The opening weekend of the 2020 NFL season was surreal.While the action on the field looked and sounded quite familiar to viewers at home , the precautions being taken due to the coronavirus pandemic meant only two home teams were allowed to have fans in the stadium in Week 1; for the most part, those fans you heard on the broadcast were courtesy of the NFL Films archives .Before the games kicked off, teams around the league used a variety of means to raise awareness of social justice issues .
On the field, some of the league’s biggest stars shone brightly.Lamar Jackson , Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson put up big numbers while leading their teams to victory .Meanwhile, the Washington Football Team got its first win for coach Ron Rivera, and Gardner Minshew II and the Jaguars shocked Philip Rivers and the Colts.
In the afternoon slate, rookie Joe Burrow led the Bengals to a near upset of the Chargers, and Tom Brady struggled in his first start with the Buccaneers.The 49ers, who went all the way to the Super Bowl last season, dropped their opener to Kyler Murray , DeAndre Hopkins and the Cardinals.
We take a look at all of that and more in Week 1 ‘s biggest takeaways from NFL Nation.
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Los Angeles Rams 20, Dallas Cowboys 17 Standout performer: Malcolm Brown .
18 carries for 79 yards and two touchdowns
The Rams opened SoFi Stadium in style with a victory over the Cowboys.Jared Goff led the offense to 422 total yards and running back Malcolm Brown scored two touchdowns.However, it was the defense — behind rookie safety Jordan Fuller and star cornerback Jalen Ramsey — that shut down the Cowboys in the fourth quarter to ensure a win.The Rams must now leave the comfort of their new $5 billion home to travel to Philadelphia and Buffalo over the next two weeks.
— Lindsey Thiry
Next game: at Philadelphia (1 p.m.ET, Sunday)
Despite the change in coaching staff, the Cowboys’ struggles in close games continue.Last year the Cowboys were 1-6 in games decided by a touchdown.They opened up the Mike McCarthy era with a one-score loss.McCarthy’s decision to bypass the almost-sure field goal to tie the game early in the fourth quarter can be debated, but the Cowboys had a chance to tie or win it later.A questionable offensive pass interference penalty on Michael Gallup wiped out a big play, but the Cowboys feel like they left chances out there.
“We had the two-minute drive at the end of the half and planned to go out and do the same thing,” Dak Prescott said.”Just didn’t execute …We’ll never be satisfied with this result or what we did out there.” — Todd Archer
Next game: vs.Atlanta (1 p.m.ET, Sunday)
Los Angeles Chargers 16, Cincinnati Bengals 13 Standout performer: Joshua Kelley .
12 carries for 60 yards, one TD
Kelley, a fourth-round pick out of UCLA, ignited a sluggish Chargers offense in Week 1, scoring their only touchdown .Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said, “It would have been hard to win that game without Josh.” There was uncertainty heading into the season about whether it would be Kelley or Justin Jackson getting carries when Austin Ekeler wasn’t on the field, but Kelley made a pronounced statement after Jackson exited with a quad injury.”He’s been running the ball with no regrets,” Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram said of Kelley.
— Alden Gonzalez
Next game: vs.
Kansas City (4:25 p.m.ET, Sunday)
Editor’s Picks NFL Week 1: Eerie empty stadiums, Brady’s Tampa debut and wild upsets NFL Week 1 arrivals: Best entrances, outfits and behind the scenes 1 Related Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow provided a glimpse into what his rookie year could look like .The top overall pick in the 2020 draft was 23-of-36 passing for 193 yards, no passing touchdowns and one interception (plus one rushing score).Although the turnover came in the fourth quarter, Burrow rallied and was on the verge of becoming the first quarterback taken No.1 overall to win his rookie debut since David Carr did it in 2002.
On the possession following the interception, Burrow calmly led the Bengals down the field and made nearly every throw to pull off the comeback.He was 7-of-10 for 60 yards on that final drive.Much like his performance Sunday, Burrow’s rookie year won’t be perfect.But the resiliency he showed will be required as he tries to navigate the NFL.– Ben Baby
Next game: at Cleveland (8:20 p.m.
New Orleans Saints 34, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23 Standout performer: Janoris Jenkins .
36-yard INT return for TD, nine tackles
There’s still room to improve .After hearing Sean Payton and Drew Brees describe themselves as “awful” on Sunday, with Payton calling it “as bad a game as I’ve had as a playcaller,” you might think the Saints hadn’t won their season opener over the Buccaneers and taken sole possession of first place in the NFC South.But that’s what they call “the best of both worlds” in the NFL since the Saints can now focus on cleaning up a sluggish offense that everyone knows will rank among the league’s best by the time they find their rhythm.And in the meantime, they leaned on their defense and special teams to win the turnover battle 3-0 while proving continuity does count in this unusual season.
— Mike Triplett
Next game: at Las Vegas (8:15 p.m.ET, Monday)
Turnovers cost Tampa Bay again .After the Buccaneers parted ways with Jameis Winston after five seasons because of turnovers, it was new quarterback Tom Brady who struggled and turned the ball over in his Buccaneers debut.The six-time Super Bowl winner threw two interceptions, including a pick-six, in the loss.”It’s a game of execution,” Brady said.”Obviously, they made more plays than we did, and I made some bad, terrible turnovers.It’s hard to win turning the ball over like that.I’ve obviously gotta do a lot better job.
They were bad throws.Can’t do it.” — Jenna Laine
Next game: vs.
Carolina (1 p.m.ET, Sunday)
Arizona Cardinals 24, San Francisco 49ers 20 Standout performer: DeAndre Hopkins .14 catches, 151 yards
Arizona showed it could hang with the reigning NFC champs because of its up-tempo offense .Kyler Murray had a career-high 100 rushing yards before two kneel-downs on the game’s final plays took off nine yards, and Hopkins had a career-high 14 catches, showing he’ll be the focal point of the Cardinals’ offense — and it’ll just be a matter of who can stop him.
— Josh Weinfuss
Next game: vs.Washington (4:05 p.m.
It’s too early to sound the alarm bells for the 49ers after Week 1 .But the loss to the Cardinals could prove costly in the difficult NFC West.The Niners went 5-1 in NFC West games last year, including two close victories against Arizona.But if they’re going to replicate that, they have zero margin for error.
Of most concern was an offense that went 2-of-13 on third and fourth downs, and scored just one touchdown in four red zone trips.The Niners should get some key offensive players back from injury in the next few weeks, but they have a lot to clean up if they’re going to stay on top of the NFC West mountain.– Nick Wagoner
Next game: at N.Y.Jets (1 p.m.ET, Sunday)
Baltimore Ravens 38, Cleveland Browns 6 Standout performer: Lamar Jackson.
20-of-25 for 275 yards, three TDs; seven carries for 45 yards
Lamar Jackson is an even better passer now than he was in his NFL MVP season .
Jackson drove the ball down the field and put his throws on target more consistently.Marquise “Hollywood” Brown said wide receivers have to make sure they get to their spots because Jackson is more “pinpoint” this year.Jackson was a career-best 9-of-10 for 180 yards on throws 10 yards or longer downfield.Up next for Jackson are the Texans, who allowed three touchdown passes in Week 1 to Patrick Mahomes .– Jamison Hensley
Next game: at Houston (4:25 p.m.ET, Sunday)
This loss looked awfully familiar .
This offseason, Cleveland overhauled the front office, hired a new coaching staff, revamped the offensive line and even changed its uniforms.Yet in a humbling 38-6 season-opening loss Sunday in Baltimore, the Browns looked dishearteningly similar on the field.Baker Mayfield threw a pick on the opening drive.
Odell Beckham Jr .was a non-factor.The kicking teams committed several blunders.
And Lamar Jackson completely carved up the Cleveland defense.There’s no shame in falling to the defending AFC North champions on the road.
But to have any hope of snapping the NFL’s longest playoff drought — now up to 18 years — the Browns will have to be much sharper.– Jake Trotter
Next game: vs.Cincinnati (1 p.m.ET, Sunday)
Seattle Seahawks 38, Atlanta Falcons 25 Standout performer: Russell Wilson .
31-of-35 for 322 yards, four TDs
As Russell Wilson goes, so go the Seahawks .The Seahawks showed in their 38-25 win over Atlanta how they can “Let Russ cook,” which has become a popular plea from their fan base to lean more on their $35 million-per-year quarterback.Russell Wilson’s 35 attempts Sunday didn’t mark a huge spike from the 32.25 he averaged last season.The difference was how the Seahawks got him going early, as he dropped back to pass on 18 of his 25 first-half plays in a deviation from Seattle’s usual approach of establishing the run.
Wilson (31-of-35 for 322 yards) was on fire from the start and finished with four touchdowns in a nearly flawless performance.– Brady Henderson
Next game: vs.New England (8:20 p.m.ET, Sunday)
Fourth-down plays don’t pay off for Atlanta in Week 1 .
The Falcons were 0-for-4 on fourth down in Sunday’s 38-25 loss to the Seahawks, including a fake punt that would have worked had safety Sharrod Neasman not fumbled the ball back to Seattle.The fake punt was a questionable call, but Falcons coach Dan Quinn expressed no regret about the coaching decision, and insisted it was the right call based on the look.The Seahawks scored three touchdowns and made one field goal after those failed fourth-down attempts by the Falcons.Quarterback Matt Ryan said afterward, “We just got stalled out a little bit.
I guess we went for it three times on fourth downs as an offense and were 0-for-3 on those.That changes the scope of the ballgame.” Maybe if the Falcons score touchdowns early next week at Dallas, they won’t have to take such chances.– Vaughn McClure
Next game: at Dallas (1 p.m.ET, Sunday)
Green Bay Packers 43, Minnesota Vikings 34 Standout performer: Aaron Rodgers .32-of-44 for 364 yards, four TDs
Everyone knows the Packers didn’t draft a receiver.Not everyone knew they didn’t need one.At least they didn’t need one in their season-opening 43-34 win at the Vikings.Aaron Rodgers seemed as happy as ever heading into this season despite the fact that the team drafted his possible successor in Jordan Love in the first round.
So Rodgers relied on his old favorite Davante Adams and a couple of receivers ( Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard ) he talked up this summer.
The Packers scored their most points in a season opener thanks to 364 yards and four touchdowns by Rodgers.Although the Packers’ lack of additions at receiver didn’t hurt them on Sunday, will it be a limitation at some point? — Rob Demovsky
Next game: vs.Detroit (1 p.m.
Not a great start if the Vikings want to be contenders .Four of the Vikings’ first five games are against opponents who appeared in the 2019 playoffs.Allowing teams of that caliber to be on the field for 41 minutes, 16 seconds, like Minnesota did with Green Bay, won’t result in many wins.The Vikings’ 18:44 time of possession was their lowest since the league began recording the stat in 1977, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
The retooled defense needs to find its footing without Danielle Hunter for a minimum of two more games and a young group of corners.Minnesota allowed Green Bay to convert on 6-of-11 third-down attempts, jumped offsides twice thanks to Aaron Rodgers’ mastery of the hard count, gave up 522 yards and let Davante Adams dominate.Maybe it’s rust, maybe it’s a lack of cohesion within a revamped unit, but either way this defense cannot have another performance like this.– Courtney Cronin
Next game: at Indianapolis (1 p.m.ET, Sunday)
Buffalo Bills 27, New York Jets 17 Standout performer: Josh Allen .33-of-46 for 312 yards, two TDs; 14 carries for 57 yards, TD
Not a perfect day for Josh Allen, but an encouraging one .The Bills need Josh Allen to be able to win games with his arm this season, and he showed he was capable with a 312-yard passing performance against the Jets in the season opener.
Buffalo struggled to get anything going on the ground outside of a few scrambles from Allen, but the third-year quarterback did more than enough to keep the Bills in control.If he can continue to throw the ball like this (33-of-46) when defenses take away the run, the Bills will be in good shape.– Marcel Louis-Jacques
Next game: at Miami (1 p.m.ET, Sunday)
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Sam Darnold ‘s disappointing performance intensifies the pressure on him and coach Adam Gase , whose job is tied to the young quarterback’s growth.This was a step backward for Darnold, who now faces another tough defense next week in the San Francisco 49ers .Many of Darnold’s mistakes were self-inflicted, but his playcaller — Gase — could have done a better job of finding soft spots in the Buffalo defense.– Rich Cimini
Next game: vs.
San Francisco (1 p.m.Sunday)
New England Patriots 21, Miami Dolphins 11 Standout performer: Cam Newton .Fifteen carries for 75 yards, two TDs; 15-of-19 for 155 yards passing
Cam Newton’s dual-threat ability as a runner stole the show .Newton had touchdown runs of 4 and 11 yards as offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels introduced zone-read concepts that were never part of the attack during Tom Brady ‘s tenure.How rare was the multiple-rushing-TD feat by a Patriots quarterback? According to research by ESPN Stats & Information, Patriots quarterbacks have had three games with multiple rushing touchdowns over the past 35 seasons (all by Tom Brady).Newton now has 60 career rushing touchdowns.
Brady had 22 career regular-season touchdown runs with the Patriots, and if Newton keeps up this pace, he would match the mark in one season.– Mike Reiss
Next game: at Seattle (8:20 p.m.ET, Sunday)
The Dolphins have a ways to go to be considered a contender in the AFC East .
The two most obvious issues are their lack of offensive firepower, which was made even more clear once wide receiver DeVante Parker exited the game early in the second half with a hamstring injury, and a poor run defense.Too often Sunday, Dolphins receivers struggled to get separation against Patriots defensive backs, forcing them into plenty of jump-ball situations.Meanwhile, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick forced the ball way too often, throwing three interceptions and doing little to quiet the inevitable calls to give rookie Tua Tagovailoa a shot sooner than later.The offense totaled 269 yards.After the game, Fitzpatrick took responsibility for his three interceptions: “You can’t do that in the National Football League.
…I’ve got to do better.” — Cameron Wolfe
Next game: vs.Buffalo (1 p.m.ET, Sunday)
Washington Football Team 27, Philadelphia Eagles 17 Standout performer: Ryan Kerrigan .
Two sacks, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries, one fumble recovery
Washington’s defensive line is as good as advertised .While end Ryan Kerrigan had a big statistical day, it was a group effort, as six linemen combined for seven sacks.Rookie end Chase Young will be a force at some point, but the player who quietly keeps making noise is tackle Matt Ioannidis .
He not only had 1.5 sacks, but also four quarterback hurries.He’s not flashy, but he is consistent and if teams leave him singled up, he’s dangerous.After a while, Washington’s secondary knew it could sit on certain routes and break quickly knowing Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz had to get rid of the ball.”It allows us to play fast,” corner Fabian Moreau said.”It allows us to play free.” — John Keim
Next game: at Arizona (4:05 p.m., Sunday)
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There was concern the Eagles’ injury-ravaged offensive line was going to be a problem, and it was.
So, too, was Carson Wentz ‘s tendency to hold on to the ball .That combo led to a career-high eight sacks for Wentz and a 27-17 loss to the Washington Football Team that raises all sorts of red flags for the 2020 season.Wentz recently said one of the biggest areas of growth for him has been learning when to air it out and be in gunslinger mode and when to be more of a game manager when the situation calls for it.
He needs to apply that education immediately if he wants to stay upright and keep his team competitive.– Tim McManus
Next game: vs.L.A.Rams (1 p.m.ET, Sunday)
Chicago Bears 27, Detroit Lions 23 Standout performer: Mitchell Trubisky .20-of-26 for 242 yards, three TDs
The Nick Foles debate will have to wait for another week.
Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears flipped the script in the final 15 minutes (with help from the Lions, who absolutely self-destructed) to avoid a full-blown quarterback controversy over Chicago’s starting quarterback.Trubisky’s feel-good story read more like pure fiction until the former second overall pick tossed three late touchdown passes to lead Chicago to a 27-23 comeback win over the beleaguered Lions.Few of the improvements — footwork, accuracy and leadership — Trubisky showed in August carried over to the first three quarters as the Lions built a sizable lead.But three fourth-quarter TD passes — to Jimmy Graham , Javon Wims and Anthony Miller — were the difference.– Jeff Dickerson
Next game: vs.N.Y.Giants (1 p.m.
New season, same results for the Detroit Lions .A year after blowing an 18-point fourth-quarter lead leading to a tie against Arizona, Detroit blew a 17-point fourth-quarter lead in a 27-23 loss to Chicago on Sunday.It continues a trend under Matt Patricia — the Lions blew seven fourth-quarter leads last year, including the tie against Arizona — that has followed his tenure.Sunday might have been the most brutal because these weren’t the Chiefs they were playing (one of the blown leads last year), but a Bears team that had Mitchell Trubisky complete 40.8% of his throws in the first half.Asked after the game if coaching was part of the issue for the fourth-quarter problems, Patricia pointed to his success with New England in the fourth quarter.”I’ve got one of the biggest plays in the fourth quarter in the history of the NFL where I think I did a pretty good job.So I don’t think it’s that,” Patricia said.”Look, no excuses.
Give the Bears credit.They did what they did and they executed and they scored and they won and we didn’t.I’m not looking back.We’re looking forward.” — Michael Rothstein
Next game: at Green Bay (1 p.m.ET, Sunday)
Las Vegas Raiders 34, Carolina Panthers 30 Standout performer: Josh Jacobs .Twenty-five carries for 93 yards, three TDs; four catches for 46 yards
Josh Jacobs picked up where he left off last season , when many saw him as being robbed of the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
The second-year pro outperformed (barely) Carolina’s all-everything back Christian McCaffrey in the Raiders’ 34-30 victory.Jacobs, who missed three of the Raiders’ last four games last year with a shoulder fracture, rushed for a career-best three touchdowns (he had seven TDs all of last season) while running for 93 yards on 25 carries and catching four passes for 46 yards.McCaffrey, meanwhile, ran for 96 yards and two TDs on 23 attempts and added three catches for 38 yards.Jacobs became the second player since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to rush for at least two TDs in a season opener in his first two seasons, joining Lawrence Phillips, who did it for the Rams in 1996 and 1997.
— Paul Gutierrez
Next game: vs.New Orleans (8:15 p.m.ET, Monday)
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Questionable fourth-down playcall the difference? Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady might be the next offensive genius in the NFL, but he didn’t look too smart on a late fourth-down-and-a-foot call near midfield when he didn’t give the ball to Christian McCaffrey.Convert that, and the Panthers might have pulled off a huge upset in coach Matt Rhule’s debut, a 34-30 loss to the Raiders.Even Rhule said when asked why McCaffrey didn’t get the ball that it was a good question, and something he’ll think about walking away from this game.
Nobody, from Rhule to McCaffrey, had a good explanation for why fullback Alex Armah got the ball.Brady, who said going into the game McCaffrey would be the focal point of the offense, wasn’t available to the media.But McCaffrey wasn’t the focal point until late in third quarter.
At that point, he had 10 touches and the Panthers trailed 27-15.
He then had 11 touches on the next drive and finished with 26 as Carolina rallied for a 30-27 lead before the defense failed in the end.Not getting one more call on that fourth-down play might have cost Carolina a win.– David Newton
Next game: at Tampa Bay (1 p.m.ET, Sunday).