The NFL season has officially begun, and football is back in full force with week one in the books. As it is every year, the first weekend back wasn’t without surprises and chaos causing turmoil among fanbases and analysts alike. With 17 more weeks of regular season football left ahead, there is still a lot to be determined with every team. However, we can look back at this week one and learn a little bit about each team after their first game that can help show us how their season may turn out. Here are five things that we learned from the NFL’s opening kickoff weekend.
What We Learned #1
Detroit’s Running Back Room Is More Of A Committee Than We Thought
Detroit picked up a huge win at Arrowhead in Kansas City Thursday night. Jared Goff had a turnover-free game, Amon-Ra St.Brown continued to show he is a budding star at the receiver position, and the defense held a Patrick Mahomes offense to 20 points. One interesting stat that had a lot of fantasy owners confused was the running back snap count total.
Jahmyr Gibbs, who the Lions took inside the top half of the first round in the 2023 NFL draft, was super explosive in his debut, but he only saw 19 of the 70 offensive snaps. Meanwhile, free agent acquisition David Montgomery, who came over from the Chicago Bears, saw 55 of those 70 offensive snaps in the season debut.
This could be simply because Dan Campbell and the Lions coaching staff want to slowly get Gibbs acclimated to the NFL and to the offense, but Detroit also clearly has great trust in the veteran Montgomery to run this offense effectively. Gibbs will become more involved as the season progresses, but for now the Lions could be leaning on Montgomery to take the bulk of the workload.
What We Learned #2:
Deshaun Watson Is Still Rusty
The main takeaway across this entire game is that the Cincinnati Bengals are in trouble. Joe Burrow and company played their worst game together as a group, and everything is falling apart. R-E-L-A-X as Aaron Rodgers would say, the Bengals are going to be fine.
The takeaway after this game should be concerning for Browns fans and their offense. In a 24-3 rainy weather game there were a lot of positives for Cleveland, many about their run game and their front seven. But the one concern should be about their quarterback play.
Deshaun Watson went 16-29 for 154 yards, albeit in the rain, but it was clear that he was struggling to make throws all afternoon. Watson had just a 40% completion percentage on non play-action throws and averaged just 2.5 yards on such completions on Sunday, both of which were the worst percentage on such throws among all quarterbacks (minus Aaron Rodgers) over the weekend.
We will see how Watson adjusts in a game where the climate and weather are more favorable — and the expectation is he plays better — but it is definitely something to take note of that Watson was visibly not the player we saw in Houston this past weekend.
What We Learned #3:
Tennessee Needs A New Quarterback
This game was ugly and not a fun one to watch. A game that featured a singular touchdown and EIGHT field goals was easily the least exciting game of the NFL’s opening weekend. If it was not on everybody’s minds before the season, it definitely is now; the Tennessee Titans don’t have a franchise quarterback on their roster.
Ryan Tannehill was a nice story a few seasons ago; leading Tennessee to the playoffs and playing solid football along the way after some rough seasons in Miami. However, the past two seasons were less than stellar for the veteran and already his 2023-2024 campaign is off to a very bad start. Completing less than 50% of his passes and throwing three interceptions, Tannehill struggled to make plays to get the Titans. in the end zone.
With Malik Willis and rookie Will Levis the other quarterbacks on the roster, it would not come as a shock if head coach Mike Vrabel turned to either of the two young men to take over as signal caller at some point during the season, simply to see what the Titans have on their roster. Even with Willis and Levis on the team, the team does not seem sold on either one after they both failed to compete for the starting job in the offseason.
Now, after Tannehill’s performance in week one it is clear as day the Titans do not have a long-term plan at the position.
What We Learned #4:
Miami Is Going To Throw It Around
Seems like an obvious statement right? After a 466-yard performance from Tua Tagovailoa and a 215-yard performance from Tyreek Hill, of course the takeaway is they’re going to throw the ball around. Tua looked like a completely different quarterback this weekend. He looked confident, motivated, and incredibly comfortable and poised, making plays both inside and outside the pocket.
With all three of the AFC’s top teams (Kansas City, Buffalo, and Cincinnati) from a year ago losing in various fashions, Miami looked like the new dominating offense in the AFC. This offense is going to move fast, they’re going to do a lot of creative route concepts, mixed personnel packages and stunts to get both Hill and Jaylen Waddle open in space and let them do what they do best: catch the ball in the open field and take off.
Tougher defensive matchups are ahead, but every team should be put on notice for what is happening in Miami.
What We Learned #5:
It Is Zach Wilson’s Team Once Again
The New York Jets got a huge win Monday Night in their season opener against the Buffalo Bills, causing four turnovers from Josh Allen and walking the game off in an electric way with a punt return touchdown in overtime. But the story of the evening is the biggest story in the NFL: Aaron Rodgers is out for the season with a torn Achilles.
Obviously, it’s devastating news for Jets fans and an organization who, for the first time in 25 years, had high expectations coming into the season because of the off-season acquisition of the man who formerly wore No.12. The fairytale would live just four plays before Jets fans and players hearts dropped as Rodgers would exit the game and the season with an injury.
So now we circle back to the former second overall pick, Zach Wilson, who once again will have to lead this Jets team. Coach Saleh has been very adamant that Wilson is the guy moving forward throughout the season. However adding a quarterback to give depth is not out of the question, especially a veteran who can mentor Wilson during the season with Rodgers now gone for the year.
Expectations for the Jets may have been altered slightly after the loss of their newly beloved QB, but Zach Wilson has the chance to completely change the trajectory of his career this season.
The Baltimore Ravens kicked off the 2022 season with a trip to New York against the Jets. The stories around this game and the Ravens themselves abounded. Would the Lamar Jackson contract situation distract the team? Would the numerous starters out for Baltimore affect the team? Could this be Joe Flacco’s big revenge game? There were many questions but they could only be answered by playing the game. Follow along as we break down this Week 1 matchup of the Ravens vs Jets.
Ravens vs Jets Recap: First Half
Things got started the right way for Gang Green, as the first play went for 19 yards by running back Michael Carter on the outside edge. However, the Ravens would put pressure on Flacco on back-to-back plays, including forcing an intentional grounding to bring up the game’s first fourth down.
The Ravens didn’t fair much better on their first offensive drive. After a handful of short yardage gains, Kenyan Drake got stuffed on 3rd and 2, forcing the Ravens to punt. Rookie punter Jordan Stout booted a nice punt to put the Jets on their own 11.
The following Jets possession would create a spark for the Ravens. A deep pass by Flacco would be picked off by Baltimore’s big offseason acquisition, safety Marcus Williams, who would take the ball back to the New York 14.
Despite the positional advantage, the Ravens were unable to capitalize. Receiver Demarcus Robinson would shake a Jets defender for a gain of eight yards on 2nd down, but that’s as much offense as could be mustered by the Ravens. An incomplete pass on 3rd down would force the Ravens to take a field goal. One Justin Tucker attempt later and Baltimore would have the first lead of the game, 3-0, with 3:16 left in the 1st quarter.
The start of the 2nd quarter began with a pass to receiver Rashod Bateman that was dislodged by a Jets defender, forcing the Ravens to punt. The ensuing drive by the Jets looked promising for New York. The Jets would drive all the way to the Baltimore 27 before Greg Zuerlein missed a 45 yard field goal to keep the Ravens lead at 3-0.
Following a New York punt, Jackson would take a deep shot to Robinson that would fall incomplete. However, Robinson would draw a pass interference call that would move the Ravens up to the New York 30. The next play would see Jackson launch a 25-yard pass into the endzone to receiver Devin Duvernay for the first touchdown of the game. A Tucker extra point would give the Ravens a 10-0 lead with 3:45 left in the first half.
The Jets wouldn’t go quietly into the half. A 22-yard run by Michael Carter would put the Jets on Baltimore’s 48-yard line. The Jets would get down to Baltimore’s 28-yard line before a forced fumble on tight end Tyler Conklin, recovered by the Jets, would halt yet another promising drive. Greg Zuerlein would boot a 45-yard field goal to cut into Baltimore’s lead right before the half, 10-3.
“I feel like it was just us feeling it out, out there. We didn’t play in preseason. I didn’t play in six games last year. Not much really.” Jackson said of his play in the first half and the offense’s slow start during the post-game press conference. “We got back in the swing of things and came out better in the second half and started putting points on the board.”
Ravens vs Jets Recap: Second Half
Getting the ball to start the second half, the Ravens hoped to conjure up more offense than in the first. A shifty eight-yard run by Jackson on 3rd down would give the Ravens a first down. That would be as far as the offense would go. A run for no gain and two incomplete passes brought up a quick 4th down. A 65-yard punt by Stout would negate any hopes the Jets had of getting great field position.
A quick Jets possession followed by a short punt saw the Ravens with the ball at the New York 44 to start their next possession. A handful of chunk plays would put the Ravens in the redzone. On a 3rd and 10, Jackson would find Devin Duvernay yet again for their second scoring connection of the day. Halfway through the 3rd quarter, the Ravens found themselves up 17-3.
The next Ravens possession would be a whirlwind of emotions. Mike Davis would fumble the ball after a nice run for a first down. A lucky bounce would let the Ravens keep possession. The very next play, Lamar would throw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Rashod Bateman. That would give the Ravens a 24-3 lead.
Starting the 4th quarter, the Jets conjured up their best drive of the day. A handful of plays that went for 10-plus yards would put the Jets at the Baltimore 22. That would be as far as the drive would go. Safety Chuck Clark would force a fumble on rookie running back Breece Hall, and corner Marlon Humphrey would quickly recover. Unfortunately, the Ravens would be unable to turn the gift into points and punted.
Joe Flacco and the Jets would not go quietly into the night. Converting on 4th down twice, the Jets would drive down to Baltimore’s 6 yard line. Needing a touchdown to have any hope of staying in the game, the Jets lined up for a third 4th down attempt on this drive. This would not be the charm, however, as Flacco’s pass fell incomplete and the possession would switch.
Though the outcome of the game was a forgone conclusion, it wasn’t without its fireworks. Jackson would throw an interception to give the Jets solid field position. Flacco would then again drive the Jets to the Ravens redzone. The Jets would finally cross the goal-line, as Flacco found Tyler Conklin for a late touchdown pass. The ensuing extra point would be no good. Those would be the final points of the game, as the Ravens take a Week 1 victory over the Jets 24-9.
Speaking on Jackson’s play during the Ravens post-game press conference, head coach John Harbaugh had this to say: “Lamar [Jackson] played outstanding. He played a patient, veteran quarterback game. He was in control of everything, he did a great job at the line, handled the clock really well…He played a really veteran, winning quarterback type of a game.”
The Ravens (1-0) have their home opener next week (09-18). They host the Miami Dolphins (1-0) in a pivotal early season tilt.
Welcome to the start of a weekly series detailing Zach Wilson’s performance from the previous week. Ideally, this will act to document his progress and standing in the league throughout the season. Without further ado, let’s get into the tape. Here is Wilson’s week in review.
Scoring 14 points will never be something to write home about, and the stats reflect it. His -0.089 EPA per play ranked 28th in the league among 32 passers with at least 16 plays in Week 1. His 37.8% success rate was 31st. Wilson’s -11.1 CPOE ranked dead last. Interestingly enough, Wilson’s 10 air yards per attempt trailed only Derek Carr and Baker Mayfield for the league’s lead. At the very least, his approach should make for some entertaining football.
It is worth noting that poor wide receiver and offensive line play hindered the entire offense, and likely had an impact on these metrics. With any sort of positive regression, Wilson’s numbers will look better. Thus, if they stay stagnant, it is likely evident of Wilson performing worse than he did on Sunday.
Despite the flashes of brilliance, the tight window throws, the daredevil pocket maneuvers, and the perserverence to continue delivering after repeated hits, Wilson ultimately did not have a very good day. And that’s okay! It simply means the ingredients are there for Wilson to become a gourmet chef; he just needs to learn not to burn the toast.
What Wilson Can Improve Upon After Week 1
We start with a rather mundane aspect of quarterbacking: handing the ball off. Or, at least, pretending to. Hailing from a shotgun-heavy BYU offense, play-action passes from under center simply were not on the menu. That inexperience showed up frequently in camp and did not fail to rear its head in Carolina.
An example of it comes here, where Wilson compiles a couple of minor miscues in what ends up being an incomplete pass to Ryan Griffin. Initially, Wilson’s footwork and timing are the issue. He fails to fully close the distance between himself and the running back on the play, Ty Johnson. In doing so, he makes the next part of the process, the play fake, less effective. Wilson fakes a handoff to the air, only to turn and find himself staring down the barrel of two Panthers.
Moreover, it is important to note the movement of the offensive line did enough to draw the inside linebackers towards the ball, and Wilson did enough to temporarily fool Haason Reddick and Jeremy Chinn. It was not enough, though, as the two athletic defenders quickly adjusted. Frankly, there isn’t much Wilson can do about that. Defenders get paid, too.
His lack of a consistently well-sold play fake didn’t blow up in his face here, but if falls under the “bad process” umbrella. Play-action passes are an easy way to attack a defense—maximizing that effect will only make Wilson’s life easier. If you are not convinced, feel free to see Tom Brady dominate with it every Sunday.
Processing Information Within Structure
As I noted in my Week 1 observations, Wilson looked much like his college self on Sunday. Considering how early it got his name called in April, that shouldn’t be too surprising. Where his profile falls short, however, is operating within structure. Essentially, when he is forced to stay in the pocket and think, things get messy. That was never more evident than in his debut’s lone interception.
What was likely Wilson’s worst throw of the day came right here. As you can see in the above diagram, his progression starts on the left and moves horizontally to the Stick-Nod, and if he so chooses, the quick out or flat.
Wilson’s struggles to perform in structure begin as a progressional issue. He has the look he wants, as Elijah Moore breaks inside to create a window between the defensive back and linebacker. Yet, he moves off of it a beat too quickly and moves on to the Stick-Nod. Wilson sees he has the inside leverage on Jaycee Horn, the defender Griffin would be beating up the seam.
Unfortunately, Wilson took said leverage as permission to let loose. He failed to recognize the hook defender, Shaq Thompson. Whether it was simply an obtuse moment in the mind of a rookie passer, or an overconfidence in his arm to navigate an extremely tight window, the result was the same. Thompson made an athletic play on the ball and promptly ended the Jets’ drive.
Additionally, with Wilson pulling the trigger when he did, options were left unconsidered. This play was on second down, so the need to push the ball downfield was absent. Wilson felt it was a makeable throw, so typically there’s no trouble in leaving the progression unfinished. However, here it became a numbers game with an easy answer.
Carolina sent four, two defenders were away from the concept, another two surrounded Wilson, and a final two were in the vicinity of Griffin. That leaves one defender for the two checkdown options to the right side of the formation. Given the situation, either one would have been sufficient.
Now, it isn’t entirely surprising Wilson seemed jittery on these full-field progressions. Throwing in an offensive line’s performance that saw him flattened on multiple occasions acts as a harsh reminder he is, in fact, human. Effectiveness with these types of progressions will be an important hurdle to clear, but for the near future, an increased dosage of half-field, vertical progressions may be the way to go.
The Two-Way Street of Wilson’s Game
Earlier in this piece, I mentioned Wilson’s flashes of brilliance, along with a list of statistics that didn’t exactly love his performance. No play epitomizes the binary nature of his game as much as the following.
Wilson pulls off what can only be described as a nasty evasive manuever to dodge the runaway train dubbed Haason Reddick. It was twitchy, incredibly instinctive, and one of the many times Wilson flashed that skill on Sunday. He then rolled out to his right, found an open man…
… And promptly botched the throw.
This, more than anything else, is something New York will probably have to live with. While Wilson possesses above-average accuracy when on the move, all passers run the risk of inaccuracy when they fail to set their feet. Wilson’s mechanics weren’t even terrible for a quarterback on the run. It seems the fluctuation in arm angle (without a set base) hindered his accuracy.
Again, Wilson is going to be on the move constantly, especially behind the tragedy New York calls their offensive line. He’s going to miss some throws because of it. Trying to limit his game out of a fear of an occasional missed throw would only hurt the rookie. Still, it should have been his second interception on the day. Missing open throws like that with any consistency will get Wilson into trouble, but then again, he isn’t in that situation if it isn’t for his incredible acrobatics within the pocket.
Package Play Struggles
Another part of Wilson’s game that showed both flair and failure was his performance on package plays, where he is making a quick decision post-snap off of a defender’s reaction.
Wilson was given two right answers on this play. He’s faced with the decision to hand the ball off with an open cutback lane, if the blocks set correctly. Johnson can reasonably be expected to gain a few yards. If he so chooses, there is also a window to hit the slant route.
It’s worth noting that Jermaine Carter Jr. (number 4) makes a solid play here to not make Wilson’s choice obvious. Of course, Brian Burns having his way with George Fant also has a sizeable impact on Wilson’s process.
Wilson once again showcases his instincts by avoiding a direct blow, though he does not successfully evade Burns. He attempts to solve a problem with another problem, as evading the initial contact leads to a fumble, which is possibly a result of him trying to get a throw off as he is falling. Committing to the slant, throwing it in the dirt, or prioritizing ball security are each options with their own degrees of difficulty, risk, and reward. Wilson’s decision to maneuver away from the defender was impressive, but is almost immediately dampened by the ensuing fumble.
Mitigating this aspect of Wilson’s game seems like an unnecessary leash. Yet, certain plays and concepts demand to be executed on schedule. Wilson’s movements moved them off schedule, so a last ditch effort to get rid off the ball seems foolish in hindsight. Good on him for lessening the blow, but once that decision to pivot is made, ball security becomes the priority.
A Quick Sidenote
Props to Wilson for diving for the fumble immediately; it’s an example of leadership that his teammates likely appreciated, even if coaches and trainers cringed.
What Wilson Did Well in Week 1
Pitch and Catch Within Structure
One of Wilson’s best throws on Sunday came within structure, which was nice to see. He also showcased better play-action fundamentals, perhaps because of the nature of the play. Even so, it’s encouraging that he is putting out good tape on the weaker aspects of his game.
Wilson executes this play perfectly. The play fake is carried out well, his feet remain on schedule, and he delivers a good, on-time ball to Corey Davis. Wilson identifies Donte Jackson’s alignment as an indicator Davis will be open, and is correct in his assumption. Also, this is a great route from Corey Davis.
Given a clean pocket, Wilson was able to operate smoothly and show off his arm talent. Everything went as planned, and New York gained 20 yards. Obviously, there will be instances where plays get muddy and Wilson will be forced to move off his first read, deal with pressure, etc., but this should boost our collective confidence in his ability to hit his layups.
A couple of times on Sunday, Wilson missed fairly easy, one-read throws. Those are the types of mistakes that put you in 3rd-and-long. Hopefully, Wilson success here is emblematic of the progress that can be made on other easy throws. That isn’t to say Wilson didn’t make plenty of good throws on Sunday, either; but his -15.46 Accuracy Rate Over Expected must improve.
Keeping the Offense Dangerous
One of my favorite plays Wilson made in his debut was his first career touchdown pass. It was a great example of how Wilson is going to win a lot of reps, even when things go south.
Wilson spent a lot of time outside of the pocket on Sunday, and this play is no different. Carolina’s interior linemen generate pressure, forcing Wilson to relocate. By extending the play, he gives Davis time to freestyle and find space in the corner of the end zone.
On the move, Wilson places this pass well. It gets to where it needs to be and allows Davis to slow himself down and keep himself in bounds. Having the ability to not only get out of the pocket, but to accurately deliver the ball downfield as well, will be critical in the success of the offense. If Wilson’s double-digit air yards indicate anything, it’s that New York will be testing defenses deep. Keeping that threat viable when the defense wins reps at the line of scrimmage is invaluable.
Of course, New York is going to give up pressures on shorter throws, too. We saw it all too often during Week 1. Being able to harness his athleticism will both keep the offense afloat, and more importantly, keep Wilson healthy.
Playing Beyond His Years
Wilson made a handful of plays on the offense’s last drive; it was easily the team’s best series of the day. One play that got a good amount of attention was Denzel Mims’ 40-yard reception. It was a fantastic play. However, parts of it may have flown under the radar.
To start, Wilson navigates the pocket well amidst the pressure. Secondly, he reads the concept well and beats the safety with his throw. Obviously, to deliver a throw with this touch and velocity while getting drilled is insanely impressive. It was a nearly perfect play that shows off the physical and mental things Wilson does well.
The Jets upped the tempo for this possession, given that they were down two scores late in the fourth. Wilson proved he can carry out these assignments exceptionally. Here, Carolina’s defense is still getting set up, but Wilson recognizes he has everything he needs and takes the snap without a set defense. It was intuitive, effective, and ultimately, a veteran-like play from a rookie in his NFL debut.
Keeping Cool Amidst a Big Moment
The final play that stuck out to me was Wilson’s second touchdown pass. In need of a score, Wilson effortlessly navigated a smaller field to find Davis.
This play is executed perfectly. Wilson was calm, cool, and collected amidst the chaos. Wilson takes his drop and hits an open Davis right on schedule. Additionally, Wilson did not just deliver a good ball. He retained the proper headspace to nail the necessary fundamentals.
Little things like that could loom large for the rookie. Timing is key in the NFL, and being able to operate in tough situations is what gets quarterbacks paid. Having a target that can separate like Davis certainly helps, too. Now we know Wilson can do it, it’s just a matter of doing it consistently.
Final Conclusions From Week 1
Jets fans were incredibly excited about their rookie passer coming into the week. Nothing from Sunday’s action should suppress that. His immense arm talent, out of structure prowess, and tight-window throws against zone coverage define his game. I would expect a more successful vertical attack to join the arsenal in the near future.
Still, Wilson fell short on multiple occasions on Sunday. As long as we see progress, that is not something to worry about. The struggles with horizontal progressions were legitimate, as were some of his throws under duress. Still, Sunday could have gone a lot worse, considering the circumstances.
This weekend will give Wilson his biggest challenge to date: New England. Wilson must set his protections better if he wants to give New York any chance of winning. It goes without saying that stepping up to this challenge is the next step in proving Gang Green has a franchise quarterback. Don’t expect Bill Belichick to make it easy for him.
Hello Falcons fans, this dreary and depressing column is going to be going over our season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. For those who chose not to watch the game or couldn’t watch the game, you didn’t really miss much. The Falcons lost our home opener in the Benz, 32-6 against the Eagles. It was ugly, it was painful, and it felt like a straight up slap in the face. But there were some bright spots and some small glimmers of hope for our emotionally toxic team.
When the game kicked off there was plenty of excitement inside the Benz because we had yet to see the starters really play this preseason due to Arthur Smith wanting to make sure we came into the season without injuries, which we luckily did not have any significant injury impact a star player. But this tactic of resting the starters came with its own repercussion in the sense that this team was incredibly rusty and just came out flat against the Eagles.
Seeing the offensive that we were all expecting to look so much better this season because of a new play caller in Arthur Smith absolutely drop the ball week 1 in front of our own fans was not pretty. The opening two drives by the Falcons looked pretty efficient until they got into the Red zone, and then the normal red zone woes really started. The Falcons had some brutal penalties move them back any time they hit the red zone. But even without those penalties, we struggled with the play calling and execution. There was one TE Leak to Hurst which looked like it would do something, then we had to settle with a field goal because we couldn’t do a thing once we got closer.
Another major issue was after the first two drives when we were no longer calling the scripted plays that we came into the game with. Smith looked like he had no way to even attempt to offset the Eagles defense. I might be slightly over reacting, but that is a concern for me. Smith needs to figure out a way to get the offense clicking if he even wants a shot beating Tampa next week.
I will say though, it is tough for any offense to get firing when your offensive line is getting beaten constantly. Jalen Mayfield at left guard was like one of those fancy revolving doors at a nice classic hotel. There were plenty of times that the play calling and coaching staff would leave Mayfield on an island against Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave which didn’t end well for Matt Ryan.
Speaking of Ryan, he had a rough outing against the Eagles. He went 21/35 for 164 yds and 0 TD’s and 0 INT’s. Was it due to the offensive line struggling? I am sure that had something to do with it. But in general a quarterback getting the kind of money that Matt Ryan is getting paid should be elevating the team, but that is an article for another time… The Falcons needed Ryan to play better against the Eagles. At this point we have to hope that Smith and Ryan get on the same page and can figure out the offense’s woes.
But there were some bright spots in this game on the offense. The Falcons offense relied heavily on the play action game which is incredibly refreshing to see after the Dirk Koetter era. Another bright spot was seeing both Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson have an impact on the ground, over 100 yards combined which was nice to see.
The other big bright spot I saw on the offense, was the two tight end sets and plays that were called that got Hurst and Pitts open in space, I talked about the TE leak play to Hurst, but plays like that one, that get our big athletic TE’s moving in space looked good and look like they should be a staple of the offense going forward.
Another painful piece of the loss was the defense. The pass rush was none existent and Dean Pees could not figure out a way to stop Jalen Hurts who had over 320 yards by himself. There were some frustrating moments from Deion Jones as he would get himself caught in traffic which in turn would move him out of the play.
But the pass rush being non existent was incredibly disappointing to see. Hopefully we can see them turn it around over the next few weeks but right now I was unimpressed. Fowler and Means didn’t look like they were able to get much going which leaves me very concerned, because if we have another season of Grady Jarrett being our only player who can generate a pass rush we are going to be in for a rough time as fans.
One of the good spots of the defense was our CB play between Oliver, Moreau, and Terrell. They were constantly doing a good job of staying with their mans and didn’t allow a big play. They’re going to have a tough test next week against Tampa Bay’s trio of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown, but I am excited to see how they do.
All in all, the Falcons set the bar incredibly low Week 1 against the Eagles. And if this game was an indicator for the season going forward, we as fans will have a rough year. Hopefully we see them turn it around and put on a better performance on the field, but if for some reason they don’t, at least we have draft season right?
Well, that was fun. The Pittsburgh Steelers walked into the home of a presumed AFC Super Bowl contender and outlasted them for 60 minutes. Of course, it was far from a perfect game for the Steelers against the Buffalo Bills. We’ll recap everything that happened in this Steelers-Bills matchup and talk about what the Steelers need to fix moving forward.
Steelers-Bills Recap: 1st Half
Through the first half, this team looked like the one fans saw at the end of the regular season last year. The offense could not get the run game going and Ben Roethlisberger struggled to complete easy passes. Many of the concerns about the new offensive line seemed to be realized. All five players struggled to get any push in the run game and they allowed the Bills’ defense to pressure Roethlisberger repeatedly. Rookie running back Najee Harris ran hard but the blocking did not give him much to work with. But Ben shares some of the blame. He looked like the late-2020 Ben again, missing simple passes, as the offense did not look much different than last season.
Luckily, Pittsburgh’s defense bailed them out repeatedly. They sacked Josh Allen three times, drew numerous holding penalties, and generally harassed Allen all afternoon. Buffalo elected not to run the ball very much. But the Steelers’ defensive backs responded by preventing big plays and tackling well. Regardless, the Steelers’ defense broke once right before the half, when Allen fired a perfect strike to Gabriel Davis in the back of the end zone. Pittsburgh went into halftime down 10-0, punting on all five of their drives (not counting the kneeldown).
Steelers-Bills Recap: 2nd Half
But in the second half, slowly but surely, the Steelers came alive. Tre’davious White nearly picked off Ben early in the drive but it was called back due to holding. The Steelers ended up with a field goal after an errant pass to Najee Harris on third down. On the ensuring Buffalo drive, Pittsburgh forced the first of their turnovers on downs. They drove into the red zone again but could not convert for a touchdown and settled for a field goal. Pittsburgh then forced another turnover on downs via a massive tackle for loss from Cam Sutton. After a big defensive pass interference penalty, Diontae Johnson secured some semblance of revenge against the Bills after last year’s debacle, catching a bobbling highlight touchdown. The Steelers scored 13 unanswered points to tie the game at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
It didn’t stop there. After a massive sack on third down, the Steelers special teams unit redeemed themselves after allowing a huge return on the opening kickoff by blocking a punt and returning it for a quick touchdown. The Steelers held strong at the goal line again after that, forcing a field goal. Pittsburgh got the ball back with about five minutes remaining and bled about two-and-a-half minutes off with some clutch third-down conversions to get into field goal range. Chris Boswell nailed a long kick to extend the lead to 10. Buffalo got down the field to kick a field goal on the ensuing drive. But they used up too much time and could not recover the onside kick to get one last chance.
Steelers fans may have seen shades of the game against the Colts last season when the Steelers’ offense could not get anything going in the first half but came alive in the second to squeak out a win. In this game, that was more understandable, as the offense was starting four rookies in a very new offense. The run game was not pretty for the majority of the contest. But Najee Harris displayed incredible toughness, consistently battling for extra yards when there weren’t any to be had. By the fourth quarter, Harris found more holes and started breaking some for solid gains. Ben Roethlisberger played far from perfect but in clutch situations in the second half, he delivered.
On defense, there’s not much to complain about if anything. TJ Watt played incredibly, even for him, after signing his new contract. The rest of the outside linebackers were also amazing, generating pressure on Allen with relative ease and drawing several holding calls. The secondary also played extremely well, preventing big plays over the top, breaking up multiple passes, and rallying to the ball to make tackles. The stats will look somewhat deceiving but the Steelers’ defense executed their gameplan very well, forcing stops when necessary. The special teams units had some hiccups (opening kickoff, shanked punt) but creating a blocked punt touchdown might fully redeem them.
Obviously, the Steelers have a lot to clean up on offense. The debut Matt Canada offense was not perfect. However, as they leaned more into it, with motions and sweeps, the offense seemed to get going. The Steelers return home next week to face the Las Vegas Raiders, coming off a short week and a long road trip. Hopefully, they can clean up their mistakes during the week and come out firing against Las Vegas.