After waiting an entire offseason, enduring a global pandemic and countless social justice issues, we finally had a full slate of football to indulge us. For football fans, the first Sunday of the NFL season is like Christmas morning in September. Experienced fans know the routine. Wake up, iron out food plans, check injury reports, lock in the fantasy lineup, crack open a cold beverage, and lock in on the action for 10-plus hours. There was a time no one was sure that day would come in 2020, but it did, and it delivered. Today we recap the most notable action from the opening weekend of the 2020 NFL season.
The Only Teams With Fans Go Undefeated
The Kansas City Chiefs kicked things off Thursday night in front of about 17,000 fans against the Houston Texans, They won 34-20. And they were one of two teams that had fans in the stands for the opening week of games. The other team? The Jacksonville Jaguars. A team in a complete rebuild, projected to be the worst team in the NFL this year, opened their season with a similar number of fans in attendance, and a win.
The Jags upset division rivals, the Indianapolis Colts 27-20 in what was the most shocking upset of the weekend. Despite being totally outplayed by the Colts, the Jaguars capitalized on two Philip Rivers turnovers and a Rodrigo Blakenship missed field goal. Second year starting quarterback Gardner Minshew III had a near flawless day throwing three touchdowns to three different receivers. We don’t expect the Jags to be a winning team this year, but they’re young and hungry and will have an advantage over the rest of the league at home.
Two of the NFC’s playoff teams from last season were upset in week one by believed “inferior opponents.” The Philadelphia Eagles got out to a 17-0 lead over the new look Washington Football team, in a game that had blowout written all over it. After taking that lead, the Eagles offense did absolutely nothing while Carson Wentz was sacked almost ten times. Washington came all the way back to defeat the Eagles 27-17, not allowing a single point in the second half. The Redskins were 6-point underdogs entering the game at home.
Last years NFC Champions, the San Francisco 49ers, kicked off their season at home against the Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but had a punt blocked in the first quarter that resulted in a scoring drive for the Cardinals. The score was 10-7. The 49ers marched right down the field, but were stopped on 4th and goal from the 1 yard line. On that same drive they also lost star tight end George Kittle for the game.
The vibes quickly shifted toward Arizona. Kyler Murray was electric both running and passing. He hooked up with his new weapon DeAndre Hopkins 14 times for 150 yards. The most notable reception was a 34-yard throw and catch that took Arizona down to the 1-yard line. Kenyan Drake ran in the touchdown to give the Cardinals a 24-20 4th quarter lead.
Their defense held off Jimmy Garoppolo on the final drive to seal the victory. Without Kittle and two of their starting receivers, the 49ers passing game struggled. And despite their success on the ground, they lost. Could have been a Super Bowl loss hangover season for the 49ers.
Brees Beats Brady In the Over 40 Bowl
What’s not to love about Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers facing off against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in week 1 of the 2020 season? Two future hall of farmers, two Super Bowl champions, two quarterbacks over 40 years old, are now in the same division. They play each other twice a season. In the first matchup, Brady and the Bucs jumped out to a quick lead on a Tom Brady rushing touchdown. Yes, a rushing touchdown! At 43 years old, Tom Brady became the oldest quarterback in NFL history to score a rushing touchdown.
From there on it was all about Brees and his Saints. Clearly the more cohesive team, Brees marched his Saints down the field for three straight scoring drives to take a 17-7 lead into halftime. Brady threw two interceptions in this one, including a second half pick-six that ballooned the score to 24-7. Tom did get his Bucs back into the game closing the game to 24-17. But Brees, coupled with a big day from Alvin Kamara, put the game to bed before any comebacks could be completed.
Mike Evans was banged up for the Bucs, which certainly didn’t help Brady on offense. Nor were they helped by being behind so quickly. Their running game had to be abandoned. Still, it’s not time to panic down in Tampa, this team needs time to gel with Brady. However, in the NFL, time runs fast. Bruce Arians and company will need to right the ship quickly, ahead of four winnable games on their schedule over the next 4 weeks.
New Year, Same Cowboys
Dallas opened its season against the Los Angeles Rams in the new, beautiful, but empty SoFi Stadium in Inglewood California. The Rams offense looked explosive out of the gate, with Jared Goff getting the ball out quickly to receivers, and Malcom Brown looking like Todd Gurley in the running game. Despite the hot start, the Rams failed to capitalize on several good looking drives, while the Cowboys got the offense rolling after a few empty series.
The Cowboys led 14-13 at halftime, but managed to add only one field goal to their scoring total in the second half. The Rams scored a third quarter touchdown to bring the score to 20-14. Neither team scored in the 4th quarter and the game finished 20-17. The Cowboys had two chances to tie the game or take the lead in the 4th quarter. On the first drive, Mike McCarthy opted to go for it on 4th down and short well within field goal range. Dallas failed to convert and turned the ball over on downs. They could have tied the game right then and there, but didn’t.
They did get the ball back for one last drive. Dallas struggled to move the ball until Dak Prescott hooked up with Michael Gallup down the sideline for a huge play to bring the Cowboys into field goal range. Much to the dismay of the Cowboys, there was a flag on the play for offensive pass interference. That resulted in the Cowboys having 4th down and long on the next play. It was the end for the Cowboys, who started 2020 the same way they ended 2019, losing close games they were good enough to win.