DALLAS — It was an eventful first NFL Sunday of the year as we had plenty of storylines and surprises throughout the league, as well as some really good football games.
Three underdogs won outright including the Pittsburgh Steelers over the Bengals in a back-and-forth overtime game. The Browns were slight underdogs to the Panthers and were able to spoil Baker Mayfield's Carolina debut and get the win on a game-winning kick. And Brian Daboll got off to a good start as the Giants defeated the Titans in Tennessee as underdogs.
We also had our first tie of the year as the Texans and Colts finished 20-20 with no scores in overtime.
Let's check out some of the other top storylines from Sunday's NFL action.
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Bucs defense stifles Cowboys; Dak Prescott to miss 6-to-8 weeks
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers dominated the Cowboys 19-3 on Sunday Night Football as Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense couldn't get anything going.
As bad as the offense looked, it only got worse for Dallas.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said after the game Prescott needs surgery for a fracture near the thumb on his throwing hand and will miss multiple weeks, a season-altering blow for the defending NFC East champs. Reports indicate Prescott could be out for 6-to-8 weeks.
The latest injury came almost two years after the compound fracture of Prescott's right ankle on the same field, a gruesome injury that ended his 2020 season in Week 5.
“It's very disappointing, but injuries happen,” Prescott said. “Can't necessarily control it. Obviously going to miss some time, not be there for my team. And that's what hurts more than anything.”
Tom Brady was in control throughout despite an extended break during training camp to attend to personal issues. The seven-time Super Bowl champ got a big assist from the defense in Todd Bowles' debut as Tampa Bay's coach following three seasons as defensive coordinator.
“I always play the game for my team, my teammates and the organization,” Brady said. “Just being around them is something I always enjoy. It keeps me very grounded, very humble. I feel like just one of the guys. Not many places where I can go where I feel like just one of the guys, but the locker room’s definitely one of those places.”
Steelers upset Bengals; lose T.J. Watt
It was a great start for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Year 1 after Ben Roethlisberger's retirement as they defeated the reigning AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals.
The Steelers defense caused havoc all day for Joe Burrow, who threw four interceptions in the contest before rallying to force overtime in regulation. The Bengals had a chance to kick and extra point to win the game in regulation, but star, young kicker Evan McPherson had the game-winning extra point blocked by Pittsburgh, leading to overtime.
While the Steelers were able to get the 23-20 win over Cincinnati in OT, it didn't come without bad news.
Reigning Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt walked off injured in the fourth quarter, his left arm hanging limply at this side, casting serious doubt on when Pittsburgh might look so fearsome again.
Watt suffered a pectoral injury in the fourth quarter, but the Steelers didn't provide many details after the game. Coach Mike Tomlin said only that “T.J. has been evaluated with an upper-body injury."
Watt was at his disruptive best in Cincinnati, sacking Burrow once and picking off a pass in the first quarter that set up Mitch Trubisky’s 2-yard TD pass to Najee Harris to give Pittsburgh a 17-3 lead.
Losing Watt would be a huge blow to the Steelers, who will have to rely on their defense while trying to get their offense on track. Watt tied the NFL single-season sacks record with 22 1/2 last season despite missing two games.
If Watt tore his pectoral muscle, he likely would miss extended time and potentially the season. His older brother J.J. Watt tore a pec in the middle of the 2019 season while playing for Texas and missed two months.
Baker Mayfield's revenge vs. Browns falls just short
There were a lot of headlines coming into the Week 1 matchup between the Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers after the Browns traded Baker Mayfield to the Panthers in June.
The Cleveland Browns are 1-0 for the first time since 2004 after Cade York kicked a 58-yard field goal with 8 seconds left in his NFL debut, lifting the the Browns to a 26-24 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday that spoiled Mayfield's bid for vengeance after weeks of build-up and supposed barbs.
Mayfield, who spent four seasons with Cleveland prior to being traded in July, finished 16 of 27 for 235 yards with two touchdowns.
“We would love to have the bragging rights against those guys, but we didn’t finish — mostly because we didn’t start (the game) fast enough,” Mayfield said.
Mayfield nearly pulled it off anyway.
He led the Panthers back from a 13-point fourth quarter deficit with a 7-yard touchdown run, a 75-yard TD strike to Robbie Anderson and by moving his team 64 yards in seven plays to set up Eddy Pineiro’s go-ahead field goal with 1:13 remaining.
But the Panthers left too much time on the clock.
“Everybody made this out to the Super Bowl, but despite what everyone is going to make this, there are 16 more games,” Mayfield said after the game. “The Super Bowl is not until February and this is the beginning of September. There was a lot of anticipation, but we’re going to flush this and learn from it and be better from it.”
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