What the heck just happened?
I can’t recall an opening weekend as wild as the one we just saw. We saw the Buccaneers and the Saints go toe-to-toe until the end. The Titans and Dolphins are still trying to wrap up the fourth quarter of their game (in all seriousness, the game lasted seven hours and ten minutes, I thought for sure they’d still be playing during the Packers-Bears game). And we saw the first Week 1 tie since 1971 featuring…the Browns. This weekend had everything you could ask for. Here’s what we saw.
What happened in New Orleans?
This was the biggest surprise of the weekend. Most people thought the Saints would win by 10+, especially at home. But with Jameis Winston suspended for three games, Ryan Fitzpatrick played the game of his life, throwing for over 400 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for a touchdown as well—he was two points away from a perfect passer rating. The Saints were no slouch either as Brees eclipsed 400 yards and threw for three scores.
But this was a bad look for the Saints. They are Super Bowl contenders and their supposedly-improving defense was shredded by a backup quarterback in the Superdome. Four of their next six games are on the road. Sean Payton has some things to figure out after Week 1.
Yes, the conditions were rough in this one with the rain, but this was the ugliest game I have watched in a while, and a tie was the most fitting end to a game neither team deserved to win. In the middle of the fourth quarter, the Steelers had FOUR turnovers and led by 14 points—they would go on to finish with six total turnovers. And every time you thought a team was going to win it, they just straight up blew it.
- The Browns had a chance to win it in the fourth, but Tyrod Taylor throws an interception.
- The Steelers drive down with two minutes left in overtime and miss the 42-yard field goal.
- The Browns strip Big Ben and Joe Schobert looks like HE’S GONNA PUT THE BROWNS IN POSITION TO KICK THE GAME-WINNING FIELD GOAL…and Myles Garrett makes a bone-headed block in the back. And lo and behold, the game-winning field goal is blocked.
For the Steelers, they have a lot to figure out. This is an embarrassing start to the year. Don’t even try to point to the Le’Veon Bell saga, James Connor came out and balled. For the Browns, they should take this happily, as it’s their first non-loss in a season opener since 2004, and they’re 1-19 since 1995 in those games. It’s a glass-half-full mentality, but man, it would’ve been nice to start 1-0.
Hot start for quarterbacks on new teams
Save for Tyrod Taylor (who technically didn’t lose), it was a great day for teams entering new quarterback eras.
The most impressive was that of Patrick Mahomes, who absolutely shredded a Joey Bosa-less defense that has high expectations this year. The Chiefs have the best array of weapons in the league, but Mahomes certainly outperformed expectations in his first real start in Kansas City.
Almost equally impressive was that of Alex Smith, who traveled to a tough environment in Arizona and took it to the Cardinals, with a little help from good ol’ Adrian Peterson. Maybe all hope is not lost Washington.
Did Case Keenum prove that he was a key factor in Minnesota’s success last season? Time will tell, but he picked up right where he left off last season, throwing for 329 yards and three touchdowns in a victory over Seattle. He did throw three picks, but he did enough to lead his team to a Week 1 win.
And last but not least, the biggest free agent acquisition this offseason in Kirk Cousins has to be thrilled to be playing with the Vikings—playing with their defense is every quarterback’s dream, and we’re in for a battle in Lambeau next week.
He’s a baaaad man
Talk about a tale of two halves. When Rodgers went down holding his leg, it was a sight that was all too familiar for Packers fans, who thought their season was in doubt for a second straight year. When Rodgers trotted back onto the field, I thought to myself “please no, this game has been horrible, don’t put him back out there and risk that knee”.
But I should’ve known to never doubt number 12. He came out in the second half and played spectacularly. The Packers moved to a get-the-ball-out-of-Rodgers’-hands offense (which I thought should’ve been implemented from the get-go) and he made it happen.
As remarkable as the comeback was, there were two key factors that are going unnoticed: the Packers’ defense, and a little bit of luck. They looked awful in the first half, but Pettine’s defense stepped up big in the second half, allowing only six points and giving Rodgers a chance to storm back. Secondly, luck is always a factor in an epic comeback, and we’re having a completely different conversation if Kyle Fuller doesn’t have a Brandon Bostick-esque drop with 2:39 left in the fourth quarter.
Call it what you want, the Packers will take it any way it comes.