Football is finally here! Week 1 is officially in the books, and TRO is reflecting on all that transpired, breaking down major headlines, and handing out its weekly superlatives. Check out our thoughts following an action-packed opening week:
via Jay Biggerstaff USA TODAY Sports
Each Tuesday, TRO will launch its rapid reactions following the conclusion of the games from the Week prior. With Week 1 having concluded, it's time to fire off TRO's immediate reactions following all of the action. Each week, we will elaborate on the biggest headlines that stuck with us, and we will hand out superlatives. Look for TRO to award the Surprise Performance of the Week to the most deserving team, and the Game of the Week to the most exciting matchup, in addition to individual player superlatives. Players whose team won their game will be eligible to be selected in the following categories: Passer of the Week, Pass Catcher of the Week, Tailback of the Week, Defensive Lineman of the Week, Linebacker of the Week, Defensive Back of the Week, and Special Teamer of the Week.
1) RAPID FIRE - WEEK ONE HEADLINES:
via Bryan M. Bennett / Getty Images
Dak Prescott's Shoulder Seemed Overblown
It seemed like all that was ever being discussed the last two weeks of the offseason, leading up to kickoff of Week 1 was Dak Prescott's shoulder. How bad was it? Was it something that is going to linger? Why was he on a snap count?
As it turns out, Dak seems perfectly healthy. He absolutely lit it up Thursday night against a top notch Tampa Bay defense, throwing the ball 58 times for 403 yards and 3 touchdowns. Certainly if there was any concern about his shoulder, he wouldn't have spun the ball nearly 60 times in the season opener. While Tampa came away with the win, looking every big like the defending champs, Dallas fans have to feel good about how their team performed in Week 1 and optimistic about the kind of season Dak is going to have.
Getting Comfortable: Quarterbacks Finding Success in Their New Homes
Matthew Stafford certainly looked comfortable playing in Los Angeles didn't he? Sean McVay let the playbook fly, which translated to Stafford letting the pigskin fly. He completed 20 out of 26 passes for 321 yards and 3 touchdowns. Let's not forget he was only sacked once. Stafford was born to play in big moments, under big lights, and after 12 years in Detroit, he finally has the opportunity to do so. The Rams have coach, the quarterback, the weapons, the offensive line, and the defense to be dangerous. Watch out NFC!
The Panthers took a gamble in making a move to get Sam Darnold this offseason. Against the Jets, what the Panthers saw in Darnold came to light. For the first time in his career, Darnold looked comfortable. He went through his reads, and he always knew where Christian McCaffrey was just in case he had no options down the field. As a result, he didn't force passes like he would in New York. His footwork looked improved, and Panthers fans have to be happy to see a quarterback with an arm suit up after a year with Teddy Bridgewater, and 1.5 - 2 years of Cam Newton either playing with an injured throwing shoulder, or seeing backups Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke under center. The Darnold experiment will be interesting to follow, but after watching Week 1, and taking into consideration the fact that he is younger than Joe Burrow, the Panthers might be onto something here.
Joe Burrow Reminds us Why He was Taken 1 Overall
Speaking of Joe Burrow, the 2020 number one overall pick reminded us what he was capable of before his season-ending injury. In upsetting the Minnesota Vikings, Joe Burrow went 20/27 for 261 yards and 2 touchdowns, picking up right where he left off. He also reportedly is responsible for calling an audible on 4th and inches in overtime with less than 40 seconds left, setting up the game winning field goal. Burrow showed the skill, confidence, leadership, and toughness (he was sacked 5 times in his first game back) to remind us all what the Bengals have landed at the quarterback position.
The play Joe Burrow called from the line of scrimmage to lead to the game winning field goal:
Pittsburgh is Still Pittsburgh
Offseason changes, complete regression at offensive line, an aging Ben Roethlisberger, and a 2020 collapse after starting 11-0 (losing four of their last 5 and a first round playoff exit) led many to believe that the Steelers will suffer their first losing season under head coach Mike Tomlin. Not so fast. Pittsburgh went into Buffalo, battled through a physical game, and kicked the door open in the fourth quarter to beat a team many have pegged as Super Bowl favorites.
The Steelers might be less talented than they were a year ago, but as long as Tomlin is there, this team will be physical, gritty, and will find ways to win games against good teams. Whether its by hard-nosed defense, blocking a punt, or letting Big Ben fire at will, this team won't go away that easily.
Aaron Rodgers Stumbles Out the Gate
Are Aaron Rodgers and the Packers distracted? Are the Saints still good? Whatever it might be, the Packers had the worst performance in Week 1 out of any team in the League. Losing 38-3, benching Rodgers after only 133 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions, going 1 for 10 on third down, and only netting 229 yards of total offense, the Packers got flat out embarrassed. While it is far too early to panic, it is not a good look for last year's MVP (who would have had a higher QBR if he threw every single pass into the dirt), especially after the noise that surrounded him and this franchise all offseason long.
Rookie Quarterback Debuts
Zach Wilson - 20/37 for 258 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT:
Wilson had an up and down debut. He throws a very pretty ball, and thrives when he's improvising on the run, which means he has amazing spectacular play ability. He was harassed by the speedy Panthers defense, which leads you to hope that the Jets are able to take care of Wilson before the franchise's woes becomes detrimental to his development.
Trevor Lawrence - 28/51 for 332 yards, 3 TDs, 3 INTs:
Lawrence never really had much of a chance after the Texans got out to such a great lead. He showed some flashes, making a couple of highlight plays, but struggled to get anything going. It's tough as a rookie when you're trying to dig out of a hole in you first career game, and the opposing team knows you have to throw the ball on almost every play. Time will tell if the Jaguars made a mistake or not in selecting Urban Meyer as their head coach.
Mac Jones - 29/39 for 281 yards, 1 TD:
Jones played a solid, safe game. He plays carefully and fits Bill Belichick's offensive system like a glove. He was unable to make enough plays to pull out a win, but showed why the Patriots drafted him in the first round of the 2021 Draft.
We were fortunate enough to see flashes of Trey Lance and Justin Fields, both scoring their first career touchdowns in their limited snaps. The 49ers will likely hold off on letting Lance loose this year, but he will continue to have his own package of plays as the season unfolds. Whereas, you've got to ask yourself how much more pressure can the Bears take before they wisely make the decision to promote Fields to QB1? They are only fooling themselves at this point...
2) GAME OF THE WEEK: Baltimore Ravens at Las Vegas Raiders
via Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today
Week 1 went out with an absolute bang. The Roomba was buzzin', the game was absolutely electric. It looked all bad for the Raiders early after they fell down 14-0, but they persevered, and showed grit to force overtime. They overcame their mistakes, including a disastrous interception in the endzone in overtime. Their defense came up with a major fumble recovery to give Derek Carr one more chance, where he delivered on a deep strike, calling game.
This game had it all: a beautiful and packed arena, Lamar Jackson jukes, big pass plays over the top, Darren Waller hauling target after target, defensive turnovers, bonehead penalties, overtime turmoil, and an explosive walk-off win. We can't forget the secondary game coverage by Peyton and Eli Manning that was full of its own shenanigans. Games like these will keep you up at night, no matter who you are a fan of, feeding off of all of the energy and madness.
3) SURPRISE PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK: The Houston Texans
via Eric Christian Smith
How about them Texans??? A team everyone had pegged as a dumpster-fire, and favorites to finish as the worst team in the League, went out and proved everyone wrong. Granted, beating Jacksonville, a team who won just 1 game a year ago and is starting a rookie quarterback, is not a major accomplishment, but let's be honest with ourselves, who saw Tyrod Taylor and company hanging 37 points on anybody? The manner in which Houston won was quite a surprise, and props to these guys for going out there and competing despite all of the drama, the noise, and the doubt.
4) PLAYER SUPERLATIVES:
PASSER OF THE WEEK: Kyler Murray - Arizona Cardinals
via Wesley Hitt / Getty Images
21/32 for 289 yards, 4 passing touchdowns, and throw in a rushing touchdown for good measure. Kyler Murray absolutely lit up the first game of his third season. This was clearly the best performance by a quarterback in Week 1 whose team won their game. If Murray can keep this up, he will certainly find himself in the MVP conversation.
PASS CATCHER OF THE WEEK: Tyreek Hill - Kansas City Chiefs
via the Athletic
No surprise here. If the Chiefs complete an epic comeback, you can bank on Tyreek Hill having his hand(s) in it. 11 catches for 197 yards and 1 touchdown. Another day at the office for one of the League's most explosive players.
TAILBACK OF THE WEEK: Joe Mixon - Cincinnati Bengals
via Cincinnati Bengals
This was a good one to see. Joe Mixon has battled injuries, and had to shrug off questions as to whether or not his best years were behind him. 29 carries for 127 yards and 1 touchdown against a talented Vikings' front 7 will certainly lead you to be TRO's Tailback of the Week.
DEFENSIVE LINEMAN OF THE WEEK: Chandler Jones - Arizona Cardinals
via Silas Walker / Getty Images
I don't think I'll get any pushback on this one. Ryan Tannehill is probably still having nightmares about Chandler Jones. 6 tackles, 5 sacks (3 of which came in THE FIRST QUARTER!), and 2 forced fumbles. Jones put together one of the best games of his illustrious career.
LINEBACKER OF THE WEEK: Shaq Thompson - Carolina Panthers
via Bob Donnan / USA Today
The Panthers announced that Shaq Thompson changed his jersey number from 54 to 7 just a couple hours before kickoff. It must've lit a fire under Thompson because this was one of his better games of his career. He was all over the field, impacting every play, and was a major key to their victory over the Jets. He finished with 10 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss, 1 interception, and 3 passes defended.
DEFENSIVE BACK OF THE WEEK: Jalen Ramsey - Los Angeles Rams
via Ramswire / USA Today
Arguably the best corner in the League did his part to maintain this recognition on Sunday Night Football. He had his fingerprints all over this game. While he did not come away with a turnover, he finished with 9 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and had 1 very key pass deflection. It is also worth noting that not a single Bears receiver had more than 45 yards.
SPECIAL TEAMER OF THE WEEK: Joey Slye - Houston Texans
via Instagram / @Joey_Slye
After struggling in Carolina, and losing his job in an offseason kicker battle, potentially ending his career, Joey Slye took the opportunity the Houston Texans handed him and ran with it. He made all 7 of his kicks, going 3/3 on field goals and 4/4 on extra points.