The Green Bay Packers started life without Aaron Rodgers with an impressive 38-20 win at the Chicago Bears on the first Sunday of the new NFL season.
Tom Brady’s return celebrations at the New England Patriots were ruined by the Philadelphia Eagles, while the Dallas Cowboys embarrassed the New York Giants with a 40-0 shutout.
The San Francisco 49ers dominated the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Miami Dolphins edged a thrilling shootout at the Los Angeles Chargers.
Joe Burrow had a nightmare just days after signing his record new contract, but not as much as the New York Giants after their humbling at home – mainly down to a Dallas defence that had seven sacks and two turnovers.
Packers prove all you need is Love
Green Bay lost their talisman Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets in the summer, but quarterback Jordan Love showed why the Packers drafted him with a fine three-touchdown outing as, in the NFL’s oldest rivalry, they beat Chicago for a ninth time in a row.
It was only Love’s second NFL start but he showed poise and precision at Soldier Field to silence their biggest rivals – who had expected big things after seeing Rodgers depart and making wholesale changes.
San Francisco make a statement
The 49ers fell just a game short of the Super Bowl last season but showed why they could go all the way this time with a dominant 30-7 victory at the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Their QB Brock Purdy, known as Mr Irrelevant as the last pick of the 2022 draft, needed elbow surgery after being injured in that NFC Championship game in Philadelphia, but returned with a bang to start his second NFL season looking sharp.
Purdy has now won all six of his regular season starts, and seems to have shown his emergence last season was no flash in the pan.
“Purdy shut some haters up,” said star defensive end Nick Bosa, who signed a huge new contract on the eve of the season as the leader of one of the best defences in the league. “He’s exactly who we thought he was.”
Eagles spoil Brady’s return
Tom Brady won six of his seven Super Bowls during 20 years with the New England Patriots, and he was honoured with a half-time ceremony to announce he would be going into the team’s hall of fame next June.
“One thing I am sure of, and that will never change, is that I am a Patriot for life,” Brady told fans at Gillette Stadium as he sported his famous Patriots shirt.
This current Patriots squad is not up to Brady’s old standards though, and even though they made life tough for the Eagles the visitors always seemed capable of more than their 25-20 victory if needed.
Dolphins edge Chargers in Hollywood blockbuster
An early game of the season contender was played out just down the road from Hollywood in Los Angeles as the Chargers were just pipped 36-34 by the Miami Dolphins – as both sides showed they are teams to watch this season.
Justin Herbert threw a touchdown and ran in one of three for the Chargers, but in a game of seven lead changes the explosive Miami attack had the final word, when Tua Tagovailoa connected with Tyreek Hill inside the final two minutes.
Tagovailoa has had his injury issues, but he threw three touchdowns on Sunday and a whopping 466 yards – with two of those scores and 215 yards going to lightning quick receiver Hill – who is nicknamed ‘Cheetah’ for a reason.
Burrow’s big contract let down
Joe Burrow would have wanted to go out and show why the Cincinnati Bengals made him the highest-paid player in the league, but instead recorded the lowest yardage total of his career as they lost 24-3 to local rivals the Cleveland Browns.
Losing six weeks of pre-season to a calf injury no doubt had some impact on Burrow’s meagre 82-yard passing display, but much like when he signed his five-year deal worth $275m, he handled it in typical level-headed fashion.
“Week one doesn’t define anybody’s season,” said Burrow, who was taken out of the game in the fourth quarter as the Bengals waved the white flag. “Obviously, not very good out there. Anybody that watched saw that.
“But we have been in this spot before and come back stronger and had great years. That’s what we are going to do.”
Rough start for rookie QBs
Three quarterbacks were drafted in the top four spots this year and they all started, and lost, on their NFL debuts but all showed at least some promise.
Top pick Bryce Young said “I have to do a better job of executing” after throwing two interceptions in the Carolina Panthers’ 24-10 loss at the Atlanta Falcons, while CJ Stroud was sacked five times and lost a fumble as the Houston Texans were beaten 25-9 at the Baltimore Ravens.
“For his first time out, CJ was in a tough place to play,” said Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans.
Anthony Richardson almost bucked the trend in his Indianapolis Colts debut as they led going into the fourth quarter before losing 31-21 at home to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Richardson looks the dynamic dual-threat quarterback every NFL team is after, but after taking a huge hit right at the end of the game, the 21-year-old will have to try and protect himself more now he has stepped up from the college game.
Elsewhere in the NFL, the Los Angeles Rams stunned the Seattle Seahawks 30-13, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers upset the Minnesota Vikings 20-17 on the road and the New Orleans Saints edged the Tennessee Titans 16-15.
The Washington Commanders won their first game under new ownership, 20-16 over the Arizona Cardinals, while the Las Vegas Raiders won 17-16 at the Denver Broncos.