The 32 things we learned from Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season:
1. Black Lives Matter. End Racism. It Takes All Of Us. Still trying to understand how any of that stirs controversy …
1a. Speaking of which, how about Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich taking a knee during the national anthem? Talk about being an advocate for equality.
1b. And, it should be noted, I’d expect Reich – and anyone else who knelt this weekend, including Ravens QB Lamar Jackson – to be gainfully employed in the NFL in 2021 and well beyond.
1c. But, as expected, teams and players approached pre-game ceremonies – they included “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” aka the Black national anthem, and the traditional “The Star-Spangled Banner” in Week 1 – in various ways. Some clubs locked arms, while no players at all were present for the anthems elsewhere. None of it really came as a surprise, the Miami Dolphins – they chose not to be on the field for the songs – signalling during the week that they want action, not more words.
2. To the field. How important is a 1-0 start? Since the NFL expanded to a 16-game schedule in 1978 (minus the strike-shortened 1982 season), teams losing their opener have reached the playoffs only 24% of the time. (Of course, this year’s postseason field has been expanded to 14 teams, so that figure will likely rise.)
3. Russ definitely got to cook Sunday, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson – he’s never been the NFL’s MVP – making a strong opening statement by completing 31 of 35 passes for 322 yards and four TDs. He also led Seattle with 29 rushing yards.
3a. Seattle beat the Falcons 38-25, meaning the ‘Hawks are 7-0 in the Eastern time zone since last season and 22-9 in the Wilson era. Wish I’d remembered that before picking Atlanta to win …
4. If you had Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky outplaying Lions counterpart Matthew Stafford, and throwing three fourth-quarter TD passes in the process, you’re welcome to do my investing.
4a. Chicago has beaten Detroit five straight. Wish I’d remembered that before picking the Lions to win … though I also thought D’Andre Swift could catch.
5. The Washington Football Team is 1-0 all-time. Congrats to Ron Rivera and Co., who’ve endured quite a summer of headlines not of their own making.
5a. And the WFT pass rush is as good as advertised, racking up eight sacks (for minus-62 yards) on Carson Wentz and the Eagles’ depleted O-line. Wish I’d properly weighted that mismatch before picking the Eagles to win …
6. The Las Vegas Raiders are also 1-0 all-time. Now, “what happens in Vegas” next week when the Saints “stay in Vegas” for the opening of Allegiant Stadium, aka the “Death Star.”
7. Speaking of new yards, Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium appears to be everything it’s cracked up to be, including possession of its own Twitter account. Bummer it won’t be hosting fans – Jerry Jones doesn’t count – anytime soon.
8. Eight teams are breaking out new uniforms this season … because if you look good, you play good, right? Those teams went 4-4 in Week 1. The Patriots, Rams, Chargers and Washington won. The Browns, Colts, Falcons and Bucs didn’t.
9. The AFC North features three Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks (Jackson, Baker Mayfield, Joe Burrow) – the first division in league history to start three simultaneously. Even Baltimore backup Robert Griffin III won the award. Eat it, Big Ben.
9a. Burrow’s debut meant at least one rookie quarterback has started in Week 1 for 13 consecutive seasons. However, since 2003, No. 1 picks starting under center are 0-12-1 in their maiden starts.
9b. Also, not sure Burrow should start that nascent mustache in consecutive weeks …
9c. Burrow might have emerged victorious had Cincinnati K Randy Bullock not missed a 31-yard field goal with 2 seconds remaining in the Bengals’ three-point defeat against the Chargers. Adding injury to insult, Bullock – he’d connected on 24 consecutive FGs inside 40 yards prior to Sunday’s misfire – appeared to hurt himself on the play.
10. Belichick > Brady
11. Cam Newton won his Patriots debut, becoming the first former MVP quarterback to replace a former MVP quarterback (Tom Brady) for a team at the start of a season.
11a. Newton also became just the second Black player to start at quarterback in New England history – he joined Jacoby Brissett – and the first to do so on opening day.
11b. Prior to Newton, the last quarterback not drafted by the Pats to win a game for them? How about Hugh Millen in 1991.
11c. Newton’s pair of rushing TDs gave him 60 in his career, making him the first quarterback in league history to reach that threshold.
11d. Props to Cam for the Chadwick Boseman tribute in the end zone.
11e. Lastly, Mr. Newton, good to see your suit game didn’t suffer amid the move.
12. Elsewhere in New England, Bill Belichick’s defense, ranked No. 1 in 2019 but ravaged by free agency and COVID-19 opt-outs this year, limited the Dolphins to 11 points and 269 yards.
13. Meanwhile, Brady lost in his debut with the Buccaneers – looking more Jameis Winston than TB12 with a pair of interceptions.
13a. However Brady did score on a 2-yard TD run at the start of the game. At 43 years and 41 days, he’s the oldest player in NFL history to find the end zone.
14. Sunday also marked the first-ever matchup of two quarterbacks at least 40 years of age. Drew Brees, 41, and the Saints got the best of Brady.
14a. Brees is now 4-2 all-time against Brady. The next rematch is Nov. 8.
14b. Great nugget from ESPN Stats & Info: Brady and Brees have combined for more career TD passes than seven NFL franchises.
15. Play for pay: Alvin Kamara (Saints) and Dalvin Cook (Vikings) both scored a pair of touchdowns Sunday, right on the heels of each earning an NFL rarity – a lucrative contract for a running back. Kamara already appears to be spending some of that cheddar on his game-day look.
16. Despite their decisive loss to Seattle, I still like the Falcons as a playoff dark horse. Their Matt Ryan-led attack rolled up 506 yards on the Seahawks, three receivers exceeding the century mark and RB Todd Gurley scoring (and looking productive) in his Atlanta debut.
17. Bills QB Josh Allen finished with good stats (312 yards, 2 TDs passing plus 57 yards and a TD on the ground) in Sunday’s defeat of the Jets, but the number of wide-open throws he continues to miss is almost shocking. That will cost Buffalo against better opponents.
18. Good thing the Packers are laying the groundwork to replace QB Aaron Rodgers, who threw for 364 yards and four scores as Green Bay (522 total yards) outgunned the Vikings.
18a. The Pack’s defense didn’t look particularly inspiring while surrendering 34 points to Minnesota. But don’t blame underrated CB Jaire Alexander, the first Green Bay player to record a safety in 19 years. Alexander also became the ninth player in NFL history to register a safety, sack and interception in the same game.
19. The Raiders and Panthers exchanged the lead seven times. Pretty exciting game, especially relative to the lack of buzz it received.
20. Don’t think the Ravens, who won an NFL-high 14 regular-season games in 2019 and have won 13 in a row (playoffs notwithstanding), can’t be better in 2020? Baltimore’s 38-6 thumping of the Browns was plenty impressive, but all the more so when you consider the contributions of rookies Patrick Queen (team-high eight tackles, sack) and J.K. Dobbins (2 rush TDs).