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The NFL’s 101st season kicked off in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic with many stadiums empty and most Americans relegated to their couches to enjoy the initial games. The National Football League and its teams took great precautions earlier this year to help minimize the threat of Covid-19 that included a shortened training camp, player opt-outs, no preseason games, and limited or no fans in stadiums. The teams tested diligently and introduced strict protocols that allowed for the beginning to run smoothly. Week one provided a plethora of division games and key quarterback matchups that led to many surprising and enjoyable games.
“I was truly shocked to see the success the NFL has had thus far in the midst of COVID-19,” said senior Aidan Bannan. “The protocol in place seemed a bit shaky, but it has appeared to work out fine.”
The season began on September 10th with the Houston Texans facing the reigning Super Bowl Champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. These teams met in the playoffs last year and the Chiefs were able to overcome a 24 point deficit to beat the Texans 51-31. The Texans, led by star quarterback Deshaun Watson, came into the game without wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who was traded during the offseason, and they were overmatched by Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes who threw for 211 yards and three touchdowns. The Chiefs went on to win 34-20.
Sunday morning kicked off with a number of division rivalry games. The Buffalo Bills ousted the New York Jets 27-17, due to solid quarterback play from Josh Allen and stout defensive play. The Washington Football Team came from behind to beat the Philadelphia Eagles 27-17, after some key interceptions by the Washington defense. The Cleveland Browns and their new head coach, Kevin Stefanski, were blown out by the Baltimore Ravens 38-6 as reigning MVP, Lamar Jackson torched the Browns defense for three touchdowns, while the Browns made a variety of special teams mistakes and were unable to get anything going on offense. The Green Bay Packers under the superb play of Aaron Rodgers beat the Minnesota Vikings 43-34. Rodgers threw for 364 yards and four touchdowns.
“The NFL has been something to look forward to for a very long time,” said senior Kidus Efrem. “A player to highlight during week one was Aaron Rodgers. He arguably played one of the best games of his career.”
Cam Newton and his new team, the New England Patriots took on the Miami Dolphins, winning 21-11. Lastly, the New Orleans Saints led by Drew Brees matched up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who acquired a number of free agents in the offseason including quarterback Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Leonard Fornette. This game was heavily advertised on Sunday, but the Saints were dominant as the Buccaneers struggled, with Brady throwing two interceptions, one that went for a touchdown.
Former Heisman, College National Champion, and number one pick in the draft, Joe Burrow and the Bengals faced the Los Angeles Chargers and lost a close 16-13 game that ended with a missed field goal by Bengals kicker, Randy Bullock, that would have tied the game. In San Francisco, the Arizona Cardinals upset the 49ers who lost in the Super Bowl last season. It was a back and forth game, with the Cardinals defense ending San Francisco’s last effort drive on a fourth down deflected pass. Arizona won the game 24-20. The Las Vegas Raiders and Carolina Panthers also found themselves in a shootout with Las Vegas Running back scoring three touchdowns and Carolina running back scoring two. Ultimately, the Raiders held on, winning 34-30. The Chicago Bears under quarterback Mitchell Tribuisky scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to beat the Detroit Lions 27-23. Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons threw for over 450 yards in a 38-25 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw for 322 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Indianapolis Colts, with former Chargers quarterback were beat by the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-20 with Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew completing 19 of 20 passes for three touchdowns and 173 yards.
Monday Night Football began with a double header with the first game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants. Steelers quarterback Ben Rothlesberger, who missed almost the entire last season due to injury, had a slow first half, but a great second half as he ended up throwing for 229 yards and three touchdowns in a 26-16 Steeler win. Steeler receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster had two touchdowns, while the Steeler defense held Giants running back Saquon Barkley, to a total of 6 yards on 15 carries. The second game between the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos was a lower scoring game with both teams being tied at 7-7 before halftime. During the game, Titans kicker, Stephen Gostkowski, missed three field goals and an extra point attempt. However, the Titans defense kept them in the game and Gostkowski made a 25 yard field goal that led to the Titans defeating the Broncos 16-14.
Though the NFL has completed only one week of football a variety of players stood out producing some dominant performances. Part of the excitement of the NFL is the narratives and these players set strong precedents during week one. At the quarterback position, Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers shined in his debut as he dominated the Minnesota Viking defense. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson also played magnificently and reigning MVP, Lamar Jackson made plays with his feet and in the air against the Cleveland Browns. While some teams looked like they still needed time to develop due to the shortened offseason, these veterans and their teams looked refined and consistent. A number of surprises were also scattered throughout the games. Kansas City Chiefs rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed for 138 yards and one touchdown as he is looking to set a precedent for his season to help boost the already dangerous Chiefs offense. He was difficult to tackle and according to ESPN he, “averaged a healthy 2.68 yards after tackle.” Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky also relieved some pressure coming off of a disappointing last season. Many doubted his ability and the Bears even traded for quarterback Nick Foles during the offseason. Trubisky started slow throughout the first three quarters of Sunday’s game overcoming a 17 point deficit and throwing for three touchdowns.
“Cam Newton was the player that stood out the most, as he was cut from the Panthers earlier this year, but used the situation as fuel and worked hard this offseason,” said Aidan Banan. “His work paid off, as he played great against the Dolphins and has clearly improved his accuracy since last year.”
The return of the NFL season exhibits the commitment the NFL put on creating a safe environment for its players while also striving to play the season in a timely manner for fans. Audiences at home are truly spoiled, as they are able to now watch the NBA playoffs, the MLB, NHL playoffs, and the NFL throughout the week. The first games of the season provided fans with close games, surprises, and storylines that will hopefully persist throughout the season. In these difficult times, football brings back the joy of cheering on your favorite team, the ability to indulge in Fantasy football with friends, family, and coworkers, and create an escape from everyday life.
Latest Update as of 10/2/2020
- Week three of the NFL has been completed with teams such as the Kansas City Chiefs, the Chicago Bears, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Seattle Seahawks, the Buffalo Bills, the Green Bay Packers, and the Tennessee Titans remaining undefeated.
- Quarterbacks Russell Wilson, Josh Allen, and Aaron Rodgers are all off to hot starts in the MVP race.
- Seven players and six personnel members from the Tennessee Titans have tested positive for Covid-19 and their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 4th has been postponed. The game is likely to be rescheduled later in the month.
Joey is a senior at San Marcos High School…