When the Cleveland Browns selected quarterback Baker Mayfield with the first pick of the 2018 draft, they initially said he would backup Tyrod Taylor.
That plan lasted until Week 3, when Mayfield went into the lineup after Taylor suffered a concussion against the New York Jets. All Mayfield did that Thursday night was help the Browns end their 19-game winless streak with a 21-17 victory over the Jets.
Mayfield has started the past six games. Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs was Mayfield’s first outing since the Browns fired coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is the team’s interim coach, with Freddie Kitchens calling the plays.
Here’s a quick recap of Manning’s breakdown of Mayfield:
Been there, done that
Manning, who was the No. 1 pick in the 1998 draft, knows how Mayfield feels being tossed into the lineup for a struggling team.
“Certainly not an ideal situation for a rookie quarterback, already having a new head coach and new offensive coordinator in the middle of a season,” Manning said. “First pick of the NFL draft, I know those shoes. People expect a lot. They expect you to come in and be this dominant player right away. There’s a reason you’re the first pick of the draft. You’re going to a team that has earned that first pick of the draft — you’re going to be the bad team.”
Manning’s Colts went 3-13 in his rookie season. He took every snap and threw what is still a rookie-record 28 interceptions.
Manning said Mayfield’s approach this rookie season has reminded him of “Brett Favre, for his enthusiasm and love for the game.”
Disregard the audible
Manning used an incompletion from the Browns loss to show how he would call a “dummy audible” or go in the huddle and tell the rest of the offense to “disregard the audible.”
It showed a side of Manning’s game that defenders said made him one of the all-time best. They had to try to determine at the line of scrimmage how much of Manning’s hand movements and cadence actually meant something and how much was just for show.
Talking about the “squirrel route” — the out, up and out — and how he doesn’t know why they call it a squirrel route, Manning showed his propensity to quote the movies he enjoys.
He used a reference to John Belushi’s character in “Animal House:” “Told the pledge in Animal House your nickname is Pinto, he said, ‘Why Pinto?’ and he said, ‘Why not?'”
“So it’s called squirrel. I don’t know why, but why not?”
Manning also stumbled a bit on “anticipatory” and offered, “I’m not even sure it’s a word,” but he made a quality point on how a Mayfield throw to Jarvis Landry required some patience.
The free hand
Manning pointed out Mayfield’s attention to detail with something Manning took great pride in during his career: making the play-action fake and the handoff look the same. Manning pointed out what defenders are looking for and explained why Mayfield’s was such a quality effort.
“I like the effort, and I like the discipline. Don’t be afraid, quarterbacks, to study good play-action quarterbacks,” he said.
I really like this throw
Manning also commended Mayfield’s footwork on a quick slant with a three-step drop out of the shotgun, something Manning remembered from the preseason.
Manning showed a drill for quarterbacks who want to learn how to get to the laces quickly on quick passes to the middle of the field.
About the nightmares
As he pointed out where Mayfield should have put the ball on a play, Manning also showed why, with his own interceptions by the likes of Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu, as he made a point about the range of the game’s best safeties.
“I’m going to quit bringing their names up — I won’t be able to sleep tonight,” Manning said. “ … You got to respect these safeties and their ability to cover ground.”
Manning also gave a shout-out to daughter Mosley’s fantasy football team, “The New Sheriff,” because he gave a shout-out to son Marshall’s team last week.
Manning zeroed in on another piece of technique near and dear to his heart: discipline with your hands as a quarterback.
As he gave Mayfield props in the run game earlier with his technique, Manning pointed out the other side of the coin. Mayfield had his hands at his side until he raised them just before the snap. Chiefs outside linebacker Dee Ford used the move as a tell to time the snap, get to Mayfield and knock the ball out.
“They study your pre-snap mannerisms,” Manning said. “ … Let’s be sure we’re doing the same things.”
Lesson on clock management
Spoken like a true quarterback, Manning used a completion by Mayfield in the two-minute drive to show how the receiver should have handed the ball to the umpire instead of leaving it on the ground and how it would have saved valuable time for the offense.
He also expressed his disdain for wasted timeouts, especially timeouts by the defense “because you don’t know the call.”
He went on to say, “I’m just gonna say it. Those are really the offense’s timeouts, OK? I know you have three timeouts a half, but it’s really the offense that has the three timeouts, all right? That’s just the way it is.”
The Chiefs will be difficult to beat if their defense continues to play as well as it did against the Bengals. The Chiefs have played well at times defensively in all of their games except a recent one against New England, but it’s possible they turned a corner with a consistent defensive showing against Cincinnati. — Adam Teicher
Andy Reid expresses his emotions on getting his 200th win, including playoffs, in the NFL and says “everybody is involved” in this milestone.
Where has the Bengals’ defense gone? The Bengals have given up at least 480 yards in three of the past four games, and they couldn’t stop the Chiefs’ offense all night. That doesn’t bode well, as the Buccaneers and Saints are coming to town soon. The Bengals clearly don’t match up well against speedier offenses, and that’s going to be a problem moving forward if they don’t generate turnovers. — Katherine Terrell
Don’t look now, but the Chargers are one of the hottest teams in the NFL, riding a four-game win streak into their bye week after edging the Titans in London. The break comes at a good time for the Chargers, with Melvin Gordon nursing a hamstring injury and defensive end Joey Bosa potentially playing for the first time this season against the Seahawks in Week 9 after missing time with a bruised left foot. “Was it our best game all around? Probably not,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “But the name of the game is to score one more point than the other team, and we did that.” — Eric D. Williams
The NFL Countdown crew breaks down why the Chargers are showing signs of positive growth.
The Titans’ offensive struggles were showcased in their third consecutive loss. They’ll have plenty of time to figure out what went wrong as their bye week comes at an opportune time. “We’re gonna get back to work and we’re going to improve the stuff we didn’t do very well and get better,” coach Mike Vrabel said. Time off will allow the Titans to work on their ineffective red zone offense. Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur will get a chance to showcase his revised scheme Week 9 against the Cowboys. — Turron Davenport
The Patriots wanted to prove they can win on the road after opening 0-2 away from home. They showed mental toughness in overcoming several sudden changes in a win over the Bears. At the same time, three turnovers continues an alarming trend, as Tom Brady called them “frustrating” and an area that has to be corrected heading into Monday night’s road game against the Bills. So while the Patriots were pleased to win, they felt this was far from their best effort. — Mike Reiss
For the Bears to beat a quality opponent like New England, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has to play better. Trubisky had some good moments on Sunday, particularly in the run game, but he missed the mark on 24 pass attempts and tossed a pair of interceptions. Even with Trubisky’s last-second Hail Mary completion to Kevin White, the Bears’ starting quarterback still had a passer rating of below 70.0. Not having Khalil Mack at full strength hurt, but the Bears need better accuracy from their quarterback to win big games. They look to get back in the win column next week against the Jets. — Jeff Dickerson
Coach Ron Rivera called this a “statement” win. Indeed, the Panthers not only overcame a 17-0 fourth-quarter deficit, but also did it on the road where they were 0-2 this season. With two home games coming up against Baltimore and Tampa Bay, the Panthers, 3-0 at Bank of America Stadium, have a chance to keep pace with the Saints in the NFC South. — David Newton
Cam Newton notes Carolina’s persistence as the team kept battling to overcome a 17-point deficit.
There’s no excuse for a fourth-quarter collapse against the Panthers that drops the Eagles to 3-4 and sets up an uphill climb. The defense shut Cam Newton out for three quarters — a first for a Newton-led team — but couldn’t hold late. There are major questions to be answered with their London game against the Jaguars on deck. Eagles coach Doug Pederson said after the game: “Basically told ’em that, ‘Hey, pressure’s off of us. Nobody on the outside world is giving us a chance to do much of anything, and the pressure’s off, so we can go play, have fun and just relax.’ Lot of football ahead, too.” — Tim McManus
The Texans won their fourth consecutive contest and gained sole possession of first place in the AFC South, playing their best and most complete game of the season. Houston did it with another stellar effort from its defense and an improved running game, two areas the team needs to continue to have success with on Thursday night against the Dolphins as quarterback Deshaun Watson plays through ribs and lung injuries. — Sarah Barshop
Things are falling apart for the Jaguars. Players were heard yelling at each other in the locker room, and at one point, Calais Campbell was restraining Yannick Ngakoue. Jalen Ramsey said there’s no secret to what’s going on: It’s a mess right now. Coach Doug Marrone said the starting QB job is up for grabs after benching Blake Bortles along with pretty much every other spot on offense heading into Sunday’s game against Philadelphia in London. — Mike DiRocco
Even after failing to capitalize on great field position created by the special teams unit throughout the game, the Vikings’ offense still hung 37 points on the Jets in their third straight win. As long as Minnesota has Adam Thielen, who recorded his seventh consecutive game of 100 yards receiving, it’s going to be difficult for teams to contain the Vikings’ explosive passing attack. Now the Vikings face their biggest test of the season next Sunday night when they host the Saints in rematch of last year’s “miracle” finish in the divisional playoffs. — Courtney Cronin
Harrison Smith praises Adam Thielen’s performance so far this season, saying “now you see kind of all the fruits of his labor.”
Sam Darnold suffered his worst game in part because the Jets’ pedestrian receiving group — down Quincy Enunwa (ankle) and Terrelle Pryor (released/injured) — was exposed by the Vikings. Now the front office must weigh the pros and cons of acquiring a receiver before the trade deadline. The Jets could be hurting Darnold’s development if they stand pat. — Rich Cimini
The Colts rushed for 220 yards in their 32-point victory over the Bills. Sunday was the first time since the 2011 season that the Colts rushed for at least 200 yards on the ground. Second-year running back Marlon Mack‘s 126 yards marked just the fourth time in Andrew Luck‘s career that he had a player rush for at least 100 yards in a game. “It just gives you a feeling of physical power,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. The Colts could extend their winning streak next week against struggling Oakland team. — Mike Wells
Three interceptions and a lost fumble by Derek Anderson made it clear Buffalo is doomed whatever direction it turns at quarterback. Whether it’s raw rookie moments from Josh Allen, disastrous interceptions from Nathan Peterman or the expected flaws Anderson showed Sunday less than two weeks after being signed, the Bills (2-5) have little choice but to accept their situation at the position. Their defense’s performance Sunday proved it was too soon to call the unit elite and too optimistic to expect that side of the ball to bail out a bottom-feeding offense this season, especially next week against the Patriots. — Mike Rodak
The Bucs turned the ball over four times, but defensively, they were able to pressure the quarterback and their secondary didn’t have the coverage breakdowns we’ve seen much of this season, simplifying things on the back end. Losing linebackers Kwon Alexander and Jack Cichy played a role in allowing the Browns back into the game, but this is a step in the right direction for the Bucs, who play at Cincinnati next Sunday. — Jenna Laine
Another slow start, another struggle in overtime. Coach Hue Jackson said he will have to get more involved in the Browns’ offense. “I got to jump in headfirst, all hands, feet, everything, and go figure it out,” Jackson said after his team fell to 2-4-1. Jackson will take the plunge just in time for the Steelers and the possible return of Le’Veon Bell next week. — Pat McManamon
It was the Lions’ best day running the ball since the Barry Sanders era, and that says something for their future. After gaining 248 rushing yards — Detroit’s best since Sanders had 216 yards against Indianapolis in 1997 — in a road win to get back to .500, the Lions appear to have a more diversified offense than at any time during Matthew Stafford‘s career. And that can make Detroit dangerous with a critical portion of its schedule upcoming with a home game against Seattle followed by road trips to Minnesota and Chicago. — Michael Rothstein
Kerryon Johnson breaks through and takes off for a 71-yard run to set up a field goal for Detroit.
The Dolphins’ wide receiver room is getting extremely light after injuries to Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson, the Dolphins’ two most productive receivers this season. To make matters stickier, DeVante Parker‘s agent called Adam Gase “incompetent” after his client was inactive once again. That situation seems volatile, but the Dolphins have to turn around and travel to Houston on Thursday with injuries that may force their hand into different personnel in another week of Brock Osweiler. — Cameron Wolfe
The Saints (5-1) won their most important game of the season to date, coming back from a 10-point deficit at Baltimore against the NFL’s No. 1 defense. As coach Sean Payton and his players preached Sunday, these are the types of games that build a team’s character. Mark Ingram II said they proved they are “road warriors.” The tests don’t stop, though. They’re at Minnesota next week, then they host the undefeated Rams. — Mike Triplett
The Ravens need to prove consistency before they can be stamped as a playoff contender. Baltimore has a bad habit of following up big wins with disappointing losses. Earlier this season, the Ravens lost at Cleveland after beating Pittsburgh. On Sunday, Baltimore fell to New Orleans after shutting out Tennessee on the road. Now, the Ravens will have to rebound at Carolina, where the Panthers have won eight in a row. There have been too many close losses over the past two years in September and October, costing the Ravens playoff trips. — Jamison Hensley
After a 4-turnover performance against the 49ers, Sean McVay tips his hat to the defense and looks forward to next week’s test against the Packers.
Even without Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers have found themselves in the position to win games over the past few weeks, coming away with something to build on even if they didn’t win. But Sunday’s blowout loss to the Rams was an example of what happens when you pair an uber-talented opponent with the 49ers’ continued mistakes. The Niners are now a league-worst minus-15 in turnover margin, something no team can overcome. Even with “winnable” games coming against the Cardinals, Raiders and Giants, the Niners won’t return to the winner’s circle until they can forge some sort of turnover turnaround. — Nick Wagoner
The Redskins have found a formula that works, and it’s one they haven’t had for a while: strong defense and a run game. It’s why they’re 4-2, and it’s why they’re optimistic that they can continue to contend in the NFC East. Adrian Peterson has provided an attitude for the offense, while young linemen Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen have done so for the defense. They will need quarterback Alex Smith to play better if they want to be serious contenders, but for now their formula is working. — John Keim
The Cowboys enter the bye week at 3-4 in second place in the NFC East after a game-tying field goal attempt hit the upright on the final play. This team is searching for confidence, especially away from home. “You want to come up here and win this ballgame and do everything you can to scratch and claw and find a way to come out on top but unfortunately that did not happen,” coach Jason Garrett said. The Cowboys have five games remaining at AT&T Stadium, but their season could be decided with back-to-back road games against Philadelphia and Atlanta on Nov. 11 and 18. — Todd Archer
Brett Maher misses a 52-yard field goal with a chance for the Cowboys to tie the game, giving the Redskins a 20-17 victory.
Broncos coach Vance Joseph said the team’s defense “got back to what we do best” on Thursday night, when the Broncos finished with six sacks, three interceptions — they returned two for touchdowns — and the kind of effort they’ve been waiting to see for four quarters. When cornerback Bradley Roby plays with discipline in coverage, the Broncos are better equipped to play man on the outside and rush five or more defenders. The Broncos were at their best defensively against the Cardinals, but will it continue next week against the high-powered Chiefs? — Jeff Legwold
The Cardinals came pretty close to rock bottom in this one. It was a bad enough offensive performance to get offensive coordinator Mike McCoy fired on Friday morning, and it’ll be up to quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich, who replaced McCoy, to right a ship that’s severely off course. When Arizona gets back to work Monday, it’ll be a new dawn for Josh Rosen, Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson. — Josh Weinfuss
The Falcons, Vikings and Steelers got important wins, the Ravens made a statement against the Titans, the Chargers showed they deserve to be in the AFC West conversation, and the Dolphins pulled off an exciting overtime victory against the Bears.
All that and more in Week 6’s biggest takeaways from NFL Nation.
The Patriots’ offense, with WR Josh Gordon playing a larger role, Julian Edelman re-entering the mix and rookie Sony Michel as the top RB, can go toe-to-toe with the best in the NFL. The offense will need to if the defense gives up as many big plays as it did to the Chiefs. — Mike Reiss
Tom Brady praises Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill, then reflects on Sunday’s game that came down to the wire.
The Chiefs won’t always be able to overcome their woeful defense. They won’t face Tom Brady and the Patriots again during the regular season but will have some games against other high-scoring opponents, including the Bengals next week. The Chiefs, who managed just three field goals in falling behind to the Patriots by 15 points, can’t afford another slow start offensively. — Adam Teicher
The real Steelers stood up. This was a bad team in September, but Pittsburgh just put together its toughest, most complete performance of the season in Cincinnati. The 28-21 score doesn’t fully illustrate how the Steelers punished the Bengals’ front with James Conner averaging 5.8 yards per carry. This should be Pittsburgh’s identity moving forward. With a balanced attack on offense, let the defense improve steadily. — Jeremy Fowler
James Conner joins Josina Anderson to talk about the Steelers’ big win over the Bengals and Le’Veon Bell’s return next week.
The Bengals’ defense has serious issues, and it’s going to cost the team more games. Cincinnati might be without three starting defenders against the Chiefs next week after Nick Vigil, Shawn Williams and Darqueze Dennard left with injuries. That’s going to leave a struggling defense more vulnerable. Whether it’s the scheme or the players, something is going to have to change if the Bengals want to regroup. — Katherine Terrell
The Vikings’ run game was finally able to take some pressure off Kirk Cousins after he endured weeks of throwing upward of 50 times per game. Minnesota punched right through the Cardinals’ 31st-ranked run defense behind Latavius Murray‘s career-best 155 rushing yards and a touchdown. Six weeks in, Minnesota’s run game is beginning to evolve under offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, whose plan for protections helped turn around the Vikings’ issues sustaining the run in prior games. — Courtney Cronin
The Cardinals’ offense continued to struggle, failing to convert any of its 10 third-down chances. It didn’t score in the third quarter for the sixth consecutive week and didn’t reach 300 yards, also for the sixth consecutive week. But Arizona’s woes this week spread to the defensive side of the ball, where it surrendered 195 rushing yards. The Cardinals could have a chance to get back on track against Denver’s defense on Thursday night, though. The Broncos allowed 270 rushing yards to the Rams on Sunday. — Josh Weinfuss
The Falcons are feeling pretty confident despite a 2-4 record, as they snapped their three-game losing streak. But they also understand that they aren’t playing their best football, with the offense stalling at times and the depleted defense surrendering 512 yards to the Bucs. “Everybody pats you on your back, ‘Good job. Good job. Good job,’ but we’ve got to go in there and fix things, too,” Julio Jones said. — Vaughn McClure
The Bucs’ comeback hopes against the Falcons were dashed at the Atlanta 21-yard line when, after a series of laterals with seven seconds left, the ball bounced out of DeSean Jackson‘s hands. Jameis Winston threw four touchdowns and two interceptions. “I don’t know what’s going on, man, honestly. I’m very frustrated. I hope other guys in this locker room are frustrated,” Jackson said. It will continue to get worse if the Bucs don’t figure something out on defense. — Jenna Laine
The Buccaneers’ final play consisted of a series of laterals deep in Atlanta territory, but the ball goes out of bounds at the 5-yard line.
After being embarrassed by New Orleans on Monday night, the Redskins recovered for a victory over Carolina to improve to 15-6-1 following a loss in the past three seasons under Jay Gruden. Adrian Peterson rushed for 97 yards, and the defense made enough big plays, especially cornerback Josh Norman. If the Redskins want to start a win streak, they must adopt that same approach this week before hosting Dallas. — John Keim
The Panthers had a chance to go 4-1 and keep pace with New Orleans in the NFC South heading into a showdown against Philadelphia. Now, after a sloppy first half in which three turnovers led to a 17-0 deficit, the Panthers are mired among a group of contenders. Both of their losses are in the NFC, too, which could be costly come playoff time. — David Newton
The Texans are back to .500 on the season, but their offensive line is still struggling. Deshaun Watson, who is playing with a rib injury, was hit 12 times and sacked seven times. Watson said he’s focused on getting himself healthy and ready to play for the Texans’ Week 7 game against the Jaguars, but it certainly won’t get easier to stay upright against the Jacksonville defense. — Sarah Barshop
Replacing an injured Josh Allen in the third quarter, Nathan Peterman threw the go-ahead touchdown before telegraphing a pick-six late in the fourth quarter that gave the Texans the lead. He threw another interception to seal the Houston victory, another mark against Peterman’s ugly record that should result in veteran Derek Anderson becoming the Bills’ No. 2 quarterback as soon as he is ready. — Mike Rodak
Melvin Gordon finished with a season-high 132 rushing yards, and he had his first game with three rushing TDs in his four-year career. “I get a lot of juice when he’s running the ball like that,” offensive lineman Dan Feeney said. “He was out there making people miss, running through people.” The Chargers, currently on a three-game win streak, will stay in Cleveland to practice this week before heading to London on Thursday. — Eric D. Williams
Melvin Gordon cites a collective effort in the Chargers’ 38-14 shellacking of the Cleveland Browns and pinpoints superior blocking for his three-touchdown day.
The Browns felt good after beating the Ravens in overtime last week, but they couldn’t win back-to-back games and were dominated by the Chargers on Sunday. They keep slipping as they try to get over the hill to success. Until they get past the hurdle, they will be a struggling and inconsistent team. — Pat McManamon
The Seahawks have a lot of season ahead of them, but the playoffs no longer seem as far-fetched as they once did. The Seahawks are 3-3 heading into their bye and have looked the part of a playoff team since their 0-2 start. Plus, the Seahawks will have Ed Dickson and potentially K.J. Wright available for the first time this season when they face the Lions in two weeks. The arrow is pointing up for Seattle. — Brady Henderson
The Raiders, whether they realize it or not, are in a messy rebuild only two seasons after winning 12 games. Necessitated by injuries, ineffectiveness, trades or all of the above, Oakland is again an NFL bottom-feeder, playing a gaggle of rookies and untested players as it enters its bye week with a 1-5 record. “I’m going to lead the heck out of this team,” Derek Carr said after the Raiders were crushed by the Seahawks, “all the way.” Stay tuned. — Paul Gutierrez
The Dolphins overcame injuries to get to 4-2 with an easy schedule ahead, but the health of Ryan Tannehill going forward is important. Coach Adam Gase got testy when pressed about Tannehill’s shoulder injury after the game. Brock Osweiler helped the Dolphins to a big overtime victory, but Miami is better with a healthy Tannehill. — Cameron Wolfe
Dolphins rookie kicker Jason Sanders nails a 47-yard field goal as time expires in overtime to lift Miami over the Bears.
Sunday’s overtime loss is a prime example of why enthusiasm for the Bears needs to be tempered. The Bears remain a work in progress under new coach Matt Nagy. They aren’t going to turn into Super Bowl contenders in one year after four consecutive last-place finishes in the NFC North. The Bears are clearly a better team, but they can still make bad mistakes that cost them games, as they did against the Dolphins. — Jeff Dickerson
The Jets proved that they can handle prosperity, winning back-to-back games for the first time since last October. For their next trick, they need to beat a winning team, as they get the Vikings (3-2-1) next week at home. Sam Darnold is gaining confidence, but he and the offense must improve their red zone efficiency. They were 1-of-6 against the Colts, cementing their No. 32 ranking. — Rich Cimini
The Colts lost running back Robert Turbin and receivers Ryan Grant and Marcus Johnson in Sunday’s defeat. Those players join receiver T.Y. Hilton, tight end Jack Doyle, defensive lineman Denico Autry and safety Clayton Geathers on a long list of Indianapolis injuries. The Colts also dropped six more passes to bring their total to 15 over the past three games. “The common mistakes are drops and penalties and turnovers,” said Colts coach Frank Reich, whose team hosts the Bills next Sunday. — Mike Wells
The Rams held off a late push from the Broncos and improved to 6-0. Todd Gurley set a career high in rushing yards with 208. While the defense showed improvement in stopping the run, vulnerabilities appeared at cornerback, as Aqib Talib remains on injured reserve. — Lindsey Thiry
Todd Gurley rushes for a career-high 208 yards and two touchdowns as the Rams beat the Broncos 23-20.
As cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said after a close loss to the undefeated Rams, “There are no moral victories.” The Broncos’ penalties cost them at least seven points, and their losing streak has reached four games. They have a short week with a road trip to Arizona on Thursday night. — Jeff Legwold
The Ravens cranked up their pass rush to a historic level, recording a franchise-record 11 sacks against Marcus Mariota and the Titans. Baltimore also became the first team to shut out the Titans in Nashville. The Ravens have already talked about needing a similar stellar defensive effort Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. The Ravens are the only team that hasn’t yet lost to Drew Brees. — Jamison Hensley
The Ravens’ defense records 11 sacks against the Titans, setting a franchise record in a 21-0 win.
The Titans failed to score and produced only 106 yards of total offense. Mariota and the offense have to shore up the protection and figure out how to get the ball into the end zone, starting with next week’s game against the red-hot Chargers in London. — Turron Davenport
The Cowboys finally had a reason to strut. Maybe it was the presence of Conor McGregor on the field before the game. Dak Prescott accounted for three touchdowns and ran for a career-high 82 yards, Ezekiel Elliott ran for 106 yards, and Cole Beasley had his first two touchdown catches of the season. The defense had two takeaways. The Cowboys followed a formula for success that has worked since 2014: control the tempo, convert on third down, and keep the defense fresh. But McGregor’s presence might be just as good a reason for the win. “You’d like to say we’re going to have to get him in here every game,” Jerry Jones said. — Todd Archer
The Jaguars like to tell everyone that they have the best defense in the NFL, but it sure didn’t look like that against the Cowboys. They gave up 206 yards rushing and pretty much allowed Prescott to do whatever he wanted. The defense is reeling after back-to-back poor performances, and it’ll be facing Deshaun Watson and the Texans’ offense next week in a battle for the division lead. — Mike DiRocco
The offense of last season showed up just in time to potentially save 2018. The catalyst was Carson Wentz, who threw three touchdowns and posted a 122.2 QB rating. Injuries are mounting — tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson didn’t finish the game — but the offense is showing signs of life, and Wentz looked like his old, MVP-caliber self, which bodes well for the defending champs moving forward. — Tim McManus
The Giants and Eli Manning managed just 13 points and failed to score 20 for the fourth time in six games. Manning did not throw a touchdown pass and has only six in six games this season. This will only increase doubts that already exist in the Giants’ locker room about whether Manning can still get the job done. It already seems like a lost season for the Giants (1-5) with 10 games remaining. — Jordan Raanan
Concern grew for some teams with Super Bowl hopes in the second week of the 2018 NFL season. The Patriots, Eagles and Steelers all fell, the Vikings and Packers settled for a tie (yes, another one!) and the Saints just slipped by for a close win.
Here are all of the biggest takeaways from Week 2 (through Sunday’s afternoon games).
The Bengals are 2-0 for the first time since 2015 and have all the confidence in the world as they head into a two-game road stretch against the Panthers and Falcons. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green proved their connection is alive and well with three touchdowns together in the first half, which bodes well for the future of the team’s offense. — Katherine Terrell
Joe Flacco goes from the place where he struggles the most (Cincinnati) to his comfort zone, back home next week at M&T Bank Stadium to face the Broncos. When playing at home in September, Flacco is 16-2 with 31 touchdowns and eight interceptions. His passer rating is 99.5. — Jamison Hensley
The most frustrating aspect of Sunday’s tie relayed by Vikings players and coach Mike Zimmer was how many chances they had to put the Packers away. The Vikings settled for field goals, which rookie kicker Daniel Carlson missed. “Guys are supposed to do their jobs,” Zimmer said. “Maybe we should’ve thrown a ball into the end zone a couple of times at the end, but I believed that the guy was going to make the kick.” The Vikings have a good chance to improve to 2-0-1 when they host the winless Bills in Week 3. — Courtney Cronin
Daniel Carlson misses a 35-yard field goal attempt in overtime as time expires, giving the Vikings a 29-29 tie with the Packers.
The most talked about subject after the Packers’ tie wasn’t how Aaron Rodgers valiantly played through an injured left knee. Rather, it was the questionable roughing-the-passer call on Clay Matthews that wiped out a late fourth-quarter interception that might have clinched the game. And you can bet it will be a point of discussion right up until next Sunday’s game at Washington, which became even more critical after the Packers failed to close out this win. — Rob Demovsky
Matt Ryan made plays with his arm and his feet, accounting for four TDs and igniting his teammates with some Cam Newton-like scrambles. With Ryan playing at a high level, rookie Calvin Ridley scoring a TD and the Falcons establishing a running game behind Tevin Coleman (16 rushes, 107 rushing yards) — not to mention creative play-calling and an admirable job by a banged-up offensive line — the Falcons go into next week’s showdown with the Saints feeling confident about their ability to put up points. — Vaughn McClure
The run defense, in the word of Panthers coach Ron Rivera, was “terrible” and the number of dropped passes was “disappointing.” Throw in a make-shift offensive line because of injuries, and it was almost a miracle Carolina had a chance to tie Atlanta on the last play. Nevertheless, it put more emphasis on the need to win the next two games at home against Cincinnati and the New York Giants. Win those to get to 3-1 with outside linebacker Thomas Davis returning from a four-game suspension, and the sting from Sunday’s loss won’t feel so bad. — David Newton
The Chiefs have reason to feel they can outscore the 49ers next Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium — and any of their other opponents down the line. They started strong offensively last year before hitting a midseason slump, but they also didn’t have Patrick Mahomes as their quarterback. His presence, plus an improved collection of skill players that includes Sammy Watkins, makes them more difficult to defend this season. — Adam Teicher
Patrick Mahomes carves up Pittsburgh with six touchdown passes and now has an NFL-record 10 TD passes his first two weeks of the season.
The Steelers’ offense still has its fastball and looks ready to win shootouts after Ben Roethlisberger‘s 452-yard performance, but why should it have to? The team has spent significant draft capital on a defense that looked confused and overmatched against the Chiefs. Players admitted communication breakdowns dug them a 21-0 deficit, and that shouldn’t happen on a team stocked with veterans. Monday Night Football will be a serious gut-check for a 0-1-1 team with Super Bowl hopes. — Jeremy Fowler
This “Fitz-Magic” thing is real. Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown for eight touchdowns and has a rushing TD. The Bucs are now 2-0 for the first time since 2010. But credit also goes to the defense for getting a lot more pressure on Nick Foles than they did with Drew Brees last week. Rookie defensive backs Carlton Davis, M.J. Stewart and Jordan Whitehead didn’t look like they were in over their heads while stepping into big roles because of injuries. — Jenna Laine
The Eagles have some issues to deal with coming out of their loss to the Bucs. Key players (Jason Peters, Mike Wallace) got banged up, and there was a lack of discipline and execution on both sides of the ball. But the winds are about to shift. Carson Wentz is expected to make his return next week at home against the Colts, which will likely invigorate this team and keep the sting of this loss from lingering. — Tim McManus
Two weeks and two wake-up calls for the Saints, but at least they snuck away with a victory this time. The Saints’ offense flopped for most of the day while the defense actually kept them afloat (the exact opposite of Week 1’s 48-40 loss to Tampa Bay). Drew Brees said they might have left more “points out there” than he could ever remember. The good news: New Orleans goes into this week’s game at Atlanta with a “huge sense of urgency for our improvement,” according to Brees. — Mike Triplett
Wil Lutz hits a 44-yard field goal to put the Saints up 21-18 against the Browns and win the game.
A quick turnaround for Thursday night’s game against the Jets awaits, so the Browns can’t wallow after another brutal loss. The team that can’t seem to get things right may face the Jets with a new place-kicker after Zane Gonzalez missed two field goals and two extra points in a three-point loss to the Saints. — Pat McManamon
Andrew Luck‘s play might no longer dictate whether the Colts win or lose, if Sunday was any indication. Luck hurt the Colts with two interceptions on their side of the field, only to be bailed out by the defense. The D, which has finished 20th or worse in five of the past six seasons, held Washington to only nine points. Second-round pick Darius Leonard was the best player on the field this week with 18 tackles, a sack and an interception. Indy faces the defending champion Eagles in Week 3. — Mike Wells
The Redskins’ offense can’t just sling the ball around and win without a consistent run game. Against the Colts, they rushed for only 65 yards — 117 fewer than a week ago. The offensive line did not handle the Colts’ movement up front, so they can expect to see more of this style moving forward. Considering they play high-powered Green Bay next week, the Redskins can’t afford another poor day in the run game. — John Keim
In Mike Vrabel’s first win as an NFL coach, creativity and tempo were key in generating a spark without quarterback Marcus Mariota and top offensive tackles Taylor Lewan and Dennis Kelly. Safety Kevin Byard had a 66-yard touchdown pass on a fake punt, and Tennessee mixed in Derrick Henry in a Wildcat look. Vrabel said Mariota will be further evaluated after not playing on Sunday, as the Titans will want their QB back for next week’s road trip to Jacksonville. — Turron Davenport
Titans’ Kevin Byard takes the direct snap in punt formation and tosses to a wide open Dane Cruikshank for a 66-yard touchdown vs. the Texans.
The Texans need better pass protection for Deshaun Watson, who was hit nine times and sacked four times Sunday. Watson constantly faced pressure and didn’t have time to throw, especially early in the game. Julie’n Davenport, who started at right tackle after Seantrel Henderson was put on IR last week, said the offensive line “has to be better” starting next week when the Texans play host to the Giants. — Sarah Barshop
The Dolphins are 2-0 for the first time since 2013, and coach Adam Gase said they plan to “keep surprising people.” An efficient Ryan Tannehill and attacking defense led the way for a team that is riding an early-season high and feels like they can be a surprise playoff contender. The field is open for them in a weak AFC. — Cameron Wolfe
Memo to those who believe Sam Darnold had arrived after his big debut: He’s a rookie. He will make mistakes. He threw two interceptions as the Jets dropped their home opener, and now he has only three days to prepare for the Browns’ blitz-heavy defense on Thursday night. This is the growing-pain phase. — Rich Cimini
The Chargers earned their first victory without the services of defensive end Joey Bosa. Melvin Ingram and Derwin James filled the void, helping the Chargers to five sacks against rookie Josh Allen. The Chargers face another tough task against the Rams — a Week 3 battle for Los Angeles at the Coliseum — which be a barometer on if the Bolts remain early favorites to reach the postseason for the first time since 2013. — Eric D. Williams
Philip Rivers passes to Melvin Gordon, who glides in for a 9-yard score to put the Chargers up 21-3 over the Bills.
Allen’s NFL starting debut was overshadowed by another poor defensive performance, at least in the first half. After allowing 47 points to the Ravens in the opener, Buffalo trailed the Chargers at halftime, 28-6. When it returned for the second half, cornerback Vontae Davis had abruptly retired and coach Sean McDermott had taken over play-calling duties from defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. The Bills have four of their next five games on the road, including the next two at Minnesota and Green Bay. — Mike Rodak
It may be only Week 2, but the Jaguars’ victory over the Patriots should send a message to the rest of the NFL that their success in 2017 wasn’t a fluke. The franchise had been 0-8 against Tom Brady and had beaten the Patriots just once once 12 previous meetings. The Jags can’t dwell on this victory too much, though, because they play host division-rival Tennessee on Sunday. Tennessee swept the Jaguars last season, and a victory on Sunday would give them a 2.5-game lead in the AFC South. — Michael DiRocco
The Patriots’ defense was the biggest disappointment as Blake Bortles finished with 377 yards and four scores. The Pats didn’t follow through on one of their key game-plan points of keeping Bortles in the pocket. A trip to Detroit is on deck, where the Patriots would like to show former New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia that they’re better than they played against the Jaguars. — Mike Reiss
The Rams’ defense has posted six consecutive scoreless quarters, and while Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh aren’t filling up the stat sheet, their presence certainly has been felt by opposing quarterbacks. The challenge next week against the Chargers and Phillip Rivers will be to force turnovers, which they were unable to do Sunday. — Lindsey Thiry
Todd Gurley carries the Rams with a three-touchdown day in their home opener at LA Coliseum.
There is a lot of work to be done for the Cardinals, especially on offense. Arizona has scored only six points in eight quarters, struggling to run or pass the ball. In fact, the Cardinals are only 4-of-20 on third downs this season, so unless the offense can figure something out soon, the Cardinals’ season could be lost before it even really gets going. — Josh Weinfuss
The Niners couldn’t afford a loss to Detroit, especially with difficult road games against the Chiefs and Chargers up next. With a 66-yard jolt of lightning from running back Matt Breida and a fortunate defensive holding call on the Lions, the 49ers got the job done, though it may not have felt like it. “A win is a win, but it felt like a loss,” cornerback Richard Sherman said after the game. They must be better in all phases if they’re going to slow down the Mahomes train next week in Kansas City. — Nick Wagoner
There are signs of life for the Lions, and that’s encouraging for a team that looked in real trouble after the first seven quarters of the season. Multiple players even admitted that Sunday was “progress” after 31-point loss to the Jets on Monday. Detroit gave itself a shot to win at the end, so, at least in theory, the Lions have something to build on heading into Week 3 against New England. — Michael Rothstein
Two games, two fourth-quarter comebacks and two wins for the Broncos. “We showed a lot of character and fight, and that’s good, but we can’t keep waiting like that,” cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. With games coming up against the Ravens, Rams and Chiefs, Denver can’t keep racing the clock in the fourth quarter to try to clean up earlier mistakes. The Broncos had one first down in the first half Sunday and didn’t have an offensive touchdown drive until their first possession of the third quarter. — Jeff Legwold
Brandon McManus hits a 36-yard field goal with under 10 seconds to play to put the Broncos up 20-19.
Yes, 0-2 is ugly, but as down as the locker room was after the loss, there was also a strange sense of optimism because if the Raiders make one of at least 10 plays, they win the game. “We’re this close,” Derek Carr said. But offensive tackle Donald Penn pointed out, “That’s the difference between good teams and mediocre teams. Right now, we’re a mediocre team.” — Paul Gutierrez
The NFL returned this weekend with an exciting slate of games. Cleveland almost ended its winless streak, a handful of contenders struggled, the Sunday night game saw an epic comeback and a number of teams got their first looks at new players at prime positions.
Here are all of the biggest takeaways from Week 1 (through Sunday’s games).
Bills coach Sean McDermott said after Sunday’s 47-3 loss to the Ravens that he will “look at the tape” before deciding who will start at quarterback against the Chargers on Sunday. “Overall, I thought we could have been better at a number of positions,” McDermott said. Nathan Peterman was benched for rookie Josh Allen in the third quarter after completing 5 of 18 passes for 24 yards with two interceptions.— Mike Rodak
Ryan Tannehill‘s return to real action for first time in 637 days was a success, even though it was overshadowed by four hours of lightning delays. This team experienced chaos in 2017 in nearly every area, including quarterback. And now that Tannehill is back and in rhythm, it should be a calming presence. It was a good sign for the Dolphins that they didn’t wilt when adversity struck. — Cameron Wolfe
The Patriots’ pass rush came to life against a weaker Texans offensive line to contribute to Deshaun Watson‘s shaky return, recording three sacks and 12 QB hits while forcing a fumble. With the offense trying to buy time until Julian Edelman returns from a four-game NFL suspension (Phillip Dorsett helped there with a 7-66-1 line), the defense and special teams will need to pull their share against the Jaguars in Jacksonville on Sunday. — Mike Reiss
The Ravens’ 47-3 season-opening win not only showed the instant connection between Joe Flacco and his new weapons but could also prove valuable for Thursday night’s early battle for first place in the AFC North. Baltimore was able to rest many of its key veterans, which is big on a short week. Flacco hit each of the free-agent wide receivers — Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead IV — in the end zone. It’s the first time Flacco has thrown three or more touchdown passes to his wide receivers in the same game since October 2014.— Jamison Hensley
Ravens WR Michael Crabtree brings down a Joe Flacco pass and somehow manages to get both feet in for a late first-half touchdown.
The Bengals are going to have growing pains as they work with a young roster. The linebackers weren’t great as a unit with Vontaze Burfict out, and the defensive-line rotation wasn’t very effective against the quick passing game of Andrew Luck. But they made enough plays to win, which could bode well for their growth. — Katherine Terrell
Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor called the season-opening tie a “sour feeling,” but the Browns can take heart from an active defense that forced six turnovers. The Browns have done that 45 times in their history, going 40-3-2 in those games. — Pat McManamon
Hue Jackson discusses the Browns’ missed field goal in overtime and can’t wait to see the tape.
The Steelers passing game showed cracks in Cleveland that Pittsburgh needs to patch up entering Sunday’s matchup with the Chiefs. The Steelers should have won convincingly over the Browns — James Conner dominated with 192 total yards in Le’Veon Bell’s absence — but four sacks and six turnovers facilitated a tie. Ben Roethlisberger was under constant duress and missed on several throws he typically makes. “It’s just frustrating that you can’t make plays down the stretch,” Roethlisberger said. — Jeremy Fowler
Deshaun Watson failed to pick up where he left off during his stellar rookie season, and the Texans offense got off to a slow start. Watson said he was “terrible” and knows he’s better than what he showed in Sunday’s 27-20 loss to the Patriots. Watson finished 17-of-34 for 176 yards, with one touchdown and an interception — but 115 of those yards came in the second half. He’ll look to improve in Week 2 versus Tennessee. — Sarah Barshop
Deshaun Watson has a rough start to the season as he fumbles and throws a pick in the first half.
Andrew Luck proved he could play a full game while also taking hits in the Colts’ loss to Cincinnati on Sunday. Luck (shoulder) threw for 319 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in his first game since Jan. 1, 2017. “His accuracy was good,” coach Frank Reich said. “I thought he was really poised. I mean it was fun just seeing him for four quarters on the sideline. Seeing what they were doing. Adjusting.” — Mike Wells
Andrew Luck throws an interception and a pair of touchdowns as the Colts drop their season opener to the Bengals.
Running back Leonard Fournette left the game in the first half because of a right-ankle injury, but coach Doug Marrone said he’s optimistic about Fournette’s prognosis. Fournette has dealt with this before and said he knows how to manage it. Still, it’s hard to see him being full strength for Sunday’s game against New England, so T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant could have to carry the Jaguars’ ground game. The Jaguars also have Brandon Wilds on the practice squad to promote if Fournette is unable to go against the Patriots. — Mike DiRocco
Marcus Mariota was taken out of the game after being hit by Dolphins defensive end William Hayes. The hit caused Mariota to lose feeling in his hand but he said he was fine after the game. He had accuracy issues on a few throws before he was injured, missing Corey Davis and Delanie Walker for would-be touchdowns on the same drive in the first quarter. His two interceptions came after he was hit by Hayes, overthrowing wide receiver Tajae Sharpe and missing running back Dion Lewis on a screen. — Turron Davenport
Of all of the things the Broncos wanted to leave behind after a 5-11 finish, the biggest might be an inability to respond to adversity. When the 2017 Broncos got down, they usually stayed down. Sunday, they trailed the Seahawks by four points early in the fourth quarter, but Case Keenum led a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive on the Broncos’ next possession — he was 4-of-4 passing on the march — and they closed the deal from there. As wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said: “That’s how you want to bounce back. This team can do that.” — Jeff Legwold
The Chiefs might be able to consistently score enough points to cover for their shaky defense. If they can put up 38 points on the road against a good defensive opponent in Patrick Mahomes‘ second career start, they should be able to win any scoring war they get into down the line. — Adam Teicher
A point of emphasis during the offseason, special teams, remains an issue. Special-teams mistakes led to 14 points for the Chiefs. Tyreek Hill put the first points on the board with a 91-yard punt return for a score in the opening quarter, and with the Chargers in contention late, undrafted rookie J.J. Jones fumbled a punt, which James Winchester recovered at the Chargers’ 2-yard line. New kicker Caleb Sturgis also missed a 48-yard field goal wide left. “That’s something that we emphasized and we worked on,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “We knew Tyreek was going to be back there. He was back there last year and I don’t think he got 10 yards, but we just didn’t execute today.” — Eric D. Williams
Dating back to last season, the Cowboys have not scored more than 20 points in their past four contests, and Dak Prescott has not thrown for 200 yards in seven of his past nine games. The last time they scored more than 20 came against the next week’s foe, the Giants, in Week 14 of 2017, but 20 of their 30 points came in the fourth quarter. In Prescott’s four career starts against New York, the Cowboys have scored 75 points (18.8 points per game). — Todd Archer
The Giants scored one touchdown, a 68-yard run by Saquon Barkley in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t enough, but they maintained that they’re close. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was optimistic because they had chances against the Jaguars. They were “right there,” and could’ve scored three additional TDs. Beckham (11 catches for 111 yards) and Barkley showed their playmaking ability, and there’s time for the unit to mature under coach Pat Shurmur. New York will continue its growth against Dallas on Sunday night. — Jordan Raanan
Giants running back Saquon Barkley turns on the jets for a 68-yard rushing touchdown, the first of his career.
Quarterback Nick Foles and the offense are still searching for their rhythm. The Eagles eked out an 18-12 victory over the Falcons on Thursday on the strength of their defense. If not for a couple of goal-line stands and a little “Philly Philly” magic by coach Doug Pederson, there would be some angst heading into Week 2 against the Bucs. Foles didn’t look like his Super Bowl self in the preseason, either, but with Carson Wentz expected back soon, he should only have to hold down the fort for a bit longer. — Tim McManus
The Redskins’ offense could be fun to watch, partly because of their heavy dose of run-pass option. It’s hard to say if they’ll do that as much every game, but it will be emphasized all season. It’s one reason why they rushed for 182 yards Sunday, and it helped open outside lanes for both Chris Thompson and Adrian Peterson. Quarterback Alex Smith has run this before, both in college and in Kansas City, and makes good decisions. The Redskins believe they have the personnel to make this tactic work whether a defense is in its nickel or base package. — John Keim
The Bears let the Packers off the hook. Chicago thoroughly outplayed Green Bay for nearly three quarters, which in itself is a major development, since Chicago has been dead last in the NFC North in each of the past four seasons. But the Bears are far from a finished product. They’re not good enough yet to finish off a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, who annihilated the Bears’ defense in the final quarter. So while there’s plenty of reason for optimism, the Bears still have a ways to go on both sides of the ball. Chicago isn’t a playoff team yet, but its talent level has improved significantly across the board. — Jeff Dickerson
Last week, Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks ended his conference call with Packers media by repeating: “Khalil Mack, Khalil Mack, Khalil Mack, Khalil Mack.” On their way back to Chicago, the Bears must’ve been thinking, “Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Rodgers.” Rodgers’ comeback from his first-half knee injury not only saved this game for the Packers, it also saved their season. To lose Rodgers in Week 1 less than a year after he broke his collarbone would have been devastating for the franchise. Instead, the Packers have just another chapter to add to Rodgers’ book of legendary performances. — Rob Demovsky
Late in the fourth quarter, Aaron Rodgers teams up with Randall Cobb for a 75-yard touchdown and a 24-23 Packers lead.
As Dalvin Cook pointed out postgame, the ceiling is high for the Vikings’ offense. The unit looked dynamic throughout much of Kirk Cousins‘ debut, during which he connected on two touchdown passes and carved up the 49ers’ secondary. Cousins was backed by the league’s No. 1 defense, which came through with four turnovers. Minnesota displayed the full scope of how good it can be in its 24-16 season-opening win to set up for a crucial NFC North showdown at Green Bay next Sunday. — Courtney Cronin
The Falcons still have a lot of work to do with their red zone offense, which was an emphasis after they finished 23rd in the league last season in that area. The Falcons managed a 1-for-5 showing in Thursday’s loss to the Eagles. Yes, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian showed some new wrinkles with different personnel, and the Falcons used a power game with a blocking fullback. But they still struggled to punch the ball in and missed on five opportunities in the final seconds. — Vaughn McClure
Losing tight end Greg Olsen (foot) and right tackle Daryl Williams (knee) will distract somewhat from the Panthers’ 16-8 victory over Dallas. But it won’t distract from the fact quarterback Cam Newton will remain a running threat under offensive coordinator Norv Turner, and this defense is for real. Newton rushed 13 times for 58 yards and a touchdown, while Luke Kuechly led a smothering Carolina defense with 13 tackles. The Panthers face division rival Atlanta in Week 2. — David Newton
Cam Newton executes the read-option for a 4-yard touchdown run, putting the Panthers up 7-0.
The Saints’ defense flopped in Week 1, as the popular Super Bowl pick lost 48-40 at home to the Buccaneers. New Orleans allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw for 417 yards and four touchdowns. The good news that is the Saints have been through this before. Their defense struggled heavily in the first two weeks last season, too, before they rattled off an eight-game winning streak. But this was a disturbing performance for a unit that looked like it had turned things around. “We needed to get slapped in our face one good time to see that we’re not on the level we think we’re on,” cornerback Marshon Lattimore said. “But we’re gonna get better.” — Mike Triplett
Everybody thought for the Bucs to have a chance at winning any of their first three games with backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, they’d need a Herculean effort by the defense. Instead, it was Fitzpatrick making “Fitz-magic,” throwing four touchdowns and rushing for a fifth. DeSean Jackson was on the receiving end of two of those scores, but he left the game with a concussion and is now in jeopardy for the Bucs’ home opener against Philadelphia next Sunday. Whether Jackson plays or not, the Bucs need their defense to show up after surrendering 475 yards of offense. — Jenna Laine
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter reminds reporters that Ryan “Fitz magic is alive and well.”
Coach Steve Wilks said Sunday’s 24-6 loss to Washington won’t define his team — but it might have been a peek into what to expect from Arizona this season. Wilks called the 182 rushing yards the Cardinals allowed “unacceptable.” The Cardinals also showed if they fall behind early, they’ll be quick to abandon the run, which changed the entire outlook. One game might not define Arizona, but the blueprint might have been drawn Sunday on how to beat the Cardinals. — Josh Weinfuss
The 49ers made mistake after mistake in Sunday’s loss to the Vikings and still had multiple end-of-game possessions with a chance to tie it. Four turnovers, a handful of drops and three missed chances to score a touchdown in four red zone trips were at the root of the loss. Many of those mistakes, such as a pick-six from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo stemming from a miscommunication, were things the Niners can control. They get Detroit at home in Week 2. — Nick Wagoner
Jimmy Garoppolo is intercepted by Mike Hughes, who returns it 28 yards for a Vikings touchdown.
Earl Thomas’ importance to the Seahawks defense — especially in its current state — was clear in Seattle’s 27-24 loss to Denver. The All-Pro free safety, who returned Wednesday from his holdout, had an interception that set up the Seahawks’ first touchdown, another pass breakup and five tackles. Seattle’s defense is inexperienced and has a major question mark with its pass rush. All of those issues were evident in this game. Just imagine where that group would be without its best playmaker holding down the back end. “It’s important to have Earl regardless if [there’s] new players or old players,” safety Bradley McDougald said. “Earl’s gonna be Earl, and he showed it today.” — Brady Henderson
Cut-down day in the NFL is wild. In context, though, we should see it for what it truly is: The capstone to a blizzard of decisions aimed at aligning rosters and salary-cap spreadsheets in time for the start of Week 1.
I’ll keep it simple. There is only one reason for the Raiders to make the Mack deal: If Mack, somehow without anyone knowing or reporting it, made clear to the team that he would never under any circumstances play another down for the franchise.
If that were the case, it would make sense for the Raiders to (1) keep it quiet, and (2) get as much as they could for him. Short of that, though, there is no justifiable reason to trade an All-Pro pass-rusher in the prime of his career for anything. Pass-rushing has never been more important in the NFL, especially if you have a player who forces opposing coaches to design their entire blocking schemes around him.
There are some teams in the league who have never had a pass-rusher as good as Mack, who just reached agreement with the Bears on a record-setting six-year, $141 million extension that includes $90 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. You’re lucky if you get one per generation. That the Raiders couldn’t find a way to make this work will forever be a stain on the franchise.
Although it was the worst thing they did Saturday, the Mack trade wasn’t the only move that makes you question just what in the world is going on in their front office. They gave up a fifth-round draft choice to acquire quarterback AJ McCarron and also made plans to release receiver Martavis Bryant, whom they acquired this spring in exchange for a third-round draft pick.
McCarron has now blown through two teams in less than a calendar year. His extended playing time with the Buffalo Bills this preseason suggested he is the kind of backup you hope never gets onto the field. Bryant, meanwhile, has had his troubles — but none of them were unpredictable given his history. What a ridiculous day in Oakland.
We’re continuing to see an incredible display of quarterback turnover this summer. With Nick Foles set to start next Thursday for the Philadelphia Eagles, nearly half the league — 15 teams in total — will have a different Week 1 starter than in 2017. That ties for the NFL’s second-highest total during its Super Bowl era, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
But the musical chairs haven’t been contained to the starting spot. We’re seeing teams around the league rearrange their backup situations as well. One of the most prominent moves came last week, when the New Orleans Saints acquired Teddy Bridgewater from the New York Jets.
We all learn this life lesson at some point, but it’s always interesting to see it play out on NFL rosters. This year’s example: Why would the Carolina Panthers keep a journeyman named Taylor Heinicke as their backup quarterback to Cam Newton? (Assuming they don’t make another move in the coming days, of course.)
You have to go back to 2015, when then-Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks coach Scott Turner grew intrigued with Heinicke’s final-season performance at Old Dominion. Turner studied him closely, hoped no one else would notice and then pushed the Vikings to sign him as an undrafted free agent.
Heinicke made the Vikings’ final roster — funny how those things tend to work out — and spent the next two seasons with the franchise. Turner (and his father, longtime offensive coordinator Norv Turner) left the Vikings in 2016. Heinicke was released during training camp in 2017, hooking on for a time with the Houston Texans. But when the Turners were hired this winter by the Panthers, they went looking for their guy. They found him.
There is always money to be found — and wasted
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that teams can’t afford a player, be it via cash or salary-cap space. Every year, we see teams make moves that in retrospect would appear a flagrant waste of money.
On Aug. 5, for example, the Bills acquired receiver Corey Coleman from the Cleveland Browns for a seventh-round pick. In so doing, they took on the final two years of Coleman’s rookie contract. Both were guaranteed, for a total of $3.5 million. When they released him Saturday, they were still on the hook for that $3.5 million, unless another team claims him on waivers.
Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions released cornerback DeShawn Shead — just a few months after guaranteeing him $1.5 million to close the deal on a free-agent contract. And the Dallas Cowboys released receiver Deonte Thompson after giving him a $1 million signing bonus.
We all make mistakes, and for NFL teams that includes guaranteeing millions of dollars to players who prove so disappointing that they can’t make the Week 1 roster. But each year, there are enough Corey Colemans, DeShawn Sheads and Deonte Thompsons to remind us that teams always have some extra money around to pay for their misses.
There almost certainly will be some significant moves in the coming days. Some teams, for instance, will hold a player on the 53-man roster for a period of time before ultimately trying to slip him through waivers and onto the practice squad. But at the moment, there remain some significant unresolved questions around the league. Among them:
Are the Seattle Seahawks really going to hold on to safety Earl Thomas, who never reported to training camp? Will he report this week? Or will the Seahawks find a trade partner?
Which team will cut its kicker for the chance to sign Dan Bailey, who was surprisingly released by the Dallas Cowboys? Bailey is the second-most accurate place-kicker in NFL history (88.2 percent) and is young for a kicker. He’s 30.
Once rosters settle, which probably won’t happen until Tuesday, it will be interesting to see the impact of the NFL’s new kickoff rule. The requirements all but eliminate the use of offensive and defensive linemen, and some front-office executives have wondered if that would necessitate an additional linebacker, defensive back or both on 53-man rosters. No team wants to jettison a qualified “big man,” but their roster value might have dropped with the new rule.
It’s the NFL’s annual dress rehearsal, Week 3 of the preseason. For most of the league, this is our only extended look at first-team units for both offense and defense. Who’s standing out? Who’s struggling? Who’s making the team? Here’s the biggest takeaway for each team.
Nick Foles turns the ball over three times and stumbles in the end zone for a safety in Philadelphia’s rough first half.
Coach Doug Pederson entered Thursday’s preseason game hoping quarterback Nick Foles and the first-team offense would get going. He did not get his wish. Foles’ rocky preseason continued. He is 16-of-26 for 171 yards with no touchdowns, two interceptions and two fumbles lost over parts of two games. He has been sacked six times. The defending champs have some things to iron out on offense between now and the opener against the Falcons on Sept. 6. — Tim McManus
The Browns have reason to feel good about their quarterback situation exiting Thursday’s preseason game against the Eagles. Tyrod Taylor was able to return after sustaining a left hand injury in the first quarter and showed no ill effects. Rookie QB Baker Mayfield, meanwhile, made a number of quality NFL throws, including a dart through traffic to C.J. Board for 19 yards. His interception aside, Mayfield had an encouraging night overall. — Tim McManus
It’s Week 2 of the NFL’s preseason as we inch ever closer to the games that count. But there’s plenty to glean: How did the rookies look? Who’s making a push to be a starter? Who’s carving out a spot on the final 53? Here’s the biggest takeaway for each team.
Late in the first half, Patrick Mahomes showed why the Chiefs are so excited about his potential. He uncorked a throw not many NFL quarterbacks could make with an over-the-top pass to Tyreek Hill that traveled about 70 yards in the air. The 69-yard TD was Mahomes’ first of the preseason. But Mahomes also showed some growing pains. He threw an interception into double coverage on the previous possession. — Adam Teicher
Matt Ryan has more than enough weapons to help the Falcons overcome last year’s shaky offensive output if his line holds up. In Friday’s second preseason game vs. the Chiefs, Ryan found maturing TE Austin Hooper for a 4-yard TD and hooked up with electrifying rookie Calvin Ridley on a 36-yard deep ball, all with Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman sitting out. Ridley also caught a TD pass from backup Matt Schaub. Once Ryan has his full arsenal, it could be a 30-point explosion any given game day. — Vaughn McClure
AJ McCarron suffers a fractured right collarbone on a sack and later exits the game.
The Bills’ three-way competition at quarterback could quickly become a two-man race after AJ McCarron suffered a hairline fracture to his right collarbone on Friday. McCarron started and failed to gain a first down in four offensive possessions, taking one first-quarter sack behind a problematic offensive line. Coach Sean McDermott could have a looming decision to make between Josh Allen (18-of-32 for 176 yards and two touchdowns this preseason) and Nathan Peterman (17-of-20 for 231 yards, two touchdowns and one interception). — Mike Rodak
The Browns’ early success in the running game, gaining 73 yards in the first quarter, overshadowed what was an unspectacular night from quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield. Taylor played four possessions, completing 4 of 7 passes for 22 yards, while Mayfield played from late in the second quarter until early in the fourth quarter, completing 7 of 13 passes for 75 yards. — Mike Rodak
Christian McCaffrey breaks loose and runs along the right sideline for a 71-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Dolphins coaches will be upset for the second straight week. The biggest concern? A defense that gave up 226 rushing yards, including a 71-yard Christian McCaffrey TD run against the starters. It’s worth wondering if they need to add talent at linebacker and along the defensive line. On offense, Miami continues to look undisciplined with penalties halting drives and forcing field goals instead of touchdowns. — Cameron Wolfe
The first-team offense still has some work to do, particularly in pass protection after giving up two sacks against Miami. But Cam Newton, with a 58.5 career completion percentage, is showing he can be more efficient in Norv Turner’s offense, and Christian McCaffrey is showing he can run between the tackles (see 71-yard touchdown run). Newton completed 75 percent of his attempts (9-of-12 for 89 yards and a touchdown) in five series on Friday night, and has completed 71.4 percent in two preseason games. That’s a win. Now if he can be efficient without making mistakes, as he did with his one pick. — David Newton
Wayne Gallman fills in for Saquon Barkley nicely by catching a touchdown pass from Davis Webb, then scoring another on the ground.
It was an evening of redemption for Davis Webb. After a shaky outing last week, he bounced back in a big way. Webb completed 14 of 20 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown and played the entire first half. He showed a strong command of the offense and an ability to fit throws into tight windows. He had a QB rating of 106.3 after a 49.4 last week. This was much needed. Webb didn’t play last year and likely won’t play much in preseason game No. 3 next week, when Eli Manning will get his opportunity to get ready for the season. Manning didn’t play against the Lions. Webb gave the Giants hope that they have a trustworthy backup this year and potential for more in the future. — Jordan Raanan
More of the same issues that plagued the Lions last season. Detroit, for the second straight game, got no real pass rush despite the Giants sitting top playmakers Eli Manning, Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. The offensive line (minus right guard T.J. Lang) was also 2017-level bad. Matthew Stafford was sacked twice in three series and almost every starting lineman appeared to struggle with the Giants’ front. Yes, it is only preseason, but considering the Lions knew these were problem areas and they still look like problems should be concerning. The third preseason game against Tampa Bay will be very telling. — Michael Rothstein
Josh Rosen fires a touchdown pass to Christian Kirk, then the two rookies connect again on a nice sliding catch by Kirk.
It won’t ignite a bona fide starting quarterback competition, but Josh Rosen looked much more polished than he did in the preseason opener. Rosen entered the game early in the second quarter with the No. 1 offensive line still in the game, and the better protection enabled the rookie to engineer a seven-play, 87-yard drive that ended in his first NFL touchdown pass. Along the way, Rosen got help from a roughing-the-passer call and also benefited from a 40-yard pass-interference penalty. In the red zone, flags for a false start and delay of game didn’t faze Rosen, who on third-and-goal from the Saints’ 13 zipped a pass to fellow rookie Christian Kirk for the score. Then Rosen, this time with the No. 2 offensive line, went on to lead a drive for a field goal, and he might have run a successful two-minute drill if not for a missed 46-yard field goal try as time ran out in the first half. In his only quarter of action, Rosen completed 10 of 16 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown, along with a nifty 102.9 rating. It was a big improvement over his performance last week, when the No. 2 line struggled to protect him and had issues snapping him the ball. — Jose Romero
Veteran Tom Savage surged ahead of second-year pro Taysom Hill in the Saints’ backup QB battle — but mostly by default after Hill had an extremely rough night. Hill threw two interceptions and fumbled three times (losing two of them) while playing the entire first half. The dual-threat QB did show off his legs with a 43-yard scramble — and the Saints likely will keep him on the roster because of his potential and his special-teams ability. But it’s hard to imagine the Saints can trust Hill enough to be Drew Brees‘ backup just yet. Meanwhile, Savage also fumbled (and recovered) on his opening drive in the second half. And he has been more solid than spectacular this summer. But he had the much better night, completing 6 of 7 passes for 53 yards with no TDs and no interceptions. Undrafted rookie QB J.T. Barrett scored the Saints’ only TD of the night on a 12-yard run with 20 seconds left. But he’s campaigning more for a developmental role than the primary backup job this year. — Mike Triplett
Tom Brady’s first drive of the preseason ends with a touchdown to Chris Hogan. His last pass of the day is a TD to James White.
The health of quarterback Nick Foles is the No. 1 issue for the Eagles coming off their preseason game against the Patriots. He left in the second quarter with what the team described as a shoulder strain. He grabbed his throwing arm after defensive end Adrian Clayborn hit him midthrow from his blindside. With Carson Wentz‘s status still up in the air for Week 1, the Eagles need Foles to be available. — Tim McMananus
Tom Brady, at 41, looks like he picked up where he left off. Playing six drives in the first half, he led an opening touchdown drive and finished 19-of-26 for 172 yards, with two TDs and no interceptions. Meanwhile, perhaps more promising for the Patriots was the way they won one-on-one matchups in the pass rush, specifically with Adrian Clayborn (free-agent signing) and Derek Rivers (2017 third-round pick) picking up sacks. Rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley (fifth round, Purdue) continues to make a charge for more playing time. — Mike Reiss
Ja’Whaun Bentley picks up Nick Foles’ fumble and returns it for a touchdown. Foles strains his shoulder on the play and does not return.
James Conner and James Washington look like the playmakers the Steelers need. Conner, who entered his second training camp in much better shape, showed off his conditioning with runs of 24 and 26 yards on back-to-back carries through the teeth of the Packers’ defense and into the end zone. He has solidified his role as Le’Veon Bell‘s backup. Washington has a knack for the contested catches, winning twice over the top of Packers defenders for scores and finishing with 114 yards. He’ll get game passes from Ben Roethlisberger soon enough. — Jeremy Fowler
On a night when a couple of veterans made big plays — Tramon Williams‘ pick-six and Jimmy Graham‘s touchdown catch — just as encouraging was the emergence of a couple of young playmakers. Outside linebacker Reggie Gilbert, who spent most of his first two NFL seasons on the Packers’ practice squad, recorded 2.5 sacks — an indication that his late-season promotion to the roster was the start of something big. Rookie second-round pick Josh Jackson flashed his athleticism on a 22-yard interception return for a touchdown. For a defense in need of playmakers, Thursday’s win was a move in that direction. — Rob Demovsky
Jason Witten breaks down Sam Darnold’s nice start, until his first NFL interception puts a damper on his night.
Their quarterback situation is as unsettled as ever. Did someone say controversy? It was a mixed bag from Sam Darnold and Teddy Bridgewater, setting up a fascinating decision for coach Todd Bowles at the end of the preseason. Frankly, Bridgewater looks like the best QB on the roster, but you can bet Darnold will get another chance to win the starting job. The rookie threw a red zone interception in an otherwise solid performance, but his inexperience jumped out on a few plays. Could the Jets trade Bridgewater? Anything is possible. — Rich Cimini
The Redskins have focused hard on the defensive line the past two years and it should pay off this season. Rookie nose tackle Daron Payne, who has drawn rave reviews in training camp, showed his power in taking on double-teams and an ability to win a one-on-one matchup for a sack. Second-year lineman Jonathan Allen also made his presence felt with inside rushes. If these two stay healthy, they will make a big difference with the Redskins’ defense. — John Keim
Daron Payne breaks through the Jets offensive line and brings down Sam Darnold to halt New York’s opening drive.
It’s Week 2 of the NFL’s preseason as we inch ever closer to the games that count. But there’s plenty to glean: How did the rookies look? Who’s making a push to be a starter? Who’s carving out a spot on the final 53? Here’s the biggest takeaway for each team.
The health of quarterback Nick Foles is the No. 1 issue for the Eagles coming off their preseason game against the Patriots. He left in the second quarter with what the team described as a shoulder strain. He grabbed his throwing arm after defensive end Adrian Clayborn hit him mid-throw from his blindside. With Carson Wentz‘s status still up in the air for Week 1, the Eagles need Foles to be available. — Tim McMananus
Tom Brady, at 41, looks like he picked up where he left off. Playing six drives in the first half, he led an opening-drive TD and finished 19-of-26 for 172 yards, with two TDs and no interceptions. Meanwhile, perhaps more promising for the Patriots was the way they won one-on-one matchups in the pass rush, specifically with Adrian Clayborn (free-agent signing) and Derek Rivers (2017 third-round pick) picking up sacks. Rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley (fifth round, Purdue) continues to make a charge for more playing time. — Mike Reiss
Ja’Whaun Bentley picks up Nick Foles’ fumble and returns it for a touchdown. Foles strains his shoulder on the play and does not return.
James Conner and James Washington look like the playmakers the Steelers need. Conner, who entered his second training camp in much better shape, showed off his conditioning with runs of 24 and 26 yards on back-to-back carries through the teeth of the Packers’ defense and into the end zone. He’s solidified his role as Le’Veon Bell‘s backup. Washington has a knack for the contested catches, winning twice over the top of Packers defenders for scores and finishing with 114 yards. He’ll get game passes from Ben Roethlisberger soon enough. — Jeremy Fowler
On a night when a couple of veterans made big plays — Tramon Williams‘ pick-6 and Jimmy Graham‘s touchdown catch — just as encouraging was the emergence of a couple of young playmakers. Outside linebacker Reggie Gilbert, who spent most of his first two NFL seasons on the Packers’ practice squad, recorded 2.5 sacks — an indication that his late-season promotion to the roster was just the start of something big. Rookie second-round pick Josh Jackson flashed his athleticism on a 22-yard interception return for a touchdown. For a defense in need of new playmakers, Thursday’s win was a move in that direction. — Rob Demovsky
Jason Witten breaks down Sam Darnold’s nice start, until his first NFL interception puts a damper on his night.
Their quarterback situation is as unsettled as ever. Did someone say controversy? It was a mixed bag from Sam Darnold and Teddy Bridgewater, setting up a fascinating decision for Todd Bowles at the end of the preseason. Frankly, Bridgewater looks like the best QB on the roster, but you can bet Darnold will get another chance to win the starting job. The rookie threw a red zone interception in an otherwise solid performance, but his inexperience jumped out on a few plays. Could the Jets trade Bridgewater? Anything is possible. — Rich Cimini
The Redskins have focused hard on the defensive line the last two years — and it should pay off this season. That’s the big takeaway against the Jets. Rookie nose tackle Daron Payne, who has drawn rave reviews in training camp, showed his power in taking on double teams and an ability to win a one-on-one matchup for a sack. Second-year Jonathan Allen also made his presence felt with inside rushes. If these two stay healthy, they will make a big difference with the Redskins’ defense. — John Keim
Daron Payne breaks through the Jets offensive line and brings down Sam Darnold to halt New York’s opening drive.
Since the offense was nothing to talk about, with Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman sitting out and rookie Calvin Ridley losing 2 yards on just one catch, let’s talk defense. Second-year DB Damontae Kazee, a backup at nickel back and free safety, had 10 tackles in the first half. He was all over the field making plays despite being flagged once for lowering the helmet. Kazee’s performance showed the kind of depth and position versatility the Falcons have established down the roster. — Vaughn McClure
Their quarterback competition went from warm to hot, as Sam Darnold announced his arrival with a strong debut. Showing no sign of opening-night jitters, the rookie looked smooth in two-plus quarters. It was all there — pocket presence, accuracy and mobility. He also threw accurately on the run. He completed 13 of 18 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. And no turnovers. His biggest hiccup was missing an open receiver on a go route. Teddy Bridgewater also played well. So where does the QB competition stand? Darnold is trending toward the starting job. So is Bridgewater, but he could be trade bait. — Rich Cimini
Jon Gruden says it was awesome walking out into the Coliseum and jokes about how angry he was when Marshawn Lynch’s TD was called back.
When it mattered in the first half, Detroit failed to create any pressure on Oakland’s quarterbacks. Yes, the Lions were without Ezekiel Ansah and defenses don’t exactly blitz much or bring any exotic calls in the preseason, but the lack of any disruption in the Raiders’ backfield is a major cause for concern. It also confirms one of the bigger holes on the roster following Detroit’s 2018 offseason. The Lions should be better once Ansah comes back. The Lions should have some concerns considering the lack of a pass rush or interior rush pressure was a big-time concern throughout 2017. — Michael Rothstein
Maybe the game has not passed Jon Gruden by after nine years in ESPN’s Monday Night Football booth after all. Gruden, who is running the Raiders offense, looked completely in touch with an attack that looked light-years better than last season’s unimaginative approach. Sure, there were dinks and dunks aplenty, but, as ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick said, there were actual offensive concepts at play, as opposed to last year. And Gruden’s questioned second-round pick, defensive tackle P.J. Hall from Sam Houston State, showed up in a big way with a sack and a batted pass in his first two NFL series. — Paul Gutierrez
While rookie quarterback Josh Allen continued to show flashes in his preseason debut Thursday, he did not seem ready to leapfrog Nathan Peterman or AJ McCarron as the starter. Peterman went 9-for-9 for 119 yards and a touchdown to open the game before an interception, and McCarron went 7-for-10 for 116 yards in the second quarter. The Bills do not want to rush Allen’s development and neither McCarron nor Peterman gave them a reason to Thursday night. — Mike Rodak
A solid first test for the Carolina quarterbacks as new offensive coordinator Norv Turner attempts to make Cam Newton into a more efficient player and find a young backup capable of winning. Newton, with a career 58.5 completion percentage, completed 66.6 percent of his pass attempts and engineered a scoring drive. Garrett Gilbert and Taylor Heinicke combined for the same percentage in the win at Buffalo. — David Newton
Aside from a Kyle Fuller pick-six that came after Bengals receiver John Ross slipped, there wasn’t much to write home about. The first-team offense looked out of sorts as Mitchell Trubisky — 2-for-4 for 4 yards — was sacked once in two series of work. Aside from Fuller’s highlight, the defense struggled to make much noise as the Bengals moved up and down the field with relative ease early. First-year head coach Matt Nagy has plenty of things to show his players on tape as they head into next week’s game in Denver. — Nick Friedell
There’s a lot to like about this Bengals offense. Outside of an Andy Dalton pick-six that could be attributed to John Ross slipping on his route, the first-team offense impressed. Joe Mixon broke two tackles and spun around for a touchdown, A.J. Green was his usual impressive self, and young receivers Ross, Tyler Boyd and Josh Malone showed there’s potential to right the ship after being one of the worst offenses in the league last year. — Katherine Terrell
When asked if it felt different to come off the bench, Jameis Winston says it’s a “privilege” to play football.
After not missing a single extra point attempt all last year, kicker Chandler Catanzaro missed a PAT in the Bucs’ preseason opener against the Dolphins. A 53-yard attempt in the fourth quarter also sailed wide right, but he did manage to make 26- and 27-yard attempts. He has been consistent in practice, but given that the Bucs have had a revolving door at the position — including three kickers last year — it’s concerning. — Jenna Laine
Playing in his first game since Dec. 11, 2016, quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed 4 of 6 passes for 32 yards. He played only one series, but he looked confident and functionally mobile. Most important, he came out healthy, and protection held up. A step in the right direction. — Jenna Laine
Baker Mayfield talks about his first NFL preseason game against the Giants, saying he’s glad to have the experience under his belt.
Thursday’s Browns-Giants preseason contest was the first NFL game in the U.S. in which fans had the opportunity to place a legal wager from the comfort of their seats inside the stadium — on their phones. Story » More NFL coverage »
The Browns have themselves some quarterbacks. Plural. No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield was impressive, showing playmaking ability in and out of the pocket while completing 11 of 20 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns. He displayed nice touch, command and instincts. Mayfield is obviously the Browns’ future, but current starter Tyrod Taylor also had a strong outing. Taylor completed all five of his passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. Coach Hue Jackson is going to have a decision. It’s really a matter of when he turns to Mayfield, not if. — Ryan Isley
Saquon Barkley needed just one play in Thursday’s preseason opener to show what he can add to the Giants’ offense. His 39-yard run on his first carry put his elusiveness (he avoided three tackles) and big-play ability on full display. That should have coach Pat Shurmur scheming and make the Giants’ offense scary, especially when Barkley eventually gets on the field in Week 1 with Odell Beckham Jr., who did not play Thursday. — Jordan Raanan
The preseason opener deepens the quarterback intrigue behind Ben Roethlisberger. Josh Dobbs looks ready to make things interesting after showcasing his big arm on a touchdown strike to camp standout Damoun Patterson. Mason Rudolph appeared in control of the offense and made some solid throws but couldn’t find the end zone and struggled with ball security, a theme for him early in training camp. Landry Jones is very much the leader for the top backup job unless it’s taken from him over the final three weeks. — Jeremy Fowler
Eagles rookie tight end Dallas Goedert continues to look the part. He had four catches for 66 yards and a touchdown in the preseason opener. He has had a strong training camp as well. If Goedert stays on this track, coach Doug Pederson is going to find a role for the second-round pick out of South Dakota State. — Tim McManus
The backup QBs took center stage in New Orleans’ preseason opener while Drew Brees took the night off. Veteran newcomer Tom Savage was just OK as he started and completed a conservative 10 of 14 passes for 70 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Second-year pro Taysom Hill was more dynamic, completing 8 of 9 passes for 72 yards and running seven times for 52 yards and a TD. But he started a little shaky and might have relied on his legs a little too much. — Mike Triplett
The Jaguars traded for QB Cody Kessler in March to back up Blake Bortles and they have to feel pretty good about that move tonight. Kessler went 14-of-17 for 139 yards and a TD. Bortles has been durable, but not having the experienced Chad Henne was a gamble. This team is built to make a Super Bowl run and now they should feel a lot better if Bortles were to miss extended time. — Mike DiRocco
No Tom Brady, no Rob Gronkowski and no sign of the Patriots that have been a perennial Super Bowl contender in Thursday night’s preseason opener against Washington. With Brady and Gronkowski among those getting the night off, the offense was led by Brian Hoyer and it struggled mightily in the first half, with Bill Belichick saying there was about 38 seconds of good football. The biggest bright spot was running back Jeremy Hill, who increased his chances to make the team over Mike Gillislee. Meanwhile, the defense looked similar to the last time it took the field in the Super Bowl, as a lack of speed showed up, and showed that the unit has a lot of work to do. — Mike Reiss
Jared Goff and Todd Gurley wore sweats on the sideline during the Rams’ loss. Sean McVay elected to sit not only his top playmakers, but his entire starting lineup (with the exception of right guard Jamon Brown, outside linebacker Samson Ebukam and specialists) in the preseason opener. After two joint practices with the Ravens earlier in the week, McVay said he wanted to avoid the risk of injuries. But the backups struggled — especially on offense. Sean Mannion played the first half (3-for-13 for 16 yards, INT), and Brandon Allen (10-for-15 for 73 yards, TD) in the second. The biggest bright spot came from the running back position, where second-year pro Justin Davis and rookie John Kelly are competing for the No. 3 spot. Both looked sharp and Kelly broke for a 40-yard run late in the game. The defense appeared out of sync as it gave up 403 total yards. — Lindsey Thiry
Ravens first-round pick Lamar Jackson looked more comfortable than in his NFL debut a week ago, leading Baltimore to scores on half of his eight drives against the Rams (three field goals and one touchdown). His best play was a highlight-reel, 9-yard run in which he faked out two Rams defenders to reach the end zone. Jackson still needs to be more consistent with his throws. He completed 7 of 18 passes (39 percent) for 119 yards. But the Ravens have to be pleased with how Jackson limited his mistakes. This was a solid step forward for Jackson, who is looking to beat out Robert Griffin III to become Joe Flacco‘s backup for the start of the regular season. — Jamison Hensley
Quarterback Deshaun Watson played for the first time since he tore his ACL in early November. He played only one series and completed one pass for 4 yards, but he achieved the most important goal for the Texans: exiting the game without an injury. — Sarah Barshop
Any concern over what the Chiefs might get this season from their cornerbacks won’t be eased by the game against the Texans. Houston’s backup quarterback, Brandon Weeden, was 9-of-11 for 97 yards and two touchdowns, some of that work coming against Kansas City’s starters. Third corner David Amerson had a particularly rough game. He had two penalties against a backup, Sammie Coates. One was for holding and the other for pass interference that went for 27 yards. The Chiefs lost five of their top six cornerbacks from last year in terms of playing time. The most notable loss was their top corner, Marcus Peters, who was traded to the Rams. — Adam Teicher
Offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur’s debut with Marcus Mariota at QB was a success. Mariota’s only drive featured five runs (one by Mariota) and three passes. The Titans scored easily, going 71 yards in eight plays. They’ll look to carry the momentum into joint practices before next week’s game vs. Tampa Bay. — Turron Davenport
There wasn’t much that could be learned about the Packers’ new-look defense — not with seven potential starters sitting out and with new coordinator Mike Pettine rarely blitzing, so the biggest takeaway had to be the play of the backup quarterbacks. Brett Hundley showed heretofore unseen deep-ball accuracy, hitting Davante Adams in stride for a 48-yard play, and made quicker decisions on the way to a 9-of-14, 108-yard, one-touchdown, one-interception (that wasn’t completely his fault) night. Likewise, DeShone Kizer looked more comfortable in his two drives, giving the Packers hope that Aaron Rodgers‘ backups have improved. Even undrafted rookie QB Tim Boyle threw a pair of TD passes. — Rob Demovsky
Seahawks rookie linebacker Shaquem Griffin reacts to leading all players with nine tackles in his NFL preseason debut.
All eyes were on quarterback Andrew Luck in the preseason opener — his first game since Week 17 of the 2016 season. There were more glimpses than actual eye-opening plays out of Luck against the Seahawks, though. Luck was 6-of-9 for 64 yards in two series that ended with field goals. The most important thing to come out of Thursday was that Luck entered and departed the game without having any issues with his surgically repaired right shoulder. — Mike Wells
What a boost it would be if rookies Rasheem Green (third round) and Jake Martin (sixth) can provide some pass-rush the way they did in the team’s preseason opener. Green (1.5 sacks) is expected to play quite a bit in a rotational role, including as an interior rusher in passing situations. Martin (half sack) has had a nice start to camp and is looking like more and more of a good bet to make the team. With Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril gone, and Dion Jordan out indefinitely because of a leg injury, the biggest question mark on Seattle’s defense is who aside from Frank Clark can generate pressure. The Seahawks should feel encouraged by what they saw from Green and Martin as well as veteran Barkevious Mingo, who had a sack as well. — Brady Henderson
In eight padded practices of training camp, the Cowboys’ offense struggled to make big plays in the passing game, so when Michael Gallup ran under a Dak Prescott deep ball for a 30-yard score on the quarterback’s only drive, it was a much-needed positive. The Cowboys will have to come up with big plays through the air in the regular season to keep defenses honest with how much work Ezekiel Elliott will get running the ball. Prescott has the arm strength for the deep ball but he needs to be more consistent with the placement. The receivers have to do a better job giving him space to land the ball outside, too. — Todd Archer
There’s nothing more important in a preseason game than coming out of it as healthy as possible, at least when it comes to your starters. To that end, the 49ers had something of a disastrous night. Despite planning to play their starters for only a series or two, the Niners watched as three projected starters and two key backups departed with various ailments. Linebacker Malcolm Smith (hamstring), tight end George Kittle (shoulder), defensive lineman Solomon Thomas (head), running back Matt Breida (shoulder) and tackle Garry Gilliam (head) left because of injuries and did not return. The extent of those injuries remains to be seen, but it’s still alarming to see so many of them this early, especially given how many health issues the 49ers dealt with last season. — Nick Wagoner