NFL Nation reporters break down the biggest surprises across the league from Week 1, from the Texans making another change at quarterback to good performances from some unexpected teams, and more.
The biggest surprise of the Bills' season-opening win over the Jets was the defense's ability to hold the Jets to 38 rushing yards. The biggest threat the Jets' offense posed were running backs Bilal Powell and Matt Forte. Buffalo bottled both up and instead put the game in Josh McCown's hands. After the Bills' defense allowed 10 opponents to gain 100 yards or more last season (and three over 200), Sunday's opener was a big change.
The biggest surprise from the Patriots' season-opening loss to the Chiefs on Thursday was the defense giving up scoring plays of 75 and 78 yards. The secondary was supposed to be a strength of the defense but communication breakdowns were costly. "I'm going to start with myself. I need to coach better," defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said.
The biggest surprise from Week 1 was the Jets' lack of discipline against the run. This has been a perennial strength for the Jets, but they allowed 190 yards on the ground. Their gap control was poor and they failed to set the edge, letting LeSean McCoy break containment. Do they miss Sheldon Richardson? Perhaps, but this issue needs to get cleaned up quickly. They have enough front-seven talent to get it done.
The biggest surprise for the Ravens was their commitment to the run. A year after setting the franchise record for fewest rushing attempts, Baltimore kept it on the ground 42 times for 157 yards. "This was a game that running the ball turned out to be a key," coach John Harbaugh said.
The most unexpected takeaway from Sunday's loss to the Ravens was the poor play of Andy Dalton. Protecting the football has been one of Dalton's best traits the last two years, but things fell apart on Sunday: 5 sacks, 4 interceptions, a fumble and a 28.4 QB rating. Dalton must play better to turn this thing around.
The most pleasant surprise for the Browns in Week 1 was the composure shown by DeShone Kizer, who did not get rattled when the Browns fell behind 7-0 early and 21-10 late. Kizer stayed with the plan and the offense, kept the Browns in the game, and drew praise from both his teammates and the Steelers.
The biggest surprise from the Steelers is how easily they pressured the quarterback without Bud Dupree and Stephon Tuitt. The Browns spent big money on upgrading their offensive line and the Steelers still got seven sacks, two from rookie T.J. Watt. Pressure came from everywhere - even new cornerback Joe Haden got a sack. The Steelers want to win games with their front seven, and they should have enough talent and depth to do just that.
The biggest surprise for the Texans was simply that head coach Bill O'Brien put Deshaun Watson in the game at all. Yes, the Texans' offense was struggling and Tom Savage was unable to elude the pressure the Jaguars were bringing, but O'Brien spent all offseason and training camp saying Savage was the Texans' starting quarterback and that Watson needed more time to develop. It will be telling to see who O'Brien names his starter for Thursday night.
In the category of not surprising at all, the Colts officially have a quarterback controversy. Scott Tolzien, who has been working with the first team since April, was benched in favor of Jacoby Brissett in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Tolzien had two interceptions returned for touchdowns and nearly had a third right before he was taken out the game. The Colts traded Brissett on Sept. 9. The Colts will likely use the week to evaluate the quarterback position before a decision. Andrew Luck remains out with a shoulder injury
Kind of hard to pick the biggest surprise because there were so many: 10 sacks on Houston QBs, no turnovers committed, a plus-4 turnover ratio. However, the play of the offensive line was the most impressive. They cleared the way for 155 yards rushing and stymied the Texans' pass rush. Zero sacks allowed against J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and Jadeveon Clowney despite the fact that rookie Cam Robinson started at left tackle. “I thought they did a nice job," coach Doug Marrone said of the OL. "I thought they were up for what was, obviously, a great challenge."
The biggest surprise from the Titans Week 1 loss was DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry combining for just 69 rushing yards on 18 carries. Tennessee had a top-5 rushing attack in 2016, but they struggled to establish the run against the Raiders. "We've got to get better in the run game and set the tone," Murray said. "Just got to get more opportunities."
The most unexpected element in Week 1 for the Chiefs was the superb all-around play of rookie running back Kareem Hunt. Hunt rushed for 148 yards, caught passes for 98 more and scored three touchdowns. Priest Holmes is the only other Chiefs player to hit those numbers all in the same game. While Hunt can’t continue that pace, he can be a consistent threat for the Chiefs. “I saw probably the same thing . . . at camp every day,’’ coach Andy Reid said. “He’s a load and you know he is talented and he’s a smart kid, which helps in that position.’’
The biggest surprise from the Raiders' 26-16 season-opening win at the Titans was the coronation of kicker Giorgio Tavecchio to Silver and Black folk hero. Signed off the practice squad a day earlier to replace Sebastian Janikowski after the franchise's all-time scoring leader was placed on Injured Reserve, Tavecchio drilled field goals of 20, 52, 52 and 43 yards, plus a PAT. He spent the previous four years in camp with Oakland so he has built relationships. No wonder the locker room exploded when coach Jack Del Rio awarded Tavecchio a game ball.
The biggest surprise of the Cowboys' win against the Giants was their defense, not Ezekiel Elliott running for 104 yards on 24 carries. They dominated Eli Manning, who looked lost without Odell Beckham Jr. They sacked Manning three times and picked him off once. The Giants had 13 first downs and just 233 yards. Beckham or no, that was the way an unknown defense wanted to start.
You would think with Odell Beckham out the Giants would have looked to Brandon Marshall to get the offense going early in the game. It didn't happen. Marshall disappointed in his debut. He had one catch for 10 yards, which came in the final moments. Not what the Giants needed on this night.
The most unexpected development Week 1 for the Eagles was the way their secondary stepped up when Ronald Darby left with an ankle injury. QB Kirk Cousins and WR Terrelle Pryor (6 catches, 66 yards) were kept in check, and second-year player Jalen Mills came up with a big INT. There are still many questions surrounding this CB group, particularly if Darby is down for an extended period of time, but they acquitted themselves well against Washington with help from the defensive front.
The biggest surprise in the Week 1 loss to Philadelphia was Kirk Cousins' inability to connect with tight end Jordan Reed. He finished with just five catches for 36 yards. Tight ends were supposed to be a key part of the game plan. "I was getting open," Reed said. "There was a lot of pressure in his face and he wasn't able to go through all his progressions."
The biggest surprise is simply the fact the Bears kept pace with Atlanta. Chicago players said after the game they don't believe in moral victories, but they did take some satisfaction in showing the rest of the NFL how much better they are than the group that finished 3-13 in 2016. "I told the team in the locker room that we played a really good team in Atlanta today...but that I think right now, we're a pretty good football team, too," Bears coach John Fox said.Fox went on to say he wasn't surprised by rookie Tarik Cohen's performance, because the team watched the fourth-round pick in practice every day and knew he could be special.
The most surprising thing about the Lions today was easy. It's the defense. While the sack numbers weren't great --just one -- the pressure and run stuffing were strong. So were the turnovers, four forced in all. As Anthony Zettel said, "on paper we don't look too extraordinary, but we just got a lot of tough guys."
The biggest surprise in the Packers' opener was that Aaron Rodgers' career-long interception free streak ended at 251 regular-season attempts when Seahawks DT Nazair Jones picked him off. "I was just glad it wasn’t a pick-6," said Rodgers, who has only one of those in his career. "I think I’ve got a pretty good streak going right now. And it would have been rough to give up a pick-6 to a lineman who outran me over a 60-yard path, especially since I feel like I’ve been working on my conditioning and my running." Although the interception stood, the return for a touchdown was called back because of a penalty.
Maybe the biggest surprise for the Falcons in the season-opening win over the Bears was the offense going 1 for 3 in the red zone. One opportunity was squandered due to a holding penalty. The red zone was such a preseason emphasis with new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, and Matt Ryan had his full complement of weapons. ``It's Week 1. We've got a lot of things we can improve upon,'' Ryan said.
The thing that surprised me most in the Panthers' 23-3 win at San Francisco was how well rookie Christian McCaffrey adjusted his pass route on a Cam Newton scramble and made the reception for a first down. I knew he excelled at running routes but McCaffrey adjusted on the fly like a 10-year veteran.
The biggest surprise from the Cardinals' 35-23 season-opening loss to the Detroit Lions was the poor performance from Arizona's offense. It had everyone healthy heading into the game, so injuries weren't going to be an issue, but the Cardinals, starting with Carson Palmer, just couldn't move the ball like they've been able to in the past and couldn't score in the red zone, scoring touchdowns in two of four trips inside the 20. The Cardinals had 309 total yards of offense including just 46 yards rushing. With the personnel on Arizona's offense, the performance they produced was not expected.
The biggest surprise from the Rams' Week 1 blowout of the Colts was the way they flowed on offense. We knew they were good on defense, with or without Aaron Donald, but not even the biggest optimists could've foreseen the passing game doing as well as it did. Yes, the Colts were shorthanded. But the Rams should only grow under Sean McVay. And once teams start respecting Jared Goff, Todd Gurley should get more holes to run through.
The biggest surprise for the 49ers in Week 1 was an overall inability to generate much on offense. While coach Kyle Shanahan's offense is complicated and it takes time to coalesce (see Atlanta in 2015), this was still a disappointing performance. The Niners finished with just 217 yards and 13 first downs while averaging 4 yards per play. Coach Kyle Shanahan cited penalties and missed opportunities as the primary reasons for those struggles but acknowledged that improvement is the top priority.
The biggest surprise for the Seahawks in their season-opening loss to the Packers was the performance of their offensive line. Sure, that group has been below average over the last few seasons, but the team's expectation was that it would be better in 2017 with its young players having another year of experience under their belts. That group struggled against Green Bay, particularly in pass protection, as Russell Wilson faced pressure on 44 percent of his dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That pressure kept Seattle's passing game from ever finding its rhythm. "We have a really good line up front. Next week we'll come out better, we'll come out more prepared," said center Justin Britt, who added: "Today was not our best."