Shortly after midnight going into Tuesday, the Los Angeles Rams secured their victory over the Oakland Raiders. It was the finale of the opening weekend in the NFL.
The 99th NFL season has begun and the journey to Atlanta for Super Bowl 53 has begun. New coaches and quarterbacks litter the league, while familiar faces also returned from injury. Excitement is still high for most teams. Some teams’ excitement has even grown after their opening game success, while others have shown fans that it could be a long year.
In the Kansas City area, Chiefs fans were anxious to see how Patrick Mahomes would look in his first meaningful start as KC’s quarterback. While Mahomes’ accuracy in the first game was less than stellar, his 256 yards and four touchdowns is an exciting stat in the 38-28 win over the Los Angeles Chargers for the Chiefs’ fanbase. Mahomes looked good in his first game, but the standout was Tyreek Hill. He had three total touchdowns on the day, including a punt return touchdown to put the Chiefs on the board first. While there still is work to be done, the Chiefs’ offense looks to be on the right path after having success against a solid Chargers’ defense. However, as expected, the defense did not look good allowing the Chargers to rack up 541 yards on offense. Kansas City is going to need the defense to toughen up with games against Ben Roethlisberger, Jimmy Garoppolo and Tom Brady coming up.
Across the league, a handful of other teams were beginning the year with a new starting quarterback under center. Some were like the Chiefs and saw success in a win, while others should make fans question the decisions to move on.
Kirk Cousins and Alex Smith both shined with their new teams. Cousins became the sixth different opening game starter for the Vikings in the last six seasons and his debut may not have been a career game like Sam Bradford’s opening game performance with the Vikings last season, but Cousins showed why the Vikings spent $84 million on the quarterback.
Cousin’s successor with his former team, the Washington Redskins, also had a debut to please the fans. Smith and running back Adrian Peterson both showed that they can still play at a high level as they helped the Redskins dominate the Arizona Cardinals. Peterson, who has never been a stellar receiving running back, had 70 receiving yards on the day, which was the total Peterson had all of last season with the New Orleans Saints and Cardinals.
Others like the New York Jets’ Sam Darnold and Denver Broncos’ Case Keenum gave fans reasons to cheer, but interceptions by both kept their first starts from being as strong as Smith’s and Cousins’ debuts. Tyrod Taylor’s debut with the Cleveland Browns was also up and down, but he looked a lot better than his former team, the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills struggled tremendously against the Baltimore Ravens in the 47-3 blowout loss. Buffalo didn’t get a first down until the opening drive of the second half when they were already down 26-0. After making the playoffs for the first time since 1999, the Bills look to be in the driver’s seat for the top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. It doesn’t matter if it’s Nathan Peterman or Josh Allen starting, whoever, it looks to be the worst starting quarterback in the league. There would obviously be a huge pushback from some, but if I am the Bills and I want to win, I call Colin Kaepernick right now.
Another storyline for the opening weekend was the debut of new coaches. Seven different teams began the year with a new head coach. All seven lost. The Chicago Bears played the best of all seven teams with the dominant first half against the Green Bay Packers. Khalil Mack’s trade to the Bears instantly paid off with his debut. But Aaron Rodgers is a different animal and brought the Packers back despite initially leaving the game due to injuries. The Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts and New York Giants all kept it close, but the weather delays and injuries to key offensive players hindered the Titans, while the Colts and Giants just couldn’t finish.
The Cardinals and Raiders both struggled, but the disastrous coaching debut goes to the Detroit Lions on their Monday Night Football matchup against the Jets. Matt Stafford did not look like the same player that led the NFC in passing yards a season ago with four interceptions and the rest of the Lions struggled around him. Early in the third quarter, it was 17-17, but the Jets went on to score 31 unanswered points to go up 48-17. Matt Patricia’s debut couldn’t have gone any worse and now the Lions are looking up at an even tougher division with the Bears looking improved.
The biggest surprise would have to be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their win over the New Orleans Saints. After quarterback Jameis Winston was suspended for Tampa’s first three games, many expected the Saints to roll Tampa, but backup Ryan Fitzpatrick had other plans. After New Orleans looked to finally have a strong defense, Fitzpatrick brought out “Fitzmagic” going 21-28 with 417 yards and four touchdowns in the 48-40 win.
Then there was the Browns and Steelers game. After going 1-31 over the last two seasons, Cleveland spent the offseason revamping the roster and after a positive showing on “Hard Knocks,” the Browns looked to be on the right path, but then the Browns were down 21-7 midway through the fourth quarter and it looked to be the same old Cleveland. The Browns stormed back to tie the game 21-21, but a rare interception by Taylor sent the game into overtime. Even though the Steelers had six turnovers on the day, including a fumble to set the Browns up for a potential game-winning field goal, the Browns could not get the victory and the two teams tied at 21. The 0-0-1 start means the Browns are undefeated after Week 1 for the first time since 2004, but they’re also still winless since Week 16 of the 2016 season.
With the Ravens and Bengals kicking off Week 2 on Thursday, more questions look to be answered across the league and new questions will pop up.
The NFL is back and if the opening game was an indication for the season, it will be a fun year.
Luke Peterson is the sports editor of the Leavenworth Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org