Around The NFL breaks down what you need to know from all of Sunday's action in Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season. Catch up on each game's biggest takeaways using the links below:
- Atlanta Falcons 24, Carolina Panthers 10
- Baltimore Ravens 25, Houston Texans 9
- Cleveland Browns 24, Cincinnati Bengals 3
- Jacksonville Jaguars 31, Indianapolis Colts 21
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20, Minnesota Vikings 17
- New Orleans Saints 16, Tennessee Titans 15
- San Francisco 49ers 30, Pittsburgh Steelers 7
- Washington Commanders 20, Arizona Cardinals 16
Bobby Kownack's takeaways:
- Cowboys pick up where they left off. Dallas earned a reputation for sniffing out the ball last year while leading the league with 33 takeaways. The defense and special teams assured no one would accuse the squad of losing that opportunistic spirit on Sunday night. First, safety Juanyeh Thomas knifed through the line to block the Giants' opening-drive field-goal attempt, which cornerback Noah Igbinoghene scooped up and returned 58 yards for a score. Two drives later, Trevon Diggs delivered a big-time hit on Saquon Barkley seconds after the running back collected a pass, sending the ball airborne into the waiting arms of DaRon Bland. He, too, found the end zone. The Cowboys offense only completed one first-quarter drive, yet Dallas ended the frame with a 16-0 lead. America's Team would amass another 24 unanswered points and two more forced turnovers before the night came to a merciful end. It was an utterly dominant display of force.
- Mike McCarthy's offense doesn't just ride coattails. Dak Prescott and Co. weren't amazing, but such a thrashing didn't require them to be. The flashes they did show should deliver a dose of optimism in McCarthy's first year calling plays since his days in Green Bay. Although Prescott produced an unexciting line with 13 completions for 143 yards and no touchdowns of his own, his brand of mistake-free football led to points on five of seven drives. Tony Pollard looked far removed from the broken leg he suffered to end last year. The new workhorse exhibited bounce aplenty on his way to two TDs and 82 yards on 16 touches. Plus, the electric KaVontae Turpin exceeded his four measly offensive touches from last year with three carries, two catches and a score. All in all, the starting offense finished with 257 yards, 27 points and its first Week 1 win since 2019.
- What could go wrong, did go wrong. The Giants leaned impressively on the run game to drive down to the Cowboys' 8-yard line on their first possession. Then the wheels fell off. A false start moved them back to the 13, a botched snap put them farther in reverse to the 27 and the Cowboys blocked the ensuing field-goal try for a score. That opening drive set the tone for a disastrous performance. New York simply had no answer for a swarming Dallas D. Quarterback Daniel Jones went 15 of 28 for 104 yards, two interceptions and a 32.4 passer rating, an outing that still sounds better than it was thanks to garbage time. He was harried and harassed throughout, taking seven sacks and seeing pressure on 62.9% of his dropbacks, per Next Gen Stats. The offense under Jones gained just 2.6 yards per play. The Giants' defense also struggled playing behind the eight ball, allowing five scoring drives, and Graham Gano missed a second, unblocked field-goal attempt. The Giants were steamrolled in every phase. A third-place finisher in the NFC East last year, New York looked nowhere near a team primed to jump a spot, much less two.
Next Gen stat of the game: The Cowboys generated pressure on 23 of 36 dropbacks (63.9%), tied for the second-highest pressure rate in a game since 2019. Dallas had eight defenders generate multiple pressures, including four with at least five pressures.
NFL Research: Sunday night's 40-0 result is the largest shutout win in Cowboys history, topping Dallas' 38-0 victory over the Baltimore Colts in 1978. The Cowboys teams with the next three largest shutouts all reached the Super Bowl.
Eric Edholm's takeaways:
- Jordan Love looks great, as Packers' mastery over the Bears continues. The Bears cut into the Packers' lead late in the third quarter, trimming the deficit to 10 points. All the momentum was on Chicago's side after Green Bay had punted the previous possession. But with three throws, Love ended the Bears' hopes. Love hit rookie WR Jayden Reed for 18 yards on third-and-8, rookie TE Luke Musgrave for 37 yards and then WR Romeo Doubs on a 4-yard TD. Love misfired on a few passes and has things to clean up. But you couldn't have scripted a much better season debut in the post-Aaron Rodgers era. Love was dialed in all game, from the opening-drive TD to their fifth scoring drive of the game. It's a new era in Green Bay, yet the Packers' dominance over the Bears continues.
- Bears struggled to get Justin Fields-DJ Moore combo going. The Bears trailed 24-6 in the third quarter when they ran twice (draining over a minute off the clock) before Fields fumbled on a sack, leading to a chorus of Bears fans' boos. That series summed up a frustrating day for the offense, which suffered from poor execution but also didn't seem to be helped by the game plan. The first-half play-calling seemed predictable: heavy on screens and Fields scrambles and barely attacking the middle of the field. The second half wasn't much different until it was too late. Fields connected twice with Moore early in the second quarter -- and didn't target him again until the two-point conversion when they trailed by three scores. That connection has to be better going forward.
- The Packers got away from Aaron Jones before remembering he's awesome. Jones' number was called six times on Green Bay's opening TD drive, and it was hardly shocking. With no Christian Watson, and it being Jordan Love's first start at Soldier Field, Jones figured to be busy. But somehow, the Packers went the next four possessions without giving him a touch (one target). That was rectified in the second half, with Jones scoring twice. The key play was Jones' 35-yard TD catch on fourth-and-3, dusting Bears LB T.J. Edwards in man coverage. Jones suffered a hamstring injury on the run, but on only 11 touches, he was arguably the best player on the field.
Next Gen stat of the game: Packers RB Aaron Jones finished with 86 yards receiving -- and all 86 were after the catch on his two receptions.
NFL Research: Justin Fields led the Bears in rushing Sunday with 59 yards. He's now led Chicago in rushing in 10 of his past 12 games.
Bobby Kownack's takeaways:
- Raiders overcome costly mistakes. Las Vegas scored the result it desired, but this was by no means a clean outing for the Silver and Black. The Raiders committed 10 penalties, six of which gave Denver a new set of downs, and two of which occurred on Broncos fourth downs. The Raiders still held their opponent to just 16 points, but there will be much consternation in the film review come Monday. Doing just enough despite costly errors was the theme of the day for Josh McDaniels' crew, as it bled over to QB Jimmy Garoppolo, as well. The first-year Raider eventually led the 12th fourth-quarter comeback of his career, but before that, he closed his team's lone third-quarter possession on Sunday with disaster. The former Niner fumbled a snap on first-and-goal from the 1-yard line that he fell back on top of, then followed that up three plays later with a pick in end-zone traffic. Like his defense, he overcame the mistakes, but there's no guarantee the Raiders will do the same thing next time.
- Jimmy G shows quick chemistry with top two WRs. Garoppolo took the field knowing which players to look for, and he did so again and again against a stingy Broncos defense. Of his 26 attempts for 200 yards, he split 19 targets between Jakobi Meyers (10) and Davante Adams (nine). Adams got his, like he so often does, collecting six catches for 66 yards and delivering daggers to Denver on several scramble drills. Meyers was the surprise connection, though, putting the exclamation point on Las Vegas' opening and closing TD drives with 3- and 6-yard catches. Meyers' nine receptions and 81 yards led the team in both categories and brought the combined total for Garoppolo's two favorite targets to 147 yards. On a day where Josh Jacobs amassed just 71 total yards with 2.5 yards per carry, another route to winning emerged for the Raiders.
- Broncos' offense falls flat. Head coach Sean Payton's fingerprints appeared to be all over the Broncos' production in the early going. Russell Wilson initially looked far closer to his prime in Seattle than the disaster that was his inaugural season in Denver, throwing just two incompletions on 19 first-half attempts, with one of those being a spike to stop the clock. He capped off two drives of 75-plus yards with touchdown throws, and the team went into halftime with a 13-10 lead. But the unit slowed in the second half to produce just three more points. Even when the Broncos moved the chains, splash plays were difficult to come by, replaced instead by dinking and dunking. In the end, Denver matched the exact score of their much-maligned opener last season. Worse yet, Payton's old reliable kicker, Wil Lutz, whom the team traded for at the end of August, left four points on the board in missed kicks.
Next Gen stat of the game: Broncos QB Russell Wilson went 6 of 7 for 68 yards and two touchdowns on intermediate passes (10-19 air yards). Wilson had four touchdowns and six interceptions on such passes last season.
NFL Research: Raiders WR Jakobi Meyers caught more than one touchdown in a game for the first time in his career.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- Tua and the Dolphins make a statement. Since the moment Justin Herbert established his place among the NFL's brightest young passers, Miami fans have been hoping for Tua Tagovailoa to catch up to him. On Sunday, he did. Tagovailoa completed 28 of 45 passes for 466 yards and three touchdowns, with the lone blemish coming when he threw a jump ball toward Braxton Berrios in the end zone, ending in a J.C. Jackson interception. Tagovailoa wasn't fazed, quickly going deep again as soon as the Dolphins regained possession, throwing a 35-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill (who exploded for 215 receiving yards and two scores) to regain the lead. Instead of creating more fodder for critics who have said the Dolphins should have taken Herbert instead of Tagovailoa in the 2020 NFL Draft, Tagovailoa rose to the occasion, engaging in a shootout and coming out as the deadeye.
- Chargers let one slip away. Los Angeles did a great job of mixing up tempo throughout the game, capitalizing on personnel mismatches with an intermittent no-huddle attack. Austin Ekeler proved his worth, totaling 164 yards (including 117 on the ground) to help power an offense that was certainly capable of keeping up in a scoreboard race. But when things got close late, the Chargers weren't able to deliver. The same up-tempo approach seemed to cause a bit of confusion on a third-down play that ended in an incompletion, forcing the Chargers to settle for a field goal and allowing the Dolphins to stay in the game in the final minutes. Ekeler had just three touches for 8 yards in the fourth quarter, which leads to questions about whether the result would have been different had the team put the ball in his hands more down the stretch. They'll need to be better in key moments to win battles like this going forward in what promises to be a tough AFC.
- Miami's defense shows glimpses of potential. Yes, the Dolphins gave up 433 yards and 34 points. Yes, they surrendered explosive plays and couldn't protect narrow leads for much of the game. But in the biggest moments, the defense delivered. With just minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Miami stood tall with its back against its own goal line, forcing the Chargers to settle for a field goal. After the Dolphins reclaimed the lead with less than 2 minutes to play, the defense threw caution to the wind, dialing up multiple blitzes and seeing instant results, as Herbert committed intentional grounding and was sacked twice. There's plenty to clean up, but there are some monsters in Miami's front seven. They showed up when it mattered most.
Next Gen stat of the game: Tua Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill combined for 188 yards on passes over 10 air yards, including a catch rate over expected of +19.9 percent on such attempts.
NFL Research: Tua Tagovailoa's 466 yards are the most passing yards in a single game versus the Chargers in NFL history.
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Eagles' D spearheads hot start, holds on late. Darius Slay intercepted Mac Jones on the Patriots' first drive of the game, weaving his way for a 70-yard score on the return. The next play from scrimmage, Jordan Davis stripped Ezekiel Elliott, setting up a short score to put Philly up 16-0. The Eagles' D then forced three consecutive three-and-outs. But the Pats hung around, despite the awful start. In crucial moments, the Eagles' big names stepped up. Fletcher Cox made huge plays in the backfield to turn the Patriots over on downs. Leading by five, the Philly defense made two more massive stops late to ice the win when the offense couldn't. The Eagles generated 20 QB pressures, per Next Gen Stats. They didn't have a sack on the first 11 drives but took down Jones twice late, including one for rookie Jalen Carter. On a day the offense struggled, the Philly D came to play on the road.
- Patriots' offense rides the roller coaster. The start was disastrous, as Bill O'Brien's offense generated 43 net yards on the first five drives of the game. But Mac Jones got rolling late in the first half, throwing pretty TD passes to Hunter Henry and Kendrick Bourne. The Patriots' lack of a rushing attack killed any balance, as Jones attempted 54 passes (completing 35 for 316 yards, 3 TDs and an INT). Jones did well to avoid pressure from the Eagles' potent front and spread the ball to eight pass catchers. Bourne was the best of the bunch, showing the ability to create space and corralling two scores. He's New England's WR1. But when the defense gave them a shot late to steal the game, the offense came up shy, with the threat ending when rookie Kayshon Boutte couldn't get two feet down inbounds. Overall, it wasn't the prettiest outing, but it was better than the offense New England rolled out last season.
- Eagles' offense looks rusty to open the season. Perhaps it's simply the product of facing a good Bill Belichick defense, with horses up front and months to prepare, but Philly's offense looked like a shell of what we saw last season. The Eagles couldn't punch it in outside of a short-field TD, settling for four field goals. Jalen Hurts rarely took deep shots, with only one Eagles pass play going for more than 15 yards. The ground game was stymied (3.9 yards per attempt on 25 carries), and Hurts flubbed what could have been a game-changing fumble late in the contest. Philly finished with 251 total yards and 17 first downs. The Eagles went 4 for 13 on third-down conversions and 0 for 1 on fourth down. Just two drives made it to the red zone (first two of the game). The lack of chunk plays and the consistent pressure on Hurts behind one of the best O-lines in the NFL were not what we'd grown accustomed to seeing.
Next Gen stat of the game: The Patriots held Jalen Hurts to a 33.3% success rate on nine carries (28 yards, +6 rushing yards over expected on five designed runs; 10 yards, -2 RYOE on 3 scrambles) after allowing 6.1 yards per attempt on designed QB runs last season (28th).
NFL Research: The Eagles' offense scored just one TD on Sunday. Philadelphia scored one or fewer offensive TDs with Jalen Hurts as the starter only once last season (Week 18 vs. Giants).
Brenna White's takeaways:
- Hello, Puka Nacua. With Cooper Kupp out (hamstring), it was the rookie Nacua charged with trying to fill the shoes of the Rams' All-Pro receiver. The BYU product was Matthew Stafford's favorite target of the day. The 22-year-old posted a team-high 10 catches for 119 yards. Nacua wasn't the only young Rams skill-position player who showed promise, though. Running back Kyren Williams recorded 52 rushing yards along with two touchdowns. The second-year back scored on a 1-yard run for the Rams' first score of the game and gave the team the lead for good with a 7-yard run in the third quarter.
- DK Metcalf one of the few bright spots for Seahawks. After posting a career-high 90 receptions for 1,048 yards last season, Metcalf opened the 2023 campaign with three receptions for 47 yards and one touchdown -- the Seahawks' only TD of the game. Seattle was shut out entirely in the second half. The 'Hawks lost both of their starting offensive tackles -- Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas -- to injury during the game, which gave the Rams' defense opportunities to pressure Geno Smith. Metcalf did not have a catch in the second half and was penalized for taunting in the fourth quarter.
- Matthew Stafford channels his 2021 season. Stafford was cool, calm and collected as he took the field once again after an injury-riddled 2022 campaign. He completed 24 of 38 passes for 334 yards with zero touchdowns and zero INTs. The Super Bowl champion was not sacked in the game and Seattle was credited with just two QB hits. Stafford & Co. will have their hands full next weekend with a 49ers defense that racked up five sacks and nine QB hits in a dominant win over the Steelers.
Next Gen stat of the game: Rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua recorded eight receptions for 102 yards on 13 targets when aligned wide in his NFL debut. Nacua also received a team-high 15 targets and 137 targeted air yards.
NFL Research: Puka Nacua became the ninth player drafted in the fifth round or later since 1970 to have 100+ receiving yards in his first career game. He's the second player to accomplish the feat since 1987 (Allen Hurns was the other).
Eric Edholm's takeaways:
- Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier fuel Falcons' sluggish offense. It's no shock the Falcons had their greatest success in Week 1 running the football -- and that Robinson was as advertised in his debut. Even with some negative plays, he showed great burst in accumulating 83 yards on 16 touches (six of them receptions). Picking up where he left off last season, Allgeier had 75 rushing yards and two touchdowns. QB Desmond Ridder had less than 100 passing yards with five minutes left. WR Drake London finished with zero catches. Kyle Pitts had two. The pass game struggled early as pressure was a big factor. It's obvious that running the ball remains Atlanta's bread and butter for now.
- Bryce Young had a trying NFL debut. Young's first start was a tough one, even if the moment didn't look too big. He was picked off twice by safety Jessie Bates III on similar-looking interceptions, closing fast on both. Young completed 20-of-38 passes for 146 yards, with a quick flick to Hayden Hurst for a TD. But it was more tough sledding as Atlanta seized control of the game and started to generate a pass rush late. Young showed nice poise going through his progressions and often had to make tight-window throws because of the lack of separation. One big exception? Rookie Jonathan Mingo streaked for what could have been a 99-yard TD pass ... but Young overthrew him. In a showdown of possible Rookie of the Year favorites, Bijan Robinson edged out his division rival Young in their first meeting.
- Tremendous opener for Falcons' big free-agent addition. The Falcons, who averaged one takeaway per game last season, knew they needed more impact defenders. That's why they forked over a mint for Bates this offseason. So far, the signing looks brilliant. Bates intercepted Bryce Young twice, reading Young's eyes and making two huge turnovers that led to Atlanta's first 10 points. Then Bates forced a fumble that led to another score and put the Falcons in the driver's seat. Atlanta's defense didn't create much pressure in the first three quarters and was a bit leaky defending the run. But Bates' incredible debut -- he had 10 tackles before limping off the field late -- helped keep this defense together when it was a tight game.
Next Gen stat of the game: Bijan Robinson had a 10.7% chance of scoring on his 11-yard TD reception, evading three would-be tacklers for his first career score.
NFL Research: This was the Falcons' first Week 1 win since 2017, which is the last time they finished above .500 and made the postseason.
Michael Baca's takeaways:
- Ravens still adjusting to Todd Monken's offense. Baltimore was in a dogfight with the upstart Texans for a majority of the season opener thanks to an offense that struggled to find its footing. Lamar Jackson looked rusty, fumbling twice (lost one) and throwing an interception in the first half. But Baltimore's star quarterback completed 77.3 percent of his passes (17 of 22 for 169 yards) and flashed his ability to make plays with his legs (38 rushing yards). The Ravens' defense eventually settled things down in the second half and took the pressure off an offense still acclimating to its new offensive coordinator's system, but they will be forced to deal with an added hardship going forward with running back J.K. Dobbins suffering a torn Achilles on Sunday.
- Texans' inexperience evident from top to bottom. It was a rough debut for a Houston team that featured a new coaching staff and a rookie quarterback. C.J. Stroud's first drive as a pro ended with a head-scratching play call (play-action from shotgun on fourth-and-1) that resulted in a sack and turnover on downs in Texans territory. While Stroud (28 of 44, 242 yards, no TDs) eventually found a rhythm, the Texans used all three first-half timeouts by the 8:12 mark in the second quarter. The lack of timeouts hamstrung a solid drive that could have given Houston a halftime lead (settled for field goal). Baltimore pulled away in the second half, but DeMeco Ryans' defense sacked Jackson three times in the final two quarters (four times total) and forced two turnovers by the former MVP.
- Zay Flowers has a promising debut. The first-round rookie balled out with a team-high nine receptions for 78 yards and was Jackson's favorite target on a day when tight end Mark Andrews was inactive (quadriceps). Flowers was targeted 10 times while no other Baltimore pass catcher had more than three targets. The Boston College product figures to be an instrumental weapon in Monken's offense in more ways than one, as his number was called twice on run plays (two carries, nine yards). The 22-year-old showed great instincts running his routes and in his runs after the catch, providing Baltimore with a much-needed playmaker at receiver. As for Odell Beckham Jr., the Ravens' prized offseason acquisition had two catches for 37 yards and provided a key block on a third-quarter score.
Next Gen stat of the game: Zay Flowers gained 54 of his 78 yards after the catch (69.2%), the highest YAC percentage by a rookie WR in a game over the last two seasons.
NFL Research: Scorigami! 25-9 is the first such final score in NFL history.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- What a difference the new defensive coordinator makes. Cleveland's defense was a disaster at times in recent seasons, but abysmal it was not Sunday. New DC Jim Schwartz's impact was visible throughout the Browns' first game, with defenders who had previously struggled under Joe Woods now thriving under Schwartz. Grant Delpit was a prime example of this transformation, recording a team-high eight tackles and denying receivers yards needed to gain first downs. Browns defensive backs blanketed Bengals pass catchers all afternoon and played with an attitude not seen in Cleveland in many years. The Bengals went three-and-out seven times, Brad Robbins punted 10 times, and by the middle of the fourth quarter, it became clear Cincinnati didn't have a chance of pulling off a comeback. After years of defensive failure, those words are music to the ears of Browns fans everywhere.
- Joe Burrow loses another one in Cleveland. This game stands as an all-time low in Burrow's series of road defeats at the hands of the Browns. He completed just 14-of-31 passes for 82 yards, leading an offense that totaled a mere 142 yards on the day. Cincinnati's offense was out of sync throughout the day. Weather didn't help either quarterback -- both Burrow and Deshaun Watson had a number of passes fall short of their intended target -- but the Bengals struggled to show any signs of life for most of the afternoon. The timing is unfortunate, considering Burrow signed a massive contract just days earlier. The good news: It's only Week 1.
- The Browns have a kicker. Cleveland cut fourth-round pick Cade York at the end of a nightmarish preseason and decided veteran Dustin Hopkins was their best option, setting up the former Chargers kicker for an unusually important debut. With rain falling throughout the afternoon, Hopkins stood tall, drilling all three of his field goals (from 42, 34 and 43 yards out) and slowly building the Browns' advantage in a close game. The Browns have learned just how important the kicking game can be to determining wins and losses. The new guy didn't disappoint on Sunday.
Next Gen stat of the game: Joe Burrow finished with a -13.9% completion percentage over expected, his worst CPOE performance of his career. He had only one completion on a pass of 10+ air yards (1 for 9 for 10 yards on such attempts).
NFL Research: Joe Burrow's 82 passing yards are the third-fewest in a game by a player with 30-plus pass attempts and zero interceptions since at least 1950.
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- No rust for Calvin Ridley. You wouldn't know it had been 686 days between regular-season games for the star wideout. Ridley looked like his old self, ripping off routes that left defenders grasping for air, showing sticky hands and scampering after the catch. Ridley generated eight catches for 101 yards, including a gorgeous TD grab to open the scoring. The wideout showed he's still a go-to target despite all the missed time. With Ridley in the lineup, the offense is open for Trevor Lawrence, who looked ready to make a Year 3 leap into stardom. The Jags' offense went through fits and starts, primarily due to offensive line issues, which I expected entering the season. But when they needed to make plays late, Lawrence, Ridley, Travis Etienne and others showed up to secure the road win.
- Anthony Richardson up-and-down in debut. The rookie QB ended his day on the bench after taking a big shot trying to score with under a minute left. The play epitomized a fiery rookie trying to lead his club back into the game after a back-breaking INT earlier in the final quarter. Colts head coach Shane Steichen said after the game that Richardson is not injured. Richardson opened the game wobbly but, as he did during the preseason, turned it around, looking poised in the pocket. When Richardson reads the D or sees the RPO and lets it rip, he's electric. When he's forced to get through a progression or doesn't trust his read, he gets in trouble. The rookie threw behind his target or tried to aim the ball instead of zipping it on several occasions. But his dynamic ability is undeniable, even though we never got to see the deep cannon in Week 1. He led the Colts with 40 rushing yards and a score on 10 carries despite never ripping off a big run. Richardson is going to want his first career INT back, as he badly underthrew his TE on a lob. Richardson's first game is about what I expected: There were some flashes, but refinement is needed.
- Jamal Agnew's punt return sets up game-winning score. Most people will probably overlook the impact of the return game in changing the tenor of this outing. Not here. Trailing by four, the Pro Bowl returner let a fourth-quarter punt bounce inside the 10-yard-line, then scooped it up and weaved 48 yards. Instead of starting the drive deep in their own territory, the return set up a 10-play, 46-yard TD drive to re-take the lead. In a tight division tussle, that type of play makes the difference.
Next Gen stat of the game: Trevor Lawrence's 18-yard TD pass to Zay Jones was one of three completions of 20+ air yards on the day. On passes over 10 air yards, Lawrence finished 8 of 11 for 147 yards and two TDs (+27.8% completion percentage over expected).
NFL Research: Anthony Richardson is the youngest player (21 years, 111 days) in the Super Bowl era to score a pass TD and a rush TD in the same game. The only players younger were Bill Dudley and George Ratterman, who both played in the 1940s.
Eric Edholm's takeaways:
- Vikings' close-game magic doesn't carry over in Week 1. Minnesota won 13 games in 2022, with 11 of them one-score games. The Vikings didn't lose a close game until the playoffs, but that's now two straight games they couldn't pull out late. This game came down to self-inflicted errors. Kirk Cousins threw for 273 yards in the first half but also turned it over three times. Two came on fumbles -- one inside his own 20-yard line and one in field-goal range -- and the INT happened at the Bucs' 2-yard line. Those turnovers only led to three Bucs points, but it potentially took away multiple scoring chances for the Vikings. Their other big gaffe came when Jay Ward jumped offside on a Bucs field goal; Tampa Bay took the points off the board and scored a TD.
- Baker Mayfield turns in a gutsy performance. It was not the prettiest outing overall from the Bucs' offense, which accumulated 29 yards on their first six drives, but Mayfield and Co. battled and finished the game strong, with three scores on four drives (not counting end-of-half possessions) down the stretch. Mayfield misfired on seven of his first 11 passes but finished 21-of-34 passing for 173 yards and two scores. He managed pressure well and got rid of the ball under heavy duress multiple times. Mayfield also helped seal the game with two tough runs late. Forget style points and gold stickers. Mayfield did what he needed to seal the win.
- Vikings' defense can't close it out. The early returns for Brian Flores' defense were extremely promising, as the Bucs totaled 95 first-half yards. Danielle Hunter led a good pressure effort, and the Vikings' corners held up well in heavy zone coverage -- something we don't normally see from Flores. But the game turned when the Bucs drove for TDs just before and after halftime. This is where the Vikings' lack of depth showed up. They only allowed 242 yards total, but the Vikings' defense couldn't get off the field when it mattered most. The Bucs' nine-minute drive to start the third quarter seemed to take a lot out of Flores' defense. The signs of improvement are there, but it wasn't quite enough in Week 1.
Next Gen stat of the game: Justin Jefferson finished with nine catches for 150 yards. On vertical routes, Jefferson had three receptions on four targets for 97 yards (+21 receiving yards over expected). He gained a league-high +255 receiving yards over expected on vertical routes last season.
NFL Research: Baker Mayfield has now won three of his four team debuts in his career (won with the Browns, Rams and Buccaneers; lost with the Panthers).
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- Derek Carr figured it out when it mattered most. Carr's start in New Orleans began in fun fashion -- he delivered a strike down the sideline to Michael Thomas. It was refreshing to see Thomas make plays after missing much of the last three years due to injury. Everything wasn't perfect, though. Carr short-armed a pass intended for Thomas on the goal line, resulting in a third-down incompletion that forced New Orleans to settle for a field goal. The Saints' pass protection didn't do him many favors. He was pressured on 51.4 percent of dropbacks and never looked all that comfortable. But he started to find his footing in the second half, delivering a touchdown pass to Rashid Shaheed on a perfectly executed double move down the sideline. He found Shaheed again on a pivotal completion down the sideline late in the fourth quarter, helping the team hang on for the win.
- Ryan Tannehill delivers a clunker of an opener. The narrative on Tannehill started to shift back in the Divisional Round in the 2021 season, when Tannehill threw three interceptions in a narrow loss to the Bengals. Sunday looked a lot like that game. Tannehill completed 16-of-34 passes for 198 yards, struggled to get on the same page with new addition DeAndre Hopkins and threw three interceptions (including two intended for Hopkins). Tannehill was inconsistent even in advantageous moments, missing wide-open targets down the sideline twice in what could have been game-changing plays. His play was unsatisfactory at best and can be pointed to as a primary reason for losing a winnable game.
- Derrick Henry is still the engine of the Titans. Tannehill's best play of the day was a screen to Henry, who rumbled 46 yards downfield, eventually leading to a go-ahead field goal. Henry rushed 15 times for 63 yards. We all know the Titans are going to have lean on Henry if they're going to win games. Sunday felt like a waste of a solid defensive performance, but if Tennessee keeps future games close, they can win them by relying on Henry. It's that simple.
NFL Research: Tennessee and New Orleans combined to convert eight field goals Sunday, the most in Week 1 in NFL history.
Next Gen stat of the game: Ryan Tannehill was pressured on 40.5 percent of his dropbacks. He completed 5-of-12 passes for 45 yards with two interceptions (12.8 passer rating) when under pressure.
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Purdy day for 49ers' offense. Brock Purdy looked as good as advertised coming off elbow surgery. The second-year signal-caller avoided pressure with aplomb and found open receivers to lead four straight scoring drives as the Niners sprinted to a big lead. San Francisco's star weapons all got off to a hot start. Brandon Aiyuk got open easily en route to a 129-yard, two-touchdown day. Deebo Samuel did Deebo Samuel things. Christian McCaffrey was nearly unstoppable, gashing Pittsburgh for 152 yards on 22 carries, including a 65-yard TD scamper early in the second half. There were some questions along the O-line, as Purdy was sacked three times, but you can't ask for a better start than the one Kyle Shanahan's club had.
- Steelers stumble out of the gate. It's no longer the preseason, Toto. As good as Kenny Pickett and the Pittsburgh offense looked in the preseason, it was equally bad to open the games that count. The Steelers started the game with five consecutive three-and-outs, earning -9 net yards. Pittsburgh didn't earn a first down until the 1:16 mark in the second quarter. Pickett was scattershot all game, missing targets behind, low and high. Under siege by the 49ers' defensive front, Pickett's head was spinning from the start. It might still be whirling as you read this. To add injury to insult, Pittsburgh also lost stars Diontae Johnson (hamstring) and Cameron Heyward (groin) during the game. The only positive for Pittsburgh: T.J. Watt played at a DPOY level (3 sacks, 2 FF, FR, 5 QB hits, 1 PD).
- 49ers' D looks dominant. The big money that the Niners paid Nick Bosa looks worth it already. The reigning DPOY played a normal snap level early as San Francisco's D smothered Pittsburgh, letting Bosa get reps off late. The Niners' D completely controlled the line of scrimmage, sacking Pickett five times, gobbling up nine QB hits and holding the Steelers to 41 rushing yards (24 coming on one run late in the first half). Fred Warner was, as usual, all over the field. Ditto, Dre Greenlaw. And the secondary came up with two INTs. The debut of Steve Wilks' D in San Francisco looks every bit as good as previous iterations.
Next Gen stat of the game: 49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk had seven targets, seven receptions, 119 yards and two TDs on intermediate passes (10-19 air yards).
NFL Research: The Steelers' 30-7 loss (-23) was their greatest margin of defeat at home in the Mike Tomlin era (since 2007).
Michael Baca's takeaways:
- Washington's defensive front closes the show. Holding the Cardinals to three points and 93 yards in the second half, the Commanders' defense pinned its ears back and thwarted any idea of an upset. Montez Sweat (1.5), Jonathan Allen (1.0) and Abdullah Anderson (0.5) combined for three sacks, but Daron Payne's constant disruption of Arizona's backfield won't show up on the stat sheet. Sweat added two forced fumbles to his great day. Jack Del Rio's defense is off to a great start, and it figures to grow even stronger once star pass rusher Chase Young gets back on the field.
- Don't sleep on Arizona's defense. It was no shock that the Cardinals' quarterback play eventually caught up with them in the second half, but Jonathan Gannon's defense showed it could be the guiding light for the team. The unit played with great energy, posting six sacks, two fumble recoveries, an interception and seven passes defensed, although they did commit a few penalties in the first quarter to extend a scoring drive for Washington. The Cardinals had a 13-10 lead at halftime thanks to the second of Dennis Gardeck's two sacks, which led to Arizona's first touchdown of the afternoon -- a scoop and score by Cameron Thomas. The Cardinals' defense kept them in the game, but the offense ultimately prevented them from getting Gannon a win in his debut as head coach.
- 2023 could be a rollercoaster ride in Washington. It wouldn't have been such a close game if the Commanders' offense hadn't given Arizona so many chances. Sam Howell made plenty of mistakes (interception, fumble lost) but he seemed to shake off the miscues, continuing to throw the ball downfield. Commanders OC Eric Bieniemy deserves credit for getting creative and dialing up different looks against a game Arizona defense. Howell's offensive line didn't make life easy, but the second-year quarterback pulled out a gutsy performance (sacked six times). Howell made a slick toss to Brian Robinson for the game's first score and gave Washington the lead with a 6-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Coupled with a solid defense, Howell's gunslinger mentality figures to make for some exciting contests in 2023.
Next Gen stat of the game: Montez Sweat (6 QB pressures, 1.5 sacks, TO forced by pressure) and Jonathan Allen (6 QB pressures, 1 sack) combined for 12 of the Commanders' 17 QB pressures in Week 1.
NFL Research: The Commanders allowed 210 total yards and zero offensive TDs to the Cardinals, the fewest total yards allowed by Washington in Week 1 since 2005 versus Chicago (allowed 166 total yards, won 9-7).