The opening weekend of the 2020 NFL season was surreal. While the action on the field looked and sounded quite familiar to viewers at home, the precautions being taken due to the coronavirus pandemic meant that only one home team was allowed to have fans in the stadium in Week 1; for the most part, those fans you heard on the broadcast were courtesy of the NFL Films archives. Before the games kicked off, teams around the league used a variety of means to raise awareness of social justice issues.
On the field, some of the league’s biggest stars shone brightly. Lamar Jackson, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson put up big numbers while leading their teams to victory. Meanwhile, the Washington Football Team got its first win for coach Ron Rivera, while Gardner Minshew II and the Jaguars shocked Philip Rivers and the Colts.
We take a look at all of that and more in Week 1‘s biggest takeaways from NFL Nation.
Standout performer: Lamar Jackson. 20-of-25 for 275 yards, three TDs; seven carries for 45 yards
Lamar Jackson is an even better passer now than he was in his NFL MVP season. Jackson drove the ball down the field more consistently and put his throws more on target. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown said wide receivers have to make sure they get to their spots because Jackson is more “pinpoint” this year. Jackson was a career-best 9-of-10 for 180 yards on throws 10 yards or longer downfield. Up next for Jackson are the Texans, who allowed three touchdown passes in Week 1 to Patrick Mahomes. — Jamison Hensley
Next game: at Houston (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)
This loss looked awfully familiar. This offseason, Cleveland overhauled the front office, hired a new coaching staff, revamped the offensive line and even changed its uniforms. Yet in a humbling 38-6 season-opening loss Sunday in Baltimore, the Browns looked dishearteningly similar on the field. Baker Mayfield threw a pick on the opening drive. Odell Beckham Jr. was a non-factor. The kicking teams committed several blunders. And Lamar Jackson completely carved up the Cleveland defense. There’s no shame in falling to the defending AFC North champions on the road. But to have any hope of snapping the NFL’s longest playoff drought — now up to 18 years — the Browns will have to be much sharper. — Jake Trotter
Next game: vs. Cincinnati (8:20 p.m. ET, Thursday)
Standout performer: Russell Wilson. 31-of-35 for 322 yards, four TDs, no INT
As Russell Wilson goes, so go the Seahawks. The Seahawks showed in their 38-25 win over Atlanta how they can “Let Russ cook,” which has become a popular plea from their fan base to lean more on their $35 million-per-year quarterback. Russell Wilson’s 35 attempts Sunday didn’t mark a huge spike from the 32.25 he averaged last season. The difference was how the Seahawks got him going early, as he dropped back to pass on 18 of his 25 first-half plays in a deviation from Seattle’s usual approach of establishing the run out of the gate. Wilson (31-of-35 for 322 yards) was on fire from the start and finished with four touchdowns in a nearly flawless performance. — Brady Henderson
Next game: vs. New England (8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Fourth-down plays don’t pay off for Atlanta in Week 1. The Falcons were 0-for-4 on fourth down in Sunday’s 38-25 loss to the Seahawks, including a fake punt that would have worked had safety Sharrod Neasman not fumbled the ball back to Seattle. The fake punt was a questionable call, but Falcons coach Dan Quinn expressed no regret about the coaching decision, and insisted it was the right call based on the look. The Seahawks scored three touchdowns and made one field goal after those failed fourth-down attempts by the Falcons. Quarterback Matt Ryan said afterward, “We just got stalled out a little bit. I guess we went for it three times on fourth downs as an offense and were 0-for-3 on those. That changes the scope of the ballgame.” Maybe if the Falcons score touchdowns early next week at Dallas, they won’t have to take such chances. — Vaughn McClure
Next game: at Dallas (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Standout performer: Aaron Rodgers. 32-of-44 for 364 yards, four TDs, no INT
Everyone knows the Packers didn’t draft a receiver. Not everyone knew they didn’t need one. At least they didn’t need one in their season-opening 43-34 win at the Vikings. Aaron Rodgers seemed as happy as ever heading into this season despite the fact that the team drafted his possible eventual successor in Jordan Love in the first round. So Rodgers relied on his old favorite Davante Adams and a couple of receivers (Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard) he talked up this summer. The Packers scored their most points in a season opener thanks to 364 yards and four touchdowns by Rodgers. Although the Packers’ lack of additions at receiver didn’t hurt them on Sunday, will it be a limitation at some point? — Rob Demovsky
Next game: vs. Detroit (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Aaron Rodgers is in vintage form in Week 1 as he throws for 364 yards and four touchdowns in the Packers’ victory vs. the Vikings.
Not a great start if the Vikings want to be contenders. Four of the Vikings’ first five games are against opponents who appeared in the 2019 playoffs. Allowing teams of that caliber to be on the field for 41 minutes, 16 seconds like Minnesota did with Green Bay won’t result in many wins. The Vikings’ 18:44 time of possession was their lowest since the league began recording the stat in 1977, per the Elias Sports Bureau, and this retooled defense needs to find its footing even without Danielle Hunter for a minimum of two more games and a young group of corners that will take a while to develop. Minnesota allowed Green Bay to convert on 6 of 11 third-down attempts, jumped offsides twice thanks to Aaron Rodgers’ mastery of the hard count, gave up 522 yards of offense and let one player dominate the defense in Davante Adams. Maybe it’s rust, maybe it’s a lack of cohesion within a revamped unit, but either way this defense cannot have another performance like this. — Courtney Cronin
Next game: at Indianapolis (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Standout performer: Josh Allen. 33-of-46 for 312 yards, two TDs; 14 carries for 57 yards, TD
Not a perfect day for Josh Allen, but an encouraging one. The Bills need Josh Allen to be able to win games with his arm this season, and he showed he was capable with a 312-yard passing performance against the Jets in the season opener. Buffalo struggled to get anything going on the ground outside of a few scrambles from Allen, but the third-year quarterback did more than enough to keep the Bills in control. If he can continue to throw the ball like this (33-of-46) when defenses take away the run, the Bills will be in good shape this season. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Next game: at Miami (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Sam Darnold‘s disappointing performance intensifies the pressure on him and coach Adam Gase, whose job is tied to the young quarterback’s growth. This was a step backward for Darnold, who now faces another tough defense next week in the San Francisco 49ers. Many of Darnold’s mistakes were self-inflicted, but his playcaller — Gase — could have done a better job of finding soft spots in the Buffalo defense. — Rich Cimini
Next game: vs. San Francisco (1 p.m. Sunday)
Standout performer: Cam Newton. Fifteen carries for 75 yards, two TDs; 15-of-19 for 155 yards passing.
Cam Newton’s dual-threat ability as a runner stole the show. Newton had touchdown runs of 4 and 11 yards as offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels introduced zone-read concepts that were never part of the attack during Tom Brady‘s tenure. How rare was the multiple-rushing-TD feat by a Patriots quarterback? According to research by ESPN Stats & Information, Patriots quarterbacks have had three games with multiple rushing touchdowns over the past 35 seasons (all by Tom Brady). Newton now has 60 career rushing touchdowns. Brady had 22 career regular-season touchdown runs with the Patriots, and if Newton keeps up this pace, he would match the mark in one season. — Mike Reiss
Next game: at Seattle (8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Cam Newton finds the end zone twice, leading the Patriots to a Week 1 win over the Dolphins.
The Dolphins have a ways to go to be considered a contender to win the AFC East. The two most obvious issues are their lack of offensive firepower, which was made even more clear once wide receiver DeVante Parker exited the game early in the second half with a hamstring injury, and a poor run defense. Too often Sunday, Dolphins receivers struggled to get separation against Patriots defensive backs, forcing them into plenty of jump-ball situations. Meanwhile, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick forced the ball way too often, throwing three interceptions and doing little to quiet the inevitable calls to give rookie Tua Tagovailoa a shot at being the starting quarterback sooner than later. The offense totaled 269 yards. After the game, Fitzpatrick took responsibility for his three interceptions: “You can’t do that in the National Football League. … I’ve got to do better.” — Cameron Wolfe
Next game: vs. Buffalo (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Standout performer: Ryan Kerrigan. 2 sacks, 2 tackles for loss, 2 quarterback hurries, 1 fumble recovery
Washington’s defensive line is as good as advertised. While end Ryan Kerrigan had a big statistical day, it was a group effort, as six linemen combined for seven sacks. Rookie end Chase Young will be a force at some point, but the player who quietly keeps making noise is tackle Matt Ioannidis. He not only had 1.5 sacks, but also four quarterback hurries. He’s not flashy, but he is consistent and if teams leave him singled up, he’s dangerous. After a while, Washington’s secondary knew it could sit on certain routes and break quickly knowing Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz had to get rid of the ball. “It allows us to play fast,” corner Fabian Moreau said. “It allows us to play free.” — John Keim
Next game: at Arizona (4:05 p.m., Sunday)
There was concern the Eagles’ injury-ravaged offensive line was going to be a problem, and it was. So, too, was Carson Wentz‘s tendency to hold on to the ball. That combo led to a career-high eight sacks for Wentz and a 27-17 loss to the Washington Football Team that raises all sorts of red flags for the 2020 season. Wentz recently said that one of the biggest areas of growth for him has been learning when to air it out and be in gunslinger mode and when to be more of a game manager when the situation calls for it. He needs to apply that education immediately if he wants to stay upright and keep his team competitive. — Tim McManus
Next game: vs. L.A. Rams (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Standout performer: Mitchell Trubisky. 20-of-26 for 242 yards, three TDs, no INT
The Nick Foles debate will have to wait for another week. Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears flipped the script in the final 15 minutes (with help from the Lions, who absolutely self-destructed) to avoid a full-blown quarterback controversy over Chicago’s starting quarterback. Trubisky’s feel-good story read more like pure fiction until the former second overall pick tossed three late touchdown passes to lead Chicago to a 27-23 comeback win over the beleaguered Lions. Few of the improvements — footwork, accuracy and leadership — Trubisky showed in August carried over to the first three quarters as the Lions built a sizable lead. But three fourth-quarter TD passes — to Jimmy Graham, Javon Wims and Anthony Miller — were the difference. — Jeff Dickerson
Next game: vs. N.Y. Giants (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
New season, same results for the Detroit Lions. A year after blowing an 18-point fourth-quarter lead leading to a tie against Arizona, Detroit blew a 17-point fourth-quarter lead in a 27-23 loss to Chicago on Sunday. It continues a trend under Matt Patricia — the Lions blew seven fourth-quarter leads last year, including the tie against Arizona — that has followed his tenure. Sunday might have been the most brutal because these weren’t the Chiefs they were playing (one of the blown leads last year), but a Bears team that had Mitchell Trubisky complete 40.8% of his throws in the first half. Asked after the game if coaching was part of the issue for the fourth-quarter problems, Matt Patricia pointed to his success with New England in the fourth quarter. “I’ve got one of the biggest plays in the fourth quarter in the history of the NFL where I think I did a pretty good job. So I don’t think it’s that,” Patricia said. “Look, no excuses. Give the Bears credit. They did what they did and they executed and they scored and they won and we didn’t. I’m not looking back. We’re looking forward and we’re trying to make sure that this team that we’re building on understands these situations and we have to come through better than we did before.” — Michael Rothstein
Next game: at Green Bay (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Standout performer: Josh Jacobs. Twenty-five carries for 93 yards, three TDs; four catches for 46 yards
Josh Jacobs picked up where he left off last season, when many saw him as being robbed of the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award. The second-year pro outperformed (barely) Carolina’s all-everything back Christian McCaffrey in the Raiders’ 34-30 victory. Jacobs, who missed three of the Raiders’ last four games last year with a shoulder fracture, rushed for a career-best three touchdowns (he had 7 TDs all of last season) while running for 93 yards on 25 carries and catching four passes for 46 yards. McCaffrey, meanwhile, ran for 96 yards and two TDs on 23 attempts and added three catches for 38 yards. Jacobs became the second player since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to rush for at least two TDs in a season opener in his first two seasons, joining Lawrence Phillips, who did it for the Rams in 1996 and 1997. — Paul Gutierrez
Next game: vs. New Orleans (8:15 p.m. ET, Monday)
Questionable fourth-down playcall the difference? Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady might be the next offensive genius in the NFL, but he didn’t look too smart on a late fourth-down-and-a-foot call near midfield when he didn’t give the ball to Christian McCaffrey. Make that, and the Panthers might have pulled off a huge upset in coach Matt Rhule’s debut, a 34-30 loss to the Raiders. Even Rhule said when asked why McCaffrey didn’t get the ball that it was a good question, and something he’ll think about walking away from this game. Nobody, from Rhule to McCaffrey, had a good explanation for why fullback Alex Armah got the ball. Brady, who said going into the game that McCaffrey would be the focal point of the offense, wasn’t available to the media. But McCaffrey wasn’t the focal point until late in third quarter. At that point, he had 10 touches and the Panthers trailed 27-15. He then had 11 touches on the next drive and finished with 26 as Carolina rallied for a 30-27 lead before the defense failed the Panthers in the end. Not getting one more call on that fourth-down play might have cost Carolina a win. — David Newton
Next game: at Tampa Bay (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Standout performer: Gardner Minshew II. 19-of-20 for 173 yards, three TDs, no INT
Minshew, Jacksonville’s young core key to Week 1 victory. The Jaguars went young in 2020 by keeping 16 rookies, and several came up big in the victory over the Colts. James Robinson ran for 62 yards and had an electrifying catch and run. Laviska Shenault Jr. caught a TD pass. But it was CJ Henderson, the ninth overall pick, who shone the most. He set up a TD with an interception and broke up two passes — including one on fourth down with less than a minute to play. It’s only one game, but the Jaguars have to be excited about the future. — Michael DiRocco
Next game: at Tennessee (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Did the Colts make a mistake in giving Philip Rivers a one-year, $25 million contract? Rivers’ debut brings that into question after he threw two interceptions and had another called back because of a penalty. Rivers had a chance to make up for his early miscues by leading the Colts to a come-from-behind victory but he locked in on receiver Parris Campbell and didn’t see Jaguars safety Andrew Wingard at the Colts’ 32-yard line in the fourth quarter. Rivers has now committed 25 turnovers, including 22 interceptions, in his past 17 games, going back to last season. — Mike Wells
Next game: vs. Minnesota (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Standout performer: Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Twenty-five carries for 138 yards, one TD.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire will indeed live up to the hype. Considered a favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year almost from the moment he was drafted, the rookie running back proved he will be a significant addition to the Chiefs’ offense by rushing for 138 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown, a 27-yard run in the third quarter, was impressive, as Edwards-Helaire made a couple of cuts to weave through the middle of the Texans’ defense on his way to the end zone. — Adam Teicher
Next game: at L.A. Chargers (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)
A reality check for Houston. The Texans revamped their offense this offseason around quarterback Deshaun Watson, but quickly found out on Thursday night that they still have a long way to go to hang with the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs. Houston now has three extra days off as it prepares for another tough test: The Texans’ next game is against reigning MVP Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens at home on Sept. 20. — Sarah Barshop
Next game: vs. Baltimore (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)