Murray Makes his mark late on
All eyes were inevitably on quarterback Kyle Murray as he made his NFL debut for the Arizona Cardinals. As ever with a #1 draft pick, there will be those who live in hope that he will be a superstar and then there will be the naysayers. Both camps will have got a bit of what they wanted with the latter group encouraged by the Cardinals failure in the first three quarters, finding themselves 18 down with 11 minutes left. Whether it was coach Kliff Kingsbury simplifying the offensive play calls for the rookie to deliver, a mental toughness and ability under pressure that saw him drafted first, or a bit of both, Murray recovered to lead the Cardinals to overtime and an eventual tie completing 15 of 19 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns in those final 11 minutes and a further 84 passing yards in overtime.
Those in the hopeful camp may need to be patient with the rookie though, they host the Baltimore Ravens next, fresh from their 59-10 battering of the woeful Miami Dolphins but positive signs are there for the future.
Back to Earth with a bump for the Browns
All the hype going into this season was in Cleveland. A young quarterback full of ability going into his second year and the signing of Odell Beckham Jr, to join an offense already boasting Jarvis Landry and Nick Chubb made predicting a breakout year for the Browns easy.
Whilst it still could still happen, especially with this being just the first game into a new season, all in Cleveland will be waking up on Monday knowing that it is back to some hard work on the practice field after being dumped off the hype train at the very first stop by an Impressive Tennessee Titans. No season is finished after just one game but perhaps as that same train leaves the sorry looking quartet of Mayfield, OBJ, Landry, and Chubb carrying their bags, the Titans may well be the team to quietly ride it into the season after this surprise 43-13 dismantling of the Browns.
The running men in New York bring positives going forward
New uniforms, new players, new coaching setup, new sense of positivity in East Rutherford and, up until halfway through the third quarter, you could forgive anyone thinking this could be a good year for the Jets. Le’Veon Bell was full of hard running with the ball in hand and in his blocking, backing up a shaky offensive line in protecting second-year quarterback, Sam Darnold. If this is what Bell can bring to the table in his first game in 602 days then there are good signs in the Jets' offense, despite some big mistakes.
However, it was the running back Devin Singletary who seemed to spark the Bills back to life in the third and fourth quarters. Josh Allen had had a horrible game in the first half yet, having finally unleashed rookie Singletary and the Bills’ running game, Allen, also in just his second year in the league, took control of the final quarter and led a 17-point comeback with Singletary impressing beside him.
Why the Bills took so long to begin their running game is anybody’s guess but it points to a brighter future in offense whilst their defense stifled most of what Darnold wanted to do. In the end, you could argue it was two missed kicks from the Jets that lost it 17-16. Or it was Allen, Singletary and the Bills defense that ultimately won it for the Bills? Either way, for both teams, there are positive signs for the season with the ball in safe, hard running, hands in Bell and Singletary.
Ain’t that a kick in the head
As the reverberation of the double doink that lost the Bears their wild-card game against the Eagles last year has just subsided in Chicago, the NFL is still beset by missed kicks. The Jets lost by a point yet saw a field goal and an extra point missed by new kicker Kaare Vedvik with head coach Adam Gase later opting for a 2 point conversion instead of his returning him to the game. Even the normally dependable and arguably best NFL kicker of all time, Adam Vinatieri missed an extra point for the Colts as well as two field-goal attempts, a full potential seven points drifting either side of the uprights.
Perhaps it is an anomaly and when the statistics are added up at the end of this new season, we return to the mean and nobody will look back on this first week of missed opportunities. However, be it backed up by statistics or not, there is a growing feeling that kicking is not what it used to be and if the tide doesn’t turn, we could be in for some surprising results between now and next winter.
Out of Luck but not hope for Indianapolis
As Adam Vinatieri uncharacteristically left points off the board for the Colts in their overtime loss to the Chargers which would have undoubtedly changed the flow of the game, the Colts can come away from LA bemoaning their lack of fortune but with hope for the coming season.
Having your 29-year-old quarterback retire just days before the season as Andrew Luck did was unfortunate but, the show must go on and Jacoby Brissett looked solid and in control, passing for 190 years and two touchdowns. Having Marlon Mack in the kind of form he looks to be in will be a huge asset as they face the Titans in week two with the running back rushing for a career-high 176 years including a sublime 63 yard TD.
The defense needs the cobwebs blowing off it a little and they were exploited too often by the Chargers but things don’t look as bad for the Colts as they seemed to a little over a week ago when Luck walked into the sunset.
Contributing Author - Rees Dale