The first Sunday of the 2021 NFL season was full of surprising outcomes and amazing performances as some players performed at their best, while other had historically bad starts. We saw one division dominate while others were bulldozed by their competition, all while some teams lived up to the preseason hype and other overachieved, at least for one week to stun the experts. Here now is my week one recap of all the NFL action that kicked off the new season.
Tampa Bay 32 (1-0), Dallas 29 (0-1): The Dallas Cowboys made just enough mistakes to lose on Thursday night, led by place kicker Greg Zuerlein. But while Zuerlein was the one making headlines, it was the Dallas offense that often stalled in the red zone, with the Cowboys settling for FG attempts rather than scoring TDs. The result was giving the ball back to Tampa Bay with too much time and letting them face a tired Dallas defense, The Buccaneers stole a win they deserved only because they were part of an entertaining game. And for those people in Dallas who thought that was offensive pass interference at the end of the game, then I guess we need to head over the Michael Irvin’s house and take away his yellow jacket because he made it to the Hall of Fame doing exactly the same thing.
Arizona 38 (1-0), Tennessee 13 (0-1): Good team play well early on the road, and that’s exactly what the newly improved Arizona defense did by shutting out Tennessee in the first quarter, and after the Cardinals scored the game’s first 17 points, only allowed one TD midway into the second. Arizona answered that touchdown later in the second quarterback, and the Titans adjusted enough for another touchdown to start the second half, but two more TDs by the Cardinals in the third quarter put this game away as quarterback Kyler Murray ended the day with four TD passes and another rushing score in a dominating performance.
Houston 37 (1-0), Jacksonville 21 (0-1): While Trevor Lawrence did well enough to pad his potential Offensive Rookie of the Year stats in this game, it was the Texans who dominated this game from start to finish. Houston scored the game’s first 14 points in the first quarter, and after Lawrence posted in first career TD pass to cut the lead in half, the host Texans posted 13 more points before halftime and never looked back. The teams would swap third quarter TD and Lawrence would add a third scoring pass at the end of the fourth to give the game its final score, but it was the Texans’ day, lead by QB Tyrod Taylor (21/33 for 291 and 2 TDs), RB Mark Ingram (26 for 85) and WB Brandin Cooks (5 for 132) leading the way.
Cincinnati 27 (1-0), Minnesota (24) (0-1) OT: The Vikings rallied from a ten-point fourth quarter deficit to send this game to overtime, but it was the host Bengals who, on the last play of the extra 10:00 kicked the game winning field goal. Cincy controlled the game by bottling up Minnesota RB Dalvin Cook, holding him to just 62 yards on 20 carries, and despite his 36/49, 315-yard effort, Kirk Cousins wasn’t able to do enough on his own to win. Joe Burrow’s return from injury was made easier by running back Joe Mixon (29 for 127) and Ja’Marr Chase (5 for 101) in this hard fought but impressive win to start the season.
Seattle 28 (1-0), Indianapolis 16 (0-1): People may try to spin the game stats by telling you Carson Wentz had a QBR of 109.2 by completing 24/36 passes for 235 yards and two scores … but don’t buy it. While true the Colts were in this game early after taking a 3-0 lead and only being down 14-10 with 7:04 left in the first half. The next two touchdowns were scored by Seattle, the first late in the second quarter and the second midway through the third, putting the game out of reach. The Seahawks shutdown Indianapolis in the second half, allowing a late garbage time touchdown that wasn’t even enough to give Colts fans a backdoor cover as Seattle left town with a win.
Pittsburgh 23 (1-0), Buffalo 16 (0-1): Perhaps reports of the demise of the Steelers and their QB Ben Roethlisberger were premature … Pittsburgh, down 10-0 at the half on the road, scored the game’s next 20 points to take a lead they would never yield. A late fourth quarter field goal gave Pittsburgh their own 10-point advantage and was enough to keep Buffalo at bay and earning an impressive road win. Bills’ QB Josh Allen was asked to throw the ball 51 times in the loss and still wasn’t able to crack 300 yards, and without a running back to help him; this was clearly a team loss for Buffalo and both sides of the ball came up short on opening day.
San Francisco 41 (1-0), Detroit 33 (0-1): A 24-point second quarter sent the tone for this game as the visiting 49ers took control early and put this game away by halftime. San Francisco did break out their new toy when current backup QB Trey Lance tossed a five-yard TD pass for the season’s first score, with the defense picking up a pick-six late in the first half before the same unit set up another field goal before the intermission. New Lions QB Jared Goff will have great looking stats at the end of the year from this game (338 yards and 3 TDs), but most of his positive production came when the game was decided and only serviced to make bettors sweat the betting line.
LA Chargers 20 (1-0), Washington 16 (0-1): Ryan Fitzpatrick was knocked out of this game early for Washington, but backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke was effective, going 11/15 for 122 yards. Heinicke scored Washington’s only TD on the day with an early third quarter pass to give his team a 16-13 lead. Justin Herbert broke through with a fourth quarter TD pass of his own to regain the lead, with the Chargers defense holding on for the game’s last 11:21 to seal the road win.
Carolina 19 (1-0), NY Jets 14 (0-1): The Jets packed up plenty of fans for the trip to Carolina, but little offense to make them cheer. The Swiss Army Knife known as Christian McCaffery dominated the stat sheet as the Panthers’ leading rusher (21 for 98) and receiver (9 for 89) as former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold tossed a TD pass and ran for another for a 16-0 halftime lead. New York cut that lead in half in the third quarter, but didn’t score again until it was too late, allowing a young Carolina team to defeat the youngest team in the NFL in a defensive battle.
Philadelphia 32 (1-0), Atlanta 6 (0-1): The Eagles scored a touchdown in every quarter of this game as their defense made Matt Ryan look like an old quarterback and the Falcons regret not taking drafting his replacement in the spring. Philly QB Jalen Hurts was an effective 27/35 for 264 yards and three TD while adding 57 yards on the ground on eight rushes. There was not much for positive production for Atlanta from this match up, and it looks like the 2021 season will be a long one for Falcons fans, which was probably the franchise’s plan from the start of the offseason … but with a rookie head coach calling the shots, many expected a better Week One effort.
Kansas City 33 (1-0), Cleveland 29 (0-1): The Browns learned a hard lesson in this game. The lesson was that winning on the road is very difficult when you are playing a team with both talent and confidence. While Cleveland scored TDs on their first three possession to build a 22-10 halftime lead, it was the more mature and experienced hosts from Kansas City that posted 10 unanswered points in the third quarter to close the gap to two points. Then, after the Browns posted their only points of the second half on a solid 75-yard TD drive, KC responded with one 75-yard TD play of their own. After not taking advantage of a tired KC defense, Cleveland punted, and the home team took their first lead of the game with their final TD drive of the game to seal the win. Cleveland thought they could win the game; but gave it away, while Kansas City knew they were always in the game and could win it, which they did. That’s experience and confidence.
New Orleans 38 (1-0), Green Bay 3 (0-1): “Drew, WHO?” may be what some are saying down on the Bayou as the new NBC Sports commentator watched as the Saints moved forward from QB Drew Brees quite nicely on Sunday in Jacksonville. In this relocated game it was Jameis Winston and not Aaron Rodgers who looked like a future Hall of Fame quarterback, needing to go only 14/20 to defeat the Packers, with five of those completions being for TDs. Green Bay, however, looked like a team that had not played together, with the Packers laying a huge egg to start 2021 and the doubters bound to come out this week as some might ask “Is this team is Jeopardy?” with the answer only available next week.
Denver 27 (1-0), NY Giants 13 (0-1): The return of Saquon Barkley did nothing to ignite the Giants’ offense to start the 2021 season after running back only posted 26 yards on ten carries. The lack of a running game made it difficult for QB Daniel Jones to create much offense through the air; and after a second quarter TD pass broke a scoreless tie, Denver scored the next 27 points. Broncos’ QB Teddy Bridgewater posted two passing scores and RB Melvin Gordon added a 70-yard TD run to cap off a one-sided win. New York posted a TD as the clock reached 0:00 in the ultimate too little, too late moment of Week One.
Miami 17 (1-0), New England 16 (0-1): Don’t normally see defensive battles in the AFC East, but with two young, former Alabama QBs dueling, this game was expected to be close and proved to be just that. These teams fought to a 10-10 draw in the first half with Miami scoring early in the third to take a 17-10 advantage. From there it was the Dolphins’ defense that shut down Mac Jones and the Patriots’ offense, holding them to two FGs to secure the win. New England will get several earfuls of complains from head coach Bill Belichick during this week since, on paper, the stats might say they had the better game … but in the only stat that matters, Miami wins by a point to take sole possession of the AFC East lead.
LA Rams 34 (1-0), Chicago 14 (0-1): The Bears defense forgot how strong of a throwing arm Matthew Stafford had, and when you forget to tackle wide receivers after you allow them to catch long passes, it makes for a long night and a bad performance. Chicago did unwrap backup QB Justin Fields, a player that’s somehow not ready to start, but was ready to run a read option and score his first NFL TD. With fans in the stand for the first time in their new stadium, however, Sunday Night belonged to the Rams as LA fans and players never needed to break a sweat in this game. In one of the flukes of the weekend, this game gave the NFC West a perfect 4-0 start, and the NFC North a perfectly imperfect 0-4 start to the 2021 season.
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NFL Week One Recap | TooAthletic.com