Hard Rock Stadium hopelessness
Miami fans insisted that the Dolphins would play to win. They scoffed at the suggestion that the Fins might intentionally lose to get the top pick in the 2020 draft. After the first two quarters of Miami’s season-opener, they could only ask one question: Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa or Oregon’s Justin Herbert?
Baltimore bolted to a 42-3 lead against the Dolphins and a six-yard touchdown pass from Ryan “Pyrite” Fitzpatrick to Preston Williams hardly seemed to matter. Meanwhile, the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson went 10-for-11 for 210 yards and four touchdowns in the first half and finished 17-of-20 for 324 yards and five touchdowns. Baltimore set a franchise record for most first-half points. And maybe Jackson sent a message that he can succeed as a passer in the NFL. Said Jackson, “Not bad for a running back.”
Meanwhile, ‘Stache’ plays well for Jaguars
Losing your new quarterback might be reason to panic, but Gardner Minshew, known as much for his mustache as his play, completed 22-of-25 for 275 yards in a losing effort for Jacksonville. Nick Foles broke his clavicle and is out indefinitely. Coincidentally, Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill had to be transferred to Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville after being diagnosed with a “sternoclavicular joint injury,” which is where the collarbone meets the sternum and can become a serious medical issue. his care was turned over to an ortho-trauma physician. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Hill will not need surgery but will miss several weeks.
NFC (Gone) South
It’s early, but the NFC South, which had a representative in three of the last four NFC Championship games, struggled Sunday. The Bucs lost to the 49ers, while Minnesota used its former Florida State running back to help outclass Atlanta and its former Seminole running back. The Vikings’ Dalvin Cook rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns to propel Minnesota to a 28-12 victory. The Falcons’ Davonta Freeman had 19 yards on eight carries, Matt Ryan threw two interceptions in the end zone and Atlanta trailed by four touchdowns before scoring twice in the fourth quarter. Not a great debut as play-caller for recently deposed Bucs coach Dirk Koetter.
Meanwhile, Carolina tried to rally but the Rams prevailed 30-27. Christian McCaffrey rushed for 128 yards and added 81 yards receiving for the Panthers, who host the Bucs on Thursday. Former Buc Gerald McCoy got credited for one tackle. New Orleans opens its season against Houston on Monday night.
Return of the Mack: Former Bull shines
Colts RB Marlon Mack rushed for 908 yards in 12 games in 2018, but still entered 2019 has an undervalued player. Don’t look for that trend to continue after Sunday. The former USF star ripped through the Chargers for 174 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown. The performance included a 63-yard third-quarter TD run that helped Indianapolis rally from a 24-9 deficit. Mack had 119 yards in the third quarter. According to ESPN Stats, that’s the most rushing yards in a quarter by a Colts player since the team moved to Indianapolis in 1984. His 174 rush yards are the most by a Colts player since Edgerrin James’ 204 yards in 2004 at the Bears. Mack’s two-point conversion helped send the game into overtime. The Chargers pulled it out with a TD from Aaron Ekeler, another running back just under the radar — for now. Hurry back, Melvin Gordon.
Memo to 76er: They booed Santa Claus
Mike Scott, a forward for the 76ers, thought it wise to attend the Eagles-Redskins game in a Washington jersey and hat. Mistake. Scott got involved in a fight with Eagles fans while tailgating outside the stadium. Scott didn’t appear to get injured in the video of the fight. He stuck around and took selfies, according to posts by other fans. Scott has become a popular player in the city for responding to invitations on social media and showing up to hang out with fans. He dropped in at wedding reception earlier in the summer. Scott has become a popular player in the city for responding to invitations on social media and showing up to hang out with fans. He dropped in at wedding reception earlier in the summer.
But they didn’t boo DeSean Jackson
Jackson likely had the best performance of any former Buc Sunday, hauling in eight receptions for 154 yards and two touchdown catches of 50-plus yards.
And the Chuck D Award goes to ...
In a salute to Public Enemy and its 1988 hit Don’t Believe The Hype, the Chuck D Award goes to the Cleveland Browns. Touted all offseason as the NFL’s most improved team, the Browns went right down the field and took an early 6-0 lead against Tennessee. Then, the Titans surged and eventually scored three unanswered touchdowns in the fourth quarter to walk away with a 43-13 victory. The issue for Cleveland: 18 penalties for 182 yards, the most by a Cleveland team since 1951. But hey, they lost in style. Odell Beckham Jr. played while wearing a watch valued at $250,000.
You must protect this house
Only seven teams — the Saints, Chargers, Rams, Bears, Texans, Chiefs and Steelers — posted a road record above .500 in 2018. If Week 1 is any indication, that number may climb higher. Going into Monday night’s games, the road teams had gone 7-6-1, including Thursday night’s Green Bay win over Chicago. The Rams, Titans, Chiefs, Ravens, Niners and Bills won on the road Sunday, and it wasn’t even close in most cases. The average margin of victory in the road wins: 16.9 points. Of course, when Miami loses by 49 at home, it’s going to skew the average.
Forget the house, you must protect this lead
Comebacks proved vogue in a number of games on Sunday, and perhaps none bigger than in Arizona. The Cardinals rallied from an 18-point deficit to send the game into overtime, and took the lead 27-24 in overtime before the Lions tied it at 27-27 and the game ended in a tie. What was the difference? Kyler Murray, the No. 1 pick making his first start, went 9-for-26 for 70 yards in the first three quarters. Then, in the fourth quarter and overtime, he was 20-of-28 for 238 yards and two touchdowns. Elsewhere, the Redskins blew a 20-7 advantage in its lost to Philadelphia, the Jets were up 16-0 before losing to Buffalo 17-16 and the Bengals held a 17-14 lead on Seattle before succumbing to the Seahawks 21-20. Another overtime game, the Colts-Chargers saw Indianapolis rally from behind before losing to Los Angeles.
By the numbers
52 percent of teams that won their opener made it to the playoffs.
24 percent of Week 1 losers reached the playoffs
126,708 combined yards by New England’s Tom Brady and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger going into Sunday. That’s just shy of 72 miles
69 touchdown receptions by Dallas tight end Jason Witten, who returned to the NFL after “retiring” in 2018 and spending a year in the broadcast booth.
Compiled by assistant sports editor Ernest Hooper from Times wires.