NFL 2023: Week 1 Review – The Dolphins Start Strong, The Cowboys Can’t Stop Scoring

The NFL is back. After weeks of speculation and pre-season, it was finally time to see how every team would fare in their opening games. It would also allow us to finally have answers to the questions that have dominated the off-season. Could Aaron Rodgers be the savior of the New York Jets?, can the Giants prove that last year was not a fluke and return to the playoffs?; and will the Kansas City Chiefs retain their title? We will get answers to all these questions and more between now and the Super Bowl in February.

So, what happened in Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season?

The Lions Spoil the Party

We begin with the opening game of the season. As a tradition, it is held at the home of the reigning Super Bowl champions, meaning that Kansas City would hold the game. The Detroit Lions would be the team who hoped to ruin the Chiefs’ party. Last season, after a poor start, the Lions became one of the most dangerous and high-scoring teams in the league. While they were not able to make the playoffs, their Sunday night football victory over divisional rivals the Green Bay Packers ended Aaron Rodgers’ time in Wisconsin. So, could the Lions cause another upset, or will the Chiefs open their title defense with a win?

The first drives from each team ended the same way. Both teams’ opening drives ended in punts. It looked like the Lions’ second drive would end like their first. They even got into punt formation. Then, instead of a punt, a pass occurred and the Lions made the first down to continue the drive. This gave Detroit momentum. Led by quarterback Jared Goff, the Lions drove the ball down to the Chiefs’ 9-yard line. Then, Goff passed to Amon-Ra St. Brown for the opening touchdown of the season, giving the Lions an early lead.

There were many times last season when the Kansas City Chiefs went behind, they immediately scored on their next drive. This occurred again in this game. Chiefs quarterback and reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes quickly moved the ball down the field, to the Lions’ one-yard line. This was followed by the expected touchdown pass from Mahomes to tie the scores up. In reply, the Lions’ drive started well. Then, as they just entered the Chiefs’ red zone, the Lions fumbled the ball and it was recovered by the Chiefs’ defense.

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After two drives that ended in punts, the Chiefs would be the next to score. Similar to their first scoring drives, Mahomes and company would drive the ball down the field, and end in a 4-yard touchdown score to take the lead. This was the last score of the half, meaning that at halftime, the Chiefs had a 14-7 lead over the Lions.

The second half began in the same way the first half began. Two drives, two punts. The Chiefs’ next drive started successfully until they reached the 50-yard line. A Mahomes pass to Kadarius Toney was intercepted by the Lions, who would run the ball in for a touchdown. If only Toney had spent his offseason practising how to catch a ball instead of annoying New York Giants fans online.

The Chiefs would be the next to score after two more drives that ended in punts. In a drive where the Chiefs’ offense did drop some easy catches, a 35-yard field goal from Chiefs’ kicker Harrison Butker gave Kansas City the lead. The lead would be extended on their next drive. This was very similar to their previous drive with more dropped catches from Kansas City. Another Butker field goal would make their lead 6 points. The Lions knew what they had to do.

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From their 25-yard line, a mixture of passes from Goff and rushing yards from running back David Montgomery allowed the ball to quickly move up the field. They moved into the Chiefs red zone and down to the 8-yard line. Then, Goff handed to ball off to Montgomery who ran the ball into the endzone for what would be a game-winning touchdown for the Lions. Kansas City tried to score in their final two drives. But they could not keep up with the Lions’ defense. As the time ran out, the Detroit Lions had recorded a 21-20 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, ruining their Super Bowl celebration.

This was a game between two of last season’s most entertaining teams. But on the day, Jared Goff and the Detroit Lions were the better team. Kansas City made some silly mistakes, mostly with the Toney interception, which changed the game. Next week, Detroit faces the Seattle Seahawks, while Kansas City goes to Jacksonville to face the Jaguars.

A Giant Disappointment

For the last couple of years, the NFC East has been dominated by both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys, with the New York Giants always on the outside looking in. Last season, the Cowboys were their usual self, making the playoffs before being eliminated in the divisional round.

The Giants, however, shocked the league. They went from strugglers to a divisional round team, the same round as the Cowboys under new head coach Brian Daboll. In the off-season, quarterback Daniel Jones would sign a new $40 million contract, and Saquon Barkley would remain a Giant for at least one more year. However, with all the success the Giants had last year, they could never beat the Dallas Cowboys. Could this be their chance?

The Giants had the opening possession in a rainy East Rutherford, New Jersey, and looked fairly strong. Jones and company moved the ball up the field and into the red zone. Things were going well until they reached the Cowboys’ 8-yard line. On 3rd down, Andrew Thomas would a false start, moving them back 5 yards. At the 13-yard line, an error in the snap forced Jones to recover the fumble well out of the red zone. Things would get even worse during the field goal.

Giants Kicker Graham Gano’s attempt was blocked by the Cowboys’ defense, who would run the ball in for a touchdown. The Giants would get the ball back immediately after this, but the team’s reoccurring issues in the offensive line would raise their ugly head again, forcing Jones to be sacked, ruining that drive. 

The Cowboys would finally have an opportunity on offense soon after. Immediately, it was clear who was the better team. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott exploited the problems in the Giants’ secondary to easily move the ball down the field.

Fortunately for the Giants, the drive stalled at their 2-yard line, but a Cowboys field goal increased their lead. In reply to this, Jones was sacked on the first play of the drive, and on the third play of the drive, Saquon Barkley fumbled the ball. The ball would be recovered by the Cowboys, who would score another touchdown. 

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The lead would be increased soon after, as Dallas would score another field goal. Things were going terribly for the Giants. They were about to get much worse. On the opening play of the drive, Jones’s somewhat blind pass was intercepted. The Giants tried to get the officials to look at the pass as it may have touched the ground, but this was unsuccessful.

There was also a flag on the play, but this was against the Giants. Possession to the Cowboys. Soon after, it would be a touchdown for the Cowboys, as Tony Pollard would find the end zone. Before halftime, the Giants could have got points on the board, but Gano’s field goal attempt made no attempt in trying to find the posts. At halftime, the Dallas Cowboys had a 26-0 lead over the New York Giants. 

The Cowboys had the opening possession of the second half. You can probably guess what happened. At the Giants one-yard line, Tony Pollard would find the end zone again to widen the already large lead. In reply, the Giants could do nothing. All half. Their drives either ended in punts or failed fourth-down attempts from too far out. The Cowboys would score one more touchdown in the second half, but at the end of the game, the score was 40-0 to the Cowboys. 

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What I can say that hasn’t already been said? The Giants were outclassed in every single play of the game. A dismal start to the season. Putting a positive spin on things (I have no idea how), but you could say that this is the first game of the season against opposition who were always going to beat them. The season is 17 games long, and while it is not great, going 0-1 is not season over.

The Giants will need to play competent and winning football next week when they face the Arizona Cardinals. For the Cowboys, they’ll want to keep this form up, as they face the New York Jets next week. 

High scoring in Hollywood

Both the Los Angeles Chargers and the Miami Dolphins made the playoffs last year. They are both very similar, led by young and entertaining quarterbacks. They met up in week one, for what could be an interesting game.

The Dolphins would have the opening possession, and would immediately start well. Led by returning quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Miami was able to move the ball down deep into the Chargers’ red zone. The Dolphins reached the 2-yard line with a touchdown in sight. Then, Tagovailoa fumbled the ball, which was recovered by the Chargers’ defense. In a similar drive to the Dolphins, Los Angeles would move the ball down the length of the field before running back Austin Ekeler would score the touchdown to give the Chargers the lead.

In reply to this, the Dolphins did what they could not do on their opening drive. Again, Miami was at the two-yard line, but this time Raheem Mostert would run the ball in for the tying touchdown. The Dolphins would widen their lead on their next drive. Tagovailoa again put the Miami offense deep into the Chargers’ red zone. But this drive, the drive stalled at the 5-yard line, resulting in a field goal.

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The Chargers would score on their next drive. Quarterback Justin Herbert would, like the Dolphins did, drive the ball deep into the Miami red zone. Herbert would then throw a one-yard touchdown to take the lead. After a couple of drives that ended in punts, the Dolphins would retake the lead. The drive started from the Dolphins’ 20-yard line, and Tagovailoa and company, as they have done for most of the game, drove the ball down to the Chargers’ one-yard line. Tagovailoa would throw a one-yard touchdown pass to Cracraft. A pair of field goals from each team would end the first half with the Miami Dolphins giving a 20-14 lead over the Los Angeles Chargers.

It would be the Chargers who would take an early advantage straight after half-time. On the first drive of the half, Los Angeles would drive the ball down to the Dolphins’ one-yard line, before Justin Herbert ran the ball in for the touchdown. The subsequent Miami possession started well, but as the Dolphins entered the Chargers’ red zone, Tagovailoa attempted a deep pass that was intercepted by Los Angeles. Luckily for Miami, the Chargers were unable to turn the possession into points, in fact, the Miami defense pushed the Chargers back to their one-yard line, forcing a punt to allow the Dolphins to have a quite generous field position to start the next drive. Could they take full advantage of this?

The Dolphins could. On the only play of the drive, Tagovailoa threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill to return the lead to the Dolphins. This lead lasted one drive, as the Chargers would score a touchdown on their next possession. Miami’s reply to this was to score a field goal, something the Los Angeles matched soon after. The Chargers had a 4-point lead going into the last moments of the match. What could the Dolphins do?

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Throughout the whole match, we have seen both teams perform effective drives which moved them into the red zones with ease. The Dolphins’ last drive was no different, they easily made it deep into the Chargers’ red zone. Then, at the 4-yard line, Tagovailoa would find Hill for his second touchdown of the game and the game-winning touchdown. Los Angeles did try to score on their final drive, but the Dolphins’ defense was too strong. As time ran out on a very high-scoring game, the Miami Dolphins had beaten the Los Angeles Chargers 36-34.

This was, as expected, a high-scoring game, and set up both of these teams to have a good season in a strong AFC. Next week, the Dolphins play the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football, while the Chargers visit the Tennessee Titans.

Over as soon as it started

Without a doubt, the number one story of the offseason surrounded quarterback Aaron Rodgers. For weeks, we knew that the former Green Bay Packers quarterback was departing, but where he was going was on everyone’s mind. In the end, he decided to copy his predecessor Brett Favre, and go to the New York Jets. This has meant that for months, the green side of New York has had almost daily media attention, mostly for Rodgers. But this week, Aaron could finally prove why he moved to New York. His opponents were divisional rivals, the Buffalo Bills. The Bills won the AFC East last year, before losing to the Cincinnati Bengals. Could this year be their year, or will Buffalo struggle, as many had been predicting?

The Bills would have the opening possession of the game, but would not be able to do anything with it, quickly punting to the Jets. It would then be time to see Aaron Rodgers as a New York Jet. His opening drive did not start well, with one incomplete pass and a sack. 

This sack however would be extremely important for the Jets season, as Rodgers was injured from it. He was quickly ruled out of the game, ending his debut before it even started. An MRI scan the next day confirmed the worst Rodgers had torn his Achilles Tendon. This means that his season is over. In one play, the Jets went from a team that the whole nation had their eyes on, to a team no one cared about. Rodgers’s replacement was Zach Wilson, who Rodgers replaced as the Jets starting quarterback. He didn’t do anything with the rest of the drive. 

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It would be the Bills who would score from the game’s next drive. A long, slow-moving drive from Bills quarterback Josh Allen stalled just on the edge of the Jets’ red zone, resulting in a Trevor Bass field goal to give them the lead. However, on the Bills’ next drive, an old foe would arrive to stop them. Last year, Josh Allen had a massive problem with ball security. Those problems still remain, as he threw an interception. Luckily for the Bills, the Jets could only convert this into a field goal, tying the game. 

The Bills would strike back on their next possession. From the Jets’ 5-yard line, Allen would find Steffon Diggs for the touchdown and a return of the lead. They would extend their lead on their next possession, which was the result of a Zach Wilson interception. Unfortunately for the Bills, the drive stalled and the best they could do was a field goal. This means that at halftime, the Bills would have a 13-3 lead over the Aaron Rodgers-less New York Jets. 

The Jets would finally have some luck at the beginning of the second half. From their 25-yard line, Wilson and company managed to move the ball up to the Bills’ 25-yard line, before stalling and scoring a field goal. Things would get even better for New York soon after, as Josh Allen was intercepted again by the Jets defense . However, the offense could not do anything with it. 

The Bills were not lucky soon after. Allen was intercepted again and this time Wilson would find the endzone. A 3-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Wilson levelled the scores. The Bills reply to this? Another Josh Allen mistake. This time, he fumbled the ball, which the Jets defense recovered. A silver lining for Allen is that the Jets only scored a field goal, but this gave them the lead with time running out. 

On what was the final drive of the game, Buffalo had possession. Allen and company would drive the ball down the field but would stall just before the Jets’ redzone. This gave them a field goal attempt to tie the game. The 50-yard Trevor Bass field goal attempt was successful, meaning that we were going to overtime. 

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The Bills had the opening possession of overtime, but could not do anything with the ball, forcing a punt. A punt that the Jets would catch and then return for the winning touchdown of the game. They had won the game, but in a way and with a player that no one expected to. In the end, the New York Jets had beaten the Buffalo Bills 22-16.

That game was unexpected. With Rodgers now out of the season, the question I’d be asking is not “How far will the Jets get this year?”, but “How can they stay relevant?”. This win will help them. For the Bills, it’s all down to ball security. I do find it odd that Josh Allen makes a lot of errors, but (at least I don’t see) he does not get enough criticism for it. Putting my Giants hat on for a second, if Daniel Jones threw 3 interceptions and a fumble in a game (which he nearly did this week) he would be heavily critiqued for it and people would question his abilities. Next week, the Bills face the Las Vegas Raiders, while the Jets face the Dallas Cowboys without Aaron Rodgers. 

What happened in the other games?

Former Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud made his debut for the Houston Texans in their game against the Baltimore Ravens. Unfortunately for Stroud, he scored no touchdowns and the Ravens won the game 25-9. It is not all smiles for Baltimore however, as Ravens running back J.K Dobbins was ruled out for the season with a torn Achilles Tendon.

Derrick Carr had a somewhat rough day in his first game with the New Orleans Saints against the Tennessee Titans. He was sacked 4 times and intercepted once. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill had a worse day. Still, both teams’ kickers scored most of the points, with Carr scoring the lone touchdown in the Saints’ 16-15 victory. 

In the past week, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow became the highest-paid player in the league. I think he may have been celebrating this deal a bit too much, as he was not his usual self in the Bengals’ opening match against rivals the Cleveland Browns. This was the 100th “Battle of Ohio” and Cleveland dominated. Browns quarterback Deshawn Watson was decent, but it was another game dominated by the kickers. Cleveland would win the game 24-3.

The Atlanta Falcons used their strong running game in their matchup with the Carolina Panthers. Tyler Allgier scored two touchdowns, and former Texas Longhorn and number 8 pick in the draft Bijan Robinson scored his first touchdown in the Falcons’ 24-10 victory.

The Jacksonville Jaguars were one of the best teams in the AFC last season. The Indianapolis Colts were one of the worst. At times, there was parity between these teams, mostly caused by former Florida Gators quarterback Antony Richardson. The Jaguars would win the game 31-21, but this is a massive improvement from their previous seasons.

In another battle between two teams that made the playoffs last year, the Tom Brady-less Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced the Minnesota Vikings. Baker Mayfield is now the Buccaneers quarterback, but it was Buccaneers kicker Chase McLaughlin who scored the winning points in Tampa Bay’s 20-17 victory.

The legend that is Brock Purdy continued his good performances in the San Francisco 49ers opening game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Purdy threw 2 touchdowns in the 49ers’ 30-7 win.

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The Washington Commanders played their first game under new ownership against the Arizona Cardinals. It would be the Commander’s defense that would help them to their 20-16 victory.

The Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears share a historic rivalry. Last season, Chicago had the worst record in football while the Packers lost their playoff spot in the last game of the year, and then lost Aaron Rodgers in the offseason. This began the Jordan Love era at Lambeau Field. Love would score 3 touchdowns in the Packers 38-20 victory.

Another team that jumped on the quarterback carousel was the Las Vegas Raiders. Former 49ers Quarterback Jimmy Garoppollo is now playing there. Also making their debut was Sean Payton as head coach of the Denver Broncos. In a close game, the Raiders would defeat the Broncos 17-16.

Last year’s Super Bowl runners up the Philadelphia Eagles had a strong start against the New England Patriots. In a game in which Tom Brady was being put into the Patriots Ring of Honor at halftime, the Pats struggled to begin with, going 16-0 down after the first quarter. New England would come back, but it would not be enough as the Eagles would hold on for a 25-20 victory.

The Los Angeles Rams had a terrible season last year in what was the worst title defense in history. There were fears that it could happen again for the Rams, as star Wide Reciever Cooper Kupp was ruled out before the game. However, this did not happen as the Rams recorded a shock 30-13 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

That was week one in the NFL. Next week we’ll see if the Jets can keep winning without Rodgers, if the Giants can score points and if Brock Purdy can continue his undefeated streak in the regular season

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