The Buzz is Back
We’re finally underway. Kansas City reminded us why they're Lombardi Trophy favorites. With a full slate of Sunday games taking place, it's wonderful to have football back. The players and, by and large the NFL, have handled the protests well and marked the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many others. As we’re in week one, I’m unveiling a new format for my Monday blog post. The weekly look for the regular season will feature a game of the week, around the NFL highlights and a final review. Game of the Week The regular season got underway on a misty Thursday evening in Missouri. Reigning Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs convincingly beat the Houston Texans 34-20, in a game in which they reminded everyone they’re still the NFL team to beat. The Chiefs dominated the game upfront. Some excellent run blocking allowed rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire to carve up the Texans run defense. It was all too easy. Such was the level of control that Edwards-Helaire got a full workload and averaged six yards per carry in his first game. He adds a new layer of potency to Kansas City’s offense and creates nightmares for defensive coordinators trying to account for the already lethal pass attack. NFL writer Chris Wesseling from the Around the NFL podcast noted that Chiefs fans are driving down a boulevard with nothing but green lights ahead of them. It neatly describes Kansas City’s golden perch.
The atmosphere in Kansas City, for the most part, felt normal. The sounds were not weird. 15,895 people occasionally sounded like 50,000. The quality of the play was good given the lack of pre-season. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid’s face shield fogging up, and his stoicism in the face of the mist, was one stand out colorful moment. Another saw the cardboard cutouts of The Rock and Queen Elizabeth II seated next to each other, in space, if not in the same time zone. Week 1 Highlights
Bradywatch: I’ll track the NFL’s oldest and most successful quarterback each week. In his first appearance for his new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, on the road in New Orleans, Brady had an excellent start with a lovely completion to Chris Godwin and a quarterback sneak touchdown, before throwing two interceptions. Brady’s lack of preparation with his offense and head coach Bruce Arians showed in a comprehensive defeat. On this showing, the Bucs did not live up to the hype.
Cincinnati Joe: Quarterback Joe Burrow went first overall in the draft to the Cincinnati Bengals, giving the franchise desperate for success a much needed lift. In his first game, he rushed for a superb opening touchdown. Burrow gave his performance a ‘D’ and shouldered a lot of the blame after the game. His teammates raved about his first outing. There’s a lot to be excited in Cincinnati with the Ohio born quarterback under center.
Under Pressure: Washington’s defensive line sacked Carson Wentz seven times and inflicted a stinging defeat on the Philadelphia Eagles. After a brutal off-season with many big name players being ruled out for the season, the widely fancied Eagles must now steady the ship after giving up a 17-point lead. Long considered a well run franchise between ownership, general manager and head coach, it was disconcerting to hear of a heated training ground argument last between Howie Roseman, GM, and Zach Ertz, star tight end. Ertz is the next tight end on the market slated to get paid.
Stat of the Week: It is 966 days since running back Jerick McKinnon last played an NFL game, after a litany of ACL injuries. He scored a touchdown for the 49ers yesterday.
MVP of the Week: Dak Prescott. For the Dallas Cowboys quarterback to speak so openly about his depression after his brother’s suicide, was immensely brave and courageous. As quarterback for America’s Team, it must not have been an easy decision, given the stigma attached to mental health issues in football. By tackling it head on, Prescott has helped clear the way for others in football and outside to speak up and seek help. This is a topic I will return to during the season.
Quote of the Week: “I think the Chiefs and the Texans and the rest of the NFL are going to keep making changes in this world.” - Patrick Mahomes on the field after the game.
Headline of the Week: From NFL.com - Lions linebacker Collins ejected for making contact with referee. You couldn’t make it up.
NFC West: The NFL’s best division was blown open on day one with upstart Arizona Cardinals going into San Francisco and beating the 49ers. In recent history, Super Bowl losing teams tend to have a poor record the next season. We’ll see if it's a temporary blip for the 49ers. I expect them to bounce back because they have a decent September schedule. The Seattle Seahawks torched the Atlanta Falcons to put everyone in the division on notice.
Veteran Blues: The Jacksonville Jaguars upset the fancied Indianapolis Colts, a team I talked up in my pre-season reviews. Veteran quarterback Philip Rivers worryingly threw two interceptions in his first game as a Colt, and Indy lost running back Marlon Mack with a suspected Achilles injury. Colts hopes are likely to rest on standout rookie Jonathan Taylor, in Mack’s absence. They badly need him to carry the load.
With two Monday night games to go that will round off week one, we can begin to reflect on football’s relatively successful return.
What we saw off the field was a unique approach from each team on matters of racial injustice. During the Falcons game, the players wore white armbands in tribute to the late civil rights leader John Lewis. The Miami Dolphins stayed inside for the national anthem, and made a hard hitting video directed at the ‘fluff and empty gestures’ from the NFL.
All players and personnel passed their COVID-19 tests. And we all got acquainted with pandemic football on our screens. There’s already mounting unease and pressure in losing locker rooms. You don’t care how scrappy the first week is if you take care of business. Starting 1-0 is massive. Kansas City set the tone. In particular, for written off Washington, Jacksonville and, an underestimated Arizona, I’ll bet the morning coffee tastes a little better at the training facility this week.