Sports

Week 1 takeaways, big questions: Cards’ offensive explosion, Bills’ letdown and Darnold’s revenge

Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season had a little bit of everything. The Cardinals’ offense looked great in a big win over the Titans, as Kyler Murray starred with five total touchdowns. Tennessee struggled all day, as did another AFC powerhouse, the Bills.

Elsewhere, Sam Darnold had a day against his old team, the Texans surprised with a big outing against Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars, and Carson Wentz‘s debut in Indianapolis didn’t go to plan. Rookies across the league showed their talent by finding the end zone, the Eagles blew out the Falcons, and Washington has a lot of looming questions regarding its quarterback after Ryan Fitzpatrick left the game with a hip injury. Minnesota and Cincinnati went to overtime, while the 49ers had to fend off a late comeback attempt by the Lions.

Our NFL Nation reporters respond to it all, with the major takeaways and top lingering questions from this week’s action — and what it all means going forward. Plus, they each look at the bigger picture with their current team confidence rating — a 0-10 grade of how they feel about the team’s future outlook coming out of the week. Let’s get into it. (Games will be added throughout the day on Sunday and then again following Monday Night Football.)

Jump to:
ARI-TEN | LAC-WSH | DAL-TB

Week 1 takeaways, big questions: Cards' offensive explosion, Bills' letdown and Darnold's revenge

Week 1 takeaways, big questions: Cards' offensive explosion, Bills' letdown and Darnold's revengeWeek 1 takeaways, big questions: Cards' offensive explosion, Bills' letdown and Darnold's revenge

Standout performer: Cardinals QB Kyler Murray with 289 passing yards, 5 total TDs

Week 1 takeaways, big questions: Cards' offensive explosion, Bills' letdown and Darnold's revenge

Cardinals

What to know: The Cardinals’ defense is legitimate — as in Super Bowl good. It was anchored by pass-rusher Chandler Jones‘ five sacks, which tied the franchise record. It showed its depth with newcomer J.J. Watt in the backfield more than Titans back Derrick Henry Sunday. Cornerback Byron Murphy showed his versatility and made plays from sideline to sideline. The defensive line all but shut down Henry. Arizona’s defense showed what it’s capable of against an offense that made the playoffs last season. — Josh Weinfuss

Who will be the Cardinals’ best offensive weapon after wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins? It’s going to depend on the game, but Arizona showed Sunday it has offensive depth. Christian Kirk caught two touchdowns, A.J. Green was quiet in his first start but he could be an option and Rondale Moore is also worth keeping an eye on. Kyler Murray is going to be Kyler Murray and Hopkins is Hopkins. If defenses want to commit to them, Arizona has plenty of other options who can help them score 40 points a game. — Weinfuss

Weinfuss’ confidence rating: 9, down from N/A. The Cardinals have the roster and firepower to be very good this season, demonstrated by five touchdowns from Kyler Murray, two each from DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk and five sacks from Chandler Jones. — Weinfuss

Next game: vs. Vikings (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)


Week 1 takeaways, big questions: Cards' offensive explosion, Bills' letdown and Darnold's revenge

Titans

What to know: The slow start by the Titans can be traced to one full week of practice as a unit before the season opener. Tennessee has notoriously gotten off to slow starts. Sunday was no different as they fell behind 24-6 in the first half. Another week of practice together should help. But the Titans would be wise to start next week’s game with tempo on offense to create a sense of urgency. — Turron Davenport

What’s up with running back Derrick Henry? Henry gained eight yards rushing in the first half. That’s his fewest as a starter since 2019 when he picked up four yards against the Carolina Panthers. The struggles start with the offensive line. Arizona’s defensive line consistently pushed the line of scrimmage into the Titans’ backfield. Henry was hit at or behind the line of scrimmage eight times resulting in a net loss of three yards over the first three quarters. — Davenport

Davenport’s confidence rating: 4.5, down from N/A. The Titans’ offensive line was dominated by Arizona and questions remain about right tackle in addition to a bad performance from Taylor Lewan at left tackle. — Davenport

Next game: at Seahawks (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

Week 1 takeaways, big questions: Cards' offensive explosion, Bills' letdown and Darnold's revenge

Week 1 takeaways, big questions: Cards' offensive explosion, Bills' letdown and Darnold's revengeWeek 1 takeaways, big questions: Cards' offensive explosion, Bills' letdown and Darnold's revenge

Standout performer: Chargers QB Justin Herbert with 337 passing yards, 1 TD

Week 1 takeaways, big questions: Cards' offensive explosion, Bills' letdown and Darnold's revenge

Chargers

What to know: The Chargers made some of the goofiest errors (fumbling in the end zone deep in Washington territory, which gave the Washington Football team a touchback) but managed to win the game thanks to QB Justin Herbert, who threw for 337 yards while completing 31 of 47 passes. Herbert had the end zone fumble and threw a red zone interception but managed to keep his cool, throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to Mike Williams early in the fourth quarter after Kyzir White forced a fumble deep in Washington territory which Joey Bosa recovered. The Chargers had two red zone turnovers but were able to play keep-away for the last 6:43 out to get the win. — Shelley Smith

How will the team clean up some of these errors? Receiver Mike Williams saved the game with his touchdown reception, and he and Keenan Allen combined for 17 catches for 182 yards. Along with the two red-zone turnovers, a roughing-the-passer penalty on Joey Bosa late in the first half led to three Washington points. They’ll need to cut down on the mistakes going forward. — Smith

Smith’s confidence rating: 5.4, down from N/A. They won a game that last year they would have lost, as the Chargers were able to convert several third downs on their final drive to prevent the dramatic losses which they’ve had the last two seasons. — Smith

Next game: vs. Cowboys (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)


Week 1 takeaways, big questions: Cards' offensive explosion, Bills' letdown and Darnold's revenge

Washington

What to know: Washington had multiple issues, but third-down defense was a major one. The pass rush did not bother quarterback Justin Herbert nearly enough as Los Angeles converted 14-of-18 third downs. While the offense needed to do more, the defense is supposed to be the rock. In the red zone Washington’s defense stiffened, but the inability to get off the field on third down was a major problem. A lot of that stemmed from Herbert’s fantastic passing, but some of that was about a line that needed to harass him more. Washington’s line did not live up to the hype Sunday. — John Keim

What is the impact if Ryan Fitzpatrick must miss time? Taylor Heinicke showed that he can run this offense well and provides a spark. The question with him has always been durability and what happens as teams get more film on him? Kyle Allen would be elevated to the No. 2 role. They do not have another QB on the practice squad. Washington has had too many seasons where injuries have been an issue at quarterback, so this is a tough way to start the season. — Keim

Keim’s confidence rating: 5, down from N/A. Washington remains a talented young team in some areas, but now there are questions — again — at quarterback and the defense couldn’t bail them out. The key to this season will be how the team progresses in the second half and one game does not sidetrack them. But it does show that they have questions that still must be answered. — Keim

Next game: vs. Giants (Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET)

Week 1 takeaways, big questions: Cards' offensive explosion, Bills' letdown and Darnold's revenge

Week 1 takeaways, big questions: Cards' offensive explosion, Bills' letdown and Darnold's revengeWeek 1 takeaways, big questions: Cards' offensive explosion, Bills' letdown and Darnold's revenge

Standout performer: Cowboys QB Dak Prescott with 403 passing yards, 3 TDs

Week 1 takeaways, big questions: Cards' offensive explosion, Bills' letdown and Darnold's revenge

Buccaneers

What to know: Unlike Super Bowl LV, in which the Buccaneers’ defense kept the Chiefs out of the end zone, the Bucs’ offense had to carry them this time. Quarterback Tom Brady threw for 379 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions, and the defense surrendered 403 passing yards and three touchdowns to Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. Had it not been for two missed field goal attempts by Cowboys’ Greg Zuerlein, the Bucs would have been doomed by four turnovers. Still, the offense looks more improved than it did at the beginning of last season, suggesting that yes, they really can be better than their title-run season. — Jenna Laine

Did the Cowboys create the template to beat Tampa Bay? They attacked the Bucs with screens and made their defense step up and tackle on the perimeter. This could be especially problematic if starting cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (also their nickelback) misses any time after dislocating his elbow, and if they continue to be without safety Jordan Whitehead. — Laine

Laine’s confidence rating: 7.0. Brady delivered some epic throws for the defending Super Bowl champs, but the defense was disappointing against Dallas. The Bucs must correct their errors with games against the Rams and Patriots right around the corner. — Laine

Next game: vs. Falcons (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)


Week 1 takeaways, big questions: Cards' offensive explosion, Bills' letdown and Darnold's revenge

Cowboys

What to know: There are reasons to be encouraged by the Cowboys’ Week 1 game: Dak Prescott’s 403 yards, Amari Cooper‘s 13 catches for 139 yards and the defense’s four takeaways. And then there are reasons to be discouraged by the loss: Ezekiel Elliott had 33 yards on 11 carries, the Cowboys allowed four touchdown passes, and there were too many mistakes on special teams. “Like coach said in the postgame, the only thing we know after this game is that we aren’t going undefeated,” Cooper said. “It wasn’t all bad. We did some good things, too.” — Todd Archer

How much worry should there be regarding kicker Greg Zuerlein? He hooked a 31-yard field goal attempt and was off from 60 yards — which is fine — but also had an extra point hit the upright. He didn’t kick much over the summer because of back surgery and had one attempt in the preseason. The Cowboys need to do a better job offensively in the red zone, but Zuerlein can’t miss makeable kicks like this. — Archer

Archer’s confidence rating: 7.5. The offense did what was expected. Scoring 29 points against Tampa Bay is a good showing even if it didn’t — or couldn’t run the ball. Dallas shredded the Bucs’ pass defense, and Prescott was sacked once. And Dallas doesn’t play Tom Brady every week. — Archer

Next game: at Chargers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

Most Related Links :
Business News Governmental News Finance News

Source link

Back to top button