By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Football is back, and though this league can be exhausting from February through August, the first football Sunday in September is always a welcome sight.
As you might expect, it was a whirlwind Sunday across the NFL. So here’s a quick trip around the league to take a look at the biggest stories coming out of the first Sunday of the season.
Aaron Rodgers Is Pretty Amazing
The mood was grim in Green Bay on Sunday night. Not only were the Packers getting blown out by the Bears, but Aaron Rodgers had to take a cart ride to the locker room after suffering what looked like a bad knee injury (and taking a knee to the head, which didn’t get mentioned much). But Rodgers returned for the second half, hobbled around without much use of his left leg, threw a picture-perfect 39-yard touchdown pass to Geronimo Allison, and led the Packers to a 24-23 win. That was in large part thanks to two major flubs by Chicago at the end of the game: Kyle Fuller dropping a gift of an interception on the Packers’ final scoring drive, and the Bears’ defense following up that miscue by playing horrific defense and allowing Randall Cobb to score the winning touchdown on a 75-yard catch-and-run.
The Browns Didn’t Lose. They Also Didn’t Win.
The most captivating game of the day may have taken place in Cleveland of all places. It wasn’t expected to be much of a contest, and it was living up to the billing when the Steelers carried a 21-7 lead well into the fourth quarter.
But the Browns scored two touchdowns to tie the game, sending the game to overtime. There, the Steelers missed a field goal and blocked a Cleveland field goal attempt. The game ended in a tie.
The Browns still have not won a game since Christmas Even in 2016. The Browns have not won on a Sunday since Dec. 13, 2015.
The Steelers, meanwhile, have to look in the mirror a bit this week. With Le’Veon Bell or without him, a team with Super Bowl expectations can’t be tying the Cleveland Browns. That’s almost worse than losing to the Cleveland Browns.
THE BUFFALO BILLS STINK OUT LOUD
The Buffalo Bills earn the title of Worst Week 1 NFL Team. It is a well-deserved crown.
The Bills stink. Stink. STINK!
Nathan Peterman started at quarterback. He went 5-for-18 for 24 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions while taking three sacks. He was replaced by rookie Josh Allen. He went 6-for-15 for 74 yards with no touchdowns and no picks. He also took three sacks.
LeSean McCoy averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Zay Jones led all Bills receivers with 26 yards.
The Ravens beat the Bills 47-3 (not a typo) and didn’t even boast incredible numbers. Joe Flacco threw for 236 yards and three touchdowns. Kenneth Dixon ran for 44 yards and a touchdown. Willie Snead led the team in receiving with 49 yards and a touchdown.
The Bills are just terrible. Awful. No good. Real bad.
Jimmy G Loses His Shine
The NFL’s next Golden Boy is gilded no more, as Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers lost in Minnesota, dropping Garoppolo’s record as an NFL starting quarterback to 7-1.
The fierce Vikings defense came as advertised, picking off Garoppolo three times and limiting San Francisco to 90 rushing yards.
Kirk Cousins — the other quarterback in this game who made a billion dollars in the offseason — was pretty good, going 20-for-36 for 244 yards, two touchdowns and no picks.
Fitzmagic Is Back, And It’s Back Big
Getting 9.5 points in New Orleans, the Bucs were one of the biggest underdogs of the week. That’s because nobody — nobody outside of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s immediate family, anyway — saw this one coming.
With Jameis Winston serving his suspension, Fitzpatrick stepped in and had the game of his life. The quarterback (he went to Harvard, FYI, ICYMI) threw for 417 yards, four touchdowns and no picks — on just 28 total pass attempts. That’s … (counting fingers) … 14.9 average yards per attempt. That’s wild. The 417 yards represents a career high for the QB who’s made 119 starts, while his four TDs were the second-most he’s ever thrown in a game. (He allegedly threw six touchdowns in a game against Tennessee in 2014, but frankly, we remain skeptical that this ever happened.)
Drew Brees was nearly as good, going 37-for-45 (a ridiculous 82.2 percent completion rate) for 439 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. But it wasn’t enough, as the Bucs outrushed the Saints 112 to 43. New Orleans made it interesting in the fourth quarter, cutting a 48-24 lead down to 48-40 with 3:31 left to play. But Fitzpatrick converted with his feet on a third-and-11 to allow Tampa to drain the clock and secure a surprising victory.
Miami Wins In Marathon
The Dolphins and Titans were set to begin the season at 1 p.m. on Sunday. And they did. Problem was, due to lightning in the area, the game didn’t end until after 8 p.m., making it the longest game in NFL history.
Fortunately for the home team, the marathon effort ended with a win. The Titans tied the game early in the fourth quarter with a Dion Lewis touchdown run (he had 75 rushing yards and 35 receiving yards), but Jakeem Grant immediately gave the Dolphins the lead back with a 104-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Later in the fourth, Ryan Tannehill hit Kenny Stills on a 75-yard touchdown pass (with Malcolm Butler in coverage) to double that lead to 24-10. Darius Jennings then took that kickoff back for a touchdown, cutting the Dolphins’ lead in half, but Miami hung on for a 27-20 victory.
Marcus Mariota also got hurt, as did Delanie Walker and tackle Taylor Lewan. It was a very, very bad day for the Tennessee Titans.
Jaguars Win; Fournette Hurt
The Jaguars came this close to making a Super Bowl last year, so you can bet expectations are high for 2018. Their season kicked off with a win — albeit a somewhat uninspiring win against a Giants team that’s coming off a 3-13 season. But a win is a win, and the Jaguars did enough to beat the Giants 20-15.
But that win came at a cost, as running back Leonard Fournette suffered a hamstring injury. Before leaving in the second quarter, Fournette had 41 rushing yards on nine carries, plus three receptions for 14 yards. He said he’s confident he’ll play next week vs. New England, but his official status going forward remains to be seen. The Jaguars will need him. Last year, Fournette accounted for 10 rushing and receiving touchdowns; the player on the roster second on the list was Marcedes Lewis, with five. Fournette also led the team with 1,342 yards from scrimmage, nearly twice as many yards as the player ranked second on that list (Keelan Cole, 748).
The Bengals Beat The Colts
The Patriots Beat The Texans
Tom Brady is 41 (underreported story right there) but looked pretty good, throwing three touchdowns and one interception that was tipped at the line. Rob Gronkowski is still superhuman.
Let’s Not Forget Patrick Mahomes
There’s a lot of excitement around this year’s crop of rookie quarterbacks (even if only one is a starter), but let’s not forget Patrick Mahomes, who could really reshape the entire offensive scope of the Kansas City Chiefs. That effort got off on the right foot on Sunday, as Mahomes threw for four touchdowns and zero interceptions in the Chiefs’ 38-28 win over the Chargers. Mahomes also ran for 21 yards on five rushing attempts.
Much of the damage was done by Tyreek Hill, who caught seven passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns. It’s very early, but the Chiefs got off to the best start among AFC West teams.
Also, The Broncos
The Broncos won. They beat Seattle. It was a back-and-forth affair. Seattle led 7-0. Then it was tied. Then Seattle led 10-7. Then Denver led 14-10. Then it was tied at 17-17. Denver led 20-17. Seattle led 24-20. Then Denver finally took a 27-24 lead and held on for dear life.
Russell Wilson and Case Keenum threw three touchdowns apiece, but Wilson threw two picks, and Keenum threw three.
It may well turn out that neither team is very good.
Emmanuel Sanders, though? He’s good. Ten catches for 135 yards and the game-winning touchdown. The Denver running back tandem of Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman posted identical stats, each rushing 15 times for 71 yards. That’s just bizarre.
Adrian Peterson Got Some … Revenge? Maybe
The Arizona Cardinals absolutely stunk up the joint on Sunday, allowing the Redskins to cruise to a 24-6 victory in Arizona. Adrian Peterson, who played six underwhelming games for the Cardinals last year, ran for 96 yards and a touchdown in this one. Alex Smith went 21-for-30 for 255 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. Sam Bradford was bad. The newly signed David Johnson didn’t make much of an impact (37 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine carries, plus 30 yards on five receptions). Larry Fitzgerald, even at his advanced age of 35, managed to catch seven passes for 76 yards. But the Cardinals couldn’t even muster a point until there was less than six minutes left to play in the game.
Washington doubled up Arizona in offensive yardage, 429 to 213. Not a very competitive contest.
A Look At The League Leaders
With four teams still yet to play in Week 1, here are your league leaders:
1. Drew Brees, 439
2. Philip Rivers, 424
3. Ryan Fitzpatrick, 417
4. Ben Roethlisberger, 335
5. Case Keenum, 329
T-1. Ryan Fitzpatrick, 4
T-1. Patrick Mahomes, 4
T-3. Tom Brady, 3
T-3. Drew Brees, 3
T-3. Philip Rivers, 3
T-3. Aaron Rodgers, 3
T-3. Joe Flacco, 3
T-3. Russell Wilson, 3
T-3. Case Keenum, 3
T-1. Ben Roethlisberger, 3
T-1. Case Keenum, 3
T-1. Jimmy Garoppolo, 3
T-4. Ryan Tannehill, 2
T-4. Russell Wilson, 2
T-4. Marcus Mariota, 2
T-4. Nathan Peterman, 2
1. James Conner, 135
2. Saquon Barkley, 106
3. Lamar Miller, 98
4. Adrian Peterson, 96
5. Joe Mixon, 95
T-1. Jay Ajayi, 2
T-1. James Conner, 2
T-1. Alvin Kamara, 2
T-4. 17 players
1. Michael Thomas, 180
T-2. Julio Jones, 169
T-2. Tyreek Hill, 169
4. Mike Evans, 147
5. DeSean Jackson, 146
T-1. DeSean Jackson, 2
T-1. Kenny Stills, 2
T-1. Tyreek Hill, 2
T-2. 37 players
1. T.J. Watt, 4.0
2. Von Miller, 3.0
3. DeForest Buckner, 2.5
T-4. 5 players
T-1. Reshad Jones, 2
T-1. Bradley McDougald, 2
T-1. Denzel Ward, 2
T-2. 24 players