Around The NFL breaks down what you need to know from all of Sunday's action in Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season. Catch up on each game's biggest takeaways using the links below:
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19, Dallas Cowboys 3
- Kansas City Chiefs 44, Arizona Cardinals 21
- Los Angeles Chargers 24, Las Vegas Raiders 19
- Minnesota Vikings 23, Green Bay Packers 7
- New York Giants 21, Tennessee Titans 20
- Chicago Bears 19, San Francisco 49ers 10
- Miami Dolphins 20, New England Patriots 7
- Baltimore Ravens 24, New York Jets 9
- Philadelphia Eagles 38, Detroit Lions 35
- Cleveland Browns 26, Carolina Panthers 24
- New Orleans Saints 27, Atlanta Falcons 26
- Pittsburgh Steelers 23, Cincinnati Bengals 20 (OT)
- Washington Commanders 28, Jacksonville Jaguars 22
- Indianapolis Colts 20, Houston Texans 20 (OT)
Grant Gordon's takeaways:
- Bucs defense wins Sunday night. Tom Brady wasn't sensational, but he looked good enough to do away with the doubts produced by a chaotic offseason. Still, it was the Buccaneers defense that truly won the night for Tampa Bay. Facing last year's No. 1 offense, the Bucs swarmed and overwhelmed the Cowboys. While Micah Parsons (two sacks) commanded notice for the Dallas D, Tampa Bay had a host of contributors, from Devin White (eight tackles, two sacks) to Antoine Winfield Jr. (six tackles, one interception) to Shaquil Barrett (six QB pressures). Todd Bowles' defense dictated this game, limiting the Cowboys to their lowest point total since Week 7 of 2020. Tampa allowed just 244 yards of offense, held Dallas to 3 of 15 on third down and didn't surrender a single point after Dallas' opening possession. The game ball goes to the TB D in this one.
- Dak, offense as a whole cause for concern after debut. A dearth of talent in the wide receiver corps and injuries to the offensive line were the Cowboys offense's biggest concerns heading into the season. The unit as a whole is a concern after Sunday night. Of greatest worry is Dak Prescott's status, as the quarterback will need surgery and miss multiple weeks after hitting his hand on Barrett's helmet. Prior to that, though, Prescott struggled terribly. He finished the night with a 47.2 rating after missing on 15 of his 29 attempts. He and Cooper Rush were sacked a combined four times. New No. 1 wide receiver CeeDee Lamb had just two catches. Yes, it's early. Yes, the Buccaneers defense is fantastic, but the Cowboys were woeful nonetheless. Everything's bigger in Dallas, and that includes the panic -- even if it is just one game.
- Week 1 Lenny shines. For much of Sunday, the Cowboys had an answer for Brady and the passing game, but they rarely had an answer for Leonard Fournette. In a low-scoring affair, Fournette's ability to control the clock and work the Buccaneers into field-goal range proved pivotal. After his 18th carry, Fournette had 109 yards -- which equaled all of the Cowboys' offensive output to that point. His night concluded with 21 carries for 127 yards -- a personal best as a Buccaneer. There was some concern surrounding Lenny after reports of an offseason weight gain, but he turned in a heavyweight performance to kick off 2022.
Next Gen stat of the game: Leonard Fournette averaged 3.0 yards per rush before contact, which was his most in a game in the past five seasons.
NFL Research: The Cowboys, who scored their fewest points at home since Week 16 of 2002, tied the 2021 Packers for the fewest points in a season opener by the reigning No. 1 scoring offense in the Super Bowl era.
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- New weapons, same ol' Patrick Mahomes. No Tyreek Hill, no problem. The Chiefs quarterback diced up the Cardinals defense every which way. Mahomes tossed short darts, dropped passes in the bucket downfield and made patented plays on the move. Arizona tried to pressure Mahomes, bringing blitzes on 53.8% of his dropbacks. It did not work. The QB was unstoppable, completing 76.9% of his passes for 360 yards and five TDs for a 144.2 passer rating. Mahomes spread the ball around with aplomb, hitting nine different targets. Per usual, Travis Kelce was the go-to pass-catcher, netting nine receptions for 121 yards. The new duo of JuJu Smith-Schuster (six receptions for 79 yards) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (4/44) won over the middle repeatedly. K.C scored on seven of its first nine possessions while putting up 488 total yards and a whopping 7.4 yards per play.
- Kyler Murray, Cards offense stuck in the mud. Arizona's offense looked similar to last year's late-season collapse. Murray was under siege early -- pressured on 43.8% of dropbacks in the first half, per Next Gen Stats -- and rarely able to get out and use his legs. The QB didn't find success on intermediate routes and connected on just two passes over 15 air yards. Sans DeAndre Hopkins and with a nonexistent run game, Kliff Kingsbury's offense fails to consistently move the chains and keep the defense off the field. The Cards failed to generate a first down on four of their first eight possessions.
- Steve Spagnuolo's defense in midseason form. Breaking in a bevy of young players, the K.C. D looked fast and locked in. The front pestered Murray and hemmed in the QB. Rookie George Karlaftis generated four pressures and two QB hits, per Next Gen Stats, and added a batted pass. And while Chris Jones might not have stuffed the stat sheet, he lived in the backfield, wrecking the Cards' O-line. The secondary was sticky, netting five passes defended while holding Murray to under 200 yards passing. It was a resounding win by the Chiefs in every facet of the season opener.
Next Gen stat of the game: Patrick Mahomes generated a 110.6 passer rating versus 2-high safety shell (career-low 85.8 passer rating on such snaps in 2021).
NFL Research: Patrick Mahomes is one of six players in NFL history with at least six career games with 5-plus pass TDs. He has played in 64 career games. The others played in at least 240-plus career games: Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Dan Marino.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- Justin Herbert is dialed in. The third-year quarterback picked up right where he left off in 2021, letting it rip early and often to the tune of 279 yards and three touchdowns. He found his targets all over the field and stuffed the highlight reel with jaw-dropping throws, firing a bullet between two defenders to DeAndre Carter for a touchdown, then rolling to his left and delivering a back-shoulder dart to Gerald Everett, who managed to stumble his way into the end zone for another score. Herbert was sharp all afternoon and showed little preference when choosing his intended receiver, connecting with nine different pass-catchers along the way. The points-producers came as a surprise, too: Carter, fullback Zander Horvath and Everett all reached the end zone through the air. Los Angeles' offense was humming from the start, scoring in both quick and methodical fashions, and doing enough to seal the victory at the end. The end result: a win and a positive start to the 2022 season.
- The Carr-Adams connection is strong ... but not enough. The old Fresno State duo demonstrated their rapport throughout the afternoon, but a crutch emerged: Derek Carr targeted Davante Adams nearly three times as often as the next closest pass catcher on his team (17 to six). Adams produced accordingly, catching 10 passes for 141 yards and a fingertip grab for a touchdown. But the rest of the offense lagged behind enough to put the Raiders in a tough spot when they absolutely needed a conversion. Darren Waller caught four passes for 79 yards, including a 31-yard reception that set up a score, but the distribution was too lopsided. In the end, the Chargers knew where to focus -- on Adams -- to force Carr to hesitate, and two strip-sacks ended the Raiders' chances.
- The reformulated Chargers defense shines. Los Angeles was aggressive in the offseason, landing big names like Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson to add to what was already a promising unit. Jackson (ankle) didn't play Sunday, but Mack sure did. His three sacks all came in key moments, and his last pushed the Raiders' backs up against a wall they could not escape. Another new pickup, cornerback Bryce Callahan, snagged a key interception early in the fourth to end a Las Vegas possession. A total team effort was needed to limit the Raiders and hang on, and the Chargers did just that, intercepting Carr three times and finishing with six sacks. That's how you win an AFC West showdown in 2022.
Next Gen stat of the game: Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa combined for 16 pressures, 4.5 sacks and two turnovers caused by pressure in Sunday's win.
NFL Research: Khalil Mack had three sacks, four QB hits and one forced fumble in his Chargers debut, his first three-plus-sack game since Week 14 of the 2015 season. He's only the fifth non-rookie to have three-plus sacks in a debut with a new team (since individual sacks were first recorded in 1982).
Eric Edholm's takeaways:
- Early woes plague Packers offense. Aaron Rodgers wasn't pleased early on -- for good reason. The Packers looked sluggish and disjointed early on offensively, taking a conservative approach out of the gate, and Rodgers didn't hide his anger on the sideline. He opened the game 1-of-5 passing for 6 yards with a sack on first two drives; that included rookie Christian Watson dropping what would have been an easy 75-yard touchdown and a 7-7 ballgame. Instead, the Packers trailed 17-zip at half, mustering only six first downs and 100 yards of offense. They left seven more points on the field after a goal-line stop that could have changed the complexion of the game. The shorthanded offensive line certainly deserves some blame, as the unit lacking arguably its two best linemen, tackles David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins, struggled consistently. But that's now two straight years in which the Packers' offense came out flat in Week 1. Perhaps Matt LaFleur will rethink not giving his offensive starters any real preseason reps the last two years, but that's now a 2023 concern. The Packers opened things up some in the second half, but a third-quarter fumble and a late turnover on downs closed the door. They need to get on track with the 1-0 rival Bears coming to town next week.
- A little payback for Za'Darius. Vikings edge Za'Darius Smith indicated that at least part of the reason he signed with Minnesota was to face the Packers twice per season. And it didn't take long for the ex-Packer to inflict some pain on his former squad. Smith sacked Rodgers late in the first quarter to end a promising Green Bay drive, then tackled AJ Dillon before the goal line on a huge fourth-down stop in the second quarter and even managed to get in a post-throw shot on Rodgers on his second-quarter interception. Smith most definitely took his exit from Green Bay personally and clearly was licking his chops to exact a little revenge. Smith had a little light-hearted exchange with Rodgers when the QB blocked (er, ran interference on) Smith. But the pass rusher was all business early and was a huge reason why the Vikings' defense set the tone in the first half.
- Packers have no answer for Jefferson. The Packers had no first-half answers for Justin Jefferson. He diced them up for six receptions for 158 yards and two TDs ... in the first half. Four of those catches went for 20-plus yards. On nearly every catch, it felt like Jefferson had two or three body lengths' worth of separation between him and the closest DB. The Packers played a lot of zone coverage over putting top cornerback Jaire Alexander on him. The pre-game thinking might have been to make Kirk Cousins and the Vikings inch their way down the field, which makes sense in theory. But that plan should have gone out the U.S. Bank Stadium windows sooner after Jefferson wrecked them repeatedly. We saw Alexander matched up on Jefferson some in the second half, but by that point the game was academic. They'd be foolish to try the former approach when the teams meet again in Week 17 on New Year's Day in Green Bay.
Next Gen stat of the game: The Packers are now 2-3 in games Aaron Rodgers started vs. the Vikings since 2020 (26-4 in all other games). Minnesota is the only team Rodgers has lost multiple games against since 2020.
NFL Research: Justin Jefferson accounted for 90.9% of the Vikings' air yards in the first half. He led the NFL in air yards share in 2021 (45.2%).
Bobby Kownack's takeaways:
- Titans' pass rush shows up without Landry, rest of team doesn't. The biggest question mark going into Sunday's game was how Tennessee would handle rushing the passer after the team's 2021 sack leader, Harold Landry, suffered a torn ACL during the preseason. The Titans defensive line answered the call, pressuring Giants quarterback Daniel Jones on 69.2% of dropbacks, per Next Gen Stats. 2021 fourth-round defensive end Rashad Weaver had only two total tackles last year. On Sunday, he had two sacks. Defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons also had two, including a strip-sack, and linebacker Bud Dupree contributed another. The rest of the Titans will be scratching their heads after allowing the Giants to come back from a 13-0 halftime deficit to tie the game in the third quarter, and then again letting a seven-point lead slip in the game's waning moments. Of the Titans' six second-half possessions, one went for 95 yards and a touchdown. The other five produced a combined 80 yards, four punts, and a missed 47-yard field goal by Randy Bullock as time expired. This wasn't the return Tennessee needed to wipe 2021 from their memories.
- Daboll Effect delayed but worth it. The Giants offense came out of the gates sluggish, totaling just 131 yards and no points in six drives during the first half. The goose egg did not persist into the second half for long. Sparked by a 68-yard run by Saquon Barkley, Big Blue went 90 yards on four plays for their first score of the season. The Giants attacked through the air on their next possession, scoring again to even the game 13-13 on a 65-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Sterling Shepard. Of course, it wasn't always pretty. Jones threw an ugly fourth-quarter pick in the end zone to Titans safety Amani Hooker on a throw that could've tied things up following a muffed punt, but the Giants subsequently rebounded for their best and final drive of the day. It took 11 plays, which were heavily paced by Barkley (six touches), to go 72 yards and reach Tennessee's 1-yard line. Knowing what Tennessee was expecting, Daboll put his trust in Jones to finish things off with a pass to fullback Chris Myarick. Down one, the Giants went back to the well for a two-point conversion. Barkley initially looked destined to come up short on a shuffle pass, but he instead sliced around the Titans' edge and slipped in for what proved to be the winning score. It was an impressive drive and a gutsy call at the perfect moment. The Giants haven't won more than six games since 2016, but the foundation for optimism has officially been laid.
- The backs are back. Titans running back Derrick Henry missed nine games last year with a broken foot after never playing in fewer than 15 games in his previous five seasons, and Barkley has missed 21 games since 2019. Both had something to prove, and both did so today. For Henry, it was the ability to hold up under a large workload. He did just that, going for 82 yards on 21 carries with a long of 18. Henry did not have any of his typical eye-popping plays with defenders being shed in his wake, but the Titans will again be able to lean on him in 2022. Barkley, meanwhile, was a revelation. He delivered the 68-yard wake-up call the Giants needed on their first play of the second half by bouncing far outside and jetting down the sideline. He added another exclamation point to kickstart Big Blue's winning drive on a 33-yard line straight through the teeth of the Tennessee defense. He finished the day with 18 carries for 164 and one TD, plus another 30 yards on six receptions. The fifth-year back is in his contract year, and he showed what's possibly to come by providing a glimpse of the Barkley of years past.
Next Gen stat of the game: Jeffery Simmons and Bud Dupree combined for 12 quarterback pressures, three sacks and a turnover on 21 pass rushes each.
NFL Research: This was Saquon Barkley's second career game with 150-plus rushing yards on fewer than 20 carries. The only other player with multiple such games in the last five seasons is Derrick Henry (also with two).
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Justin Fields, Bears overcome sloppy start to stun 49ers. Fields' play was as ugly as the weather early, with the quarterback struggling with accuracy and looking scatterbrained behind a porous offensive line. Fields posted a 2.8 passer rating with an ugly interception in the first half. It took a broken-play, 51-yard TD to Dante Pettis deep in the third quarter to wake up a hibernating Bears offense. Outside of the two TD tosses, Fields looked a lot like he did during an up-and-down rookie campaign. The difference Sunday is he made plays down the stretch, got Chicago into the right calls, and outplayed Trey Lance in crunch time. There will be growing pains with the young offense, but it's much sweeter to learn with Ws in the win column.
- Lance struggles in Windy City opener. The second-year quarterback flashed some of the playmaking traits that have the 49ers brass excited. When he rips it, Lance can fit the ball into any hole, and he netted a couple of beautiful balls downfield. But there were far too many negatives Sunday. Lance missed a host of passes and tossed an ugly INT when he stared down the wideout. The QB completed just 13 of 28 passes for 164 yards and took two sacks. When the 49ers' run game was slowed in the second half sans Elijah Mitchell (knee), Lance couldn't raise his play in rainy conditions. It's too early in the campaign for murmurs of Jimmy Garoppolo taking over to garner more than pot-stirrer level consideration. But it wasn't a positive start to the Lance era.
- Bears prove the more disciplined team. In the monsoon that unleased itself on Soldier Field, Matt Eberflus' squad stayed disciplined as the 49ers shot themselves in the foot time and time again. Kyle Shanahan's club was flagged 12 times for 99 yards, including a cavalcade down the stretch. Meanwhile, the Bears weren't penalized once in the second half. Chicago forced two big turnovers -- a punchout by Jaylon Johnson on the 49ers' opening drive that wiped away certain points, and an Eddie Jackson interception that led to the game-sealing score. If Chicago can play defense like it did Sunday and avoid mistakes, this could be a friskier team than we thought entering the season.
Next Gen stat of the game: The Bears generated 13 QB pressures with four or fewer pass rushers (most by CHI since 2020).
NFL Research: Sunday was the second straight time the 49ers have had a shutout at halftime and have lost the game (Other: Week 16, 2021 at Tennessee).
Eric Edholm's takeaways:
- Patriots' offensive struggles carry over into Week 1. All preseason, the reports of the New England offense had been quite grim and dim. There was little faith that nominal offensive coordinator Matt Patricia would have a firm grasp on the play-calling duties, and the lack of big-play production loomed as a concern. Those were issues in the Patriots' loss Sunday -- but wait, there were more! Three turnovers (two by Mac Jones, including a strip-sack return for a touchdown) put the Patriots behind the 8-ball, and this is not a team built to erase big leads. The Patriots' best drive of the game came when they went up-tempo to start the third quarter, down 17-0. Moving the ball wasn't the biggest issue; they crossed midfield five times but turned that into a mere seven points. Jones looked a bit frazzled at times, hindered by pressure. Twice he had to call timeouts on key downs to get on the same page with the coaching staff. Right now, this is a disjointed unit as the Patriots start preparing for a Steelers defense that forced five Joe Burrow turnovers in Week 1.
- Tyreek's new role in Miami. Tua Tagovailoa to Tyreek Hill didn't look exactly like Patrick Mahomes to Hill did the past five years. But just because the Dolphins weren't taking consistent shots downfield to Hill didn't mean it wasn't a successful debut with his new team. Outside of one spectacular jump-ball win 20-plus yards downfield in the second quarter, Hill mostly caught short passes and revved them into decent gains. Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones is no stranger to Hill, having matched up with him several times before, and Jones did a solid job on Hill for the most part. But the Week 1 returns -- eight catches on 12 targets for 96 yards and a 6-yard run -- were promising enough. Don't assume the deep ball won't develop over time. Tagovailoa and Hill have plenty of time to get that going, and the Patriots just were not going to give them that in Week 1.
- Difference in aggressiveness. With just under a minute left until halftime, Patriots edge Matt Judon sacked Tagovailoa to force a third-and-19 for the Dolphins. Bill Belichick did not attempt to stop the clock with timeouts. The Dolphins picked up 12 on third down and then went for it on fourth-and-7 from the New England 42. With only 24 seconds left in the half, Mike McDaniel went for it -- and Tagovailoa hit a streaking Jaylen Waddle for a TD, giving Miami a 17-0 lead. That was pretty much the game. Yes, New England cut that lead to 17-7, but it took 15 plays and more than eight minutes to log its one TD. The Patriots showed a lack of trust in their offense at the end of the first half, while the Dolphins put faith in theirs. That was a big difference in Week 1.
Next Gen stat of the game: Mac Jones was 4-of-10 passing for 89 yards with an interception on passes of more than 10 air yards.
NFL Research: Tua Tagovailoa is now 4-0 against the Patriots in his career. He's the only QB to remain undefeated in at least four starts against New England during the Bill Belichick era.
Eric Edholm's takeaways:
- Lamar Jackson can still sling it. Betting on himself this season after contract negotiations stalled, Jackson injected some life into a sluggish Ravens offense with his arm. Even as his receivers let him down a few times, Jackson remained patient and got the passing game humming against an improved Jets defense. Devin Duvernay, who had two career touchdown catches coming into the game, had two scores on Sunday -- from 17 and 25 yards. Then Rashod Bateman, who had an ugly drop earlier, dusted the Jets secondary to haul in a 55-yard dime from Jackson. Up three scores in the fourth quarter, the Ravens kept throwing. It's a clear indication that's the most trusted element of their offense right now.
- Joe Flacco, Jets offense face boos. The Jets will be without Zach Wilson for at least two more games, and there's suddenly a critical need to find answers on offense in his absence. Flacco finished the game with 307 passing yards, but it took 59 pass attempts to get there. It wasn't a pretty game for the Jets' offense outside of Michael Carter making some plays. Flacco was sacked three times and hit 10 times -- bad for any QB, but certainly for an immobile 37-year-old making only his second start in two seasons. Mike White chants struck up in the second half, and perhaps the Jets will be compelled to make a change before Wilson is back. But White would be subjected to the same issues Flacco was: a shorthanded offensive line that committed three penalties and allowed too many free rushers.
- Ravens' run game sluggish. Jackson was the Ravens' leading rusher at halftime -- with 4 yards on one carry. The team accumulated only 8 first-half rushing yards, the fewest in the Jackson era. He rarely left the pocket early, limiting Jackson's scrambling possibilities. But it also speaks to the struggles of the running backs, who combined for 46 rushing yards on 15 carries, with a long run of 10. Mike Davis also almost coughed up a ball late in the third quarter, with the Jets still within striking distance. It also didn't help that oft-injured Ja'Wuan James -- Ronnie Stanley's replacement at left tackle — went down early in the game with an Achilles injury. The Ravens were limited with RB J.K. Dobbins inactive, as Davis, Justice Hill and Kenyan Drake had trouble finding daylight. Baltimore has ranked third, first, first and second in the NFL in rushing yards since drafting Jackson, and he's clearly been a big part of that.
Next Gen stat of the game: This was Lamar Jackson's first career game with three deep touchdown passes. He had only four such passes for the entire 2021 season.
NFL Research: With Sunday's win, the Ravens snapped their second-longest losing streak in franchise history (six games).
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- A.J. Brown is always open. The stud receiver proved his worth right out of the gate after the offseason trade from Tennessee. Brown was a difference-maker Sunday, catching 10 of 13 targets for 155 yards. Whenever Jalen Hurts needed a big play, he looked to Brown, who tortured Lions defensive backs. On many routes, Brown's precision got him wide open, making for easy gains. The Eagles had good offensive weapons, but Brown raises things to another level. The wideout's chemistry with Hurts is already in midseason form. Big things are in store for the duo in 2022.
- D'Andre Swift shines for plucky Lions. The running back blasted off for a 50-yard dash on his first touch of the game. The only thing that slowed Swift was when he went to the bench. Swift rushed 15 times for 144 yards (a whopping 9.6 YPC) with a TD. He also added three catches for 31 yards. The Lions wanted to see more from the shifty back in Year 3. They saw plenty in the season opener. Swift displayed burst to the hole, shiftiness in space, a third gear in the third level and a willingness to take on contact. Swift looked like a clear No. 1 back. While Detroit wants to share carries, Swift deserves a few more touches his way each week.
- Eagles outlast Lions late. Nick Sirianni can't love that his defense got rolled over far too often by the Lions in the second half. But the run game kept Detroit at bay. Philly gashed the Lions for 216 rushing yards and four rushing scores by four different players. Credit Dan Campbell's team for battling to the end. The Eagles had multiple two-score leads but couldn't put Detroit away. This is a Lions team that seems poised to be in a lot of games, but, like Sunday, doesn't have the horses to overcome the talent gap of a team like Philly. Credit Sirianni for going for it and trusting Hurts on fourth-and-1 with less than two minutes left to seal the win. While Philly's D played well for stretches, and the secondary looks sticky, we'll need to see more in the coming weeks.
Next Gen stat of the game: Jalen Hurts utilized play-action on 48.5% of dropbacks (10-16, 112 yards).
NFL Research: A.J. Brown's 128 yards in the first half were the most in the first half in a team debut by any non-rookie since at least 1991.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- The calendar changed, but Cleveland remains dominant on the ground. The Browns set the tone early with a pounding, relentless rushing attack that paced an offense that unsurprisingly lacked explosiveness through the air. No matter. Nick Chubb ripped up 141 yards on 22 carries, while Kareem Hunt served as the lightning to his thunder, gaining 46 yards and scoring a touchdown on 11 carries. Cleveland squandered a few opportunities to extend its lead and nearly blew the game, but without the rushing attack, it likely wouldn't have had enough to get in position to win, anyway. This will be the Browns' mode of operation for the next three months.
- Baker Mayfield brought the fight. The former Browns passer got off to a rocky start, with a handful of early pass attempts getting tipped at the line, and he threw an ugly interception that was very familiar to Cleveland fans. Carolina's offense was dysfunctional, if not lifeless for the majority of the first half. And then, thanks to the contributions of Christian McCaffrey, Carolina woke up -- and nearly won the game. Mayfield scored on the ground, fired a 75-yard touchdown pass to Robbie Anderson, and led a scoring drive to put the Panthers ahead. Carolina lost, but not entirely because of Mayfield. His first-half struggles disappeared with the Panthers' frantic comeback, and his final stat line -- 16-of-27, 235 yards, one touchdown and one interception -- stood up well enough to have a chance to win. It's not victorious, but it is commendable.
- The Browns exorcised a demon. Cleveland hadn't won a season-opening game since the first term of the George W. Bush administration, and its fans had become accustomed to Week 1 losses as much as they were the rising and setting of the sun. Sunday seemed to be setting up as a disaster scenario for the Browns, but they managed to build enough of a lead to give themselves a chance. And when the walls started crashing down around them, Cleveland's fourth-round investment in rookie kicker Cade York proved to be worth it. His 58-yard bomb saved the day and lifted the Browns to victory. After an offseason filled with distraction (brought on by their own decisions), the Browns will enjoy a Victory Monday and a 1-0 start for the first time since 2004.
Next Gen stat of the game: Nick Chubb gained 112 of his 141 rushing yards after contact Sunday, the fifth-most rushing yards after contact gained in a game in his career.
NFL Research: Cade York's 58-yard field goal lifted the Browns to victory and reset the record for the longest field goal made by a rookie kicker in his team's first game in NFL history. York's game-winning kick topped the previous mark set by both Blair Walsh (2012 with Minnesota) and John Hall (1997 with the New York Jets).
Michael Baca's takeaways:
- Saints pull off incredible fourth-quarter comeback. Seventeen plays on three possessions is all the Saints needed to complete a thrilling 16-point comeback in the fourth quarter. Everything changed for the Jameis Winston-led offense once the Saints decided to run the two-minute drill for the extent of the final frame, during which a large majority of Winston's 269 passing yards on the day came. The pacing was too much for a Falcons defense that had dominated for three quarters, and its young secondary finally succumbed to the talented receiving corps of Jarvis Landry (seven receptions for 114 yards), Michael Thomas (five catches for 57 yards and two touchdowns) and rookie Chris Olave (3/41) as Atlanta's pass rush died down. Why the Saints didn't just start with this hurried offense is a question for another day, but New Orleans escaped what was looking like a sure stumble out of the gate.
- Michael Thomas, Wil Lutz return with a bang. The Saints' star wideout and placekicker missed all of 2021 due to injury, and their presence was necessary to win 2022's season opener. Thomas was slow to start by going reception-less through the first half, but was the MVP of the fourth-quarter comeback by scoring both of the Saints' TDs. Thomas did it all against the Falcons' best cover man, A.J. Terrell, making his long-awaited return all that more impressive. Lutz's return may have only been anticipated to those in the greater New Orleans area, but the veteran went on to kick the game-winning field goal from 51 yards away with 29 seconds left.
- Falcons continue to have troubles closing it out. With their team up 23-10 and with possession of the ball entering the fourth quarter, Falcons fans were seemingly about to blow the roof off Mercedes-Benz Stadium with a season-opening win over a hated rival in their sights. Atlanta relaxed while the Saints crept through the backdoor. While the Falcons' pass defense got burned by a fast-paced offense late, the Atlanta offense didn't do it any favors with three fruitless possessions in the fourth quarter. Up until that point, Dean Pees' unit was making life difficult for Winston (four sacks, eight QB hits) but the pass rush went absent when Atlanta needed it most. The same story went for Atlanta's offense, despite Cordarrelle Patterson's 120 rushing yards (one TD) and Marcus Mariota playing mistake-free football as a passer (20-of-33 for 215 yards). In the end, however, there were too many missed opportunities to score more points for the Falcons as 12 of their points were off the foot of Younghoe Koo.
Next Gen stat of the game: Michael Thomas had three receptions for 33 yards and two touchdowns on three targets outside the numbers.
NFL Research: Atlanta has blown three 15-plus-point leads since 2020. The rest of the league has blown two 15-plus-point leads combined.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- Steelers' stingy defense starts strong. Pittsburgh's offseason changes and mainstays teamed up to storm out of the gates, forcing four first-half turnovers and returning the first (a Minkah Fitzpatrick pick) for a touchdown. Instead of being forced to play catch-up with the explosive Bengals, Pittsburgh took command of the game with the efforts of its defense (notably, Alex Highsmith recorded three sacks). That held true for most of the game, with the Steelers limiting the Bengals to a field goal on a red-zone trip before the half, and the unit stepped up when it mattered most, strip-sacking Joe Burrow and pushing the Bengals out of field goal range in overtime. There were miscues in between, but Pittsburgh undoubtedly made a statement with its ferocious play, which included seven sacks.
- Blunders cost Bengals. Burrow tied Kurt Warner by breaking 7,500 career passing yards in the third-fewest games in NFL history (27), but it's fair to assume he'd like to forget this one. Burrow struggled mightily, throwing four interceptions in the game and facing constant harassment that was all too familiar to the franchise signal-caller. Burrow was responsible for all five Cincinnati turnovers, and even after he was able to help the Bengals get back into the game, Cincinnati couldn't finish the job on special teams. A blocked extra-point attempt sent the game to overtime, and a bad snap resulted in a missed field goal in the extra period, giving the Steelers new life. They capitalized in the final seconds of the game, sending the division rival to an 0-1 start.
- Steelers escape with a win, but not without harm. The usual suspect, T.J. Watt, was again a force in the season-opening win, recording one sack and having another wiped out by a penalty committed downfield. His impressive interception put the Steelers in position to score (they did on a 1-yard touchdown pass to Najee Harris), and he was a factor throughout the game -- that is, until he exited with what's feared to be a torn pectoral muscle. Harris didn't leave unscathed, either, limping off with a foot injury less than two months after he sustained a Lisfranc injury in camp. The two are a couple of the most important players on Pittsburgh's roster, and the thrill of a Week 1 win could be significantly dampened if both are set to miss multiple games.
Next Gen stat of the game: The Steelers got after Joe Burrow, and didn't even need extra rushers to do it. Pittsburgh pressured Burrow 20 times without blitzing for a pressure rate of 37.7%, well above Burrow's average pressure faced last season, regardless of blitz (28.5 percent).
NFL Research: With Sunday's win, Mitch Trubisky improved his record to 4-0 versus AFC North opponents in his career. He stands as one of three quarterbacks (Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees are the others) with two-plus wins and zero losses versus AFC North squads since 2017.
Michael Baca's takeaways:
- Washington quickly experiences life with Carson Wentz. Everything seemed fine and dandy after Wentz's first two possessions as a Commander, orchestrating two 70-plus-yard drives and punctuating them with touchdown throws. The Commanders didn't score again until the 9:43 mark of the fourth quarter after letting a lead slip away. Wentz found Terry McLaurin down the sideline on a 49-yard TD pass to get within two points, and followed it up with a 90-yard drive that ended with a Jahan Dotson's game-winning touchdown reception with fewer than two minutes to play. Wentz completed 27 of 41 passes for 313 yards and four touchdowns, but two ghastly interceptions of his helped the Jaguars get back in the game and attributed to Washington's inept offense for a large chunk of Sunday. In the end, Wentz bookended his outing with two consecutive TD drives, which tells the story of a roller-coaster quarterback.
- Commanders receiving corps looks dangerous. Wentz wouldn't have had the success he had without his talented wideouts. Following an absent first year in Washington, Curtis Samuel broke out with eight receptions for 55 yards and a score while adding 17 yards rushing. Wentz's primary target, McLaurin (2/58/1), received plenty of attention from the Jags secondary, but that allowed Wentz to distribute the ball elsewhere with running back Antonio Gibson leading all receivers with seven receptions for 72 yards. Dotson, the rookie of the bunch, had two TD receptions in his NFL debut and rounds out a talented corps that includes pass-catching threats out of the backfield.
- Travis Etienne, Travon Walker have promising debuts in defeat. While several things went wrong for the Jaguars, most notably the constant duress Trevor Lawrence was under (two sacks, 10 QB hits), there were some performances that were promising. The most impressive was that of first-overall pick Walker, who had a sack and an interception while providing consistent pressure off the edge. Etienne, who missed all of his rookie season due to a foot injury, provided a great change of pace for the Jags offense with 65 total yards (18 receiving, 47 rushing), but he did drop a would-be TD in the second quarter on a crucial fourth down. Jacksonville showed fight after stumbling out of the gate, and although it ultimately let Doug Pederson's debut win as coach slip away late, a pair of young cornerstones look promising.
Next Gen stat of the game: Trevor Lawrence was 1-of-6 for 49 yards and an INT on deep passes.
NFL Research: Jaguars LB Travon Walker is the first drafted player to have a sack and an INT in his first career game since 2021 Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt.
Coral Smith's takeaways:
- Mistakes costly in overtime. Both the Colts and Texans were close to pulling out the victory in overtime, and both ended up falling short. After stopping the Texans' opening drive with two sacks from Kwity Paye, the Colts had a chance to win it on a 42-yard field goal attempt, but kicker Rodrigo Blankenship missed wide right. The miss was the culmination of a shaky day for the kicker after sending two kickoffs out of bounds earlier in the game. At that point, Houston had the ball with just under two minutes left and kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn ready to kick for the win. But with a third-and-1 situation at the Indianapolis 47-yard line, running back Rex Burkhead was stuffed before even reaching the line of scrimmage, backing the Texans even farther out of field-goal range and bringing up fourth down. Houston was forced to go for it to try to extend the drive (with the risk that it would give the Colts a better shot at winning), or punt it and essentially accept a tie. Lovie Smith again went for the safe option, and started his head-coaching career with the Texans on a sour note, with his team surrendering a 20-3 lead in the fourth quarter and then failing to finish the job in overtime.
- New QB-WR duo in Indy. Matt Ryan has arrived in Indianapolis, and it appears he's already found his new favorite target. Ryan and Michael Pittman connected for nine receptions for 121 yards in the game. Pittman had over 1,000 yards receiving last season with Carson Wentz under center, and it appears he hasn't missed a beat in the transition to his new QB. The pair's most important connection of the game came with two minutes left, when Ryan found his man for a short pass, after which Pittman juked a defender and dove for the end zone to tie the game, the final score of the contest for either team. While the offense still needs work to fully jell, as there were a couple of key dropped passes and struggles to convert in the red zone, there's definite promise in this pairing, and we'll likely be seeing a lot more of them throughout the season.
- Texans D holds strong. The Texans made a couple of key plays to both limit the Colts' ability to find the end zone early in the game, as well as put the offense in good field position for multiple possessions. Indianapolis was driving in the first quarter and decided to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Running back Nyheim Hines took a direct snap and faked the handoff to star RB Jonathan Taylor before trying to run it up the middle himself. But the Texans defense was not fooled, and Jonathan Greenard stopped Hines in his tracks to take over on downs. Houston made another stop near the goal line in the second half, with rookie Derek Stingley Jr. batting away a potential touchdown pass on third down. The Colts settled for a field goal. The defense also came up with an interception and fumble recovery in the game, both of which set up the offense for TD drives on a short field. Defensive lineman Jerry Hughes was especially impressive, tallying two sacks and a batted-ball interception. While the defense was unable to stop the Colts' comeback late in the final quarter, some of the earlier plays could be signs of good things to come for the young team.
Next Gen stat of the game: Texans quarterback Davis Mills was 6-of-10 for 121 yards and two touchdowns on passes of at least 10 air yards in Sunday's game.
NFL Research: Matt Ryan became the eighth player in NFL history to surpass 60,000 career passing yards in Sunday's game. Achieving the feat in his 223rd NFL game, Ryan is the second-fastest player to reach that milestone.