Senior Staff Writer
Football Sundays are back and stadiums are packed at full capacity for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Entering arguably the most anticipated season in NFL history, sports analysts and pro football super fans were on the edge of their seats, excited for the long offseason break to finally come to an end.
Sept. 9 marked the official start of the 2021-22 NFL season, and the opener did not disappoint. The defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys went back and forth in a thrilling battle Thursday night. Ultimately, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers left with their heads held high as the Buccaneers’ last-minute drive set up Ryan Succop to nail a game-winning field goal with two seconds remaining leading to a 31-29 Tampa Bay victory.
Three turnovers for the Buccaneers caused some concerns for the Buccaneers’ offense, however, they look to advance to 2-0 versus the moribund Atlanta Falcons in week 2. On the other hand, the Cowboys were one of the biggest preseason question marks entering the season. Coming off an ankle injury, QB Dak Prescott looked unphased, practically putting the Cowboys on his back and throwing for over four hundred yards and three touchdowns. The Cowboys seem to be trending in the right direction going into next week’s match-up against the Chargers.
Two of the AFCs top dogs faced off in one of the most anticipated games of Sunday. The Buffalo Bills and the Pittsburgh Steelers returned to action as both teams hoped to make a statement to start the season.
When the clock hit zero, Bills Mafia left Highmark Stadium disheartened as the Bills fell short 23-16. Struggles rippled through the Bills offense starting with Josh Allen; the preseason MVP contender showed uncharacteristic mistakes throughout the game. Allen was careless with the football fumbling twice and struggled to hit his mark downfield. It is early for these two teams, but the Steelers win could be influential in the AFC standings down the road.
Week 1 sparked premature MVP chatter across the league, most of which centered around one of the most electrifying young quarterbacks in the league. On Sunday, Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals made a statement with a 38-13 win over the Tennessee Titans.
The Cardinals added some eye-opening weapons to their roster this offseason, which may have been what they needed to start contending for the Lombardi trophy in February. The Cardinals defense made some noise as Linebacker Chandler Jones made himself a household name racking up five sacks and six total tackles. Arizona showed to be the most well-rounded team in the NFL but will need to continue this level of play against the Vikings in week two.
The Browns fanbase, “The Dawg Pound,” looked for their first season-opening win in 17 seasons. The Cleveland Browns were dominant in the first half against the defending AFC-champion Kansas City Chiefs. Browns running back Nick Chubb punched in two early touchdowns giving the Browns a 12-point lead at half-time. In the end, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs outscored the Browns 24-7 in the second half to walk away with a 33-29 victory. Kansas City took a step in the right direction with the gritty win versus the Browns.
Even though Cleveland did not win on Sunday, they are not the same Browns we have seen in the recent past. Cleveland held their own and went toe to toe against the preseason Super Bowl favorites. The powerhouse offense of Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, and Jarvis Landry will be a force in the league this season.
The first Monday night game was one to remember: The Las Vegas Raiders edged out the Baltimore Ravens 33-27 in a thrilling overtime victory. The Raiders were down 14 points early in the second quarter, but Derek Carr found form late in the fourth finishing regulation with a game-saving possession setting up Daniel Carlson to kick the game-tying field goal.
It was the Ravens ball protection that cost them the game in overtime. QB Lamar Jackson fumbled the ball on their own 27, placing the raiders in an ideal position to strike. In the end, it was Carr’s connection to Zay Jones for a 31-yard touchdown that ended the game. Afterward, Carr was sure to give Jones credit for his hard work this offseason, saying, “I hope everyone roots for Zay Jones ’cause he works harder than anyone on our team.” The Raiders look in good form and hope to carry this momentum into an important match-up against the Pittsburgh Steelers next week.
Opening week was one to remember, the Superbowl race is wide open, and the upcoming weeks will only tell us more about the booms and busts of week one.