taught him about himself and his opponents ... The last NFL season of this decade is now one week in. Mitch Goldich takes a look at the players leading the league's major stats, and those who could potentially pass them ... Darrell Bevell has bounced back again, this time in Detroit. Robert Klemko explores the first-year offensive coordinator's long and winding football life.
1. The NFL wasn't impressed with OBJ's bling.
2. Is this the beginning of the end for Adam Vinatieri?
3. Jerry Rice thinks Antonio Brown played us all.
4. Speaking of Brown, the wide receiver apparently caught the interest of the Seahawks, too.
5. Ty Montgomery wasn't involved in the Jets' game plan because Adam Gase can "do what he wants."
RIP Yellow Down-and-Distance Graphic. You lived a brief but nonetheless way too vibrant life. You will not be missed.
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