NFL Sunday takeaways: Patriots fall, Bengals sputter, Baker Mayfield struggles

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NFL Sunday takeaways: Patriots fall, Bengals sputter, Baker Mayfield struggles. Make that two straight years the Packers have started off with a surprisingly lopsided loss.

This time, Aaron Rodgers is 38, his man-bun is shorn, and he’s coming off an offseason in which he signed a new contract and opened up about his use of psychedelics.

The internet abounds with commentary about his paycheck, his hairstyle and his hobbies, but the explanation for Sunday’s takedown by the Vikings is unrelated to those pursuits — and much simpler.

The Packers’ offense brought back its future Hall of Fame quarterback, sure, but it was missing too many of the people who quietly help him do his job as well as he has done it for the past decade-plus.

Davante Adams is gone thanks to an offseason trade with the Raiders — and he racked up nearly as many yards (141) against the Chargers as his former quarterback threw in Minneapolis (195).

Let tackle David Bakhtiari was out with a knee injury Sunday, and on the other side of the line, right tackle Elgton Jenkins was banged up and on the sideline, too. As if that wasn’t enough, wide receiver Allen Lazard was inactive with an injured ankle.

Rodgers finished without a touchdown pass in the 23-7 loss, and he was sacked four times for 33 yards.

So will the Packers and their offense bounce back as they did after their 38-3 loss to the Saints last year in Week 1? Maybe, but it feels like a tougher sell without Adams and if the offensive line remains shorthanded.

Speaking of bounce-backs after tough Week 1 losses, the Patriots dug themselves quite a hole against the Dolphins.

Without longtime offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who left to take the Raiders’ head coaching job in the offseason, New England managed just one score all afternoon, a third-quarter touchdown.

Yes, new Miami coach Mike McDaniel has a defense that played lights-out Sunday, which should mitigate some of the panic over Matt Patricia’s play-calling, but New England’s offense bears a good bit of the responsibility for Sunday’s loss.

The Patriots-Dolphins game was one of only two lopsided scores in the early games. Of the nine matchups that kicked off at 1 p.m., two went to overtime, including one that ended in a tie. Four more were one-possession games.

Only the Dolphins’ takedown of the Patriots and the Ravens’ win over the Jets could be considered blowouts.

If you prioritize entertainment over flawless execution, this was the afternoon for you.

Colts running back Jonathan Taylor reached the first milestone of the NFL season. He entered Sunday’s game against the Texans — which ended in a 20-20 tie — with 2,980 rushing yards over his first two seasons, and by the end of the first quarter, he’d hit 3,000.

Taylor finished the game, Matt Ryan’s first as the starting quarterback in Indianapolis, with 161 yards.

There was plenty to be confused about Sunday afternoon in Chicago. For starters, the Bears won.

Quarterback Justin Fields recovered from a poor first half, throwing two touchdowns in the game’s final two quarters and outplaying new Niners starter Trey Lance on a sloppy, mucky field.

Perhaps even more confounding: the towel incident. In the midst of a flood watch, Bears holder Trenton Gill got creative and brought out a towel to try to dry off the grass before a field goal attempt.

Officials took one look at his field-maintenance skills and called a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The Bears were docked 15 yards and forced to punt

The Bengals might have a Super Bowl hangover. But they’re still gutting out games until the end.

On his first play of 2022, quarterback Joe Burrow threw a pick-six, and things just kept getting bleaker. Burrow tossed four interceptions in the first half and faced a 17-6 deficit heading into the third quarter. And then he just kept on throwing.

Burrow finished the day with 338 passing yards and another 47 yards on the ground. Oh, and he was sacked seven times; the Bengals’ revamped offensive line might not yet be fixed.

Considering all that, it’s almost incomprehensible that the Bengals had a chance to win the game in regulation. A blocked extra-point pushed things to overtime for an extended dose of insanity before the Steelers won, 23-20.

Why is Tom Brady back? Because ‘an arm is a terrible thing to waste’

First-half update from Charlotte

It was a mostly dismal first half for Baker Mayfield and his new team, the Carolina Panthers, against Mayfield’s former team, the Cleveland Browns.

The quarterback threw an interception, and the Panthers faced a two-touchdown deficit. There were boos for the home team’s offense at a few points at Bank of America Stadium.

Mayfield and the Panthers did manage to regroup for a touchdown late in the second quarter. But they trail the Browns at halftime, 17-7.

Mayfield completed 10 of 19 first-half passes for 101 yards in his Panthers debut. He threw a second-quarter interception to Browns safety Grant Delpit. That led to a one-yard touchdown pass from Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett to tailback Kareem Hunt.

Hunt, who reportedly asked to be traded before the season, added a 24-yard touchdown run to extend the Browns’ lead to 14-0. Mayfield’s 50-yard completion to tight end Ian Thomas set up a one-yard touchdown run by tailback Christian McCaffrey 1:57 before halftime.

The Browns responded with a 26-yard field goal by kicker Cade York 21 seconds before the break. Brissett, starting in place of the suspended Deshaun Watson, completed eight of 18 passes for 75 yards in the half.

Pregame news and analysis

Second-year quarterback Trey Lance, as he begins his first full season as the starter for the San Francisco 49ers, won’t have the help of tight end George Kittle in Sunday’s opener at Chicago.

The 49ers placed Kittle on their game-day inactive list.

Kittle had been listed as questionable on the Niners’ injury report because of a groin injury. He did not practice Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.

The 49ers will face the Bears on a wet, sloppy field. It has been raining heavily this morning in Chicago.

Ravens shorthanded: The Baltimore Ravens will be without cornerback Marcus Peters, tailback J.K. Dobbins and left tackle Ronnie Stanley as they face the New York Jets in an early-afternoon game in East Rutherford, N.J.

All three are on the Ravens’ inactive list

Stanley had been listed as doubtful on the injury report. Dobbins and Peters had been listed as questionable.

Dobbins and Peters missed all of last season because of knee injuries. Stanley played in one game last season before undergoing ankle surgery.
Thomas, Mathieu active for Saints: Wide receiver Michael Thomas and safety Tyrann Mathieu are active for the New Orleans Saints for their 1 p.m. Eastern time game at Atlanta.

Each had been listed as questionable for the game on the Saints’ injury report, Thomas with a hamstring injury and Mathieu with an illness.

Thomas missed all of last season because of an ankle injury. He has not played a full season since 2019, when he had 149 catches for 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns.

Week 1 preview: Baker Mayfield vs. the Browns and plenty more QB intrigue

Deshaun Watson won’t make his debut for the Cleveland Browns on this first Sunday of the NFL season. The quarterback is serving his 11-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

But four quarterbacks who changed teams in the offseason as part of the fallout from Watson’s trade and suspension — the Browns’ Jacoby Brissett, the Carolina Panthers’ Baker Mayfield, the Indianapolis Colts’ Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons’ Marcus Mariota — will make their first starts for their new franchises Sunday.

Mayfield issued what amounted to a farewell to Cleveland as the Browns pursued a Watson trade in March. He sought to be traded and eventually was accommodated with a July deal to the Panthers.

The Falcons traded Ryan to the Colts, unable or unwilling to repair their relationship with the former league MVP after their failed pursuit of Watson.

To replace Ryan, they signed Mariota, the former No. 2 selection in the NFL draft who had been relegated to backup status in the previous two seasons with the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Browns, knowing they would move on from Mayfield, signed Brissett to back up Watson. Brissett has made 37 career starts for the New England Patriots, Colts and Miami Dolphins.

The NFL schedule-makers cannot take credit for setting up a grudge match between Mayfield and the Watson-less Browns in Week 1. The schedule was released in May. But it worked out that way.

“I think it’s a great storyline,” Mayfield said at a midweek news conference. “Obviously there’s history involved. … Any time you’re playing guys you know, it makes it just more interesting, more fun.”

Mayfield said last week he “didn’t have any say” in the design of the “Off the Leash” T-shirts he recently promoted on social media, seemingly a reference to his separation from the Browns and their “Dawg Pound” fans. He maintained this is not a revenge game.

“I’m grateful for the time I had in Cleveland,” Mayfield said, adding that his Browns tenure ended “abruptly and unexpectedly.”

There is quarterback intrigue leaguewide Sunday. Carson Wentz, traded by the Colts and the Philadelphia Eagles in successive offseasons, makes his Washington Commanders debut. Mitchell Trubisky makes his first start as the Pittsburgh Steelers open the post-Ben Roethlisberger era.

And second-year pro Trey Lance debuts as the full-time starter for the San Francisco 49ers, with former starter Jimmy Garoppolo surprisingly still on hand as an alternative.

Lamar Jackson takes the field on the final season of his contract after failing to agree to an extension with the Baltimore Ravens.

He faces the New York Jets and Joe Flacco, Baltimore’s former Super Bowl-winning quarterback who’s filling in for Zach Wilson.

Jameis Winston returns from the torn ACL in his left knee that cut short his 2021 season with the New Orleans Saints.

The Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa and the New York Giants’ Daniel Jones begin make-or-break seasons. Mac Jones’s second NFL season begins after consternation in training camp and the preseason over the lack of clarity about the Patriots’ offensive play-caller.

The Cincinnati Bengals’ Joe Burrow and Los Angeles Chargers’ Justin Herbert attempt to cement themselves as top MVP contenders.

Derek Carr tries to capitalize on the Raiders’ offseason trade for wide receiver Davante Adams. Tom Brady emerges from an offseason in which he retired and then unretired, followed by a Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ training camp in which he turned 45 and took an 11-day hiatus.

But perhaps no quarterback would savor a big performance and a victory Sunday more than Mayfield, no matter how hard he tried to say the right things publicly in recent days.

“It’d mean that I came here and did what I was trying to do,” Mayfield said. “I came here to win ballgames.”

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