Week 1 takeaways and big questions: Bucs stifle Cowboys; bad losses for Bengals, Patriots, Titans and 49ers

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Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season — we saw it all.

Quarterback Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took care of business on the road against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, as Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott struggled to get anything going against the Bucs’ defense. And that was before Prescott left the game late because of a right hand injury.

Earlier in the day, turnovers were the name of the game in Cincinnati, with the Pittsburgh Steelers forcing five against Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow — including a pick-six. But the teams went back and forth until the Steelers won it in overtime with a field goal. Speaking of field goals, the Tennessee Titans missed a potential game winner in the late-afternoon window Sunday, allowing the New York Giants to come back from a 13-point deficit and win their first season opener in six years.

Multiple quarterbacks made debuts with new teams in the early window. Baker Mayfield played his first game in a Panthers uniform against his old team, the Cleveland Browns. Matt Ryan — in his 15th season — led the Indianapolis Colts to a tie against the Houston Texans. Washington Commanders rookie Jahan Dotson caught his first — and second — career touchdown pass from Carson Wentz, leading to a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

As far as holdovers, Patrick Mahomes looked as good as ever in the late-afternoon window as the Kansas City Chiefs romped to a victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Our NFL Nation reporters react with the biggest takeaways and lingering questions coming out of this week’s matchups and look ahead to what’s next. Let’s get to it.

Jump to a matchup:
LAR-BUF | NE-MIA | CLE-CAR | BAL-NYJ

CHI-SF | JAX-WSH | PIT-CIN | IND-HOU
NO-ATL | PHI-DET | KC-ARI | GB-MIN
LV-LAC | NYG-TEN | TB-DAL

Buccaneers

What to know: In Todd Bowles’ debut as the Buccaneers’ head coach, Tampa Bay held the Cowboys to a field goal and Dak Prescott to a quarterback rating of 47.2. Prescott struggled to complete a pass beyond 5 yards. Dropped interceptions were still an issue, though, but the Bucs managed one interception from Antoine Winfield Jr. Tom Brady, who became the first quarterback in NFL history to start a game at age 45, threw for 212 yards and a 5-yard touchdown to Mike Evans in the third quarter. For as well as the Bucs moved the ball, they struggled on third down (4-of-11) and in the red zone (1-for-3), although running back Leonard Fournette was a bright spot, rushing for 127 yards on 21 carries. In his much-anticipated Buccaneers debut, Julio Jones produced some wow moments, including a stunning 48-yard grab when he reached 20.62 mph.

Will the Bucs be doomed by injuries? Left tackle Donovan Smith left the game because of a right elbow injury and did not return, and wide receiver Chris Godwin — who saw action for the first time since tearing an ACL and MCL on Dec. 19 — left the game because of a hamstring injury. Godwin’s injury is less of a concern given the Bucs’ depth at receiver, and the Bucs won’t have to deal with an outside linebacker like Micah Parsons on a weekly basis, but Josh Wells struggled in Smith’s absence, and the Bucs are already missing Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen. Making matters worse is the fact that the Bucs travel to the New Orleans Saints next week — a defense that has had their number. In fact, the Bucs haven’t defeated the Saints in the regular season since 2018. — Jenna Laine

Next game: at Saints (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Cowboys

What to know: The Cowboys kept saying the offense would be fine. No wide receivers Amari Cooper (traded to Cleveland), Michael Gallup (coming back from a knee injury) or Cedrick Wilson Jr. (signed with Miami). No offensive tackle Tyron Smith (out until December). No offensive guard Connor Williams (see: Wilson). Sunday’s loss to the Buccaneers proved all of that to be untrue. The Cowboys have issues, and it got worse late in the fourth quarter when Dak Prescott went to the locker room because of a right hand injury. Before the injury, Prescott had a miserable evening even when not under duress. For the first time since the 2001 season opener, the Cowboys failed to score a touchdown. Their opponent that day? Tampa Bay. But that was former Cowboys quarterback Quincy Carter’s first career start.

What type of faith do the Cowboys have in Cooper Rush? The Cowboys’ backup quarterback won the only start of his career last year at Minnesota when Prescott had a calf strain. He threw for 325 yards on 24-of-40 passing, but he doesn’t have Cooper or Wilson to throw to this year. “I mean, it sucks obviously [losing Prescott] in Week 1, but we’ve got a ton of confidence in Coop,” Pro Bowl right guard Zack Martin said. “He’s been in there before with us, won games with us before. So we’ve got to rally around him and steady the ship until [Prescott] gets back.” — Todd Archer

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

Giants

What to know: Saquon Barkley is back! He finished with 194 total yards and had a 2-point conversion with 1:06 remaining that gave the Giants a lead they barely held. The Titans missed a potential winning field goal as time expired, and New York won its opener for the first time since 2016, which also happens to be the last time it made the playoffs. It was possible because Barkley did a little bit of everything. He had a 68-yard run in the third quarter (the Giants’ longest play from scrimmage since Daniel Jones‘ 80-yard stumble and run in Week 7 of 2020), caught six passes out of the backfield and made big plays when needed in the fourth quarter. The performance was vintage Barkley. Explosive and dynamic, and he even ran harder for tough yards than during his eye-popping rookie year. All positive developments for this Giants team and new coach Brian Daboll.

What are the Giants doing with Kadarius Toney? Toney didn’t start. He also barely played. When he did touch the ball early in the fourth quarter on a jet sweep, it went for a 19-yard rush. Toney, the Giants’ first-round pick last year, was on the field for just seven offensive snaps in the contest, even with rookie slot receiver Wan’Dale Robinson leaving in the first half because of a knee injury. It didn’t matter. Richie James played ahead of him. The Giants didn’t want to play Toney, who needs to earn the trust of the new regime. He finished with two rushes for 23 yards, which left you wondering whether he is really a major part of their plans this season and moving forward. — Jordan Raanan

Next game: vs. Panthers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Titans

What to know: The Titans couldn’t move the ball consistently enough to win. The Giants held Derrick Henry to 82 rushing yards, so Tennessee relied mostly on a balanced pass attack. Because the Titans don’t have a clear-cut No. 1 receiver, they’ll have to rely on a committee approach until someone emerges. This week it was rookie Kyle Phillips, who led the way with six receptions for 66 yards. Dontrell Hilliard had three receptions for 61 yards and two touchdowns, both of which came in mismatches against Giants linebackers. Treylon Burks caught three passes for 55 yards. Offseason acquisitions Robert Woods (one catch) and Austin Hooper (one catch) came out on the short end of the stick this week.

Can the Titans’ front four hold up against the Bills? The Titans sacked Daniel Jones five times. Four sacks came in the first half, with the Titans blitzing only one time in that span. Jones was under constant duress from Tennessee’s front four, led by Jeffery Simmons and Rashad Weaver, who finished with two sacks each. Bud Dupree had the other sack for Tennessee. Dropping seven back in coverage consistently helped keep Jones under 200 passing yards. A similar performance by Simmons and the front four will allow the Titans to blitz less and keep seven guys in coverage next week against Josh Allen and the Bills’ potent attack. — Turron Davenport

Next game: at Bills (7:15 p.m. ET, Monday)

Chargers

What to know: The Chargers’ offseason additions, signifying they were all-in for a long playoff run this season, made their presence felt, including newcomer tight end Gerald Everett and receiver DeAndre Carter, who both scored touchdowns. On defense, edge rusher Khalil Mack, whom the Bolts acquired in a blockbuster trade last March, sacked quarterback Derek Carr three times, and cornerback Bryce Callahan, who signed in free agency, grabbed one of three interceptions.

Will the Chargers have key playmakers available in a quick turnaround for Thursday night? Cornerback J.C. Jackson, the NFL’s interceptions leader since 2018, was inactive Sunday as he continues to recover from ankle surgery last month. Jackson’s timetable to return was two to four weeks, so there’s a possibility he’ll be ready to play Thursday night against the Chiefs. And receiver Keenan Allen caught four passes for 66 yards before he left Sunday’s game in the first half because of a hamstring injury and did not return. — Lindsey Thiry

Next game: at Chiefs (8:15 p.m. ET, Thursday)


Raiders

What to know: Maybe the Raiders’ starters should have played a series, or three, in the preseason? Given how off a few of Derek Carr‘s throws were, timing was an issue. He missed an early touchdown by throwing behind Darren Waller, and two of his career-high three interceptions were underthrown, to Waller and Davante Adams, while his third was behind Hunter Renfrow. This was something that could have been worked out in actual game situations, especially because the Raiders were learning a new system under coach Josh McDaniels, no?

Is the offensive line a finished product? How about no. Not after Carr was sacked six times and Las Vegas used three different combinations at what is supposed to be one of the more stable units in the game. Starting rookie Dylan Parham at right guard before replacing him with Lester Cotton Sr., and then having Parham return, then having seventh-round rookie Thayer Munford Jr. replace Jermaine Eluemunor, and Eluemunor return late, says this is a fluid situation. — Paul Gutierrez

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

Vikings

What to know: New coach Kevin O’Connell had the Vikings ready to play, even after a preseason in which starters played sparingly or not at all and a training camp that prioritized injury prevention over physical reps. The Vikings’ defense was especially violent, led by new outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, and battered quarterback Aaron Rodgers with four sacks.

Did the Vikings catch the Packers by surprise, or is this success sustainable? It’s a reasonable question, given the Vikings were debuting a new scheme that they had studiously avoided giving any glimpses of during the preseason. Their defensive play can be sustained as long as the Vikings maintain Sunday’s level of physicality. Offensively, future opponents will study how O’Connell got receiver Justin Jefferson open for nine catches, 184 yards and two touchdowns. They’ll have to continue to evolve there. — Kevin Seifert

Next game: at Eagles (8:30 p.m. ET, Monday)


Packers

What to know: Season openers don’t matter: At least that’s the way the Packers seem to treat them. This was almost as bad as last year’s 38-3 Week 1 loss to the Saints, and the Packers still managed to win 13 games that season. Most teams devise game plans for regular-season games. It didn’t seem like the Packers did much of that, at least not when it came to Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson (nine catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns). It’s not like the Packers didn’t know they needed to stop No. 18, but it sure looked like they didn’t try. He wasn’t just open — he was wide open. And why give cornerback Jaire Alexander a $30 million signing bonus this offseason if you’re not going to have him shadow the best receiver in the NFC North?

What’s a bigger concern, the Packers’ offense or defense? At this point, it’s the defense. Coordinator Joe Barry had all 11 of his preferred starters available (12 if you count slot cornerback Rasul Douglas). On paper, this was supposed to be the best defense the Packers had in years. On the field, it looked like a paper tiger. At least Aaron Rodgers & Co. had an excuse: No Allen Lazard (ankle), the presumptive No. 1 receiver, and neither starting tackle, as David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins continue to work their way back from knee injuries. It might have been different early had rookie receiver Christian Watson not dropped a would-be 75-yard touchdown pass on the Packers’ first offensive play and had AJ Dillon not gotten stuffed on fourth-and-goal in the second quarter. — Rob Demovsky

Next game: vs. Bears (8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Chiefs

What to know: If the passing game is going to suffer without wideout Tyreek Hill, upcoming opponents are going to need to defend the Chiefs much better than the Cardinals did. Patrick Mahomes said Kansas City would spread the ball around, and he delivered, completing passes to nine different receivers and throwing his five TD passes to four different players.

Will the pass rush be more productive than last year, when the Chiefs were 29th in sacks? The Chiefs have reason to be encouraged after Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, even though their stats weren’t outstanding. They sacked Kyler Murray twice (they had three total) and pressured him 10 times in 36 dropbacks, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. But the Chiefs didn’t put much emphasis on pressuring Murray, either, blitzing him only 10 times. — Adam Teicher

Next game: vs. Chargers (8:15 p.m. ET, Thursday)


Cardinals

What to know: The Cardinals picked up where they left off last season — and that’s not a good thing. Arizona on Sunday lacked discipline, offensive ingenuity, solid tackling and consistent protection of quarterback Kyler Murray. For all the talk this offseason of getting over last year’s late meltdown and winning at home, none of it came to fruition in a blowout loss to the Chiefs.

What do the Cardinals fix first? Figuring out where to start feels like a monumental task, as the issues that plagued the Cardinals against the Chiefs aren’t new. The fact they’ve carried over from last season is a huge concern. The first thing Arizona needs to address is the lack of offensive production. Not enough plays were run for A.J. Green, Marquise Brown and Zach Ertz early on, causing the offense to look stuck, which led to Arizona scoring just seven points in the first three quarters. — Josh Weinfuss

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

Dolphins

What to know: This is Tyreek Hill‘s offense. Just in case it wasn’t obvious before, the Dolphins made it clear things will run through Hill, as he made his regular-season debut after being traded to Miami from the Kansas City Chiefs. He was targeted five times in his first eight routes, finishing with 94 yards and eight catches on 12 targets.

How concerning was Miami’s performance on the ground Sunday? One of the NFL’s worst rushing teams a season ago, the Dolphins had 65 yards on 21 carries against the Patriots — who were the league’s 22nd-best run defense in 2021. Miami also struggled to run the ball during training camp and the preseason. The difference Sunday for Miami compared to last season is there is now a competent passing game to carry the offense when things aren’t working on the ground. As teams come to respect that passing game, the run game should open up; it’s not quite time to panic yet. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Next game: at Ravens (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Patriots

What to know: Self-inflicted wounds cost the Patriots in a game that was winnable. They were minus-3 in the turnover differential, and they didn’t convert on fourth-and-3, which essentially is another turnover. When one of those turnovers is a strip sack that results in a touchdown, and the other comes in the end zone on a 50-50 ball (in which officials easily could have called defensive pass interference), it hurts that much more. It is often said that before a team can learn how to win, it has to learn how not to lose. That holds true for the Patriots after one game.

Can the offense improve fast enough to give the team a chance? The Patriots’ offense moved the ball — which was a promising development based on how the preseason went — but couldn’t close things out consistently enough. It was notable that Kendrick Bourne, who was the team’s second-leading receiver last year with 55 receptions for 800 yards and five touchdowns, didn’t play until deep into the fourth quarter. He promptly caught a 41-yard pass down the left sideline. For an offense that is in need of explosiveness, why isn’t Bourne playing more? — Mike Reiss

Next game: at Steelers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

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Nelson Agholor fumbles after catching a pass from Mac Jones to give the Dolphins back the ball in the fourth quarter.

Ravens

What to know: Lamar Jackson isn’t distracted by the lack of a contract extension. Jackson dominated like he usually does in a season opener, throwing for three touchdowns with one interception. He played loose, looking off his favorite target, Mark Andrews, over the middle and finding Devin Duvernay 25 yards downfield in the end zone. Jackson then stepped up for a 55-yard touchdown strike to Rashod Bateman (his first on a pass that traveled at least 50 yards in the air). It was the type of performance that the Ravens desperately needed for an offense that is without its top two left tackles (Ronnie Stanley and Ja’Wuan James) and top running back (J.K. Dobbins).

Can the Ravens maintain this relentless pressure on quarterbacks all season? After hearing all offseason how their pass rush was the biggest question (Baltimore ranked 22nd in sacks last season), the Ravens recorded three sacks (another was negated by a penalty) and nine quarterback hits in their reunion with Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco. Justin Houston continually crashed the edge, and Justin Madubuike collapsed the pocket from the middle. The Ravens, though, wreaked havoc against a Jets offensive line dealing with injuries. Baltimore still has something to prove in Week 2 against Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who was sacked three times against the Patriots in the opener. — Jamison Hensley

Next game: vs. Dolphins (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Jets

What to know: The seasons change, but the results remain the same: The New York Jets stink in September. They tied an NFL record with their 13th straight defeat in the opening month with a mistake-filled, 24-9 loss to the Ravens at home. The Joe Flacco-led offense fell flat, converting only 2 of 14 third downs. The Jets upgraded their skill positions in the offseason, but you couldn’t tell. There were too many dropped passes, a couple of key fumbles and leaky pass protection from the reshuffled offensive line. The defense did some nice things in the first half, but the revamped secondary eventually succumbed to Lamar Jackson, allowing three touchdown passes. The Jets were thoroughly outplayed in the second half, which doesn’t reflect well on coach Robert Saleh and his staff. It was a tough assignment, facing the Ravens with a backup quarterback, but the Jets were out of the game by the start of the fourth quarter.

Can Flacco keep the season alive until Zach Wilson returns? That’s a big ask, considering the upcoming opponents — the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, both good defensive teams. Wilson, recovering from knee surgery, is expected to miss at least two more games. The Jets could be 0-3 by then unless they show dramatic improvement. “Joe Cool” was Joe Cold against the team that drafted him, but he got no help from his supporting cast. The fans will scream for Mike White to replace Flacco, but it’s too soon for that. The Jets don’t have a Flacco problem; they have an everything problem. — Rich Cimini

Next game: vs. Browns (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Browns

What to know: The Browns drafted Cade York in the fourth round for days like Sunday. With eight seconds left, the rookie out of LSU drilled a 58-yard field goal, lifting the Browns to the dramatic victory. Cleveland will have plenty of issues to address coming out of this game. But after years of struggling on special teams, the Browns finally have a kicker with the confidence to deliver big-time field goals.

Can Cleveland get more from the passing game? Cleveland’s powerful running game — behind RBs Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and an imposing offensive line — controlled the game. But the Browns could’ve put Carolina away much earlier had QB Jacoby Brissett capitalized by connecting with open receivers in the first half. Brissett converted on some clutch third-down throws in the fourth quarter. But Cleveland will need more out of its passing attack to stick in the AFC playoff picture. — Jake Trotter

Next game: vs. Jets (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Panthers

What to know: The Panthers still don’t know whether Baker Mayfield can be a long-term solution at quarterback, but they know they have a QB capable of bringing them back in the fourth quarter — something they haven’t had the past few years. While Mayfield was superior to Sam Darnold in training camp, he was horrible against his former team for most of three quarters before bringing the Panthers within striking distance with some fourth-quarter heroics, including a 7-yard scramble for a touchdown and a 75-yard touchdown pass to Robbie Anderson. He then led them to a go-ahead field goal, only to see his efforts thwarted by Cleveland’s 58-yard field goal at the end.

Where was running back Christian McCaffrey in the game plan? The talk all offseason was that Mayfield and the Carolina offense can succeed only if McCaffrey stays healthy. The plan was to monitor McCaffrey’s snaps to promote his long-term health. But McCaffrey had only nine touches until Carolina’s final drive, and 14 for the game. He did come through with a big play on a screen pass (plus a personal foul penalty against the Browns) to set up a go-ahead field goal, but Carolina needs more than 57 yards from their star to win consistently. — David Newton

Next game: at Giants (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

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Baker Mayfield launches a 75-yard TD to Robbie Anderson to put the Panthers within two.

Commanders

What to know: Carson Wentz is a definite upgrade at quarterback, and at times he showed why on Sunday. But he also showed why he has been maddening throughout his career. He threw two touchdown passes in the first half, executing well-designed play calls with pinpoint throws. Washington was rolling. But on consecutive plays in the second half, he threw interceptions, leading to 10 Jacksonville points. He missed some easy throws, sailing passes. While there were questions in the past about how Wentz handled adversity, this is what he did after two miscues Sunday: He threw two more touchdown passes. Give him credit for responding.

Where is the defensive improvement? Washington held Jacksonville to 22 points, but the Jaguars missed some easy opportunities when quarterback Trevor Lawrence overthrew open targets for potential touchdowns. It allowed 383 total yards, but at least the Commanders intercepted a pass to end Jacksonville’s hopes. Washington did better on third downs — the Jags converted 3 of 12 opportunities — but if the Commanders want to take a step forward, the defense must play better. The Jaguars averaged 6.8 yards per run, the Washington pass rush was inconsistent, and cornerback William Jackson III needs to be better in coverage. — John Keim

Next game: at Lions (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Jaguars

What to know: The Jaguars were last in the NFL in turnover margin (minus-20) in 2021 but were able to work their way back into this game because they forced three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble recovery) and didn’t give the ball away. The two interceptions in the second half set up 10 points. Forcing turnovers — the Jaguars did that only nine times last season — was a major push during the offseason, and two of the turnovers were by newcomers: Foyesade Oluokun and Travon Walker. The Jaguars are still trying to find their way offensively, but nothing helps a struggling offense more than a ball-hawking defense. If the defense can continue to do that, the Jaguars will continue to be competitive.

Can Trevor Lawrence help himself and give up on a play? Lawrence was twice flagged for intentional grounding, and in each instance, he was fighting to make a play with someone either hanging on to him or in his face. Sometimes the smart play is to eat the ball and take the sack — especially since those kinds of throws are usually off target and pretty risky. — Mike DiRocco

Next game: vs. Colts (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Eagles

What to know: A.J. Brown is in line for a huge year. He erupted for 10 catches for 155 yards against the Lions, setting a record for most receiving yards in an Eagles debut. Quarterback Jalen Hurts targeted Brown 13 times — nine more than the next-closest receiving option. Hurts and Brown consider each other best friends, and they got together “countless times” during the offseason to work on their connection. It’s fair to say that effort paid off.

What’s up with the defense? The Lions look to be an improved team, but the Eagles had no business yielding 35 points. Rush defense in particular was a problem, with the Lions rolling up 181 yards on 28 carries (6.5 average). The Eagles played their starters only briefly during the preseason and didn’t go live much at training camp. Perhaps that’s why the defense looked out of sync. Philadelphia better hope so. — Tim McManus

Next game: vs. Vikings (8:30 p.m. ET, Monday)


Lions

What to know: Philadelphia-born D’Andre Swift was one of the bright spots for Detroit, rushing for 97 of his career-best 144 yards in the opening half against the Eagles. He became the first player since Barry Sanders in 1996 with 100 rushing yards in a season opener.

Should Lions fans be concerned with the 0-1 start? Not too much. The Eagles made the playoffs last season and nobody is expecting this Lions team to be a postseason contender in 2022. It would be easy to get down after yet another season-opening loss. However, despite glaring defensive issues, Detroit did fight back and make it a game late. — Eric Woodyard

Next game: vs. Commanders (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

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Eric Moody explains what A.J. Brown’s early fantasy success means for managers going forward.

Saints

What to know: Michael Thomas is back. The Saints looked like they were in big trouble in the first half with their offense unable to do much of anything, but the wide receiver proved he still has a lot left in the tank despite not playing a game last season. Thomas’ two touchdowns in the second half were a major reason the Saints were able to come back despite trailing by 16 points at one point in the second half. Thomas will clearly be a key part of the Saints’ offense turning things around from last year.

Do the Saints have issues in the trenches? Neither the Saints’ offensive line nor their defensive line will enjoy watching this game film. The O-line’s issues protecting quarterback Jameis Winston were one reason the offense struggled so much in the first half. While Winston’s four sacks weren’t entirely on the line, it certainly contributed. On the other side, the Saints’ D-line was not able to sack Marcus Mariota once. — Katherine Terrell

Next game: vs. Buccaneers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Falcons

What to know: Did that really just happen? What looked like a big debut for quarterback Marcus Mariota in Atlanta and an unexpected win turned into, what else, a double-digit, fourth-quarter collapse. A 16-point lead turned into a loss. How? A reader’s digest: The defense went from aggressive to porous. The offense offered two of its least productive drives of the afternoon. And now the Falcons, who had a chance to head to Los Angeles with a huge boost in Week 2, have to lament a real opportunity slipping away.

Yes, that pressure is improved from last season, but is it sustainable? That’s going to be an unknown for at least a little while, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees was willing to send rushers from every level of the defense, which helped create problems, including four sacks and eight quarterback hits. New Orleans came back when the Falcons stopped creating pressure (not the best decision considering the fourth-quarter meltdown), but considering the Falcons next face the Rams, who allowed seven sacks and 15 quarterback hits on Thursday, there could be more opportunities coming. — Michael Rothstein

Next game: at Rams (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Bears

What to know: The Bears showed they’re capable of fighting back despite a sloppy and ineffective start. In the first half, quarterback Justin Fields went 3-for-9 for 19 yards and an interception. Chicago’s pass protection was a mess, and the Bears got past their own 35-yard line only once. It was a totally different story in the second half. Fields had a window to get the Bears back in this game by utilizing his incredible playmaking ability to extend a play for Chicago’s first score of the game. Fields ended up going 5-for-8 for 102 yards and two touchdown passes in the second half, and the Bears’ offense scored touchdowns on three straight possessions to solidify their first win of the season.

How can the Bears get their skill position players involved sooner? The Bears tried to commit to the run in the first half (19 rushing attempts), and it made sense because of the miserable weather and soggy field conditions, but it took too long for Chicago to open things up against a 49ers secondary that got stuck in cement. Fields didn’t connect with a wide receiver until he turned a broken play on third-and-long into a 51-yard touchdown pass to Dante Pettis in the third quarter. He then found wideout Equanimeous St. Brown for an 18-yard touchdown that gave the Bears the lead, and Chicago put the Niners away by capitalizing off a turnover to punch in a 3-yard touchdown run by Khalil Herbert. This offense is a work in progress, but it has to get its best players involved and support Fields far sooner in Week 2 at Green Bay. — Courtney Cronin

Next game: at Packers (8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday)


49ers

What to know: If the 49ers are going to be the contender they believe they can be, they can’t afford the type of silly mistakes that cost them Sunday’s game against the Bears. On a wet, sloppy field, points always figured to be at a premium, but the Niners piled up a variety of self-inflicted errors that not only kept Chicago in the game but put it in position to win. The Niners finished with 12 penalties for 99 yards. On Chicago’s first two scoring drives, the Niners were flagged for two 15-yard penalties, dropped an interception and picked up a holding penalty on a third down to keep the chains moving. Moments later, quarterback Trey Lance threw an interception. Quite simply, the Niners aren’t built to overcome so many costly errors, especially with Lance learning on the go.

How much does this loss hurt the 49ers? The Niners were hoping to start faster after they spent the second half of last year desperately trying to get back in the playoff mix. Sure, weird stuff happens in Week 1 all the time and it’s a long season, but this is the kind of loss that could be particularly haunting for San Francisco. The schedule is only going to get more difficult as the season goes along, which means the Niners had better get the ship righted soon or they’re going to be playing do-or-die games throughout the final half of the year just like they did in 2021. — Nick Wagoner

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

Colts

What to know: The Colts now haven’t won a season opener in nine years. The Colts have found all manner of ways to lose in Week 1 going back to 2014. While they managed a tie Sunday, this game was similar in that the outcome was the product of a long list of miscues ranging from dropped passes to untimely penalties to, most of all, the missed 42-yard field goal attempt by kicker Rodrigo Blankenship in overtime that would have won it. The Colts rallied from a 20-3 late-third-quarter deficit only to come away with nothing to show for it.

Where do the Colts go at kicker? The Colts were not confident in their place-kicking situation to begin with, which is why the team added Jake Verity for preseason competition. Verity performed poorly in training camp and the preseason, giving Blankenship the win in the position battle by default. But he remains a liability for the team, as he has been unreliable in pressure situations for Indianapolis. Blankenship’s leg strength has also been an issue. He’s 1-for-4 beyond 50 yards in his two previous seasons. The Colts have to avoid getting into a situation like they did in 2019, when veteran Adam Vinatieri’s late-career struggles cost the team multiple potential wins. — Stephen Holder

Next game: at Jaguars (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Texans

What to know: The Texans missed a golden opportunity to beat the division favorite Indianapolis Colts, blowing a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter. It’s the first tie in Texans history. The Colts had 216 yards and 17 points in the fourth quarter after being held to three points and 232 yards in the first three. The Texans’ defense allowed Colts quarterback Matt Ryan to go 12-for-19 for 146 yards and a touchdown, and running back Jonathan Taylor gashed the defense for 70 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Then in overtime the same theme continued, as the Texans’ defense allowed the Colts to march into field goal range before Colts kicker Rodrigo Blankenship missed a 42-yarder.

Are the first and fourth quarters an indication of what the offense will be? Quarterback Davis Mills completed zero passes in the fourth quarter, as the offense completely disappeared with 12 yards and zero points. That helped the Colts to come back and force overtime. In the first quarter, the Texans produced only 13 yards as Mills completed two passes for 6 yards. The running game was also nonexistent throughout the game, finishing with 77 yards (their average of 83 from 2021 was dead last in the NFL). — DJ Bien-Aime

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

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Jonathan Taylor won’t be denied as he crosses the goal line to pull the Colts closer.

Steelers

What to know: When the dust finally settled on the Steelers’ wild overtime win, one thing was clear: This defense is better than advertised, but more impactful than the outcome of the game was T.J. Watt leaving the field with less than 15 seconds left with an injury. He went straight to the locker room and appears to have a torn pectoral, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. QB Joe Burrow committed four turnovers in the first half and another in the second. Minkah Fitzpatrick, who blocked a late Bengals extra point attempt to send the game to overtime, scored the first touchdown of the year when he intercepted Burrow’s first pass attempt and returned it 31 yards for a pick-six. The Steelers managed two more interceptions and a fumble recovery in the first half, but the offense scored only 10 points off those turnovers. The defense also sacked Burrow six times. For the Steelers to have success this season, they’ll need more offensive support — whether it’s putting points on the board or extending drives to give the defense a break.

Is this truly Mitch Trubisky‘s team? This will be the biggest question throughout the season — especially if Trubisky’s performance contributes to the offensive stagnation. The Steelers managed only 231 yards of total offense. Trubisky completed 21 of 38 attempts for 194 yards and a touchdown, but many of his passes missed the mark, including a handful that sailed too high. On a crucial third down in the fourth quarter, Trubisky’s pass bounced between two receivers, and the Steelers came away from another forced turnover without any points. A lowlight of the preseason, the Steelers’ offensive line held up pretty well, and Trubisky was sacked only once and hit four times. But the offense couldn’t maintain possession and the Bengals held a 43:43-26:17 edge in time of possession. — Brooke Pryor

Next game: vs. Patriots (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Bengals

What to know: Cincinnati’s offense picked up right where it left off last season. And that was the main culprit in an overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the season opener. It featured a slew of sacks and an inconsistent offense. Those things kept the Bengals from winning Super Bowl LVI despite a very strong defensive effort, which the Bengals got again on Sunday. Cincinnati needs to get that issue resolved if it wants to defend its AFC championship.

Should the Bengals be concerned about Joe Burrow? Uh, no. Sure, Burrow objectively played his worst game since entering the league. He committed five turnovers — four interceptions and a lost fumble on a day when he was sacked six times. But Burrow’s history, strengths and the resolve he showed to lead the Bengals down the field at the end of the game show that there should be zero long-term concerns for the third-year player coming off an emergency appendectomy in July. — Ben Baby

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

Thursday

Bills

What to know: The Bills played far from a perfect game and still walked away from the season opener against the defending Super Bowl champions with a 21-point victory. After three first-half turnovers, the offense responded in spectacular fashion with three straight touchdown drives and finished the game converting 9 of 10 third downs, becoming the fourth team in the past 50 seasons to convert 90% of its third downs in a game. In addition to the offensive success, the defensive line lived up to the high expectations, finishing with seven sacks on Matthew Stafford, including two from Von Miller against his former team.

Will the Bills continue to use quarterback Josh Allen as a rusher at this high of a level throughout the season? Once again, Allen finished a Bills game as the team’s leading rusher with 10 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown. While his stiff-arm near the sideline was impressive and caught attention, the amount of hits the quarterback is taking through the course of the season is something that the team has talked about trying to minimize, especially early in the year. “Limiting the hits, obviously slide and getting outta bounds — it’s the utmost importance there,” Allen said. “The best ability is availability, but again, when I’m called upon to do something for my team, I’m willing to do it.” Should Allen be rushing with a two-touchdown lead even if he is effective? Offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey will have to continue to work on the right balance throughout the season. — Alaina Getzenberg

Next game: vs. Titans (7:15 p.m. ET, Monday)


Rams

What to know: It’s been only one game, but Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford didn’t do much to end the questions about his elbow injury and whether it is affecting his game. Stafford was sacked seven times by the Bills and threw three interceptions. He also struggled when targeting any player but wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who accounted for more than half of the Rams’ receiving yardage.

Do the Rams expect to see more from two key players, RB Cam Akers and WR Allen Robinson II, going forward? When Rams coach Sean McVay was asked about Akers’ involvement in the game, he said, “We really just didn’t get in much of a rhythm tonight.” Akers played 12 snaps on Thursday to Darrell Henderson Jr. ‘s 54. In McVay’s answer, he also brought up that he wanted to get Robinson more involved in the offense. Robinson was targeted just twice on 45 routes run, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. The 4.4% target rate was the lowest of his career. — Sarah Barshop

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

#Week #takeaways #big #questions #Bucs #stifle #Cowboys #bad #losses #Bengals #Patriots #Titans #49ers

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