Week 1 Takeaways: Brady Struggles While Cam Runs Wild, Russ Cooks, Lions Drop One

Plus, a rookie’s devastating drop, Lamar cruises, Washington overwhelms Wentz, Josh Allen does his thing, Jags come back on Colts, Hopkins and Adams debut in style, Bengals get too safe, a rough one for Rivers and more.
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Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened in the Week 1 Sunday afternoon games...

Things That Made Me Giddy

Seahawks’ Run-Pass Balance: It was 38 dropbacks and 20 runs—and in a game they led almost throughout. Instead of sweating out a one-possession win, they cruised in Atlanta.

Russell Wilson, Fourth Down, Layup: The Falcons had been going out of their way to take the deep ball away, but this fourth-and-5 scenario, forcing Atlanta to press the Seahawks' receivers, presented an opportunity. DK Metcalf working one-on-one, no safety in sight, Russell Wilson throwing it… this is a gosh dang layup.

Lamar Jackson Fails to Show Up in the Fourth Quarter: Jeez, guy just checks out with eight minutes left and his team clinging to a 32-point lead against Cleveland. (You get the feeling we’re going to see a lot of Robert Griffin III in mop-up duty again this season.)

Saints Offense Gets the Day Off: Defense and special teams carried the day against Tampa—New Orleans finished with just 271 yards and 4.1 per play. But they intercepted Tom Brady twice and added a special teams takeaway on a pooch kick to help seal the game.

C.J. Henderson Showed Up: The Jags' rookie corner had a pick, a key open-field tackle on a third down in the fourth quarter, and had solid coverage on the game-sealing incompletion—and throughout the game. Update your Defensive Rookie of the Year scorecard accordingly.

Cam Dragging Tacklers Again:

Jamal Adams on the Blitz: The Seahawks’ punchless front four will be an issue at times, but Adams helped make up for that as a blitzer in his Seahawks debut. He had a sack and forced an incompletion in Atlanta.

Josh Allen Working Late Into the Down: When he extends the play and keeps his eyes upfield, this Bills offense can toy with secondaries. Allen has gotta take care of the ball better when he’s on the run (two lost fumbles in the first half), but overall, Sunday was an argument in favor of “cut it loose,” for Allen.

Stephon Gilmore Is Very Good: He had an off day against the Dolphins in last year’s regular-season finale, but, as Split Enz once told us, history never repeats.

Minshew Magic = Efficiency: As well as some nice designs by new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, whose zone-beater worked beautifully on Keenan Cole’s go-ahead fourth-quarter touchdown. Minshew finished 19-for-20 for 173 yards and three touchdowns.

Chris Carson as Christian McCaffrey: He had a nifty one-handed-catch-and-run on Seattle’s first drive, and ended up catching six passes, including two touchdowns, in Atlanta.

Washington Pass Rush Delivers: They showed up a little late, but ultimately the high-pedigree group showed up and dominated the makeshift Eagles front five like they should have. Sacks don’t always tell the full story, but eight sacks is pretty indicative of how this one went.

DeAndre Hopkins Has a Role in This Cardinals Offense: After a slow start, the Cardinals started poking holes at the intermediate level of the 49ers’ defense. Hopkins ended up with 14 catches for 151 yards

Aaron Rodgers Singes the New-Look Vikings: Rodgers had never thrown for more than 216 yards or two touchdowns over six road matchups with Mike Zimmer’s Vikings. On Sunday, he took full advantage of Minnesota’s green new cornerbacks, to the tune of 364 and four TDs.

Panthers Are Gonna Be a Tough Out: They ran out of gas against the Raiders—their defense is out-manned—but Joe Brady did some things with this offense and Teddy Bridgewater won’t lose it for them.

Trubisky in Desperation Mode: Seems to be the only Trubisky that can function. A win is a win in the NFL, but Matt Nagy is going to have some sleepless nights after watching his QB’s tape.

Trent Williams Announces His Return: Or at least announces it to Jordan Hicks.

A Nice Day for Dwayne Haskins: He looks good when he gets a defined read and can play on-schedule—there are still issues the later he gets into the down. But apparently he also delivered the halftime speech as Ron Rivera was getting an IV, and then held up his end of the bargain in the comeback win. Which is neat!

A Mixed Bag for Burrow: Under plenty of pressure from the Chargers’ pass rush, it was understandable that Joe Burrow was a little scattershot in his first live NFL action. He made up for it down the stretch though, engineering a would-be game-winning (until an offensive pass interference penalty erased the go-ahead TD)/game-tying (until Randy Bullock missed a 31-yarder) drive.

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Regrets

Lions Can’t Close Out a Game: There’s no moral victory, even in a game where they were missing their second-best offensive player (Kenny Golladay), missing their potentially best defensive player (Jeff Okudah), watched as their most important addition to the front seven got ejected early (Jamie Collins), and lost their top-two corners (Desmond Trufant and Justin Coleman) to injury before the fourth quarter collapse got underway. Coffee’s for closers. Put that coffee down.

D’Andre Swift’s Nightmare Drop: He’s a talent, and there will be better days ahead. But the only way this could’ve been worse if it happened in front of the entire class and he wasn’t wearing pants. A potential game-winner in his hands, and he … just drops it.

Tom Brady Is Frustrated: His protection wasn’t very good, and on multiple occasions he wasn’t on the same page with his receivers. One of his interceptions came on such a miscommunication, while the pick-six to Janoris Jenkins could only be described as a spot-on Jameis impression (he was late and behind the receiver on an out route). The good news is that the road gets much easier for Tampa, though there are clearly some issues to work out.

Come on, Bengals, Go Win the Game: Down 16-13, seven seconds left, ball at the Chargers’ 13, no timeouts left. The Bengals had done whatever they wanted on the drive to that point and have two star receivers and the No. 1 overall pick, going up against a gassed defense. Zac Taylor played for the tie rather than taking one more shot at the end zone. It was the wrong call, regardless of the outcome. But then again, in a game between two overly conservative teams playing not to lose, a missed field goal might have been the perfect ending.

The Force Is With Philip Rivers: There was a lack of comfort with his receivers (and perhaps a lack of trust in his arm talent), but Rivers made his own mess with turnovers in his Colts debut. Two of his interceptions—and a third that was called back by a ticky-tack hold away from the ball—never should have been thrown.

Jimmy Garoppolo, Still Uneven: Ball placement is an issue, and so was his timing, as he was way late on two throws on the final series (one that should have been a game-winning touchdown to Kendrick Bourne after a gorgeous double move).

A Very Falcons Loss: Over the course of about 90% of this game, they played the Seahawks to a draw. Then came the situational football. The Seahawks had a third-and-23, and Ricardo Allen commits a wholly uneccessary, 41-yard pass interference penalty. On the ensuing drive, the Falcons get to third-and-inches and end up turning it over on downs. In the third quarter, the Seahawks face a fourth-and-5 at Atlanta’s 38u and throw a touchdown pass. A few plays later, the Falcons face a fourth-and-2 in their own territory, run a fake punt and convert but fumble it back at the end of the play. They were 1-for-4 on fourth downs. That’s losing football.

Baker Struggling to See the Field: We’ll withhold judgment—the Ravens are good, after all. But this was not an encouraging start.

T.Y. Hilton and the Mysterious Case of the Drops: The last time we saw Hilton in a meaningful game, he was assembling a lowlight reel in a season-altering loss at Houston. On Sunday he came down with a case of the drops again, this time on the final drive—an unforgivable one as he toe-tapped the sideline, and one on the final play where he let the ball get into his shoulder.

Donovan Smith’s Long Day: I wondered if playing in front of the Brady, with a quicker-strike offense rather than all those deep drops, would allow the left tackle to survive one of these games in New Orleans for a change. Apparently not.

Eagles O-Line Collapses: They held up early, but after losing both tackles (and then rookie backup RT Jack Driscoll mid-game) perhaps it wasn’t surprising that Washington’s pass rush took over. Throw in some sloppy routes from receivers and some scattershot accuracy from Carson Wentz, and it’s the colonel’s recipe for a complete collapse.

Jets Offensive Line Outright Refuses to Block: That whole team is a mess.

Trubisky’s Accuracy: Or, Trubiskuracy, if you will. Anyway, it wasn’t good. And it came with an especially troubling caveat: He was rarely under any real duress. Inside the pocket he plays with the balance of one of those inflatable waving tube guys. The Bears have to put him on the move exclusively, or put him on the bench. It won’t be the short-handed Lions trying to close them out every week. (Well, it could be the short-handed Lions at least one more time this season.)

A Bleak New Day for the Vikings’ Secondary: A rough go of it for the revamped cornerbacking group, particularly third-rounder Cam Dantzler.

Kyle Van Noy Sparks a Fracas: Well, not much of a fracas, but Cam wasn’t happy after an utterly unnecessary bump from the ex-Patriot after the final kneeldown.

Ricardo Allen Failing to Locate the Ball on 3rd-and-23: A brutal, 41-yard (and, for all intents and purposes, seven-point) pass interference penalty from a veteran safety to keep the Seahawks’ first drive alive. Instead of punting from midfield, the Seahawks were in the end zone two plays later.

Wentz Taking Three Points Off the Board: On third-and-long at this part of the field, you can’t back up late in the down. It turned into a 53-yard attempt for Jake Elliott, who came up just short.

Austin Seibert Goes 0-for-2: A lot went wrong for the Browns in the opener. And this was among them. Seibert missed a PAT and a 41-yarder.

* * *

Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About

Jamie Collins No Longer Qualified to Play: He’s trying to argue for a lowering the helmet flag, and granted, you shouldn’t touch an official, even if you’re just lovingly nuzzling him. But this flop by referee Alex Kemp is going to earn him a scholarship offer from Duke.

Young Man’s Patience Pays Off: Joe Burrow waits as Trey Hopkins clears out two defenders on his first career TD.

Chase Young, Age 21, Gets Jason Peters, Age 38: For his first career sack. It’s like a Harry Chapin song, or something.

Marvin Jones Lowers the Shoulder: Consider this rookie CB Jaylon Johnson’s “Welcome to the NFL” moment. (I had a similar “Welcome to the NFL” moment on my first day on the job, when Peter King did that to me in the hallway of the Time & Life Building. To this day, I still consider it uncalled for.)

Brady’s First Bucs TD: On the extended sneak.

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What We’ll Be Talking About This Week

In Foxboro, This Will Do: Whatever the Patriots’ offense was going to be before they signed Cam, it wasn’t going to be better than this. Maybe Cam gets banged up as the year goes on, maybe future opponents will be better prepared, but a 2-to-1 run/pass ratio, along with that defense doing it’s thing, is a formula for wins.

Beware the Division Rival on the Road!: Remember when the Bucs blew away the Saints in the 2018 opener? Football Team over Eagles and Jaguars over Colts had a similar feel. (We’ll all look back and laugh when the Colts and Eagles are getting ready to face off in Super Bowl LV.)

That Chiefs-Saints Super Bowl Is Definitely Happening: They were, objectively, football’s best teams coming into the season. And Week 1 did nothing to change that perception.

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