SportsPulse: Should the Steelers be embarrassed? Is the Cowboys offense the worst in the NFL? Trysta Krick gives her overreactions for Week 1 of the NFL season.
The first Sunday of the NFL regular season kicked off and it clarified some story lines expected to shape the entire year. And though there’s still plenty of time left to play, it’s not too early to examine some winners and losers.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said in the preseason that suspended quarterback Jameis Winston wasn’t guaranteed to get his job back upon his return in Week 4. Fitzpatrick may be making the decision on Winston’s future more difficult. In a stunner, the Bucs outgunned the Saints, a popular preseason Super Bowl pick, 48-40. Fitzpatrick was in top form, completing 21 of 28 passes for a career-high 417 yards and four touchdowns. He also added 12 carries for 36 yards and a rushing score.
Andy Reid and Brett Veach: Reid, the head coach of the Chiefs, and Veach, the general manager, made a bold move in trading Alex Smith to the Redskins in January after the veteran quarterback enjoyed a career year. But Patrick Mahomes appeared to validate that choice in his second career start, a 38-28 victory against the Chargers. Kansas City’s offense popped thanks to Mahomes’ arm strength and ability to extend plays. He finished finished with 256 yards and four touchdowns on 15-of-27 passing. A crisp connection with speedy receiver Tyreek Hill (seven catches, 169 yards, two scores) may be a sign of even more fireworks to come in 2018.
Minnesota Vikings:Quarterback Kirk Cousins had a successful debut in Minnesota, and running back Dalvin Cook returned from last season’s torn anterior cruciate ligament, but the Vikings’ defense was the true star of a 24-16 win over the 49ers. Minnesota forced four turnovers, including three picks (one of which was returned for a TD) against Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The Vikings also sacked him three times and hit him nine times. After ranking as the NFL’s top defense last year, Minnesota is in good position to hold onto that title this season.
Green Bay Packers: First they dodged a season-changing blow when Aaron Rodgers was carted off with a knee injury only to return in the second half. But then Rodgers helped erase a 20-point second-half deficit to pull off a stunning comeback and beat the Bears 24-23. The two-time MVP reaffirmed his standing and reminded many why the Packers gave him the richest contract in NFL history. His injury will continue to be monitored, but this is a victory that can spark momentum and get Green Bay rolling.
Le’Veon Bell: Not only did he miss out on more than $855,000 by not signing his franchise tender in time for the Steelers’ 21-21 tie against the Browns, but his current (and potential long-term) replacement James Conner played extremely well. Though he lost a key fumble late in the game, Conner had 34 total touches for 192 yards and a pair of touchdowns, showing good vision and an ability to make defenders miss. Bell did appear to have a pointed message on Twitter minutes after the game ended, but the Steelers’ result was tied more so to the team’s six turnovers than his absence.
Buffalo Bills: They got absolutely demolished in a 47-3 loss against the Ravens, the worst season-opening loss in franchise history. In the first quarter, Buffalo gained just 2 yards. They failed to register a first down in the first half, running 23 plays for only 33 yards. Nathan Peterman completed just five of 18 passes and was benched for rookie Josh Allen when the game got out of hand. The defense yielded far too many big plays, and Buffalo looks more like a team destined for the No. 1 overall draft pick than the one that snapped a 17-year postseason drought last season.
Dallas Cowboys offense: Maybe going into the season without a true No. 1 receiver wasn’t the best idea, as Dallas’ offense sputtered in a 16-8 loss against the Carolina Panthers. Newly signed Allen Hurns, rookie Michael Gallup and veteran Terrance Williams were expected to step up with Dez Bryant’s release earlier this year. They each struggled to gain separation and combined for just three catches and 35 yards. The offensive line, still reeling with center Travis Frederick sidelined indefinitely, could not manage Carolina’s pressure and yielded six sacks, including three in the final 3:30. If the receivers can’t win one-on-one matchups, opposing defenses may just stack the box to bottle up Ezekiel Elliott and the running game.
Sam Bradford: After the Cardinals took Josh Rosen with the No. 10 overall pick, it became clear that Bradford, who signed a one-year deal in March, was merely a bridge quarterback. And after a season-opening 24-6 loss against the Redskins, Rosen might be in line to see action even sooner than anticipated. Bradford completed 20 of 34 passes for 153 yards with one interception. Arizona’s offense stalled and converted just one of eight third-down attempts. The Cards recorded 14 first downs, compared to Washington’s 30. If 2018 looks to be a rebuild, maybe new head coach Steve Wilks will opt to give Rosen some snaps in the early going.
Tennessee Titans: They endured three hours and 59 minutes of lightning delays and ended up losing to the Miami Dolphins 27-20 in the longest game since the 1970 merger at seven hours and eight minutes. That was just the start. Quarterback Marcus Mariota left the game with an elbow injury. Starting left tackle Taylor Lewan suffered a concussion. And tight end Delanie Walker suffered a dislocated ankle, according to multiple reports, and will likely miss the entire season.
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