NFL Week 1 takeaways – What we learned, big reaction questions and stat leaders for every game

Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season had a little bit of everything. The Cardinals’ offense looked great in a big win over the Titans, as Kyler Murray starred with five total touchdowns. Tennessee struggled all day, as did another AFC powerhouse, the Bills.

Elsewhere, Sam Darnold had a day against his old team, the Texans surprised with a big outing against Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars, and Carson Wentz’s debut in Indianapolis didn’t go to plan. Rookies across the league showed their talent by finding the end zone, the Eagles blew out the Falcons, and Washington has a lot of looming questions regarding its quarterback after Ryan Fitzpatrick left the game with a hip injury. Minnesota and Cincinnati went to overtime, while the 49ers had to fend off a late comeback attempt by the Lions.

Our NFL Nation reporters respond to it all, with the major takeaways and top lingering questions from this week’s action — and what it all means going forward. Plus, they each look at the bigger picture with their current team confidence rating — a 0-10 grade of how they feel about the team’s future outlook coming out of the week. Let’s get into it. (Games will be added throughout the day on Sunday and then again following Monday Night Football.)

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Standout performer: Eagles QB Jalen Hurts with 264 passing yards, 3 TDs, 62 rushing yards



What to know: There’s reason to be excited about the Eagles and their young offensive playmakers. Quarterback Jalen Hurts outdueled veteran Matt Ryan in his fifth career start, going 27-of-35 for 264 yards with three touchdowns, and Eagles rookies DeVonta Smith (6 catches, 71 yards) and Kenny Gainwell (43 total yards) each found the end zone in their debuts. Add in the performances of Miles Sanders (113 total yards) and Jalen Reagor (6 catches, 49 yards, TD), and that’s a whole lot of production out of a relatively inexperienced group. They’ll look to keep it up against a strong 49ers defense next week. — Tim McManus

How high is this team’s ceiling? That kind of convincing road win will get people talking about coach Nick Sirianni and the Eagles. Expectations were low entering this season, but the Eagles overperformed on both sides of the ball Sunday, particularly on defense by keeping Atlanta and its talented skill players out of the end zone. The upcoming stretch in the Eagles’ schedule will tell the true tale: their next five games are against the Niners, Cowboys, Chiefs, Panthers and Buccaneers. — McManus

McManus’ confidence rating: 6.3. The Eagles impressed in coach Nick Sirianni’s first game at the helm. It will take more evidence before believing they’re the real thing, but it was about as good a start as they could have asked for. — McManus

Next game: vs. 49ers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)



What to know: Welp. That loss to the Eagles was really, really ugly. Everything kind of fell apart for Atlanta. The offense fizzled after two strong drives to start the game. The defense faced losing by a thousand gashes and zone reads and short passes they couldn’t defend. And it got worse from there. This was about as bad as it could get in coach Arthur Smith’s debut. It was known the Falcons had some roster holes and lacked depth, but for it to be as total of a meltdown as it was is concerning. When a team’s penalty yards (99) approaches either their rushing (124) or passing (136) yardage, you know it has been a really bad day. — Michael Rothstein

What’s up with the offense? Things started out strong, with coach Arthur Smith bringing out a bit of no-huddle with a personnel set in different formations. But after that, everything sputtered. The Falcons’ run game — which had 86 yards in the first quarter — finished with 124. The passing game barely threw intermediate routes, let alone deep shots. Atlanta reached the red zone twice and settled for field goals. The offensive line had three false starts. Good news, I guess, is that it can’t get any worse. Except Atlanta plays the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2. — Rothstein

Rothstein’s confidence rating: 4.2. It’s still early in the season, but there’s not much to like in any phase from Atlanta after one game. — Rothstein

Next game: at Buccaneers (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)

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Standout performer: Texans QB Tyrod Taylor with 291 passing yards, 2 TDs



What to know: It’s very early in the season, but after one week Houston leads the AFC South. If the division continues to struggle, the Texans could win more games than it seemed they would on paper. Last season, half of the team’s wins came against the Jaguars. This year, it looks like there are winnable games in the AFC South. The real question: Is winning enough that they don’t get a top pick in 2022 really a good thing for the long-term future of the franchise? — Sarah Barshop

Is this Texans defense for real? Houston matched its 2020 total with three interceptions on Sunday. Going into the season, it was clear that Houston’s formula for success this season was a strong performance on defense and special teams. The team only allowed 14 points to Jacksonville, but can Lovie Smith’s defense continue taking the ball away against non-rookie opposing quarterbacks? The Texans will find out against the Cleveland Browns’ Baker Mayfield in Week 2. — Barshop

Barshop’s confidence rating: 3.5. Houston looked good in the season opener, but Week 2 against the Browns will be the better test to see whether the Texans will be better than expected this season. — Barshop

Next game: at Browns (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: The Jaguars looked ill-prepared in Urban Meyer’s first game as an NFL head coach, which is inexcusable. Mistakes happen, but having too many men in the huddle, lining up incorrectly twice (in the first half), and burning two timeouts in the first quarter to avoid delay penalties are preventable problems. Those are the kind of things that bad teams — and the Jaguars have been bad the last three seasons — do regularly. — Mike DiRocco

Should we expect these kind of struggles out of QB Trevor Lawrence all year? Not to the extent that we saw against the Texans. He’s going to make mistakes. That’s what rookie quarterbacks generally do. Let’s also remember that his receivers dropped six passes. The game got out of hand in the first half and that forced the Jaguars to abandon the run in the second half and that makes things harder for any quarterback. Lawrence made some really good throws (the TDs to Chris Manhertz and DJ Chark, for example) and scanned the field pretty well, but he also was off target on a bunch of others and stared down his receivers at times, too. It was a rough start but Lawrence doesn’t lack confidence and this won’t shake him. Being balanced on offense and keeping games close will help him become more consistent, but mistakes will happen. — DiRocco

DiRocco’s confidence rating: 2.5. The offensive issues were bad enough, but Tyrod Taylor — not Tom Brady or Russell Wilson or Josh Allen — carved up the Jaguars’ defense. — DiRocco

Next game: vs. Broncos (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

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Standout performer: Seahawks QB Russell Wilson with 254 passing yards, 4 TDs



What to know: So far, so good with the Seahawks’ new offense. It started fast, with Russell Wilson touchdown passes on three of its first four possessions. It was explosive, with big plays from Tyler Lockett and Chris Carson. It was far from perfect, though, stalling out in the third quarter. Then again, no one could have expect perfection out of the gate with a first-time play-caller in Shane Waldron and no snaps for Wilson and most of the starters in the preseason. But the Seahawks will take 28 points, four touchdown passes and no mistakes from Wilson any day, especially against a good Indy defense. — Brady Henderson

Are the Seahawks good enough at cornerback? If their pass-rush has as much firepower as it showed Sunday, then maybe they will be. Pressure on the quarterback can make life easier for the guys on the outside. That was the case against Indy with three sacks (from Rasheem Green, Darrell Taylor and Benson Mayowa), 10 QB hits and even more pressure than those numbers would suggest. Tre Flowers and D.J. Reed held up well enough against a Colts receiver corps that was without T.Y. Hilton. It’ll be a much tougher test next week against Julio Jones, A.J. Brown and the Titans. — Henderson

Henderson’s confidence rating: 8.7. Russell Wilson has covered up a lot of deficiencies over the years, so the Seahawks don’t have to be perfect around him, especially if he’s playing as well as he did Sunday. — Henderson

Next game: vs. Titans (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)



What to know: Carson Wentz was supposed to see what it’s like to have time in the pocket to throw while having one of the top offensive lines from previous seasons in front of him this season in Indianapolis. Wentz instead spent a significant portion of the game getting sacked, hit or scrambling to avoid having both of those things happen because the entire offensive line played poorly. The Colts gave up three sacks and 10 quarterback hits. The goal was for Wentz to avoid being sacked (50 times) and hit like he did last season in Philadelphia. Things aren’t off to a good start so far with the Colts for the quarterback. And, oh yeah, Aaron Donald, the premier defensive lineman in the NFL, and the Rams are up next for the Colts in Week 2. — Mike Wells

Which Colts defense is the real one? Will the Colts’ defense be more of the unit that forced four punts, a turnover and sacked Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson four times on six second-half drives than the group that gave up 257 yards and struggled to get off the field on third down in the first half? The Colts gave up only 332 yards a game total last season. Wilson faced minimal pressure in the first half while being able to pick apart the defense. It didn’t help that the Colts didn’t have veteran cornerback Xavier Rhodes (calf). — Wells

Wells’ confidence rating: 5.8. Losing in Week 1 isn’t anything new for the Colts because they’ve now dropped eight-straight season openers. But they weren’t supposed to play as bad on both sides of the ball in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score. The offensive line should improve once left tackle Eric Fisher (Achilles) returns and the defense can build off its second-half play. — Wells

Next game: vs. Rams (Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)

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Standout performer: Cardinals QB Kyler Murray with 289 passing yards, 5 total TDs



What to know: The Cardinals’ defense is legitimate — as in Super Bowl good. It was anchored by pass-rusher Chandler Jones’ five sacks, which tied the franchise record. It showed its depth with newcomer J.J. Watt in the backfield more than Titans back Derrick Henry Sunday. Cornerback Byron Murphy showed his versatility and made plays from sideline to sideline. The defensive line all but shut down Henry. Arizona’s defense showed what it’s capable of against an offense that made the playoffs last season. — Josh Weinfuss

Who will be the Cardinals’ best offensive weapon after wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins? It’s going to depend on the game, but Arizona showed Sunday it has offensive depth. Christian Kirk caught two touchdowns, A.J. Green was quiet in his first start but he could be an option and Rondale Moore is also worth keeping an eye on. Kyler Murray is going to be Kyler Murray and Hopkins is Hopkins. If defenses want to commit to them, Arizona has plenty of other options who can help them score 40 points a game. — Weinfuss

Weinfuss’ confidence rating: 9.0. The Cardinals have the roster and firepower to be very good this season, demonstrated by five touchdowns from Kyler Murray, two each from DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk and five sacks from Chandler Jones. — Weinfuss

Next game: vs. Vikings (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)



What to know: The slow start by the Titans can be traced to one full week of practice as a unit before the season opener. Tennessee has notoriously gotten off to slow starts. Sunday was no different as they fell behind 24-6 in the first half. Another week of practice together should help. But the Titans would be wise to start next week’s game with tempo on offense to create a sense of urgency. — Turron Davenport

What’s up with running back Derrick Henry? Henry gained eight yards rushing in the first half. That’s his fewest as a starter since 2019 when he picked up four yards against the Carolina Panthers. The struggles start with the offensive line. Arizona’s defensive line consistently pushed the line of scrimmage into the Titans’ backfield. Henry was hit at or behind the line of scrimmage eight times resulting in a net loss of three yards over the first three quarters. — Davenport

Davenport’s confidence rating: 4.5. The Titans’ offensive line was dominated by Arizona and questions remain about right tackle in addition to a bad performance from Taylor Lewan at left tackle. — Davenport

Next game: at Seahawks (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

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Standout performer: Chargers QB Justin Herbert with 337 passing yards, 1 TD



What to know: The Chargers made some of the goofiest errors (fumbling in the end zone deep in Washington territory, which gave the Washington Football team a touchback) but managed to win the game thanks to QB Justin Herbert, who threw for 337 yards while completing 31 of 47 passes. Herbert had the end zone fumble and threw a red zone interception but managed to keep his cool, throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to Mike Williams early in the fourth quarter after Kyzir White forced a fumble deep in Washington territory which Joey Bosa recovered. The Chargers had two red zone turnovers but were able to play keep-away for the last 6:43 out to get the win. — Shelley Smith

How will the team clean up some of these errors? Receiver Mike Williams saved the game with his touchdown reception, and he and Keenan Allen combined for 17 catches for 182 yards. Along with the two red-zone turnovers, a roughing-the-passer penalty on Joey Bosa late in the first half led to three Washington points. They’ll need to cut down on the mistakes going forward. — Smith

Smith’s confidence rating: 5.4. They won a game that last year they would have lost, as the Chargers were able to convert several third downs on their final drive to prevent the dramatic losses which they’ve had the last two seasons. — Smith

Next game: vs. Cowboys (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)



What to know: Washington had multiple issues, but third-down defense was a major one. The pass rush did not bother quarterback Justin Herbert nearly enough as Los Angeles converted 14-of-18 third downs. While the offense needed to do more, the defense is supposed to be the rock. In the red zone Washington’s defense stiffened, but the inability to get off the field on third down was a major problem. A lot of that stemmed from Herbert’s fantastic passing, but some of that was about a line that needed to harass him more. Washington’s line did not live up to the hype Sunday. — John Keim

What is the impact if Ryan Fitzpatrick must miss time? Taylor Heinicke showed that he can run this offense well and provides a spark. The question with him has always been durability and what happens as teams get more film on him? Kyle Allen would be elevated to the No. 2 role. They do not have another QB on the practice squad. Washington has had too many seasons where injuries have been an issue at quarterback, so this is a tough way to start the season. — Keim

Keim’s confidence rating: 5.0. Washington remains a talented young team in some areas, but now there are questions — again — at quarterback and the defense couldn’t bail them out. The key to this season will be how the team progresses in the second half and one game does not sidetrack them. But it does show that they have questions that still must be answered. — Keim

Next game: vs. Giants (Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET)

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Standout performer: Cowboys QB Dak Prescott with 403 passing yards, 3 TDs



What to know: Unlike Super Bowl LV, in which the Buccaneers’ defense kept the Chiefs out of the end zone, the Bucs’ offense had to carry them this time. Quarterback Tom Brady threw for 379 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions, and the defense surrendered 403 passing yards and three touchdowns to Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. Had it not been for two missed field goal attempts by Cowboys’ Greg Zuerlein, the Bucs would have been doomed by four turnovers. Still, the offense looks more improved than it did at the beginning of last season, suggesting that yes, they really can be better than their title-run season. — Jenna Laine

Did the Cowboys create the template to beat Tampa Bay? They attacked the Bucs with screens and made their defense step up and tackle on the perimeter. This could be especially problematic if starting cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (also their nickelback) misses any time after dislocating his elbow, and if they continue to be without safety Jordan Whitehead. — Laine

Laine’s confidence rating: 7.0. Brady delivered some epic throws for the defending Super Bowl champs, but the defense was disappointing against Dallas. The Bucs must correct their errors with games against the Rams and Patriots right around the corner. — Laine

Next game: vs. Falcons (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)



What to know: There are reasons to be encouraged by the Cowboys’ Week 1 game: Dak Prescott’s 403 yards, Amari Cooper’s 13 catches for 139 yards and the defense’s four takeaways. And then there are reasons to be discouraged by the loss: Ezekiel Elliott had 33 yards on 11 carries, the Cowboys allowed four touchdown passes, and there were too many mistakes on special teams. “Like coach said in the postgame, the only thing we know after this game is that we aren’t going undefeated,” Cooper said. “It wasn’t all bad. We did some good things, too.” — Todd Archer

How much worry should there be regarding kicker Greg Zuerlein? He hooked a 31-yard field goal attempt and was off from 60 yards — which is fine — but also had an extra point hit the upright. He didn’t kick much over the summer because of back surgery and had one attempt in the preseason. The Cowboys need to do a better job offensively in the red zone, but Zuerlein can’t miss makeable kicks like this. — Archer

Archer’s confidence rating: 7.5. The offense did what was expected. Scoring 29 points against Tampa Bay is a good showing even if it didn’t — or couldn’t run the ball. Dallas shredded the Bucs’ pass defense, and Prescott was sacked once. And Dallas doesn’t play Tom Brady every week. — Archer

Next game: at Chargers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

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