Pro Football|N.F.L. Week 1: Live Updates From Opening Sunday
Sept. 13, 2020, 6:14 p.m. ET
Some familiar faces joined new teams — looking at you, Tom Brady and Cam Newton — and young stars like Lamar Jackson are picking up where they left off in a season unlike any other.
The Ravens, the Patriots and the Raiders were among the winners in the early games. Tom Brady had an early touchdown for Tampa Bay, but the Saints held a 10-point lead at halftime.
Image Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow on a touchdown run against the Chargers.Credit…Bryan Woolston/Associated Press
Here’s what you need to know:
- The 49ers have a rough ending to the first half.
- Alvin Kamara scores twice for the Saints.
- Joe Burrow quickly delivers a big moment for the Bengals.
- The air quality around the 49ers’ stadium meets standards despite wildfires.
- Many players demonstrated against systemic racism.
- Tom Brady starts his Tampa Bay phase with a touchdown run.
- The Jets tried to mount a comeback, but it wasn’t nearly enough against Buffalo.
The 49ers have a rough ending to the first half.
Two things happened to San Francisco at the end of the first half, and neither was good.
First the superlative tight end George Kittle appeared to injure his leg when Cardinals safety Budda Baker undercut Kittle as he leapt unsuccessfully to catch a high pass. Kittle was examined on the 49ers’ sideline before heading into the locker room.
Then Arizona kicker Zane Gonzalez booted a career-long field goal as time expired, a 56-yarder that drew the Cardinals to within 13-10 at halftime.
Kittle, however, returned to the field after halftime. Without him, the 49ers would be missing not only their primary receiving threat but also an elite blocker, a key to their overpowering run game. Kittle signed a five-year contract in March, worth a reported $40 million in total guarantees, to become the league’s highest-paid tight end.
Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) with quarterback Drew Brees after a Kamara touchdown.Credit…Brett Duke/Associated Press
Alvin Kamara scores twice for the Saints.
Alvin Kamara is having a pretty good week. The fourth-year running back signed a five-year extension on Saturday reportedly worth $75 million (with a $15 million signing bonus), and is immediately showing why he’s worth it. He and his agent had argued that despite a down 2018, he was worth a deal in line with Christian McCaffrey’s four-year, $64 million extension (signed before this season) and the six-year, $90 million deal Ezekiel Elliott received in 2019.
After a slow start running the ball, Kamara scored his first touchdown minutes into the second quarter. Drew Brees found him on an underneath route, and Kamara turned the corner for a 12-yard play.
Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady threw an interception near midfield on the next drive. On second-and-9 from his own 29, Brady tried to find Chris Godwin up the middle but was picked off by Marcus Williams, who returned the ball 13 yards. The Saints got excellent field position when Brees threw a deep ball to a double-covered Emmanuel Sanders, drawing a 33-yard pass interference call against the Bucs, and Kamara punched in his second touchdown of the day on a 6-yard run to put the Saints ahead, 14-7.
Joe Burrow quickly delivers a big moment for the Bengals.
An enduring image from the aftermath of L.S.U.’s national championship victory over Clemson is of its quarterback, Joe Burrow, sitting alone, right leg crossed over left, puffing on a cigar.
The best — and, perhaps, most fun — player in college football last season, Burrow was drafted No. 1 over all by the Cincinnati Bengals, and in his debut Sunday he was as unbothered on his first N.F.L. touchdown as on that night in New Orleans back in January.
Untouched on a 23-yard quarterback draw, Burrow gave the Bengals a 7-0 lead over the Los Angeles Chargers. Burrow, an Ohio native, injected immediate relevance and competence into a franchise that finished a league-worst 2-14 last season and hasn’t won a playoff game in, gulp, nearly 30 years.
The Bengals added the rookie standout Tee Higgins to a stable of receivers that includes Tyler Boyd and A.J. Green, and Joe Mixon is among the league’s better running backs. Burrow might not be celebrating a championship anytime soon, or even a playoff berth. But with him, the Bengals are a better team than they were last season, and he just might do enough Sunday to earn another victory cigar.
Raheem Mostert (31) of the San Francisco 49ers on his way to a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals.Credit…Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The air quality around the 49ers’ stadium meets standards despite wildfires.
The wildfires raging through California the last three weeks did not affect air quality enough for the N.F.L. to postpone the San Francisco 49ers’ opener against the Arizona Cardinals. The air quality index in Santa Clara, Calif., where the 49ers play, had to reach 200 for the N.F.L. to postpone the game. It was 177 on Saturday and, according to purpleair.com, seemed to hover around 164 on Sunday afternoon.
Throughout the fires, San Francisco has practiced as scheduled, though on Wednesday, when the skies glowed orange, Coach Kyle Shanahan compared the atmosphere to “an apocalyptic state.”
“But,” he added, “surprisingly the air quality doesn’t seem as bad as it looks.”
The 49ers scored on their first two possessions, powered by Raheem Mostert’s 76-yard catch-and-sprint. But Arizona, after blocking a punt, drew to within 10-7 on Chase Edmonds’s 10-yard touchdown reception from Kyler Murray.
Many players demonstrated against systemic racism.
Even some baselines, like this one at Ford Field in Detroit, carried messages like “End Racism.”Credit…Nic Antaya/Getty Images
Their opponents, the Jacksonville Jaguars, stayed in their locker room during the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the song known as the Black national anthem, which will be played before every Week 1 game.
In a statement, the Jaguars said, “We understand that not everyone will agree with our position and demonstration, however we hope that all will seek to understand the reason for it.”
In Minneapolis, the Vikings honored George Floyd and other Black victims of violence. The team will not sound its Gjallarhorn, which it blows after Vikings scores, during the game.
After initially ignoring, then halfheartedly embracing the efforts by players to fight systemic racism and police brutality, the N.F.L. reaffirmed the players’ right to peacefully protest, echoing the N.B.A., Major League Baseball and other leagues that returned to action earlier during the pandemic.
In Atlanta, the Falcons linked arms during the playing of the anthem. Several Seattle Seahawks knelt and Jamal Adams raised his right fist. Star quarterback Russell Wilson stood with his arms around two coaches to form a triangle, their heads bowed. While warming up, Wilson wore a black T-shirt that said “We Want Justice” in all capital letters, along with headphones and a neck gaiter pulled over his nose and mouth as a coronavirus mask.
During the kickoff, players on both teams stood in place and the Falcons let the ball go out of bonds for a touchback. Then every player took a knee for a few moments before beginning the game. The display of unity was coordinated by Wilson and Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
In Landover, Md., the Philadelphia Eagles remained in the locker room during the national anthem, while the Washington Football Team stood on its sideline.
In Foxborough, Mass., all of the Patriots stood for the anthem while the Dolphins remained in the locker room.
The field at Orchard Park, N.Y., was empty for the national anthem and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” with both the Bills and Jets remaining in the locker room, agreed upon with both teams as a stance of togetherness and solidarity.
“Injustice against one of us is injustice against all of us” adorned the shirts of the Jets’ warm up jerseys; members of both teams’ helmets bore names of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd among social justice causes, like “Black Lives Matter.”
Tom Brady starts his Tampa Bay phase with a touchdown run.
And Tom Brady’s post-Patriots era begins with a nine play, 85-yard drive that he personally ended with a 2-yard touchdown run.
On the drive, Brady tried out his new weapons, a major upgrade over the talent he threw to in New England. His first pass of the series came on second-and-6 from the Buccaneers’ 19 yard line, a short route over the middle intended for tight end O.J. Howard that fell incomplete but netted a first down after pass interference was called on Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins.
The 43-year-old Brady hit Chris Godwin deep on the next play, picking up 29 yards, the biggest gain of the drive. After another pass interference call against the Saints secondary, this time on a short out route to Mike Evans, whose hamstring injury threatened to limit him for the game, the Bucs were in striking distance from the New Orleans 16. Tampa Bay running back Ronald Jones had scurried for just 13 yards on four carries on the possession, so with the Bucs pushing from the 2 on second-and-goal, a down which would normally have the Superdome trembling with “de-fense” cheers, Brady plowed up the middle for a touchdown.
His ball spike and celebratory shouts echoed as both special teams units took the field for the extra point attempt.
The Jets tried to mount a comeback, but it wasn’t nearly enough against Buffalo.
The Jets picked it up a little bit in the second half of their opening game against the Buffalo Bills, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Buffalo’s steep lead, and the Jets fell, 27-17.
New York’s energy picked up when wide receiver Jamison Crowder caught a 69-yard touchdown. And with one minute left in the game, Josh Adams rushed for a 2-yard score.
But Bills quarterback Josh Allen outshined his Jets counterpart, Sam Darnold. The two are often compared to one another given their similar age, birthplace and draft selection. But as Allen closed the game with a career high 312 passing yards, Darnold missed passes to open receivers and finished 21 of 35 for 215 yards.
Lions fans can’t be happy.
The Detroit Lions were lucky no fans were permitted to attend their season opener Sunday against Chicago. The venom that would have cascaded from the stands would have been heard all the way in Ann Arbor.
The Lions led by 17 points early in the fourth quarter. And lost. Though they could have won at the last moment. Had their rookie running back not bungled the probable game-winning touchdown pass in the end zone with 6 seconds left.
In other words, it looked and felt like so many other leonine fiascoes over the years. The final score was Bears 27, Lions 23, with victory secured when Matthew Stafford’s final two passes from the Chicago 16-yard line were, first, dropped by an open D’Andre Swift and, then, broken up.
It was an awful way for Detroit to begin its season but a marvelous one for Chicago, which overcame that 17-point deficit with three — yes, three — fourth-quarter touchdown passes from a quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky, striving to revive his career.
And maybe he will, if he could play the Lions every week. In his last four games against them, Trubisky has completed 69.3 of his passes with 12 touchdowns and one interception.
Alas, the Bears host the Giants next week. As for the Lions? It can’t get worse than Sunday. Unless it can.
New England looks just fine without Brady.
It’s tempting, so very tempting, to make sweeping proclamations after a team’s first game of the season.
So, no breathless conclusions here.
In their 21-11 victory against Miami, the New England Patriots demonstrated how they intend to proceed with quarterback Cam Newton — and without Tom Brady — and it looks fabulous. In his New England debut, Newton completed 15 of 19 passes for 155 yards and ran 15 times for 75 yards — the most by a Patriots quarterback in franchise history.
That is a fun but, let’s be honest here, largely irrelevant stat. More significant is that Newton has run for as many yards only nine previous times in his career, and not since Week 10 of the 2017 season.
Unencumbered by the foot injury that ended last season and affected teams’ interest during free agency, Newton is flaunting the form that has made him so difficult to defend when healthy. The coordinator Josh McDaniels has married Newton’s running expertise with his passing prowess to create an efficient ball-control offense that ran for 217 yards.
Newton has long been unstoppable, or close to it, in short yardage or near the goal line. In the first three quarters, whenever Newton ran the ball needing five or fewer yards for the first down or touchdown, he converted. Whether Newton can continue to absorb some of the hits he endured Sunday and last a full season is a reasonable concern.
But for now, the Patriots are 1-0, with no worries at quarterback.
Here’s a scary thought: Give the Ravens another runner.
Last year, the Baltimore Ravens set an N.F.L. record with 3,296 rushing yards. In what should be terrifying news for the rest of the N.F.L., they appear to have added a significant weapon to their arsenal in J.K. Dobbins, a rookie running back out of Ohio State.
Dobbins, who had a ton of hype coming into the season, was expected to eventually challenge the team’s starter, Mark Ingram, for carries. In a romp against the Cleveland Browns, “eventually” appears to be “Week 1.”
Dobbins had six carries for 23 yards and two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter. Ingram, who started the game, had nine carries for 24 yards and Lamar Jackson, the team’s two-way threat at quarterback, had seven carries for 45 yards.
The story of the day is mostly Jackson — as usual — with last year’s M.V.P. having more than 300 total yards between passing and rushing to go with three touchdown passes.
But the early emergence of Dobbins as a goal-line back adds a new wrinkle to a team that already seemed to do absolutely anything it wanted in terms of running the ball.
Colts running back Marlon Mack injures an Achilles’ tendon.
Marlon Mack was expected to have some competition for his starting job this season, but the Indianapolis Colts running back may already be done for the year after appearing to sustain a severe Achilles’ tendon injury, which forced him to leave his team’s Week 1 matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
NFL Network is reporting that the team fears Mack tore the tendon, which would end his season.
Mack, a 24-year-old in his fourth season, rushed for 1,091 yards and eight touchdowns last season, but had competition in training camp from the rookie Jonathan Taylor out of Wisconsin as well as Nyheim Hines, the team’s 23-year-old third-down back.
The injury to Mack came on a reception in the second quarter in which he landed awkwardly on his left foot. At the time he had four carries for 26 yards and three receptions for 30 yards.
Taylor was considered a likely bet to supplant Mack at running back even before the injury, but in Week 1 Hines has stolen the show, with two touchdowns so far.
Indianapolis lost as a heavy favorite.
The Indianapolis Colts made it a short season for anyone who took them in Week 1 for survivor pools.
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew threw three touchdowns in one of the surprise upsets early on Sunday, beating the Colts 27-20.
Survivor pools challenge entrants to select one winner each week — without using any team more than once all season. That made the Colts, a 7-point favorite against Jacksonville, an attractive selection given the opportunity to save the league’s top teams, like the Baltimore Ravens, for future weeks.
More than one-fifth of players in survivor leagues on Yahoo took the Colts, making Indianapolis the second most popular selection behind the Buffalo Bills (who beat the Jets handily).
A costly fumble lets the Dolphins get back in it.
Broadly speaking, one of the more unpopular rules in the N.F.L. dictates that a team that fumbles out of the opposing end zone is punished by losing possession. It is even more unpopular right now around New England, where the receiver N’Keal Harry turned a potential game-sealing touchdown — the Patriots would have led by 17 points, pending the extra point — into a potential game-turning turnover.
The Dolphins capitalized on Harry’s gaffe by going 80 yards in 11 plays, scoring on Jordan Howard’s 1-yard touchdown. With Ryan Fitzpatrick converting the ensuing 2-point attempt, Miami — despite two first-half interceptions, despite possessing the ball for 7 fewer minutes — now trails by 14-11 with about 10 minutes remaining.
The Dolphins ended last season by stunning the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, upending the A.F.C. playoff picture and costing New England a first-round bye, normally its birthright. Can they begin this season the same way?
Cam Newton is still at it.
After putting New England ahead by 14-3 with his second touchdown of the game, Cam Newton handed the ball to his center, David Andrews, who missed all of last season with a pulmonary embolism. Here, Newton seemed to say, you spike it.
It was a magnanimous gesture by someone who played only somewhat more recently than Andrews. Newton’s 2019 season ended on Sept. 12, 2019, when, hampered by a Lisfranc injury in his left foot, he didn’t run the ball on either of Carolina’s fourth-and-1 plays in the fourth quarter — obvious evidence of his limitations.
When healthy, Newton might just be the most devastating red-zone and short-yardage threat in N.F.L. history. With two touchdown scampers Sunday, from 4 and 11 yards out, Newton is demonstrating as much for his new team.
Josh Allen has three touchdowns — and two lost fumbles.
Bills quarterback Josh Allen started the season as a more fired-up version of himself, dancing around Jets counterpart Sam Darnold as Buffalo secured three touchdowns before halftime and the Jets sat stunned in their tracks.
The Bills lead the Jets 21-3 after two quarters.
Allen rushed for a touchdown and passed for two more, one each to Zach Moss and John Brown.
But Allen also fumbled twice, something he has struggled with since his N.F.L. debut. The quarterback fumbled 22 times in 28 regular season games in the past two seasons. Last year, he fumbled twice in the team’s playoff loss to the Texans.
Still, it hasn’t hindered the Bills so far against the Jets (at all, really).
Lamar Jackson had a perfect passer rating in the first half.
Lamar Jackson had only three incompletions in the first half.Credit…Nick Wass/Associated Press
In hopes of revenge for their last regular season loss — which came against Cleveland 350 days ago — the Baltimore Ravens were making easy work of the Browns in the first half on Sunday, running up a 24-6 lead while appearing sharp on both sides of the ball.
Lamar Jackson, the winner of last season’s Most Valuable Player Award, showed no drop-off, completing 13 of 16 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Marquise Brown is already over 100 receiving yards for the day, and Jackson’s passer rating sits at a perfect 158.3.
The Ravens’ vaunted rushing attack has yet to get a full head of steam, with a combined 60 yards on 16 carries, but that has not been an issue thanks to Baltimore’s defense forcing two turnovers.
The Browns, however, are searching for answers after a half in which Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt both averaged more than 6 yards a carry, but their team managed just 6 points.
A Lions linebacker got ejected for making contact with an official.
Jamie Collins appears to have gone a step too far in explaining an infraction he thought had been committed against him.
The Detroit Lions linebacker approached an official at the end of a play in the second quarter of his team’s game against the Chicago Bears, lowered his head and drove his helmet gently into the official’s chest, likely trying to show that he had been hit with the crown of a helmet on the play. He was immediately ejected from the game.
The interaction, which came at the end of a 1-yard run by Bears running back David Montgomery, caused some initial confusion, as it looked almost as if he was leaning in to hear what the official — who was wearing a cloth face mask — was saying. But replays indicated he was likely mimicking contact.
Collins, who played for Coach Matt Patricia when Patricia was the defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, was one of the Lions’ top acquisitions this off-season.
Cam Newton is looking good early for New England.
Starting his first game in more than a year, Cam Newton is already doing Cam Newton things in New England. The quarterback capped a marvelous 80-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run that opened the scoring before Miami added a field goal later in the second quarter. New England leads the Dolphins, 7-3.
It was Newton’s 59th career rushing touchdown, the most among quarterbacks in N.F.L. history, and afterward he crossed his arms over his chest in an apparent “Black Panther” tribute to the late actor Chadwick Boseman.
Adding a running dimension to an offense that — how to put this kindly? — lacked one during Tom Brady’s two decades in New England, Newton accounted for 48 yards on the series, completing all three passes, including a 25-yarder to Ryan Izzo.
Newton’s running ability allows the offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to stress defenses in new and unfamiliar ways — ways that, for all of his brilliance, Tom Brady could not.
“I don’t think it’s pressure,” Newton told reporters this week, when asked about replacing Brady. “Just do your job. And I plan on doing mine. I know opening day, he’ s not going to be really worried about little old me and I know opening day I just have other things to be focusing on rather than who was here before me.”
The Buffalo Bills are all over the Jets.
The Jets seem to be missing safety Jamal Adams, who was traded away this off-season, as the Buffalo Bills are running away with the game in the first quarter.
Josh Allen, Buffalo’s somewhat polarizing quarterback, got off to a rocky start with a fumble on Buffalo’s first possession, but made up for it in a big way with a 2-yard touchdown run on his team’s next possession followed by a 4-yard touchdown pass to running back Zack Moss. Buffalo’s offense has 123 yards in the quarter.
The Bills’ defense, which is the team’s bread and butter, has done its part by completely eliminating the Jets offense so far. Quarterback Sam Darnold and co. were limited to 4 total yards on the team’s first three possessions.
Baltimore is off to a fast start.
Tight end Mark Andrews caught an early touchdown for the Baltimore Ravens.Credit…Julio Cortez/Associated Press
It didn’t take the Baltimore Ravens long to pick right back up where they left off in terms of regular season play. On Cleveland’s first offensive possession,
Baltimore’s Marlon Humphrey was able to snag an interception, setting the Ravens up to capitalize with a six-play, 49-yard drive that culminated in a 5-yard touchdown pass from Lamar Jackson to tight end Mark Andrews.
Not much appears to have changed for Baltimore, with five of the seven plays on the drive being a run, but Cleveland’s defense simply had no answer for the onslaught.
A total of 10 Black quarterbacks were scheduled to start.
Year after year after year throughout N.F.L. history, Black players were dissuaded from playing quarterback. Perceived as lacking the requisite leadership or smarts to play the position, they were urged to become receivers, running backs, defensive backs instead.
Black quarterbacks are commanding our attention every week, and to an unprecedented degree this season. In all, 10 Black quarterbacks started — or are set to start — in Week 1, most in an opening week in league history, according to The Undefeated.
The record-setting week began, fittingly, with the dynamic young stars Patrick Mahomes of Kansas City — the youngest player to have won an M.V.P. Award and a Super Bowl — and Deshaun Watson facing each other on Thursday night.
The early slate Sunday featured Black quarterbacks at every stage of their careers, from the second-year pro Dwayne Haskins of Washington to the electrifying M.V.P. Lamar Jackson of Baltimore, the resurgent starter Teddy Bridgewater in Carolina to the underappreciated star Russell Wilson of Seattle.
Not to mention Cam Newton, who represents sort of a bridge between this generation of Black star quarterbacks and the last. Newton told reporters last week that he grew up in Atlanta idolizing Michael Vick, but also Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper.
Newton on Sunday became the first Black quarterback to start for New England in Week 1 and only the second to start for the franchise since its inception in 1960, behind Jacoby Brissett in 2016.
“It’s a big deal, it’s really a big deal,” Newton told reporters. “I understand who I am. I understand being an African-American in this time, we have to be stronger and sticking with each other more than ever now. This is a great feat to achieve, but at the end of the day we have to make sure we’re using our platform for positive reasons, and that’s what I want to do.”
Newton rushed for a touchdown in the second quarter for New England’s first score of the season.
How will Tom Brady look in a Bucs uniform?
Buccaneers at Saints, 4:25 p.m., Fox
Tom Brady is now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, not the New England Patriots.Credit…Chris O’Meara/Associated Press
Tom Brady and Drew Brees are the two oldest active players in the N.F.L., making Sunday’s meeting the first in league history between two starting quarterbacks age 40 or older. And while Brady will surely delight in leading the strongest receiving crew he’s had in years — Mike Evans and Chris Godwin were both 1,000-yard receivers last season, and both stand over 6 feet tall — Tampa Bay may not unleash many fly routes just yet, given the lack of a preseason to work on timing and communication. Of course, with Leonard Fournette, the newly acquired running back who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in two of his first three seasons, a ground-based Bucs attack might still flourish.
That doesn’t seem like a likely approach from New Orleans, despite the Saints’ signing of Alvin Kamara on Saturday to a five-year extension reportedly worth $77.1 million, with a $15 million bonus. Ahead of the matchup, Brees sounded another acknowledgment that this season might be his last. “I’m on borrowed time,” Brees said. “I’ve got nothing to lose. So I’m turning it loose and letting the chips fall where they may.”