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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

10 biggest disappointments of NFL Week 1

Mike Tomlin

The NFL is back, and so are the letdowns. For every exciting winner on Sunday, there was a loser — unless you’re the Detroit Lions or Arizona Cardinals, who managed to tie. The week had its fair share of goats, from teams with high expectations falling flat on their faces to a cavalcade of blown double-digit leads in second halves around the NFL.

Here are the ten biggest disappointments of NFL Week 1.

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

Woof. What an ugly season opener for the Steelers. They were skunked in the first half and fell behind 20-0. They mustered very little in the second half and only got their points thanks to a poor decision by Mike Tomlin. Tom Brady ate up their zone defenses, utilizing deep threat Phillip Dorsett for four catches, 95 yards and two touchdowns. Pittsburgh’s offense lacked punch, running the ball for just 32 yards and throwing for 255. It’s almost as if losing Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown made them worse.

2. Cleveland Browns

After an offseason of hype and aspirations of a division title, this was absolutely not how the Browns envisioned things going in Week 1. They were outcoached and outmatched by the Tennessee Titans, who picked off an overwhelmed (and hurt) Baker Mayfield three times. Perhaps the biggest issues for the Browns were their offensive line and the team’s discipline. Mayfield was sacked five times and the Browns took a remarkable 18 penalties for a total of 182 yards. Six of them resulted in first downs. That can’t happen on a team that expects to contend.

3. Detroit Lions’ coaching staff

Of the many Week 1 blown leads, there’s a good case to be made that the 24-6 fourth quarter lead the Lions coughed up was the most inexcusable. Arizona had been unable to do anything for three quarters until Detroit essentially collapsed in the fourth. One moment, however, stood out above the rest. Nursing an eight point lead with 2:47 to go, the Lions set up a 3rd and 5 screen pass that looked successful and would have all but iced the game. One problem: the coaching staff, be it offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell or coach Matt Patricia, called timeout just before the snap, leaving Matthew Stafford livid. The Lions didn’t get the first down, the Cardinals tied the game, and the Detroit coaching staff looked very, very bad for not letting their offense play.

4. Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis Colts’ special teams

Has Father Time finally caught up to Adam Vinatieri? The legendary kicker was a disaster on Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers, missing two field goals and an extra point. Given the fact that the game went to overtime, those misses directly cost Indianapolis the game. Indianapolis also had a punt blocked in this one, ensuring a total special teams failure from top to bottom.

5. Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons’ offense

The Minnesota Vikings have a talented defense, but it was still quite the surprise to see the Falcons’ offense so stifled in their season opener. Ryan threw for 304 yards and two touchdowns, but was picked off twice. The running game was largely bottled up, with Devonta Freeman picking up just 19 yards on eight carries. Most noticeably, Julio Jones was held to 31 yard receiving, even if he did find the end zone. The worst part of the day was Ryan, in the red zone under pressure, trying to throw a ball away. He was unable to get it out of the end zone and was intercepted by Anthony Harris. That about summed everything up.

6. New York Jets’ second half play

The Jets were up 16-0 and cruising against the Buffalo Bills, which begged the question: what happened in the second half? Their defense collapsed, with the loss of linebacker C.J. Mosley a major catalyst. The Jets gave up consecutive touchdown drives of 85 and 80 yards, with Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen suddenly looking composed and poised. The Jets ultimately gave up 370 yards to a team that looked hopeless at halftime, and threw away a game they should have won.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense

Even with the knowledge that the Kansas City Chiefs were possibly the toughest opponent the Jaguars could have opened with, Jacksonville’s defense was supposed to be better. The issues of 2018 were supposed to have been wrinkled out. Then linebacker Myles Jack lost his cool, was tossed from the game, and the whole thing collapsed. The Jaguars were overwhelmed in every aspect Sunday, and the Chiefs put 491 yards of total offense on them. The Chiefs are tough — there is no disputing that. But Jack’s lack of composure and the team’s failure to respond is worrisome going forward, especially with Nick Foles set to miss time from the offense.

8. Cam Newton, QB, Panthers

Newton definitely looked rusty after his shoulder surgery. Despite 38 attempts, he accounted for a modest 239 yards, was picked off once, and failed to find the end zone. He was generally bailed out by Christian McCaffrey’s huge day on the ground. Newton gets a pass — he’s proven himself and he’s coming off shoulder surgery. It’s not a huge shock that he has work to do. It doesn’t change that he was pretty far off his best on Sunday. At least his fashion game showed All-Pro status.

9. Kwon Alexander, LB, 49ers

Everybody loves a revenge game, but Alexander seemed like he might be relishing his a little too much. In his 49ers debut, the linebacker went in helmet-to-helmet while former teammate Jameis Winston was trying to slide. Alexander was ejected, and his revenge game ended before the first quarter came to a close. Alexander is a huge part of San Francisco’s defense, and he needs to be smarter than that. The Niners very much got away by winning without him against Tampa Bay.

10. Miami Dolphins

To be perfectly clear, nobody expected the Miami Dolphins to be good this season. If they don’t like the accusations of tanking, though, they should probably make themselves a little more formidable than they looked against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. The Dolphins turned in the most pathetic performance of the week, losing 59-10, just barely hitting 200 total yards of offense, and letting the Ravens go for 643 total yards. No disrespect to Lamar Jackson and Baltimore, but they were up against a team that largely didn’t have the personnel to play in this game. What’s worse, the few quality players in their lineup seemed to know it — they looked collectively defeated almost immediately.



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