A month ago, two months ago, whenever we first realized that Tom Brady was going to be suspended for the first four games of the season, we looked at the Patriots’ schedule and made some predictions. Nobody predicted doom or anything like that, but nobody really felt like 4-0 was a safe bet either.
New England had one game on the road, the season opener in Arizona. Without Brady, almost everyone had that game pegged as a loss. The Cardinals had the defense to wreak havoc on any team. They also score points in bunches, the only team capable of getting as creative offensively as the Patriots.
It looked even worse for the Patriots on Sunday when we learned that not only would Brady be out, but Gronkowski and both starting offensive tackles would miss the game with injuries. That left them with two rookie guards and an undrafted center. Not exactly the recipe for success against a Cardinals team that a lot of us (ahem, myself included) predicted to win the NFC Championship this season.
And yet, none of that seemed to matter. The Patriots won 23-21. Without a gaggle of their best players, they beat one of last season’s final four teams with a turnover ratio of -2.
Jimmy Garoppolo was fine. He finished the night 24 of 33 with 264 yards and a touchdown. He even had a reception. On third downs, he was 8-of-10 passing with 107 yards and seven first downs. This touchdown pass to Chris Hogan might have been his prettiest throw of the night.
Sure, it came down to a missed Cardinals field goal at the very end of the game, but a win is a win.
"I'm really concerned about the storyline... nothing concerns me more than the storyline... I can't wait to read it tomorrow." - Belichick— Aaron Schatz (@FO_ASchatz) September 12, 2016
Salty as ever.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31, Atlanta Falcons 24
Philadelphia Eagles 29, Cleveland Browns 10
Minnesota Vikings 25, Tennessee Titans 16
Oakland Raiders 35, New Orleans Saints 34
Cincinnati Bengals 23, New York Jets 22
Kansas City Chiefs 33, San Diego Chargers 27 (OT)
Houston Texans 23, Chicago Bears 14
Baltimore Ravens 13, Buffalo Bills 7
Green Bay Packers 27, Jacksonville Jaguars 23
Seattle Seahawks 12, Miami Dolphins 10
Detroit Lions 39, Indianapolis Colts 35
New York Giants 20, Dallas Cowboys 19
New England Patriots 23, Arizona Cardinals 21
Three of Sunday’s games were decided by a one-point margin: Bengals 23, Jets 22; Raiders 35, Saints 34; and Giants 20, Cowboys 19. (It’s four games this week if you throw in Denver’s 21-20 win over Carolina on Thursday.)
Of course, one-point games usually mean there’s some kind of wacky ending. The Jets lost because Nick Folk missed two kicks that kickers usually make 95 percent of the time.
The Lions kicker nearly lost the game for his team, but redeemed himself with a clutch game-winner.
But the Raiders had the best narrow win of all. After trading big plays with the Saints, they made the gutsiest call we saw all week, opting to go for two points and the win, instead of a PAT and a tie. They made it. The Saints had a chance to win, too, but you know, a missed kick.
Oakland is only the fourth team to score the game-winning points on a two-point conversion in the final minute of the fourth quarter, and the first ever team to do it in the season opener.
Head coach Jack Del Rio’s balls were trending.
The Chiefs overcame a 21-point deficit, the biggest comeback in franchise history, to beat the Chargers.
Minnesota was in the hole 10-0 against Tennessee at the half, but a couple of defensive touchdowns took care of that. Great start to the Shaun Hill era since they’ll have to win largely on the strength of their defense and the running game.
Dak Prescott made his debut
It was fine. He finished the game 25 of 45 with 227 yards and no turnovers. The Cowboys might have won if only Terrance Williams had listened to Dez Bryant and got out of bounds.
The big news Sunday morning was that the Cowboys were willing to stick with Prescott when Tony Romo returns from his back injury, if the rookie is playing well. We’re not there yet.
Another weird start to the Seahawks season
Seattle won, but just barely. Russell Wilson is probably lucky Ndamukong Suh didn’t break his ankle when he stepped on it (accidentally). The offensive line was trash, but they still somehow managed to comeback and beat the Dolphins.
Last year, the Seahawks lost their season opener to the Rams in overtime. The year before they thumped the Packers, but lost to the Chargers the next week. They won the home opener in 2013, beating the Panthers 12-7 ... deja vu.
The Jaguars covered
Green Bay was favored anywhere from 5.5 to 7 points over the Jaguars in Jacksonville. The Packers won the game on Sunday (and Aaron Rodgers looked very much like an MVP candidate), but it wasn’t easy. Jacksonville lost, 27-23.
The Jaguars still have some work to do, but they’re getting better.
Tampa Bay leads the NFC South
Jameis Winston threw four touchdown passes in a 31-24 win over the Falcons. His third quarter TD to Austin Seferian-Jenkins was the prettiest of the bunch. They were the only NFC South team to win this week. But it was a pretty encouraging performance. Even the kicker, Roberto Aguayo, shook off his preseason yips and booted a 43-yard field goal. Living up to his second-round pick status!
A number of players joined 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest. Four players from the Dolphins knelt during the anthem while the Seahawks locked arms. Marcus Peters of the Chiefs stood but raised his arm, and a couple of Patriots players did the same.
Here’s a primer on the movement Kaepernick has inspired in the NFL.
Keenan Allen carted off the field vs. Chiefs with knee injury. It looks to be a torn ACL.
Texans LB Brian Cushing will reportedly miss six weeks with a torn MCL. Cushing was injured early in the team's season opener against the Chicago Bears.
Russell Wilson's ankle injury is said to be "significant." That's a huge concern for the Seahawks.
Highlights and headlines
David Johnson embarrassed seveb Patriots defenders on the same run. The Patriots won, but not before David Johnson stripped their defense of its dignity.
Larry Fitzgerald reportedly expects to retire at end of season. NFL Media's Ian Rapoport says Fitzgerald expects to call it quits after the 2016 campaign.
Yes, the NFL specifically outlaws "choreographed celebrations." That's dumb and not fun. The NFL, brought to you by the bad guys in Footloose.
Martellus Bennett hails from The Imagination Agency in his new Sunday Night Football intro. The power of Imagination is great!
Eagles QB Carson Wentz lives up to his draft hype with 29-10 win in debut vs. Browns. Carson Wentz avoided mistakes and had two beautiful touchdown passes in his first game with the Eagles.
Kenny Stills dropped a perfectly thrown touchdown bomb, and suffered an existential crisis in slo-mo. The Miami Dolphins in a nutshell.
Chuck Pagano explains a bad decision. Sunday saw lots of poor coaching, especially clock management.