The Beginning of the Largest NFL Season of All-Time
The long-awaited 2021 NFL season is finally here and it is coming back in a way fans have never seen before. Each team was issued an additional game making for a 17-game season for all teams with 18 weeks of football in total. From September 9th to September 13th, all 32 NFL teams got the opportunity to play in front of full capacity stadiums for the first time in over a year and spectators saw some early “Game of the Year” candidates within the first week of the NFL season.
The very first game of the year was on September 9th and was the first primetime football game of the season. Fans saw the return of Dak Prescott as his Cowboys dueled it out with the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In Prescott’s return after coming off a gruesome ankle injury last year, he attempted a total of 58 passes and completed 42 of them while stringing together a total of 403 yards, three touchdowns, while only mounting one interception.
Despite the long-awaited return of Prescott, his heroic effort and stellar performance fell short to the man who many consider the greatest of all time at his position, Tom Brady. On Brady’s 50 passing attempts, he connected on 32 of them, racking up a total of 379 yards through the air. He recorded one more touchdown than Prescott, throwing for four of his own. However, he turned the ball over more, throwing two interceptions.
The game came down to the final seconds and Tom Brady was given the ball with one minute and 24 seconds to play and gained possession deep in his own territory, with the ball on his 25-yard line. Despite all odds being against him, he drove the Buccaneers 69 yards downfield to set up the game-winning field goal from Ryan Succop and seal the deal in a victory against the Cowboys to open up the season.
After Thursday’s dramatics, fans had to wait until 1PM Eastern Time to see more NFL football that would consume their entire Sunday. Nine separate games took place at 1PM where fans saw the debut of number one overall pick Trevor Lawerence, former Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert take on tough Washing Football Team defense, and the return of Joe Burrow coming off a season-ending leg injury from last year. Not to mention, Matthew Stafford of the Los Angeles Rams torched the Chicago Bears in his debut with the team on Sunday night. Some teams picked up right where they left off while others had trouble in their first matchups.
Trevor Lawrence came into this game having not lost a single regular-season game in his entire football career before the NFL. But in one of the most anti-climactic NFL debuts fans have seen in recent history, Trevor went 28 for 51 passing and notched three interceptions as well. Meanwhile, on the other end of the field, Tyrod Taylor got the start for the Houston Texans where he completed 21 out of 33 passes he threw and put together 291 yards passing. Ultimately, the Texans came out hot against an up-and-coming Jaguars team and took the win with a final score of 37-21.
Another notable game fans got to watch this weekend was the Pittsburgh Steelers game as they traveled to New York to take on the Buffalo Bills. There was a lot of speculation surrounding this Steelers team, as they were coming off a season where they played great all year and then lost in the very first round of the playoffs and were now matched up against a team that many consider favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Nonetheless, the Steelers’ defense came out playing their traditional hard-nosed football and managed to hold the Bills’ offense to 16 total points and record a takeaway on a fumble. What came back to cost the Bills the game was a blocked punt that the Steelers took in for a touchdown without their offense even having to step out onto the field. Furthermore, the Bills were called for eight total penalties losing them 81 yards throughout the game.
One of the final notable early afternoon games was the return of Joe Burrow as he was set to take on the Minnesota Vikings. In his comeback game, he only managed to throw 7 incompletions as he went 20 for 27 throwing the ball and came away with two touchdowns. His running back, Joe Mixon, also put up 127 rushing yards of his own which currently leads the entire league after the first week of football.
Regardless of the performance that came out of their young offense, the game went into overtime because Vikings’ quarterback Kirk Cousins matched the Bengals throughout regulation with 351 passing yards of his own and two touchdowns. In overtime, the Bengals barely snuck out with the win as they kicked a field goal late in overtime to secure the win and leave as the winning team.
Later in the afternoon, fans only saw four games however two of them were decided by four points or less, and the remaining two were statement games where teams dominated from start to finish and proved they’re here to compete for title shots this year. Four out of the eight teams that played in the afternoon made the playoffs last year and two other teams fell just short. This made for some chaotic afternoon football.
Going into week one, there were many questions surrounding the New Orleans Saints as this would be the first football season they went into without Drew Brees as their starting quarterback since the 2006-2007 season. Despite the doubt surrounding them, they came out hot as new starting Quarterback Jamies Winston threw for five touchdowns on just 20 attempts and beat last year’s one seed in the NFC by a score of 38-3. Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers had one of his worst career nights mounting two interceptions while going 15 for 28 through the air.
On the other side of the country, a playoff rematch between the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns took place. In an offensive showdown, Patrick Mahomes had a spectacular come from behind victory as he led his team on two straight scoring drives to seal the deal late in the game. Chiefs’ receiver Tyreek Hill came out of the game with 197 receiving yards and caught the go-ahead touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter.
To cap off the first week of NFL football, the Baltimore Ravens and Las Vegas Raiders battled it out on Monday Night Football in a game that was decided in overtime. Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr threw the ball 56 times and completed 34 of those passes putting up an outstanding 435 yards in the air alone. Meanwhile, on the other side, the Ravens’ quarterback Lamar Jackson threw for 235 yards and ran for 86 additional yards. All in all, the Ravens came up short as the Raiders’ defense took over late in the game forcing a fumble that ultimately ended up setting them up to win the game. Despite last year’s defensive struggles for the Raiders, they managed to put up a fight against a lethal Ravens’ offense and walk out with the win to start their season.
From debuts, to come-from-behind wins, all the way to freakish quarterback performances, fans saw everything possible all packed into 17 games worth of football. This year’s outcome is something that no one can predict and no one knows what this season will hold. Someone will come out a champion and as of right now, it could be any of the NFL’s 32 teams.