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NFL Week One: Five Takeaways

Irish NFL Show reporter Michael Lavery looks back on the first weekend of NFL football for 2021.

FINALLY. After close to seven months of waiting, we have football back on our screens.

Week One of the NFL is always throws up a rollercoaster of emotions – We spend the entire off season bigging up our team’s chances of success, saying how great and in shape our QB is and how fierce our defense looks. And then by the time halftime of the first game comes around we can be left either scratching our heads or claiming early bragging rights. It’s a long season, the longest in NFL history actually, so while it may not be time to hit the panic button just yet, there are certainly a few fingers that will be hovering perilously above it.

Until now we have seen 30 of the 32 teams take to the field with the Raiders and Ravens playing tonight (Monday). From the opening 15 games we have witnessed a lot and learned even more. Some teams impressed, others, not so much. So, to recap this weekend as best I can, here are five takeaways from Week One of the 2021 NFL Season.

Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals put on a SHOW

Nashville, TN. The Titans came into this game with one of the projected best offenses in football. The addition of Julio Jones in the off season, to line up opposite AJ Brown meant the Titans have two of the leagues premier pass catchers. Couple this with the fact that Derek Henry lines up in the Titans backfield and one could be forgiven if they overestimated this offenses chances at success. Turns out the only elite offense that showed up in Nashville on Sunday was that of the visiting Arizona Cardinals. Kyler Murray is entering a crucial stage of his career – a QB’s third year can typically mold the trajectory their career will take and if Sunday is anything to go by then Kyler Murray is in for a great one. The former first overall pick shone brightest on the field on Sunday as he put up an incredible stat line of 21/32 passes for 289 yards, 4 TDs through the air and 1 rushing to give him a total of 5 on the day. Murray looked composed and in control of his offense as they put up a total of 38 points on the Titans. The Cardinals, however, looked sharp on both sides of the ball, holding the aforementioned Titans offense to only 13 points. Chandler Jones had himself a monstrous day recording five sacks on Ryan Tannehill while JJ Watt continued to be a disruptive force along the Cardinals line. An excellent start to the season for Kliff Kingsbury and his men as they now turn their attention towards next Sundays matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.

Wide Receivers are… really good!

I mean, we all know this already. The guys are elite professional athletes and here I am telling you they are really good, no duh! But the quality on display in Week One deserves a mention. It can sometimes be hard to put into words the level of which some of these players play at and a lot of the time you would be safer watching the video highlights and letting your eyes tell the story for you but as I said it would feel unfair not to give them a mention.

Let’s start with Terry McLaurin. Scary Terry. He’s the number one guy in Washington and on Sunday he proved why. Despite not finding paydirt against the Chargers he was still the teams leading receiver catching 4 passes for 62 yards and potentially an early candidate for Catch of the Season. A deep ball down the left sideline on 3rd & 4 was hauled in by McLaurin who, in order to secure the catch entered his body into a warped like state as he fell away reaching back over his right shoulder to grab the football. Not only was his body in the shape of a Chiropractors nightmare but McLaurin also had to follow the ball through the hands of a defender who was rapidly closing in on him. An early precedent set for what his standards could be this season.

Across the rest of the League, we saw ridiculous grabs from several players. Diontae Johnson came up with a huge touchdown grab in the Steelers win over the Buffalo Bills. Johnson caught the ball as it bobbled in his hands and was able to secure the catch whilst dragging both feet to ensure he was inbounds. DeAndre Hopkins continued to do what DeAndre Hopkins does best and that is keep opposing DB’s up at night. He went 6 for 83 and two TDs in the Cardinals win including a spectacular leaping grab at the back of the endzone. His teammate Christian Kirk also scored twice and are sending an early message that they are going to be a problem to deal with this year. Robert Woods had another great toe tap catch at the back of the endzone in the Rams impressive victory over the Bears on Sunday Night Football. And finally, as is always the case in the month of September, Russell Wilson was back in the kitchen and was cooking up a storm against the Colts. Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf both had excellent grabs for scores with Lockett getting two TDs and Metcalf, one.

Rookie QB’s get off to a rough start

For the first time in his life, Trevor Lawrence lost a regular season match up. Seriously. The Jaguars Quarterback had made it the whole way through High School and College undefeated in the regular season but his NFL Career got off to a rough start. The number one overall pick from Clemson threw three TDs but also three picks as the Jaguars fall to 0-1 to start the season. This will be a tough pill to swallow for Lawrence who obviously isn’t used to losing and will have his work cut out for him moving forward as the reality of life in the pro’s hits home.

The rest of the rookie QB class also struggled to find success on opening weekend. Zach Wilson and the New York Jets lost on the road to the Carolina Panthers and Wilson’s predecessor Sam Darnold. Wilson struggled to develop any real momentum in the game and was constantly disrupted by the Panthers defensive front. He did manage to throw his first NFL touchdown but it will be met with little joy as the Jets failed to get off the mark on opening day. There were cameo appearances for both Trey Lance and Justin Fields who both managed to score a touchdown on their NFL debuts but failed to see regular game time as they continue to fill the backup QB spot.

Mac Jones and the New England Patriots were perhaps the closest to success on Sunday. They lost by a single point as the Dolphins won 17-16 in Foxborough. Jones and the Patriots offense had a relatively solid day when all things are considered. He finished the day 29/39 for 281 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. His play will no doubt have been helped by the efficiency of the run game which saw Damien Harris take 23 carries for 100 yards. A ”Welcome to the NFL” weekend for most of the rookie QBS as they embark on the beginning of the careers.

Tom Brady isn’t human

But we already knew this, didn’t we? The 44-year-old started his 300th game on Thursday Nights season opener against the Dallas Cowboys. Brady once again held two fingers aloft to “father time” as he continued to play at the highest level and put in another incredible performance under the primetime lights. Brady connected on 32 passes from 50 attempts – throwing for just shy off 400 yards (379). He threw four touchdown passes on the night – Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin had a score apiece while the connection as old as time itself between Brady and Rob Gronkowski was on display once again. Gronk had two touchdowns and 90 receiving yards on the night. This is the 100th time that Brady has found Gronkowski in the endzone as their connection reaches historic heights yet again.

Incase it didn’t properly register when I said it the first time, Tom Brady is FOURTY FOUR years old. The level of professionalism, dedication and athleticism he has shown since his move south to Florida cannot be commended highly enough. While many joked (and others seriously suggested) that Brady was taking a holiday to ride off into the sunset in Tampa – it’s the former sixth rounder who sets the standard from QB play in the League.

I reckon this Brady fella might be a Hall of Famer.

Full stadiums make for full hearts

You don’t need me to tell you how much we’ve all relied on sports as a mental distraction over the past 18 months. This time last year we were at the beginning of the 2020 season and the NFL and its stadia looked a lot different than they do today or ever had before. The seats were empty or only partially occupied and the ringing chorus of cheering fans was replaced with synthetic crowd noise. Cardboard cutouts and signs portraying messages of support and hope dressed the bleachers across the league. Stadiums which are known for their noise, their soul and their atmosphere lay desolate and quiet. That’s why this year it is such a welcome bonus to have the fans back in the stands. Kickoffs are electric again, third downs will have the stands shaking and quarterbacks are finally having to cover their ears again just to hear a play call. Its what the sport has missed so dearly and need the most. The TV coverage of the Browns vs the Chiefs in arrowhead had cameras shaking as if there were an earthquake. Football truly is nothing without the fans and their worth to the game was well on display this past Sunday. Homefield advantage is real and will play a major role in determining teams success across the next four months. With many of us hoping to attend the International Series games this year, lets hope the atmosphere and intensity comes to this side of the pond too.

So, there you have it. My five takeaways from Week One. I can’t explain how good it was to have Football Sunday’s back. Its what we’ve craved and missed so much. I, as well as most of the people who read this will have spent yesterday sat on the couch, smiling like a Cheshire Cat and relishing in the fact that football is back – in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if I had formed a mold in the couch I sat there that long! “Seven Hours of Commercial Free Football” is the story of our Sunday’s now and there is no other way I would rather have it.

Week Two gets underway this Thursday Night when the New York Giants make the short trip to Washington D.C to take on the WFT – Be sure to keep an eye on the Irish NFL Show socials as the lads bring you more video content throughout the week. As for me, if you’d like to read my ramblings and rants you can do so @michaellavery98



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