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The day after an NFL game is the time to claim a championship or pack it in for the season because, well, NFL fandom is about overreacting. But here at OutKick, we’re about keeping cool and delivering thoughtful perspective.
Here are my perspectives following Sunday’s NFL season openers:
Matt Stafford owns L.A.: At the end of Jared Goff’s time with the Rams, the coaching staff was disappointed and defensive players were not believers. Everyone, it seemed, was exhausted, even though Goff had been a solid player for the team.
The Rams need an outstanding quarterback to make Sean McVay’s offense work. That’s why they made the trade for Matthew Stafford in the offseason.
And after Stafford finished 20-of-26 for 321 yards and three touchdowns, with a career-best 156.1 passer rating in his debut Sunday night, the new guy has his new team believing in him.
“He did amazing,” Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey said afterward. “His command, his swag, like everything was great. That’s, like, a debut that probably should go down in history, just the way he played.”
Said McVay: “He had confidence in his teammates, he expected to play well and he did a great job. I loved everything that he did tonight.”
JaMarr Chase is about the regular season: The Narrative Industrial Complex was labeling him a bust in his first preseason because the Bengals’ wide receiver dropped a handful of passes right out of the gate.
That was preseason. Sunday was the start of the regular season, and Chase, to the apparent surprise of some, performed like the No. 5 overall draft pick he is. He delivered a team-high five catches for 101 yards and a touchdown in Cincy’s 27-24 overtime win at Paul Brown Stadium.
Chase caught his five passes on seven targets but had no drops.
“I know I was going to do it,” Chase said. “It was just a matter of time. Just play my game and focus on what I came here to do, and that’s what I did.”
The curiousity of AFC East’s young QBs: This is interesting in that the quarterback who plays for the division leader and only undefeated team is under scrutiny now, while the other guys — all on 0-1 teams — are fine.
The Bills (0-1) are disappointed today, but they obviously believe Josh Allen will recover.
The Jets (0-1) are disappointed today, but rookie Zach Wilson showed signs he’s going to be good. He started off terribly, completing only 9 of his first 23 passes, but he recovered, led two second-half touchdown drives, and finished respectably, despite enduring six sacks.
“I tell you what, No. 2 is going to win a lot of games for us,” linebacker C.J. Mosley said.
The Patriots (0-1) are disappointed because they lost to the Dolphins, but they have to be encouraged because rookie Mac Jones was the better quarterback in a game that featured former Alabama teammate Tua Tagovailoa.
Jones, under heavy pressure from one of the NFL’s most aggressive defenses, completed 74 percent of his 39 pass attempts and did not turn the ball over either via interception or fumble.
“I was happy for him,” said Tagovailoa, who finished 16-of-27 for 202 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. “It being his first real game, with a crowd like this, I thought he made some really good throws. Mac looks like he fits perfectly into their offense and system.”
That’s great for Jones, but Tagovailoa didn’t exactly impress anyone — least of all the Patriots, and least of all cornerback J.C. Jackson …
Actually, this was Jackson’s full quote:
“That’s what he does. If he doesn’t have his first read, he just is going to throw the ball up. And that’s when we capitalize on defense, when he makes mistakes like that.”
Tagovailoa was great on drives starting the game and the second half — getting the Dolphins in the end zone both times. On those two drives, Tagovailoa completed 7 of 8 passes for 94 yards and a touchdown.
The rest of the game?
Tagovailoa completed 2 of 9 passes for 34 yards and an interception in Miami’s seven other possessions.
And, again, he won. But it’s clear the Dolphins were managing rather than unleashing Tagovailoa — which is what they did last season. Tagovailoa made one read post-snap on a majority of his completions.
And on third down, which is the money down, Jones feasted while Tagovailoa struggled.
Jones was 9 of 11 for 89 yards on third down, and his passes kept New England drives alive 8 of 11 times.
Tagovailoa was 2 of 5 on third down for 28 yards. He converted on third down once on five tries.
Daniel Jones is Daniel Jones: He was tied for the league lead in fumbles last year with Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. Well, Jones is your new leader over the past two years.
He had another fumble in the Giants’ 27-13 loss to Denver.
So now Jones has 18 fumbles for his career.
Asked by reporters what he can take away from his turnover, Jones said: “Just protecting the ball better, and keeping it tight. I’ll look at it on film and study it, and continue to work on it.”
Justin Herbert sophomore slump: Well, if anyone is waiting for the NFL’s 2020 Offensive rookie of the year to take a step back, Sunday’s opener at Washington suggests that ain’t happening.
The Washington Football team has a fine, talented, well-coached defense. These guys are going to be as good on defense this season as they were last season.
And Herbert completed 31 of 47 (65.9 completion percentage) for 337 yards with 1 TD and 1 interception. But it wasn’t about the statistics. It was about how Herbert reacted to a pressure game situation that shows promise.
Against the good defense that sacked him twice, Herbert had two consecutive second-half drives end in turnovers — once when he fumbled the ball out of the end zone, and then on an interception at the Washington 4 yard line.
Two drives that seemed headed for scores thwarted.
But Herbert was not thwarted.
His best work of the game came with the Chargers clinging to a four-point lead. Herbert’s offense got the football with 6:43 to play and never gave it back.
Herbert completed passes of 18, 17, 19 and 20 yards on that game-clinching possession.
All those completions came on third down — again, the money down.
“You have an idea, but after you see them, it confirms it,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said. “The thing that was legit, really, is who Justin Herbert is. He’s a heck of a quarterback. Got a great arm. He’s got quick twitch, makes quick decisions.
“You sit there, and you think, ‘This kid’s pretty special.’ ”
Breaking — Trevor Lawrence losses: The Jaguars quarterback had never lost a regular-season game in his life before Sunday’s 37-21 loss at Houston — not in high school and not at Clemson. Bowl loss? Yes. Season loss? Nope.
But, frankly, this isn’t going to be the last time Lawrence feels the sting of defeat in his career, and he’d better get used to the pain this year because there’s more coming.
“It obviously sucks,” Lawrence said after the game. “Losing’s always hard, especially when you feel like you’re prepared and had a great week and really think we were ready. Just obviously didn’t play well. It starts with me. I played really bad tonight.
“Disappointing for sure. I still believe in this team. I still know what we’re capable of. We did some good things. We started off with some penalties, three-and-out; but then after that, we had a couple good drives, we’re hitting some big plays.
“There’s a lot of good things there, and we’ve got to keep doing those and learn from the bad. We’ve got to watch it and learn from it, for sure, but then flip the page. It’s a long season. We can’t let this snowball. We’ve got to move on and go win next week.”
Lawrence threw three interceptions. One of them was an ill-advised across his body throw that maybe works at Clemson but not the NFL. Another was basically a desperation heave. He’ll learn.
This season isn’t about winning and losing for the Jaguars. They may say it is, but it isn’t.
This season is about Trevor Lawrence and keeping him healthy and getting him enough experience so that he’s difference-maker in the years to come.
Best coaching job of the week: When the opposing coach says your coach did great, he did great. And that was the case with Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin Sunday, who did excellent work in the Steelers’ 23-16 victory at Buffalo.
“Mike Tomlin and his team came in here and outcoached us and outplayed us, and I give them credit” Buffalo coach Sean McDermott said. “But we’ve got to learn from this as coaches, as players and get ourselves ready to go.”
Pittsburgh’s defense — Tomlin’s defense — stifled Josh Allen. It got after him up front, it protected the back end. And it frustrated the quarterback when he tried to get out of the pocket to do his usual damage — causing a turnover on a fumble on one play.
“We just played Steeler D,” Tomlin said. “I’ve got an expectation that our defensive unit is going to be in every football game like that. I’m just being blatantly honest with you.”
The team also didn’t give up.
The Steelers trailed 10-0 at halftime before rallying in the second half.
This on a team that started six rookies and two of those on the offensive line that protected 39-year-old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
(Also receiving votes: Dolphins coach Brian Flores, Texans coach David Culley, Cardinals coach Kliff Kingbury).
Worst coaching job of the week: Atlanta suffered it’s worst season-opening loss since 1987.
“I didn’t do a good job getting us ready to go,” Coach Arthur Smith said, hitting an apologetic note. “I feel awful for our fans, everybody who showed up today. We’ll do a better job. This game won’t define us. It’s a long season. But I certainly didn’t do a good job getting us ready to go today.”
It wasn’t just that the Falcons didn’t win. It’s that they looked undisciplined. They had 12 penalties for 99 yards.
“I’m frustrated” with the offense, Smith said. “I got to evaluate what I’m doing, whether it’s coaching or messaging about, ‘Let’s get lined up and when you’re on the 2-yardline, not get an illegal formation (penalty).’ That’s the stuff that really concerns me.”
(Also receiving votes: Titans coach Mike Vrabel, Packers coach Matt LeFleur)