Some familiar faces joined new teams — looking at you, Tom Brady and Cam Newton — and young stars like Lamar Jackson are picking up where they left off in a season unlike any other.
The Ravens, the Patriots and the Raiders were among the winners in the early games. Three games in the 4 p.m. hour are kicking off.
It’s tempting, so very tempting, to make sweeping proclamations after a team’s first game of the season.
In their 21-11 victory against Miami, the New England Patriots demonstrated how they intend to proceed with quarterback Cam Newton — and without Tom Brady — and it looks fabulous. In his New England debut, Newton completed 15 of 19 passes for 155 yards and ran 15 times for 75 yards — the most by a Patriots quarterback in franchise history.
That is a fun but, let’s be honest here, largely irrelevant stat. More significant is that Newton has run for as many yards only nine previous times in his career, and not since Week 10 of the 2017 season.
Unencumbered by the foot injury that ended last season and affected teams’ interest during free agency, Newton is flaunting the form that has made him so difficult to defend when healthy. The coordinator Josh McDaniels has married Newton’s running expertise with his passing prowess to create an efficient ball-control offense that ran for 217 yards.
Newton has long been unstoppable, or close to it, in short yardage or near the goal line. In the first three quarters, whenever Newton ran the ball needing five or fewer yards for the first down or touchdown, he converted. Whether Newton can continue to absorb some of the hits he endured Sunday and last a full season is a reasonable concern.
Last year, the Baltimore Ravens set an N.F.L. record with 3,296 rushing yards. In what should be terrifying news for the rest of the N.F.L., they appear to have added a significant weapon to their arsenal in J.K. Dobbins, a rookie running back out of Ohio State.
Dobbins, who had a ton of hype coming into the season, was expected to eventually challenge the team’s starter, Mark Ingram, for carries. In a romp against the Cleveland Browns, “eventually” appears to be “Week 1.”
Dobbins had six carries for 23 yards and two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter. Ingram, who started the game, had nine carries for 24 yards and Lamar Jackson, the team’s two-way threat at quarterback, had seven carries for 45 yards.
The story of the day is mostly Jackson — as usual — with last year’s M.V.P. having more than 300 total yards between passing and rushing to go with three touchdown passes.
But the early emergence of Dobbins as a goal-line back adds a new wrinkle to a team that already seemed to do absolutely anything it wanted in terms of running the ball.
Marlon Mack was expected to have some competition for his starting job this season, but the Indianapolis Colts running back may already be done for the year after appearing to sustain a severe Achilles’ tendon injury, which forced him to leave his team’s Week 1 matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
NFL Network is reporting that the team fears Mack tore the tendon, which would end his season.
Mack, a 24-year-old in his fourth season, rushed for 1,091 yards and eight touchdowns last season, but had competition in training camp from the rookie Jonathan Taylor out of Wisconsin as well as Nyheim Hines, the team’s 23-year-old third-down back.
The injury to Mack came on a reception in the second quarter in which he landed awkwardly on his left foot. At the time he had four carries for 26 yards and three receptions for 30 yards.
Taylor was considered a likely bet to supplant Mack at running back even before the injury, but in Week 1 Hines has stolen the show, with two touchdowns so far.
During warm-ups, Indianapolis Colts players and coaches wore shirts that read Black Lives Matter on the front. During the playing of the national anthem, they lined up on the goal line.
Their opponents, the Jacksonville Jaguars, stayed in their locker room during the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the song known as the Black national anthem, which will be played before every Week 1 game.
In a statement, the Jaguars said, “We understand that not everyone will agree with our position and demonstration, however we hope that all will seek to understand the reason for it.”
In Minneapolis, the Vikings honored George Floyd and other Black victims of violence. The team will not sound its Gjallarhorn, which it blows after Vikings scores, during the game.
After initially ignoring, then halfheartedly embracing the efforts by players to fight systemic racism and police brutality, the N.F.L. reaffirmed the players’ right to peacefully protest, echoing the N.B.A., Major League Baseball and other leagues that returned to action earlier during the pandemic.
In Atlanta, the Falcons linked arms during the playing of the anthem. Several Seattle Seahawks knelt and Jamal Adams raised his right fist. Star quarterback Russell Wilson stood with his arms around two coaches to form a triangle, their heads bowed. While warming up, Wilson wore a black T-shirt that said “We Want Justice” in all capital letters, along with headphones and a neck gaiter pulled over his nose and mouth as a coronavirus mask.
During the kickoff, players on both teams stood in place and the Falcons let the ball go out of bonds for a touchback. Then every player took a knee for a few moments before beginning the game. The display of unity was coordinated by Wilson and Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
In Landover, Md., the Philadelphia Eagles remained in the locker room during the national anthem, while the Washington Football Team stood on its sideline.
In Foxborough, Mass., all of the Patriots stood for the anthem while the Dolphins remained in the locker room.
The field at Orchard Park, N.Y., was empty for the national anthem and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” with both the Bills and Jets remaining in the locker room, agreed upon with both teams as a stance of togetherness and solidarity.
“Injustice against one of us is injustice against all of us” adorned the shirts of the Jets’ warm up jerseys; members of both teams’ helmets bore names of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd among social justice causes, like “Black Lives Matter.”
Broadly speaking, one of the more unpopular rules in the N.F.L. dictates that a team that fumbles out of the opposing end zone is punished by losing possession. It is even more unpopular right now around New England, where the receiver N’Keal Harry turned a potential game-sealing touchdown — the Patriots would have led by 17 points, pending the extra point — into a potential game-turning turnover.
The Dolphins capitalized on Harry’s gaffe by going 80 yards in 11 plays, scoring on Jordan Howard’s 1-yard touchdown. With Ryan Fitzpatrick converting the ensuing 2-point attempt, Miami — despite two first-half interceptions, despite possessing the ball for 7 fewer minutes — now trails by 14-11 with about 10 minutes remaining.
The Dolphins ended last season by stunning the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, upending the A.F.C. playoff picture and costing New England a first-round bye, normally its birthright. Can they begin this season the same way?
After putting New England ahead by 14-3 with his second touchdown of the game, Cam Newton handed the ball to his center, David Andrews, who missed all of last season with a pulmonary embolism. Here, Newton seemed to say, you spike it.
It was a magnanimous gesture by someone who played only somewhat more recently than Andrews. Newton’s 2019 season ended on Sept. 12, 2019, when, hampered by a Lisfranc injury in his left foot, he didn’t run the ball on either of Carolina’s fourth-and-1 plays in the fourth quarter — obvious evidence of his limitations.
When healthy, Newton might just be the most devastating red-zone and short-yardage threat in N.F.L. history. With two touchdown scampers Sunday, from 4 and 11 yards out, Newton is demonstrating as much for his new team.
Bills quarterback Josh Allen started the season as a more fired-up version of himself, dancing around Jets counterpart Sam Darnold as Buffalo secured three touchdowns before halftime and the Jets sat stunned in their tracks.
Allen rushed for a touchdown and passed for two more, one each to Zach Moss and John Brown.
But Allen also fumbled twice, something he has struggled with since his N.F.L. debut. The quarterback fumbled 22 times in 28 regular season games in the past two seasons. Last year, he fumbled twice in the team’s playoff loss to the Texans.
In hopes of revenge for their last regular season loss — which came against Cleveland 350 days ago — the Baltimore Ravens were making easy work of the Browns in the first half on Sunday, running up a 24-6 lead while appearing sharp on both sides of the ball.
Lamar Jackson, the winner of last season’s Most Valuable Player Award, showed no drop-off, completing 13 of 16 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Marquise Brown is already over 100 receiving yards for the day, and Jackson’s passer rating sits at a perfect 158.3.
The Ravens’ vaunted rushing attack has yet to get a full head of steam, with a combined 60 yards on 16 carries, but that has not been an issue thanks to Baltimore’s defense forcing two turnovers.
The Browns, however, are searching for answers after a half in which Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt both averaged more than 6 yards a carry, but their team managed just 6 points.
Jamie Collins appears to have gone a step too far in explaining an infraction he thought had been committed against him.
The Detroit Lions linebacker approached an official at the end of a play in the second quarter of his team’s game against the Chicago Bears, lowered his head and drove his helmet gently into the official’s chest, likely trying to show that he had been hit with the crown of a helmet on the play. He was immediately ejected from the game.
The interaction, which came at the end of a 1-yard run by Bears running back David Montgomery, caused some initial confusion, as it looked almost as if he was leaning in to hear what the official — who was wearing a cloth face mask — was saying. But replays indicated he was likely mimicking contact.
Collins, who played for Coach Matt Patricia when Patricia was the defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, was one of the Lions’ top acquisitions this off-season.
Starting his first game in more than a year, Cam Newton is already doing Cam Newton things in New England. The quarterback capped a marvelous 80-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run that opened the scoring before Miami added a field goal later in the second quarter. New England leads the Dolphins, 7-3.
It was Newton’s 59th career rushing touchdown, the most among quarterbacks in N.F.L. history, and afterward he crossed his arms over his chest in an apparent “Black Panther” tribute to the late actor Chadwick Boseman.
Adding a running dimension to an offense that — how to put this kindly? — lacked one during Tom Brady’s two decades in New England, Newton accounted for 48 yards on the series, completing all three passes, including a 25-yarder to Ryan Izzo.
Newton’s running ability allows the offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to stress defenses in new and unfamiliar ways — ways that, for all of his brilliance, Tom Brady could not.
“I don’t think it’s pressure,” Newton told reporters this week, when asked about replacing Brady. “Just do your job. And I plan on doing mine. I know opening day, he’ s not going to be really worried about little old me and I know opening day I just have other things to be focusing on rather than who was here before me.”
The Jets seem to be missing safety Jamal Adams, who was traded away this off-season, as the Buffalo Bills are running away with the game in the first quarter.
Josh Allen, Buffalo’s somewhat polarizing quarterback, got off to a rocky start with a fumble on Buffalo’s first possession, but made up for it in a big way with a 2-yard touchdown run on his team’s next possession followed by a 4-yard touchdown pass to running back Zack Moss. Buffalo’s offense has 123 yards in the quarter.
The Bills’ defense, which is the team’s bread and butter, has done its part by completely eliminating the Jets offense so far. Quarterback Sam Darnold and co. were limited to 4 total yards on the team’s first three possessions.
It didn’t take the Baltimore Ravens long to pick right back up where they left off in terms of regular season play. On Cleveland’s first offensive possession,
Baltimore’s Marlon Humphrey was able to snag an interception, setting the Ravens up to capitalize with a six-play, 49-yard drive that culminated in a 5-yard touchdown pass from Lamar Jackson to tight end Mark Andrews.
Not much appears to have changed for Baltimore, with five of the seven plays on the drive being a run, but Cleveland’s defense simply had no answer for the onslaught.
Year after year after year throughout N.F.L. history, Black players were dissuaded from playing quarterback. Perceived as lacking the requisite leadership or smarts to play the position, they were urged to become receivers, running backs, defensive backs instead.
Black quarterbacks are commanding our attention every week, and to an unprecedented degree this season. In all, 10 Black quarterbacks started — or are set to start — in Week 1, most in an opening week in league history, according to The Undefeated.
The record-setting week began, fittingly, with the dynamic young stars Patrick Mahomes of Kansas City — the youngest player to have won an M.V.P. Award and a Super Bowl — and Deshaun Watson facing each other on Thursday night.
The early slate Sunday featured Black quarterbacks at every stage of their careers, from the second-year pro Dwayne Haskins of Washington to the electrifying M.V.P. Lamar Jackson of Baltimore, the resurgent starter Teddy Bridgewater in Carolina to the underappreciated star Russell Wilson of Seattle.
Not to mention Cam Newton, who represents sort of a bridge between this generation of Black star quarterbacks and the last. Newton told reporters last week that he grew up in Atlanta idolizing Michael Vick, but also Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper.
Newton on Sunday became the first Black quarterback to start for New England in Week 1 and only the second to start for the franchise since its inception in 1960, behind Jacoby Brissett in 2016.
“It’s a big deal, it’s really a big deal,” Newton told reporters. “I understand who I am. I understand being an African-American in this time, we have to be stronger and sticking with each other more than ever now. This is a great feat to achieve, but at the end of the day we have to make sure we’re using our platform for positive reasons, and that’s what I want to do.”
Newton rushed for a touchdown in the second quarter for New England’s first score of the season.
Tom Brady and Drew Brees are the two oldest active players in the N.F.L., making Sunday’s meeting the first in league history between two starting quarterbacks age 40 or older. And while Brady will surely delight in leading the strongest receiving crew he’s had in years — Mike Evans and Chris Godwin were both 1,000-yard receivers last season, and both stand over 6 feet tall — Tampa Bay may not unleash many fly routes just yet, given the lack of a preseason to work on timing and communication. Of course, with Leonard Fournette, the newly acquired running back who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in two of his first three seasons, a ground-based Bucs attack might still flourish.
That doesn’t seem like a likely approach from New Orleans, despite the Saints’ signing of Alvin Kamara on Saturday to a five-year extension reportedly worth $77.1 million, with a $15 million bonus. Ahead of the matchup, Brees sounded another acknowledgment that this season might be his last. “I’m on borrowed time,” Brees said. “I’ve got nothing to lose. So I’m turning it loose and letting the chips fall where they may.”
New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees, NFL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Actu monde – GB – N.F.L. Week 1: Live Updates From Opening Sunday