There were plenty of questions swirling about the Bengals heading into their regular-season opener on Sunday and they answered most of them during a wild 27-24 overtime victory against the Vikings.
After a preseason where Joe Burrow only took three snaps, the big question in Cincinnati was whether he was mentally ready to play, and if Sunday's performance was any indication, the answer is a resounding yes. Although Burrow's numbers won't blow anyone away (20 of 27 for 261 yards and two touchdowns), he came up with clutch throw after clutch throw.
Burrow's biggest throw arguably came in overtime when he connected with C.J. Uzomah for a 32-yard gain on fourth-and-1 from his own 48-yard line.
Burrow was HYPE after tossing a dime on fourth down 😤 @JoeyB @Bengals pic.twitter.com/FnOWJcGoLR— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) September 12, 2021
If the pass had fallen incomplete, the Vikings would have taken over needing just 10 or so yards to get into field goal range. Instead, the pass from Burrow set up Evan McPherson's game-winning field goal from 33 yards out.
EVAN ALMIGHTY!— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) September 12, 2021
Visit https://t.co/KpeqK4RKUm for more highlights. pic.twitter.com/OqO09pQSzZ
Another big question for the Bengals heading into the season was whether or not they made the right decision when they drafted Ja'Marr Chase. Although that's not a question that will be answered in just one game, the Bengals certainly looked like they made the right decision in Week 1. Chase caught everything thrown his way on a day where he finished with five catches for 101 yards. His biggest play against the Vikings came just before halftime when he caught a 50-yard bomb from Burrow.
Turns out Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase were just saving their magic for the regular season.— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) September 12, 2021
The Bengals also had some big questions surrounding their defense heading into the season, which was one of the worst units in the NFL last year. Although it hasn't fixed everything, the defense definitely looked much improved in a game where it sacked Kirk Cousins three times, which was a huge number for a team that only tallied 17 sacks during the ENTIRE 2020 season (That number was an NFL-low).
.@Mr_Ogunjobi & Trey Hendrickson are making themselves comfortable in Cincinnati. 😤— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) September 12, 2021
📺: #MINvsCIN on FOX pic.twitter.com/NwaxaQ0xdz
The Bengals offensive line is still a big question mark -- Burrow got sacked five times and took some huge hits -- but the Bengals proved on Sunday that they can win even if their offensive line isn't perfect, which is something that couldn't be said last season.
With this one win, the Bengals are now tied for first place in the AFC North, which is something that should definitely serve as a confident booster for a team that's spent so much time in the division cellar over the past five years.
Alright, let's get to the grades for every game from Week 1. If you're looking for a deeper dive on the Cowboys-Buccaneers game that was played on Thursday, be sure to click here.
Cincinnati 27-24 over Minnesota (OT)
|The Vikings weren't the worst team in the NFL in Week 1, but they were definitely the most undisciplined. The Vikings had four penalties on their first possession and things only got uglier from their as they got flagged 12 times for 116 yards. To put that in perspective, there were only six teams ALL last season that totaled more than 116 penalty yards. The penalties kept killing drives, which made it a busy day for Jordan Berry, who punted eight times. The Vikings were also crushed by a controversial fumble call in overtime when Dalvin Cook turned the ball over. The Vikings outgained the Bengals (403-366), but they kept making mistakes and those mistakes kept piling up, which made it impossible for them to win.|
|The Bengals offense was firing on all cylinders in this game. Not only did Burrow make several clutch plays in a 261-yard performance, but the Bengals offense also produced a 100-yard receiver (Chase) and a 100-yard rusher (Joe Mixon). Mixon quietly had a huge day with 33 touches for 150 total yards and a TD. The Bengals weren't perfect -- they surrendered five sacks and Zac Taylor made an ugly fourth-down call in the second half -- but their record is perfect right now, and that's all that matters.|
Las Vegas 33-27 over Baltimore (Monday)
|The Ravens offense will only go as far as Lamar Jackson will take them and although he had a big game, he made two crucial mistakes that ended up killing Baltimore's chances of winning. The Ravens QB lost two fumbles -- one in the second half and one in OT -- and both fumbles led to touchdowns for the Raiders. The fumbles were highly uncharacteristic for a QB who only lost four fumbles all of last season. Jackson's fumbles overshadowed a strong performance from a Ravens offense that was able to steamroll their way to nearly 200 rushing yards (187) despite losing their top three running backs to season-ending injuries. Besides the turnovers, the Ravens other problem on Monday was that their defense melted down late in the second half. In the fourth quarter and overtime, the Ravens allowed the Raiders to pile up more than 300 yards and 24 points.|
|After getting off to a rough start, the Raiders stormed back from a 14-0 deficit to stun the Ravens in overtime and they did it by coming up with clutch play after clutch play. The defense came up with two extremely clutch plays by forcing two Lamar jackson fumbles. The biggest one came in overtime and set up Derek Carr's game-winning TD to Zay Jones in OT. Speaking of Carr, he absolutely caught fire over the final 10 minutes of the fourth quarter and he stayed on fire in overtime. During that span, he led three straight scoring drives while throwing for 247 yards and two touchdowns. Carr threw for 435 yards, which was the second-highest total of his career. The Raiders also got a gutsy performance from Josh Jacobs, who rushed for two touchdowns on a day where it wasn't even clear he was going to play until just hours before the game. This was a huge win for an organization that's looking to prove it can be a playoff contender this year.|
San Francisco 41-33 over Detroit
|The season couldn't have started any more perfectly for San Francisco's offense: Kyle Shanahan got to unveil his two-platoon QB system and the 49ers got to show how dominant they could be this season now that they're fully healthy. Jimmy Garoppolo got the start at QB and he showed why Shanahan has had so much faith in him. The 49ers QB threw for 314 yards, including a 79-yard TD pass to Deebo Samuel, who finished with 189 receiving yards. Trey Lance also got involved with a 5-yard TD pass on his only throw of the game. The 49ers also got a surprising performance from Elijah MItchell, who rushed for 102 yards after Raheem Mostert went down with an injury. As for the 49ers defense, it almost blew a 41-17 lead and had to hold on for dear life down the stretch.|
|There's no such thing as a moral victory in the NFL, but new Lions coach Dan Campbell has to be thrilled with the way his team played after falling behind 38-10. After falling behind big, the Lions started biting off knee caps. Not only did they cut the lead to 41-33, but they also had the ball with a chance to tie the game at the end only to have their comeback attempt fall just short. The Lions offense actually looked explosive against the 49ers as Jared Goff threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Unfortunately for Detroit, their defense looked absolutely lost trying to stop the 49ers offense.|
Arizona 38-13 over Tennessee
|It's hard to say who was the MVP of this game for the Cardinals, but it was definitely either Kyler Murray or Chandler Jones. On Murray's end, he was nearly unstoppable as he threw for 280 yards and four touchdowns while also adding a rushing touchdown. On Jones' end, he tallied five sacks and a forced fumble against the Titans. The pass-rusher was so dominant that the Titans actually ended up benching their starting left tackle. DeAndre Hopkins (six catches for 83 yards and two TDs) and Christian Kirk (five catches for 70 yards and 2 TDs) also came up big as the Cardinals rolled.|
|This was the ugliest loss by any team in Week 1. The Titans should burn the film to this game and pretend it never happened. With Derrick Henry bottled up, the Titans tried to throw the ball, but that turned into a total disaster because no one could block Chandler Jones. With constant pressure coming his way, Ryan Tannehill ended up turning the ball over three times (two fumbles and an interception) and those turnovers set up 14 points for the Cardinals.|
Seattle 28-16 over Indianapolis
|New Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron might want to run for mayor of Seattle, because there's a good chance that he's the most popular person in the city right now. Waldron's new offensive system worked flawlessly against a Colts defense that was one of the best in the NFL last year. Waldron's offense took advantage of nearly every weapon the Seahawks have as Tyler Lockett (100 receiving yards two TDs), D.K. Metcalf (60 yards, one TD) and Chris Carson (117 rushing yards) all had big games. No one thrived more than Russell Wilson, who threw for 254 yards and four touchdowns while completing 18 passes to seven different receivers.|
|Carson Wentz probably never wants to play the Seahawks again. The Colts quarterback is now 0-6 all time against Seattle and a big reason Indy lost is because Wentz couldn't get the offense going. At one point in the game, the Colts had five straight possessions that went nowhere after four three-and-outs and a lost fumble. Of course, the biggest problem for the Colts in this game was the fact that they couldn't stop the big play. The Colts defense gave up three touchdowns that went for 15 yards or more, including a 69-yard TD to Tyler Lockett. After fielding a top 10 defense in 2020, the Colts definitely took a step back to start 2021.|
L.A. Chargers 20-16 over Washington
|Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert picked up right where he left off last year. The 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year opened up his 2021 season with a performance that included 337 passing yards and one TD. The Chargers were basically able to move the ball at will, which was mildly surprising, considering they were going up against what's supposed to be one of the best defenses in the NFL this year. Keenan Allen came up big for the Chargers with nine catches for 100 yards. The only reason the Chargers didn't get an 'A' here is because they had an ugly day in the red zone. On six trips inside Washington's 20, they were only able to score two touchdowns. Two of the drives ended with turnovers by Herbert and the other two ended with short field goals by Tristan Vizcaino.|
|Despite losing Ryan Fitzpatrick to an injury in the second quarter, it looked like Washington was still going to be able to win this game, but they ended up making too many mistakes in the second half. The biggest mistake came from Antonio Gibson, who lost a fumble on his own 4-yard line. The turnover set up an easy touchdown for the Chargers that gave them a 20-16 lead in the fourth quarter. Washington's defense also had trouble getting off the field as the Chargers converted 14 of 19 on third down (73.7%). To put that in perspective, teams only converted 37.8% of third downs on Washington in 2020.|
Houston 37-21 over Jacksonville
|Whatever Urban Meyer is doing in Jacksonville, it's not working. Yes, it's only been one game, but the Jaguars were absolutely beat down on Sunday in all three phases of the game. The only bright spot for Jacksonville is that Trevor Lawrence threw his first three career TD passes. Other than that, though, the day was a total disaster for the Jags, who turned the ball over three times, which all came on Lawrence interceptions. This grade should probably be an 'F,' but we're going to grade the Jags on a small curve this week since they were starting a rookie quarterback and being led by a first-year NFL head coach.|
|After dealing with an entire offseason of Deshaun Watson drama, it appears the Texans decided to take out all of their frustrations on the Jaguars. The Texans could do no wrong in this game: Tyrod Taylor (291 passing yards and two touchdowns) diced up the Jags defense with some help from Brandin Cooks (four catches for 132 yards) and newcomer Danny Amendola (four catches for 34 yards and 1 TD). The Texans' rushing attack also steamrolled the Jaguars to the tune of 160 rushing yards. The Texans definitely provided the most surprising performance of Week 1 and because of that, they're now sitting alone in first place in the AFC South.|
Carolina 19-14 over N.Y. Jets
|It would be mostly unfair to hang this loss solely on Zach Wilson, because the fact is he didn't get much help. He'd join in with other first-round rookies around the league in landing his first career NFL touchdown, but his final stat line is a bit deceiving. Thanks to virtually no help from the run game, and the aforementioned touchdown (to Corey Davis) notwithstanding, it simply wasn't what the Jets hoped they'd get from him; and especially in a game that featured Sam Darnold on the other side. But, again, while the interception was definitely attributable to him, the rest was simply the Jets of today looking too much like the Jets of recent memory. With the Patriots up next, rookie coach Robert Saleh is going to have to figure out quite a bit over the next few days, and potentially without Mekhi Becton to help him. The only reason this isn't a failing grade is because Wilson never said die when he had every reason to.|
|They got off to a very, very slow start, but it's all about how you finish. To that point, the Panthers came alive with an explosive second quarter led by Darnold, who negated a critical fumble on fourth down from the Jets 4-yard line by rewarding Shaq Thompson, who intercepted Wilson on the very next drive, with his first touchdown toss as the Panthers starting quarterback -- finding former teammate Robby Anderson for a 57-yard bomb to extend the lead; but he wasn't done there. Darnold then scratched across a 5-yard rushing touchdown just ahead of the half and the Carolina defense mostly took it from there, on a day that saw Darnold and the Panthers welcome Wilson and Saleh to the Jets with a season-opening loss. The grade would've been higher if Darnold had continued his momentum into the second half, but Christian McCaffrey is back (enough said) and took care of the rest.|
Jets-Panthers grades by Patrik Walker (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Philadelphia 32-6 over Atlanta
|The Eagles were able to control the line of scrimmage on the offensive and defensive lines. Philadelphia had Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, and Lane Johnson back together on the line for the first time since 2019 and it showed -- as the Eagles rushed for 173 yards and averaged 5.6 yards per carry. Jalen Hurts was hit just once and only sacked once, just a year removed after the offensive line allowed 65 sacks (which led the NFL). The defensive line dominated the Falcons offensive line in the second half, as Atlanta faced a lot of pressure on the interior. Javon Hargrave had two sacks in the fourth quarter and Hassan Ridgeway had one -- as the Eagles finished with 10 quarterback hits on Ryan (Ridgeway and Hargrave each had three). Atlanta was beaten up front in the second half, thanks to the Eagles' defensive tackles.|
|Atlanta had its chances to put Philadelphia on its heels, but the Falcons went 0-for-2 in the red zone on their first two possessions and came up with just six points. They ran 37 plays, and got 113 yards and no points. Arthur Smith had a few baffling decisions once the Eagles defense took the run away and Atlanta's offensive line was dominated up front in the fourth quarter -- allowing three sacks. Calvin Ridley wasn't a game changer after the second series and Kyle Pitts was held to just four catches for 31 yards. The Falcons have a lot to work on.|
Eagles-Falcons grades by Jeff Kerr (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Pittsburgh 23-16 over Buffalo
|The Steelers played complementary football. Pittsburgh's defense managed to keep the Steelers in the game despite the offense's early struggles. T.J. Watt's sack/forced fumble of Josh Allen in the first half was part of Pittsburgh's dominant defensive performance. While Buffalo gained 371 total yards, they allowed just 254 passing yards from Allen, who averaged 284 passing yards per game in 2020. After just 54 yards in the first half, Pittsburgh's offense found its footing in the second half. Similar to 2020, Ben Roethlisberger went back to his short, quick passing that is predicated on spreading the ball around. Eight different Steelers caught passes, with Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Chase Claypool catching a combined 12 passes for 133 yards. Pittsburgh also received a steady performance from Najee Harris, who had 17 touches in his regular-season debut. The Steelers' special teams made a bevy of solid plays following its hiccup on the opening kickoff. Ulysees Gilbert III's score was the big play, but rookie punter Pressley Harvin III had a 51-yard punt and two other punts that landed inside the 20-yard line. Chris Boswell made each of his five kicks that included his game-clinching, 48-yard field goal.|
|The Bills were just 1 of 4 in the red zone. They also committed several costly penalties that included several holding calls in the first half. Cornerback Levi Wallace committed several penalties in the second half that contributed to Steelers scores. And while they were exceptional in the first half, the Bills defense was unable to force a turnover. The Bills offense (minus running back Zack Moss on Sunday) did not try to establish its running game until falling behind by double digits. Buffalo's offense also came up short on two critical fourth-down attempts during Pittsburgh's second-half scoring spree. Allen made several plays with his feet, but he was under considerable pressure throughout the game. He was sacked twice by Watt and a third time by Cameron Heyward.|
Bills-Steelers grades by Bryan DeArdo (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Denver 27-13 over N.Y. Giants
|In his first game in a Broncos uniform, Teddy Bridgewater proved to everyone why he won the starting QB job in Denver. Bridgewater looked like surgeon on the field as he sliced and diced his way through the Giants defense. Not only was he efficient (28 of 36 for 264 yards and two TDs), but he also came up with a big play whenever Denver needed it. On fourth downs alone, the Broncos went 3-for-3 and none was bigger than a fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line that ended with a TD pass to Albert Okwuegbunam that gave Denver a 17-7 lead in the third quarter. If Bridgewater can play this well consistently, the Broncos might have to be considered a dark-horse team to make the playoffs in the AFC (horse pun intended).|
|There's no team in the NFL better at shooting themselves in the foot than the New York Giants and once again, they showed why on Sunday. In the second half alone, the Giants have two different drives where they came away with zero points even though they drove inside of Denver's 22. In news that won't surprise anyone, one of those drives ended with a Daniel Jones fumbled while the other one ended with a failed fourth-down attempt from Denver's 6-yard line. Saquon Barkley was a nonfactor (10 carries for 26 yards), which obviously didn't help the Giants offense. Defensively, the Giants got embarrassed by a Broncos offense that rolled up 420 total yards.|
Miami 17-16 over New England
|Miami was a Damien Harris fumble away from losing their opener against the Patriots, so you don't want to give them too much credit by earning the "W" here. Tua Tagovailoa was impressive as he begins Year 2, but a lob to the right sideline that was picked off by Jonathan Jones nearly cost them the game. The Dolphins offense largely went silent in the first half after scoring on its opening possession, punting three times before hitting a field goal to tie the game at 10 apiece. To their credit, the Dolphins were able to correct those miscues with a nine-play. 75-yard drive to begin the second half. It was a passable performance, but there were plays left on the table for them to improve upon.|
|Mac Jones showed a lot of promise during his NFL debut, but the Patriots as a team have plenty to correct as they move forward into the 2021 season. New England was just 1-for-4 in the red zone and committed eight penalties for 84 yards. They also put the ball on the ground a number of times with two being recovered by Miami. Again, there were areas of promise with the offense (11-for-16 on third down), but if they don't correct those mistakes it won't matter who is under center. |
Dolphins-Patriots grades by Tyler Sullivan (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
New Orleans 38-3 over Green Bay (in Jacksonville)
|The Packers couldn't do anything right on Sunday. Rodgers passed for 133 yards and two interceptions, Aaron Jones rushed for just 9 yards on five carries and the offense didn't score a single touchdown. As for the defense, they couldn't stop Jameis Winston and Alvin Kamara. The Saints' first punt didn't come until the third quarter! Apart from everything going wrong, I don't know what happened to the Packers on Sunday. But I would guess they improve next week.|
|Uh, who saw this coming? The Saints absolutely dominated the Packers. Winston will be the headliner, as he threw for 148 yards and five touchdowns. Not your typical Jameis performance, but his role in this offense is going to be different compared to what it was with the Buccaneers. And honestly, it seems like it works. The Saints defense and their offensive line were the main reasons why New Orleans came out on top in Week 1. The defense played a great game as a collective unit, pressuring Rodgers consistently and the secondary picked him off twice. The offensive line was dominant whether it was run-blocking or pass-blocking, and helped establish tempo while making things easier on Winston. This was just a dominant performance.|
Packers-Saints grades by Jordan Dajani (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Kansas City 33-29 over Cleveland
|They put up a valiant fight against arguably the AFC's best team but it was three turnovers in the second half and Patrick Mahomes' mobility that doomed them. A lot of positives can be taken from this game but Cleveland will have to wait for another shot at the conference champions. The Browns made two back-breaking mistakes in the second half that you can't make against a team like the Chiefs: Punter Jamie Gillan fumbled a snap that set up a short Chiefs TD and they surrendered a 75-yard TD to Tyreek Hill just one play after taking a 29-20 lead in the fourth quarter. Baker Mayfield also threw an ugly interception in that final 90 seconds that ultimately sealed it for Kansas City. |
|Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce looked as though they were in midseason form, serving as outlets for Mahomes all evening. Hill finished with nearly 200 yards (11 catches for 197 yards and 1 TD) while Kelce caught two crucial touchdowns. The defense was missing Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu but the unit, led by Chris Jones' two sacks, was able to do just enough to hold off the Browns, especially late in the game. |
Browns-Chiefs grades by Josh Edwards (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
L.A. Rams 34-14 over Chicago
|The defense did a good job against the Rams … in the first half. After the break, things got a bit out of control. And there were three really horrendous plays from the secondary, including two Rams touchdown passes that both went for more than 56 yards. Andy Dalton should not be starting for this team much longer.|
|Matthew Stafford looked terrific in his Los Angeles debut. We're going to find out exactly how good Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are now that Sean McVay has confidence in his quarterback. Jalen Ramsey, Aaron Donald and the rest of the defense looked as good as expected. The only thing keeping L.A. from an "A" is the up-and-down success of the run game.|
Bears-Rams grades by Jared Dubin (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
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