Well, it really happened. The 2020 NFL regular season got underway this past weekend, and it was fantastic. It might not have been all that fun for Buccaneers fans in terms of the result, a 34-23 loss to the Saints, but it really was just great to have football back. And the best part of it only being Week 1 is just that—it’s only Week 1. No one wins a Super Bowl on opening weekend. There’s still plenty of time for Tampa Bay to get things into a higher gear.
Today, as we’ll do every Wednesday this season, we’ll take a look at how the rest of the NFC South fared over the weekend. With the Bucs dropping to 0-1, they hit the bottom of the division. Did anyone else join them? Let’s find out.
New Orleans Saints (1-0)
Drew Brees and the Saints got the better of Tom Brady and the Bucs on Sunday afternoon, jumping out to a 1-0 start on the new season. New Orleans fell behind 7-0 early, but weathered the storm and scored 17 unanswered in the second quarter to take a 10-point lead into halftime. And out of halftime, the Saints rolled the rest of the way. A pick six by Janoris Jenkins made it 24-7 and while the Bucs did cut it to 24-17 at one point, things never got any closer. The defense stood pretty strong for New Orleans and the offense did enough to walk away with a 34-23 victory in the Superdome. The home team was outgained 310-271, but it won the turnover battle 3-0. That was the big difference.
Brees wasn’t overly spectacular against Tampa Bay’s young secondary, completing 18 of his 30 pass attempts for just 160 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Thomas was a non-factor, catching just three passes for 17 yards, plus Emmanuel Sanders didn’t add much apart from his touchdown. Jared Cook (five catches for 80 yards) and Alvin Kamara (67 total yards, two total touchdowns) were the only two to present some problems for the Buccaneer defense, but even then, those weren’t massive performances. It was the Saints defense that stood out in this one, with Jenkins and Marcus Williams intercepting Brady and Demario Davis, Trey Hendrickson and Carl Granderson all picking up sacks.
Up Next: at Las Vegas Raiders (1-0) — Monday Night Football
Carolina Panthers (0-1)
Despite hanging around for much of the game and even taking a fourth-quarter lead, the Panthers failed to start the season on the right foot Sunday afternoon, losing 34-30 at home to the Raiders. Las Vegas led just 17-15 at halftime, but it came out strong in the third quarter to take a 27-15 lead. Carolina fought back, though, scoring 15 straight points to take a 30-27 lead with 8:29 to go. However, the defense couldn’t hold on, giving up a go-ahead touchdown run by Josh Jacobs with 4:08 left after a nine-play, 75-yard drive. The Panthers outgained the Raiders 388-372, but their defense just couldn’t get the stop it needed to get Matt Rhule’s NFL coaching career started with a victory.
Teddy Bridgewater had a clean Carolina debut, going 22-of-34 for 270 yards and a touchdown while adding 26 yards on the ground. Unsurprisingly, Christian McCaffrey had a good day. He ran for 96 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, plus he caught three passes for 38 yards. Robby Anderson was Bridgewater’s favorite target on the afternoon, hauling in six passes for 115 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, the Panthers are trying to find their footing without Luke Kuechly. They failed to pick up a sack in the game and didn’t even register a quarterback hit. Not only that, but they finished with just four tackles for loss and allowed 133 rushing yards (4.3 yards per carry) and three rushing touchdowns.
Up Next: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1)
Atlanta Falcons (0-1)
The Falcons also dropped their season opener at home on Sunday afternoon, falling behind early and never fully recovering in a 38-25 loss to the Seahawks. Atlanta was down 14-3 after one quarter and despite cutting it to 14-12 by halftime, it never came all the way back. Seattle went on a 17-0 run, making it 31-12 before giving up anything else. Even when the Falcons got within 31-18, the ‘Hawks scored again and never relented. It was a massive day for Dirk Koetter’s offense, at least in terms of total yards, as it picked up 506. However, it turned the ball over twice. The defense wasn’t much better, giving up 383 yards and forcing just four incompletions all day.
Matt Ryan threw the ball 54 times (sound familiar for a Koetter quarterback?), completing 37 of them for 450 yards and two touchdowns to one interception. Three Atlanta receivers went over 100 yards on the day, with Julio Jones catching nine passes for 157 yards (17.4 yards per catch), Calvin Ridley going for 130 and two touchdowns on nine catches of his own and Russell Gage picking up 114 yards ALSO on nine catches. Todd Gurley had a decent Falcons debut, rushing for 56 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. The problem for Dan Quinn’s team was containing Russell Wilson. One of the stars of Week 1, Wilson was 31-of-35 for 322 yards and four touchdowns.
Up Next: at Dallas Cowboys (0-1)