Here’s what we’ve learned from the first Sunday of the 2019 NFL season:
1. Melvin Gordon who? The Chargers offense did very well with their star running back still holding out. Austin Ekeler dominated the game and sealed the victory with a rushing TD in overtime. He finished the game with 18 touches, 154 yards and three touchdowns. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo reported Sunday morning Gordon plans to report to the Chargers in six to eight weeks. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the meantime. Overall, this was not a good day for Gordon and his agent. Philip Rivers also showed no signs of slowing down in his 16th season with the Chargers. The 37-year-old quarterback went 25/34 for 333 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite target Keenan Allen had 8 receptions for 123 yards and one touchdown.
2. Of all the things that could’ve went gone for the Colts, the biggest surprise was kicker Adam Vinatieri. He left seven points on the field with a missed extra point and two missed field goals. This is the first time this has happened in his 24-year career, per NFL Research. Vinatieri dealt with “a little bit of a knee issue” during training camp and the preseason but coach Frank Reich did not believe the injury was “anything that was going to be a problem.” After Vinatieri’s performance today, this is enough to cause concern for Indy.
On the other side of the field — in his first game as a punter — Chargers rookie Ty Long outplayed Vinatieri. Long picked up punter and kicker duties after Michael Badgley suffered a groin injury on Friday. Long made good on his only field-goal attempt (from 40 yards) and was a perfect 3-for-3 on extra points.
3. Jacoby Brissett had an impressive day in his first game as the Colts starter. If it wasn’t for poor performance by the special teams and defense in the first half, the team could’ve won the game. There were far too many mistakes but Brissett and wideout T.Y. Hilton (8/87/2) and running back Marlon Mack (25/174/1) kept them in the game. Brissett finished the game with 21-of-27 attempts, 190 yards and two touchdowns.
— Lakisha Wesseling
1. All Lamar Jackson did was throw touchdowns. Playing just a half hour from his hometown, the Ravens quarterback made good on his vow to put on a show. He completed his first 10 passes, including four for scores. The dual-threat demon exhibited his usual scrambling ability, only it was often a means for more throwing. (Jackson ran just three times.) Perhaps most impressive was the how. Jackson beat the coverage on multiple downfield throws, while finishing with a career-best five touchdown passes and 324 yards while playing just three quarters. That his 17 completions were also a career-high speaks to his limitations as a passer last year, and perhaps a new era in Baltimore. Everything won’t come this easy, but the Jackson-OC Greg Roman arrangement definitely takes on another level of intrigue.
2. The Dolphins might be worse than we thought. They struggled to pass, they didn’t bother running and their defense surrendered 390 yards by halftime (and 643 overall). After gutting its roster in the offseason, little was expected from Miami and first-year coach Brian Flores entering the season. But this isn’t college football. Allowing 42 points in the first half of a season opener is beyond bad. In fact, it’s an NFL record. The second half saw a quarterback change, and backup Josh Rosen getting picked off on his very first snap as a Dolphin. Miami already appears to be in the fish tank. It’s probably not too early to check in with Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert about possibly working in South Florida next year.
3. They don’t just call him Hollywood for nothing. Rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown had a scintillating debut, catching long touchdown passes with his first two receptions. It started simple enough with a quick slant that he turned into a 47-yard score. He turned on the Jets just a few minutes later, as he got behind the Miami defense and hauled in a deep strike from Jackson for an 83-yard TD. Speed kills, and Brown looked as fast as anyone while catching four passes for 147 yards. That late first-round slot is already looking warranted.
— Adam Maya
1. It took all of three offensive plays for reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes to remind everyone just how special he is. That’s how long it took for the Chiefs to score their season’s first touchdown. Truth be told, it was very much a spectacular play from Sammy Watkins, who took a short ball over the middle and turned it into a 68-yard sprint to pay dirt. But it was Mahomes the magnificent who just kept the Chiefs‘ all-star offense rolling along. Mahomes completed his first five passes of the season for 141 yards (in just two drives) as K.C. ran out to a 10-0 lead. It was a sweltering hot and testy day — exemplified by Jags linebacker Myles Jack‘s ejection — but the Chiefs never cooled off. While the Jaguars stumbled to a 5-11 mark last season, they still boasted one of the best pass defenses, with Mahomes being held to a season-worst 62.7 rating in the Chiefs‘ 30-14 2018 victory. Mahomes still had 313 yards, but no touchdowns. Mahomes matched that mark exactly in a stifling first half (16-of-20 for 313 yards and two TDs). A stellar day was had at season opener’s end for the QB, who posted 378 yards and three scores with a phenomenal 143.2 rating. While there’s no doubt cause for concern with Tyreek Hill‘s first-half exit due to a shoulder injury, the Chiefs showed they have no shortage of weapons in addition to Mahomes. Watkins (see below), Travis Kelce (three catches for 88 yards) and the recently acquired LeSean McCoy (10carries for 81 yards) all had fine days. The Chiefs offense is just as outstanding as we remember it to be — if not more so.
2. In one game, Watkins matched his touchdown output for all of the 2018 season. On the first Sunday of the season, Watkins was wonderful with three touchdowns and 198 yards on nine receptions. This was Watkins at his best — no, really, it was his career-high for yards and TDs in a game. Sure, Watkins was with the Chiefs last season, but this version of Watkins certainly was not. Regardless of Hill’s status going forward, having Watkins as another option for Mahomes sees one of the NFL’s richest offenses get even richer. And that it came against a usually excellent Jaguars passing defense is all the more reason to believe Watkins’ outstanding ways could continue.
3. Nick Foles lofted his first touchdown pass as a Jaguar to D.J. Chark and moments later was on the sideline in pain and that was it for the former Super Bowl MVP’s Jacksonville debut. NFL Network’s James Palmer reported he suffered a broken left clavicle. Though things certainly got chilly on this hot Florida afternoon, rookie Gardner Minshew was cool and calm coming off the bench. The sixth-round pick completed his first 13 passes, was 9-for-9 for 128 yards at halftime and finished a losing effort with a terrific line of 22-for-25 for 275 yards, two touchdowns, one pick and a 122.5 rating. The Jags are hoping for a speedy return, but Minshew’s performance off the bench deserves recognition and at least some confidence going forward that he can provide a stellar substitute. Sure, an injury to a starting QB is always a huge worry, but Jacksonville made its name with defense, and after giving up 491 yards in a 40-26 defeat, the Jaguars have larger concerns that worrying about how their rookie backup can do.
— Grant Gordon
1. The Seahawks don’t have much to celebrate offensively. They just got what they needed. Feature back Chris Carson picked up 21 of his 46 rushing yards on a crucial third-down late in the fourth quarter that allowed Seattle to milk the clock to under a minute. Carson scored two touchdowns in the first half, including a 10-yard reception on third down. That TD was set up by a 42-yard pass to D.K. Metcalf, who wasted no time demonstrating big-play potential (four catches, 89 yards). Russell Wilson mixed in the usual few spectacular plays with efficiency, as Seattle got away with a forgettable 233-yard output.
2. Seattle brings out the best in wide receiver John Ross. The former University of Washington star had the best day of his three-year career against the Seahwks. With A.J. Green sidelined and Zac Taylor now pulling the offensive strings, Ross played the part of a go-to receiver. He came into the game with 21 career catches for 210 yards and came out of it with seven more for 158 yards and two touchdowns. That included the speedy Ross sneaking behind a linebacker on a wheel route for a 33-yard score, and then coming up with a jumpball downfield just before the half on a 55-yard TD.
3. New coach, same old Bengals? They showed signs of life on offense but this loss won’t sit well with them. They outgained Seattle by nearly 200 yards and dominated time of possession but came away with no points on three trips to the red zone. Three fumbles, a missed 45-yard field goal and a failure to capitalize a recovered fumble inside the Seahawks 20 ultimately caught up to Cincinnati. In fact, the Bengals didn’t score any points on their trips to the red zone. Adding injury to insult, running back Joe Mixon left in the second half after hurting his right ankle and did not return. Andy Dalton registered the franchise’s first 400-yard passing game since Carson Palmer in 2010. It was ultimately in vain as the Seahawks held Cincinnati to just three points in the second half. Jadeveon Clowney had a sack but was otherwise relatively quiet in his first game in Seattle, as Bobby Wagner and Quinton Jefferson led the way for Seattle’s bend-but-don’t-break defense.
— Adam Maya
1. It took a while to get going but the Eagles‘ offense took flight in the second of half against the Redskins. After throwing for 112 yards in the first half, QB Carson Wentz helped lead four straight scoring drives to push Philly to victory in his first game since his injury-plagues 2018 campaign. Three of those drives ended with Wentz TD passes, including an impressive 53-yard bomb to DeSean Jackson in his first game back in an Eagles uniform; it was Jackson’s second 50-plus yard TD catch of the day. He ended with a game-high 154 receiving yards, tying him with Cowboys great Michael Irvin for the most Week 1 100-yard receiving games in NFL history. Wentz, who signed a huge extension in June, ended the day 28-of-39 for 313 and three TDs. The run game also deserves some praise; a quiet eight-carry, 20-yard output in the first half from the team’s three RBs (Jordan Howard, Darren Sproles and rookie Miles Sanders) was all but forgotten after a 96-yard second half.
2. The Redskins offense looked promising in the first half with Case Keenum under center. Tight end Vernon Davis showed he still has it with a 48-yard catch-and-run TD to give the Redskins their first opening drive TD in Week 1 since 2004. Keenum started 4 for 4 for 71 yards and finished the half outshining big-money Wentz with 257 yards and 16 completions on 22 attempts; he finished with 380 yards and three TDs. Terry McLaurin, the 2019 third-round pick, stepped up big-time in the first half; the rookie wideout tallied three receptions for 104 yards, including a monster 69-yard TD catch to give Washington an early 17-0 lead. Penalties, coupled with the Eagles‘ O controlling the game with lengthy scoring drives, limited the offense’s performance in the second half. Washington’s offensive line, still without Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, accounted for all five of the team’s penalties for a loss of 45 yards. After a hot start, McLaurin cooled off with five targets and three catches for 21 yards, all of which came when the game was out of reach.
3. After a torn ACL robbed him of his rookie season, 2018 second-round pick Derrius Guice made his regular season debut in Week 1. With veteran RB Adrian Peterson inactive for the day, the bulk of the carries went to Guice, who coach Jay Gruden said would be a focal point of the offense this season. Guice made his presence known out of the gate with a 5-yard carry on the game’s opening drive. Throughout the game, Guice showed flashes of his two-way potential and ended the night with 10 carries for 18 yards, thanks to the solid play upfront by the Eagles defensive line, and three catches for 20 yards. Speaking of young Redskins the team is relying on for future success, defensive tackle Jonathan Allen exited in the first quarter with a left knee injury and didn’t return. If he’s not able to go for the foreseeable future, the Redskins‘ defense will have a noticeable hole on the depth chart, as evidenced by the difficulty they had stopping the run in the second half.
— Jelani Scott
1. Give Dak all the money. If Prescott’s agent wanted any leverage in contract negotiations the Dallas Cowboys‘ quarterback provided it Sunday with a marvelous outing in the season opener. Prescott dissected a porous Giants defense with a bevy of dimes, hitting receivers perfectly in stride time after time en route to a four-touchdown demolition of a division rival. Prescott started off on fire, earning a career-high 256 yards passing yards, and finished with 405 and completing 78 percent of his passes for a perfect 153.8 passer rating. The first game of the Kellen Moore era was a masterpiece. The Cowboys new OC deploy a host of play-actions to open up the middle of the field for Dak, repeatedly sent multiple players in motion, and called plenty of shots downfield. The Cowboys spread the ball around to Amari Cooper (6/100/1), Michael Gallup (7/158), Randall Cobb (4/69/1), Blake Jarwin (3/39/1), Jason Witten (3/15/1), Ezekiel Elliott (1/10) and even Tavon Austin got in the action (1/8). Some of the explosiveness can be attributed to a disastrous Giants defense, but make no mistake, the Cowboys offense will be a load to handle in 2019.
2. Mission accomplished: Ezekiel Elliott returned from his holdout, got his feet wet in the opener, scored a TD, didn’t suffer any sort of injury, and got to sit out the fourth quarter of the blowout. Zeke took just 13 carries for 53 yards and the TD, while playing just 32 plays, per Next Gen Stats. The Cowboys couldn’t have scripted it much better after Elliott’s offseason holdout officially ended on Wednesday. We didn’t see any explosive plays from Zeke — long run of 10 yards — but they are coming as he gets more work in coming weeks.
3. Saquon Barkley popped a huge 59-yard run on the first series, setting up the Giants opening-drive score. The Giants then criminally underutilized their best player. Barkley touched the ball just seven times in the first half and went away from the running back far too often. The epitome of Big Blue’s Barkley usage came late in the third quarter with the Giants trailing big already. After driving deep into the red zone, New York had third-and-short and fourth-and-short. Barkley didn’t touch the ball either play. The fourth-down call was a rollout with 38-year-old Eli Manning that didn’t have a shot to work and ended in a blown-up fumble. Barkley finished with 120 rushing yards on 11 carries. Manning’s check-down routine is tiresome, and the blowout is another step closer to Daniel Jones taking over. But if Pat Shurmur is going to under-utilize Barkley, what are the Giants even doing?
Jones got in the game with 1:46 left in the lopsided tilt, completed his first three passes, but fumbled trying to run for a first down, sealing the tilt.
— Kevin Patra
1. The Browns entered with all the hype and looked like the steamroller the world expected on a 73-yard opening-drive touchdown. Then the Titans defense smothered Baker Mayfield and all the positive vibes in Cleveland. Dean Pees’ defense dominated, gobbling up five sacks and three second-half interceptions, including a pick-six that put the icing on the cake of Tennessee’s road celebration. The ageless Cam Wake took advantage of a suspect Browns offensive line sacking Mayfield 2.5 times, including one for a safety — his 100th career QB takedown. The Tennessee defense kept the Browns discombobulated with a bevy of pressures that didn’t allow Mayfield time to find his weapons on the outside. With the game still in question, safety Kevin Byard snuffed out the Browns‘ chances with an interception. On the next drive, Logan Ryan perfectly undercut a pass for another pick. Game, blouses. Tennessee’s D walked into Cleveland and smashed all the offseason puff-pieces surrounding the Browns for one week.
2. The Titans offense ran a balanced operation under new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. Using a bevy of play-action passes to find chunk gains and riding Derrick Henry, the Titans did well to protect a reshuffled offensive line, which stood out when compared to the Browns own O-line struggles. Henry picked up where he left off last season as the beating heart of the Tennessee offense (19/84/1). Smith’s best play-call of the day came on a throwback screen to Henry that was blocked up perfectly for a 75-yard untouched TD. As for the Titans pass-catchers, rookie A.J. Brown (3/100) flashed playmaking ability in space, which led to Tony Romo to compare him to a young Anquan Boldin. It was also evident that Marcus Mariota missed Delaine Walker last season, especially in the red zone. The TE caught 2 TDs on five receptions in a return after missing all but one game in 2018. Welcome back, Mr. Walker.
3. Entering with expectations soaring, the Browns imploded. Penalties destroyed Cleveland at every turn. A whopping 18 penalties for 182 yards were the most by a Cleveland team since 1951(!). On offense, the flags shattered every positive play after the opening drive. On defense, the penalties gave Tennessee first down after first down. In the first half alone, Cleveland’s miscues included a missed PAT, nine penalties (giving Tennessee five first downs), three sacks (one for a safety), 0-for-5 on third down, and starting left tackle Greg Robinson getting ejected for kicking an opponent. The undisciplined play continued in the final two quarters and was exacerbated as the Browns got down big. The two offseason undercurrents posed as counters to the Cleveland hype were the offensive line and how the team with a first-time coach would handle expectations. In Week 1 the answers were disastrous. The offensive line was a sieve, and the Browns couldn’t right the ship when things went awry. How Freddie Kitchens’ team responds in Week 2 will speak volumes.
— Kevin Patra
1. What a start by the Vikings. A sack on their first defensive play. A blocked punt to end the Falcons‘ first drive. A healthy Dalvin Cook showing his stuff. And Kirk Cousins finding old pal Adam Thielen for a 23-yard touchdown. All three facets sparkled in all of 2 minutes and 3 seconds as Minnesota vaulted to a 7-0 lead and rode it to a 28-12 win that was largely decided by halftime. A season ago, Minnesota fell flat of living up to his expectations of a Super Bowl hopeful without as it didn’t even make the playoffs. Though it’s just Week 1, the Vikings looked every bit the part of a team that can fulfill high hopes. The defense was stellar as it held a formidable Falcons offense at bay for the first three quarters and turned in three turnovers. The offense was balanced and special teams made an impact. Overall, the Vikings were outstanding on their first Sunday.
2. Running backs Dalvin Cook of the Vikings and Devonta Freeman of the Falcons each returned to action following injury-shortened seasons looking to rebound for teams looking, much the same, for returns to form following playoff-less 2018 campaigns. The contrasting outcomes for the backs – who each attended Miami Central High – were very much emblematic of their teams’ fates and outlooks going forward. Cook was simply outstanding in his return. It was on the second drive that he began to shine with two carries covering 40 yards, including a 19-yard split around left end to the pileon. Cook concluded his statement-making return with 21 carries for 111 yards and two scores and provided reason to believe he can still be the back everyone expected him to be before he was derailed after four games in his rookie season. Perhaps more importantly, Cook could revitalize a rushing attack largely absent last year when the Vikings stumbled. Freeman had less than 19 yards rushing in his return. He was stifled and frustrated. Just like the Falcons as a whole. As the returning RBs went, so to did their teams.
3. A day after scoring a huge extension, Julio Jones scored a touchdown, as well. But it was too late and far too little. Sure, Jones, in his 112th game, became the second-fastest receiver to 700 catches, but he continued to struggle against the Vikings, who have held him down like no other team. The touchdown was his first in five games against Minnesota and his 31 yards were shy of his dismal average in his previous four games versus the Vikings (40.5). The Vikings defense and cornerback Xavier Rhodes, in particular, continue to confound one of the game’s greatest receivers. It’s yet more evidence of why the Vikings could emerge very quickly as a team on the rise for the NFL’s biggest prize at season’s end.
— Grant Gordon
1. This was a weird comeback. The Bills were shut out for the first 40 minutes and fell behind 16-0 before scoring on three consecutive possessions to win it. The Jets losing linebacker C.J. Mosely in the second half might have been a tipping point. Also helping the Bills was Josh Allen not giving the ball away. He had four turnovers in the first half, including a pick-six to Mosley. The Jets will surely lament not scoring off the other three turnovers. Buffalo moved the sticks better than their AFC East counterpart throughout Week 1 and it eventually produced points. A costly roughing the passer penalty on third-and-10 extended a Bills drive late in the third quarter, resulting in a field goal. Running back Devin Singletary heated up on the ensuing Bills drive, picking up 55 yards to set up and Allen touchdown scramble. Allen capped off the comeback with a 38-yard touchdown to John Brown, who not only beat Darryl Roberts down the sideline but drew defensive pass interference on the play. The whole stretch was so Jets.
2. The anticipated development of Allen and Sam Darnold was anticlimactic in their Year 2 debuts. Allen was obviously a mixed bag with the turnovers and late comeback, which included completing 5 of 7 passes on the go-ahead drive. His seven completions for 123 yards to Brown were a welcome sight for Bill fans. Darnold didn’t have a turnover and connected on 28 of 41 attempts, yet it amounted to just 175 yards. New York’s revamped offensive line is still a work in progress, as Darnold was under constant pressure while being sacked four times and resorting to too many throws underneath. After more than a year away from football, Le’Veon Bell looked good in green. The former Steeler caught a TD pass and two-point conversion, and collected 92 yards from scrimmage on 23 touches. He still has it.
3. This isn’t what the Kaare Vedvik hat trick was supposed to look like. After being touted as a potential placekicker and punter who could also handle kickoffs, Vedvik had a forgettable first game with the Jets. It started with him missing an extra point and continued with him shanking a 45-yard field goal. By the time the Jets scored their second touchdown in the third quarter, they opted to bypass the PAT altogether and try for two. Expect Gang Green to re-enter the kicker market soon.
— Adam Maya
1. All eyes were on the Rams backfield after questions regarding Todd Gurley‘s health were a hot topic coming into Week 1. The first half saw coach Sean McVay opt to mix it up with Gurley and Malcolm Brown splitting touches. It was Brown who made a difference early, scoring the game’s first touchdown on a 5-yard rush in the redzone and ending the half with five carries for 29 yards. But, in the second half, it was Gurley — who only added 8 yards on five attempts in the first two quarters — that made big plays down the stretch.
He opened the third quarter with a 25-yard rush on the Rams‘ third play to push them into the red zone. He followed that with a 5-yard rush two plays later; the drive ended with a 27-yard field goal. In the fourth quarter, Gurley demonstrated his power on several timely runs to the tune of 58 yards, including two back-to-back runs for 12 yards to put the game away in the final two minutes. Gurley’s day may have ended with no TDs but 97 yards on 14 carries is by no means a bad outing. Add that in with Brown’s 11 carries for 53 yards and two scores and the Rams‘ run game already looks potent.
2. After a foot injury cut his preseason debut short, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton got the chance to show off his surgically-repaired throwing shoulder. Newton’s first throw of the game went to running back Christian McCaffrey, who ended the day with a whopping 209 all-purpose yards and two TDs, for a quick gain of five. After taking a sack on the next play, Newton followed that up with a 13-yard pass to receiver DJ Moore for a first down. The drive would eventually be cut short after a Moore fumble following a 15-yard reception. The play was indicative of an overall rough outing for Newton; the star QB completed 25 of his 38 pass attempts for 239 yards, took three sacks for a loss of 23 yards and turned the ball over twice.
3. Since 2017, the Rams defense has led the league in takeaways, interceptions and fumble recoveries. Led by an already stout group that added safety Eric Weddle and linebacker Clay Matthews in the offseason, the Rams added a forced fumble and an interception to the stat sheet in the Week 1 win. The group also brought the pressure with three sacks and five total QB hits. Something to keep an eye going into Week 2 is the potential loss of Weddle, who exited in the second quarter with a head laceration.
— Jelani Scott