Several NFL teams looked like they needed more preseason work. Some seemed unstoppable.
It’s only one game so don’t rush to judge.
Most of the NFL’s $50 million men had shaky days, though two ended up on the winning side. The Packers, Dolphins, 49ers and Rams were impressive. The Cowboys dominated despite an average offensive performance.
Eight of 14 games Sunday finished under 40 points combined and 12 teams scored fewer than 20. Nine road teams won, including five underdogs.
Joe Burrow, fresh off becoming the highest-paid player in league history, had one of his worst games as a pro. Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts, who briefly took turns owning the biggest contract, were rusty in victories. Justin Herbert, who also joined the $50 million club in the offseason, was sharp but couldn’t outplay Tua Tagovailoa.
Burrow threw for a career-low 82 yards in Cincinnati’s 24-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns. Considering he missed most of the preseason with a calf strain and played in steady rain that made it difficult to throw, it’s no surprise Burrow was out of sync. Myles Garrett and the Browns’ ferocious defense never gave him a chance to get comfortable.
“It’s just some Week 1 stuff that happens everywhere,” Burrow said about miscommunication with receivers. “You see it across the league. That’s something that everybody has to get cleaned up. We have to get it cleaned up and we will.”
Hurts and the Eagles played in similar wet conditions in a 25-20 win at New England. Philadelphia’s dynamic offense sputtered, totaling just 251 yards. Hurts, the NFL MVP runner-up in 2022, lost a fumble late in the fourth quarter that almost cost the Eagles a win. The offense’s only TD drive came after Ezekiel Elliott fumbled at the Patriots 26.
The spotty performance left Eagles coach Nick Sirianni reconsidering his stance on sitting his starters in the preseason.
“I’ll definitely reevaluate some of the preseason stuff next year,” Sirianni said. “If I had to do it over again right now, I would say, yeah, I would have played starters one or two drives in the preseason.”
Jackson was rusty in his first game under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken but the Ravens still defeated the Texans 25-9 in C.J. Stroud’s debut. Jackson fumbled twice and threw a pick while also completing 77.3% of his passes.
“I haven’t played since November, didn’t play preseason, but I feel like it’s the first game and things like that may come up — not just with us (but) throughout the league,” Jackson said about the rust. “But, we got the win. Just move forward, focus on practicing a little harder on the things we messed up on.”
Tagovailoa and the Dolphins, Purdy and the 49ers and Jordan Love and the Packers came out firing. So did Matthew Stafford and the Rams in a surprise 30-13 upset at Seattle.
Tagovailoa threw for 466 yards and three TDs, including a pinpoint 4-yard TD toss to Tyreek Hill for the decisive score in a 36-34 victory in Los Angeles. Hill had 11 catches for 215 yards and two scores.
Purdy, playing his first game since suffering an elbow injury that required surgery only six months ago, picked up where he left off in a brilliant rookie season. He passed for 220 yards and two TDs in San Francisco’s 30-7 win at Pittsburgh.
Kenny Pickett and the Steelers proved preseason success doesn’t matter. Pickett played five series in the preseason, leading the offense to five TDs. They managed just 239 yards against the 49ers.
Love and the Packers weren’t the only team to have success in the first game without a legendary QB. No Tom Brady was no problem for Tampa Bay. Baker Mayfield played efficiently in a 20-17 win at Minnesota.
The biggest surprise of Week 1 was Stafford and the rebuilding Rams routing the Seahawks, who made the playoffs last season. Stafford threw for 334 yards even without Cooper Kupp on the opposite end of those passes.