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NFL 2018 Week 1 Recap

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

NFL 2018 Week 1 Recap

After 7 months, the agony known as the offseason was over. Real football was back. A few hours before the season started, sad news broke that Burt Reynold had died at age 82. He was more than just “The Bandit” from “Smokey and the Bandit.” He played running back for the Florida State Seminoles before becoming an actor. He played quarterback Paul Crewe in the football movie “The Longest Yard.” He loved football and we loved him.

With that, here is the NFL 2018 Week 1 Recap.

Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles was the Thursday night game. The defending Super Bowl champions barely survived a 15-10 playoff slugfest last year. The rematch was also in Philadelphia. Carson went was still injured, so Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles got the start. The Vince Lombardi Trophy was hoisted by Jeffrey Lurie after a rousing introduction by 2018 Hall of Fame enshrinee Brian Dawkins. After a 30 minute delay due to lightning, the 2018 regular season began and men played football.

The Falcons won the toss, and the first play from scrimmage was a false start. The offense then moved forward easily. Matt Ryan hit Julio Jones for 10 yards and Devonta Freeman ran for 20 more. On 3rd and 10 from the Philly 39, Ryan went deep to Jones for a 33 yard gain. On 2nd and goal from the one, Freeman got stopped. Ryan then threw incomplete. Dan Quinn decided to go for it on 4th and goal at the one. Freeman ran off tackle and lost a yard as the Eagles celebrated the goal line stand. The Eagles quickly went 3 and out on their first possession, and the Falcons got it back at the Atlanta 44. On 3rd and 5, Matty Ice scrambled for 6 yards. A perfectly executed screen pass from Ryan to Tevin Coleman went for 26 yards. On 3rd and goal at the 7, Ryan was sacked but offsides gave the Falcons another chance. On 3rd and goal at the 3, Ryan threw incomplete. Matt Bryant hit the 21 yard field goal for a 3-0 Falcons lead.

Early in the second quarter a field position game had the Eagles taking over at their own 40 yard line. On 3rd and 7, Nick Foles hit Nelson Agholor for 10 yards. On 3rd and 7 from the Atlanta 17, Foles threw incomplete but defensive pass interference meant 1st and goal at the 9. Offensive holding on the next play killed the drive. Jake Elliott hit the 26 yard field goal. The 14 play drive took 8 minutes off the clock to move 52 yards for a 3-3 tie with 6 minutes left in the half. After a touchback, Ryan hooked up with Jones for a 22 yard gain. Roughing the passer had the Falcons facing 3rd and 8 at the Philly 25. Ryan was sacked to kill the drive. Bryant nailed a 52 yard field goal to make it 6-3 Falcons with just over 2 minutes left in the half.

The Falcons missed a chance to extend the lead in the third quarter on a very controversial call. From the Atlanta 32, Ryan went deep to Jones for a 52 yard gain. Although Jones juggled the ball, it appeared that he maintained control just before going out of bounds. Officials called it an incomplete pass, and Dan Quinn’s challenge was unsuccessful. The Eagles got it back at their own 37. On 3rd and 5 from the Atlanta 41, Doug Pederson went to the bag of tricks just as he did during the Super Bowl. Foles pitched the ball, and it was then pitched to Nelson Agholor, who lobbed a pass to Foles for a 15 yard gain. On 3rd and 8 from the Atlanta 24, Foles did it the traditional way with an 18 yard completion to Zac Ertz. Jay Ajayi banged in from one yard out for the game’s first touchdown and a 10-6 Eagles lead with 4 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter.

The game took another turn very late in the third quarter. The Falcons punted, and a bunch of Falcons players were around the ball as it was rolling to a stop. Somehow the ball hit the foot of the only Eagles player in the vicinity. Had any of the Falcons players touched it first, the Eagles could try and touch it without any downside. However, since it bounced off the Eagles player first, it became a live ball. The Falcons recovered at the Eagles 30 with 20 seconds left in the third quarter. On 3rd and 5 from the 25 on the first play of the fourth quarter, Matt Ryan was sacked to the brink of outside field goal range. That was the blunder that cost the Falcons the Super Bowl two years ago. Yet this time the Eagles jumped offside, giving the Falcons another first down. It didn’t matter. On 3rd and 3 from the 15, Ryan fired to the corner and was intercepted by Douglas at the four yard line with 13 minutes left in regulation.

On 3rd and 1 from their own 13, Agholor got around the end for a 16 yard gain. On the next play Foles fired to Goedert. The pass was right in Goedert’s bread basket, but Goedert got blasted and the ball popped right into the arms of Deion Jones. Jones returned the interception 20 yards to the Philly 27. Ryan then went to Julio jones for an 18 yard gain. Coleman then went straight up the gut for a 9 yard touchdown. The extra point was doinked off the upright as the Falcons clung to a 12-10 lead with 10 minutes left.

An exchange of punts favored the Eagles when a facemark against Atlanta on the return gave the Eagles the ball at their own 46 with 5 minutes to play. On 3rd and 8, Foles hit Darren Sproles for a 9 yard gain. On 3rd and 2 from the Atlanta 35, Clement went off-tackle for a 21 yard gain. Two plays later Ajayi ran for a 11 yard touchdown. Ajayi bulled in for the 2 point conversion to give the Eagles a 6 point lead with 2:19 to play.

After a touchback and a 6 yard gain, the Falcons raced to get off one more play before the 2 minute warning. Ryan got the snap off just in time and fired a laser over the middle to Jones. Jones split the seam and raced for a 36 yard gain to the Philly 33 with 1:54 left. A sack of Ryan left the Falcons facing 3rd and 17. Matty Ice calmly found Jones for an 18 yard gain at the Philly 22. Every play was a roller coaster. Ryan hit Jones for 9 but on 2nd and 1 took another sack for a 7 yard loss. On 3rd and 8 from the Philly 20, Ryan went to Mohammed San for a 10 yard gain as the Falcons called timeout with 24 seconds left.

Last year in the playoffs the Falcons had 4 chances from inside the 10 yard line. The Eagles held on defense en route to winning it all. This time the Falcons had 1st and goal at the 10. Ryan threw four straight incompletions, but this time the Falcons would get a 5th chance. On 4th and goal from the 10, illegal contact gave the Falcons 1st and goal at the 5 with one second left. Ryan threw a fade to Jones, who was well defended. Jones caught the ball, but was pushed out of bounds in the air. There is no longer a force out rule, so it was another incompletion. This time there were no flags. Again, the Eagles survived an old-time headknocker with the Falcons that came down to one play. It would be very good for the NFL if the remaining 255 regular season games are as exciting at the finish as this one. 18-12 Eagles

Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens — The Bills broke the NFL’s longest current playoff drought last year by eking into the postseason for the first time in 18 years with a 9-7 record. They appeared to be on the rise, and Baltimore was a team on the decline. Then the 2018 season started. Nathan Peterman started the game. He was the quarterback who threw five interceptions in the first half of a game he did not play in after halftime. This game was just as bad. Peterman finished 5 of 18 for 24 yards and 2 interceptions. This game was over from the start.

The Ravens marched 80 yards in 10 plays and 6 1/2 minutes. Collins ran for an 8 yard touchdown and a 7-0 Ravens lead. Baltimore got it back and moved 66 yards in 10 plays. Joe Flacco hit Brown for a 7 yard touchdown. The Ravens led 14-0 after the first quarter and the rout was on.

In the second quarter a 51 yard punt return set up the Ravens at the Buffalo 20. Justin Tucker hit a 41 yard field goal to make it 17-0 Ravens. The Bills would recover a Baltimore fumble at the Baltimore 35. The Bills gained one yard and missed a field goal. With the Bills facing 3rd and 8 at their own 18, Peterman found Jefferson. Jefferson plays defense for the Ravens, and he returned the interception 15 yards to the Buffalo 29. Tucker hit from 39 for a 20-0 Ravens lead. With 2:48 left in the half, the Ravens took over at their own 15. Flacco worked the two minute drill perfectly. With seconds left in the half, he hit Michael Crabtree for a 12 yard touchdown. The 2 point conversion try failed, which was the only thing Ravens fans could complain about as the Ravens took a 26-0 lead into the locker rooms.

For some reason the second half was played. League rules required this. In the third quarter the Bills fumbled the snap on a punt, and the Ravens took over at the Buffalo 14. Flacco hit Will Snead for a 13 yard touchdown and a 33-0 Ravens blowout. With the Bills facing 3rd and 11 at their own 26, Peterman found Carr. Carr also plays defense for Baltimore. Carr returned the interception 32 yards down to the Buffalo one yard line. Allen got in on the next play to make it 40-0 Ravens after three quarters.

Allen came in for Peterman, who has never finished an NFL game. In his three starts, Peterman was injured once and got benched twice. Allen moved the Bills to a 1st and goal at the 3. He was sacked. On 3rd and goal at the 5, he was sacked for a 12 yard loss. To avoid the shutout, Sean McDermott opted for the field goal. It was good. On the other sideline, Flacco came into the season knowing he would eventually be replaced by rookie Lamar Jackson. John Harbaugh did bench Flacco, but only because the Ravens led by 40 points. Jackson got his first NFL action under the best possible circumstances. On 3rd and 15 from the Baltimore 46, Jackson found Williams for 24 yards and ran for 16 more. Dixon ran for the 2 yard touchdown to complete the blowout. Flacco finished 25 of 34 for 236 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. 47-3 Ravens

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns — The Browns finished 1-15 two years ago and 0-16 last year. The Steelers finished 13-3 last year. Even with LeVeon holding out, the Steelers were expected to extend their winning over the pathetic Charlie Browns. As ESPN uber-announcer reminds us, “THAT’s why they PLAY the games.”

The first quarter was scoreless. The Steelers had one drive that began at midfield and moved to a 3rd and 5 at the Cleveland 18. Ben Roethlisberger was then intercepted at the 10. The Steelers got it back at their own 12. On the last play of the first quarter on 3rd and 2 from their own 20, Roethlisberger hit James for 37 yards. On 3rd and 6 from the Cleveland 39, Big Ben ran for a 15 yard gain. On 3rd and 7 from the Cleveland 8, Roethlisberger threw incomplete. However, a roughing the passer penalty kept the drive going. In place of Bell was Connor. Connor ran for a 4 yard touchdown and a 7-0 Steelers lead.

After a touchback the Browns moved to a 3rd and 5 at the Pittsburgh 33. Josh Gordon took an unnecessary toughness penalty to push the Browns out of field goal range. The Steelers got it back at their own 12. Roethlisberger went for it all but was intercepted at the Cleveland 28. The Steelers got it back at their own 9 and moved to the Cleveland 37. Roethlisberger was intercepted for the third time in the half. Ward returned it 26 yards to the Pittsburgh 45. A run lost 6 yards. On the last play of the half Tyrod Taylor never got to launch the Hail Mary. He was sacked again and fumbled. The Browns defense was keeping them in the game as they only trailed 7-0 at halftime.

The Browns appeared in deep trouble to start the third quarter when a sack of Taylor had the Browns facing 2nd and 20 at their own 4 yard line. On the next play, defensive holding kept the drive going. Hue Jackson employed something called the run and run offense. Carlos Hyde carried the ball 5 straight times. Then Chubb carried it twice for 5 and 17 yards. After Johnson got stopped, the ninth straight carry was Taylor scrambling for a 20 yard touchdown. Now the game was tied 7-7.

The Steelers took over at their own 26 and again Roetlisberger went for the bomb. He hit Juju Smith-Schuster for a 67 yard gain. On 2nd and goal at the 2, a touchdown was nullified by offensive holding. On 2nd and goal at the 12, another touchdown was nullified by offensive illegal use of hands. On 2nd and goal at the 22, Roethlisberger went deep to Antonio Brown for the touchdown. This time it stood as the Steelers led 14-7. The Browns punted, and Ryan Switzer returned it 20 yards to the Cleveland 39. Conner ran for 17 and then for a 22 yard touchdown. Just like that, the Steelers led 21-7 after three quarters. This was another game where the Browns hung around for awhile but eventually got dominated.

Not this time. A key decision came with 12:15 to play. The Steelers faced 4th and 6 at the Cleveland 34. Mike Tomlin opted against a 52 yard field goal try that would have pretty much salted the game away. Rather than go for it, he opted to punt and play field position. Midway through the fourth quarter, on 4th and 5 from the Pittsburgh 18, Taylor threw incomplete. The Browns appeared dead. On the next play, Connor fumbled and Jabril Peppers picked it up. Peppers ran 16 yards down to the Pittsburgh one yard line. Hyde got in and the Browns were within 21-14.

Two plays later from the Pittsburgh 45, Roethlisberger was sacked and fumbled. The Browns took over at the Pittsburgh 37. The Steelers held on defense and punted it back. Peppers returned the punt 15 yards to the Cleveland 45 with 2:10 to play. Taylor went deep to Higgins for 38 yards and then threw a 17 yard touchdown pass to Josh Gordon. At the 2 minute warning, the Dawg Pound was in a frenzy as the game was tied 21-21.

The Browns took their final timeout on defense as they held again and got the ball back. With 23 seconds left they were at the Pittsburgh 43. A few more yards would mean very long field goal range. Instead Taylor went for it all and was intercepted. The game was headed to overtime. Surely the Browns would find a way to lose. In overtime the Browns punted twice and the Steelers punted once, with a short 29 yard punt giving the Steelers the ball at their own 45 with 4 1/2 minutes left in overtime. With 1:47 left in overtime, Chris Boswell came in for a 42 yarder to win it for the Steelers.

No good! The Browns were still alive. The offense again did nothing and the Steelers got the ball back. With 48 seconds left from the Pittsburgh 38, Roethlisberger was sacked and fumbled. The Browns recovered at the Pittsburgh 24. After a safe run lost a yard, Gonzalez came in for a 43 yard field goal try to win it for the Browns. 13 seconds remained. Blocked! The kick was blocked, and the game ended in a tie. The Browns did not win, but they did not lose. They tied. They will win some games this season. Steelers fans will probably burn Mike Tomlin in effigy, because they always tend to overreact when it comes to Tomlin. As for the Browns, we will know in a few weeks if this tie game meant anything. They showed a ton of heart in overcoming a 14 point fourth quarter deficit. There would be no Pittsburgh Rosh Hashanah Jew New Years miracles, and Ben Roethlisberger and Juju Smith-Schuster are still not Jewish. 21-21 tie, OT

Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts — These two teams have both fallen on hard times. Both quarterbacks begin the season reinvigorated. Red Rifle Andy Dalton is clearly entrenched as the starter. Andrew Luck is finally back from injury after missing all of last season with a shoulder injury. Early on it was the kickers taking center stage. Randy Bullock hit a 42 yarder for the Bengals. Ageless wonder Adam Vinatieri hit a 21 yarder for the Colts for a 3-3 game after the first quarter.

In the second quarter Luck passed the Colts into a 10-3 lead with a 26 yard touchdown pass to Eric Ebron. The Colts got it back and had their second consecutive 58 yard drive. Vinatieri hit a 38 yard field goal to make it 13-3 Colts with 3 minutes left in the half. After a touchback, the Bengals soon faced 3rd and 1 at their own 34. Joe Mixon ran for a 27 yard gain. A 36 yard defensive pass interference penalty put the ball on the 3 yard line. From there Dalton fired to John Ross for the touchdown as the Bengals were within 13-10 with 1:44 left in the half.

That was enough time for Luck to move the Colts from their own 24 to the Cincinnati 33 with 6 seconds left. Vinatieri drilled a 51 yard field goal as the Colts led 16-10 at the break. After an exchange of punts in the third quarter, the Colts took over at their own 40. Luck fired to Grant for 12 yards. On 3rd and 3 from the Concy 32, Luck went to Ebron for 12. On 3rd and 4 from the Cincy 14, Luck went to Doyle for 9. luck then found TY Hilton for the 5 yard touchdown. The Colts had a 23-10 lead and were looking good. Then the game completely changed.

After a touchback, the Bengals soon faced 3rd and 6 at their own 40. Dalton scrambled for 7 yards. He then went deep to AJ Green for a 38 yard touchdown to get the Bengals within 23-17 with 4 minutes left in the third quarter. After a touchback, the Colts moved to a 2nd and 6 at the Cincinnati 29. A sack of Luck had first year head coach Frank Reich with a big decision to make. Reich gambled on a 55 yard field goal to give the Colts some breathing room. Vinatieri is the most clutch kicker of all time, but this one was no good as the third quarter ended.

The Bengals took over at their own 45. On 3rd and 15 from the Indy 47, Dalton threw incomplete. However, defensive pass interference gave the Bengals 8 yards and a new set of downs. On the next play, a horse collar tackle tacked on 15 more yards. Dalton then hit Mixon for 15 more to the 9 yard line. On 3rd and goal at the one, Mixon got the yard. With 11 minutes left in regulation, the Bengals had a 24-23 lead.

The Colts went 3 and out and the Bengals took over at their own 21. An 11 play, 6 minute drive had the Bengals facing 3rd and 8 at the Indy 43. Dalton hit Boyd for a 17 yard gain. Despite 1st and 10 at the Indy 21, the drive went no further. Bullock hit a 39 yard field goal. With 4 minutes left, the Bengals had a 27-23 advantage.

Luck had the ball, and was intent on leading a heroic comeback in his return. A pair of incompletions after a touchback had the Colts facing 3rd and 10 at their own 25. Luck found Doyle for 12 yards. On 3rd and 2 from the Indy 45, Luck hit Rogers for 7 yards. With 1:10 to play, the Colts had 1st and 10 at the Cincy 25. A short pass actually lost 5 yards. With 40 seconds left, the Colts faced 3rd and 15 from the Cincy 30. Then came the play of the game. Luck found Doyle for 15 yards. It would have been 1st and 10 from the 15 with 4 shots at the end zone. Instead Doyle fumbled and Fejedelem recovered. Making matters worse, Fejedelem raced the other way for an 83 yard defensive touchdown in front of a shellshocked home crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Both quarterbacks finished with 2 touchdowns and one interception. Luck finished 39 of 53 for 319 yards passing. Dalton was 21 of 28 for 243 yards. Yet 24 unanswered points including 17 in the fourth quarter gave the Bengals the win. For Marvin, Lewis, who after 17 years seems on the hot seat in Cincinnati every week, it was a positive start to the season. 34-23 Bengals

Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins — This was a game that belonged to the elements. Twice the game was suspended due to severe lightning storms in the Miami area. The weather was miserable, and so are these two incredibly boring teams. In the first quarter Ryan Succop hit a 37 yard field goal to get the Titans on the board. In the second quarter the Dolphins mounted a 98 yard drive. Ryan Tannehill hit Kenny Stills for a 10 yard touchdown pass and a 7-3 Dolphins halftime lead. After a nearly 2 1/2 hour delay midway through the third quarter, Mariota threw his second interception and left the game with an elbow injury. Nothing make a game thrilling like Blaine Gabbert, who finished the game. For those who prefer boxing, tempers flared and fights broke out throughout the game. Meanwhile. Sanders hit a 27 yard field goal as the Dolphins led 10-3 after three quarters. In the fourth quarter the weather calmed down and the action finally picked up. In fact, it got downright exciting.

First the Titans moved 75 yards. Lewis ran for a 4 yard touchdown for a 10-10 tie. 13 seconds later the Dolphins had the lead again as Grant returned the ensuing kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown. The Dolphins got the ball back at their own 11 Tannehill quickly hooked up with Kenny Stills for a 75 yard touchdown and a 24-10 Dolphins lead. 11 seconds later the Titans were back within 24-17 when Jennings returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a score with 10 minutes left in regulation.

The rest of the game turned into a battle of who wanted it least. With 9 minutes left and the Dolphins facing 3rd and 15 at their own 20, Tannehill went deep and was intercepted. The Titans took over at their own 43. On 2rd and 4 from the Miami 41, Gabbert was intercepted by Jones, who returned it 54 yards to the Tennessee 12 with 6 minutes left. With less than 4 minutes left, Sanders hit a 30 yard field goal to make it 27-17 Dolphins. With 3:11 to play, on 4th and 7 from the Tennessee 43, Gabbert threw incomplete. Tennessee got it back at their own 20 with 1:07 to play and 0 timeouts. Needing 2 scores, Succop drilled a 53 yard field goal to get the Titans back within 7 points. Only 11 seconds remained. The onside kick failed. Mike Vrabel had a loss in his NFL coaching debut as Miami got the win. 27-20 Dolphins

San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings — Last year the Minnesota Vikings were one game away from playing the Super Bowl in their own city and their own stadium. They had three quality quarterbacks. Mike Zimmer traded them all and paid a king’s ransom to Kirk Cousins to get them over the hump. The 49ers started last year 1-10 before Tom Brady’s former backup Jimmy Garoppollo became a rock star in a 5-0 finish down the stretch. Garoppollo can play, but a road game against one of the league’s stingiest defense would be a good starting measuring stick. Zimmer’s defense came out ready.

In the first quarter Carlson hit a 48 yard field goal to get the Vikings on the board first. A field position game had the Vikings beginning the second quarter with a 3rd and 3 at the San Francisco 46. Cousins found Cook for 17 yards and Sean Diggs for a 22 yard touchdown to make it 10-0 49ers. Robbie Gould did hit a 42 yard field goal for the 49ers, but after that the defenses took over for the rest of the half. The 49ers recovered a Minnesota fumble at their own 29. They then embarked on an 8 minute drive. Yet on 2nd and goal at the one, Alfred Morris fumbled and the Vikings recovered. The Vikings moved from their own 2 to the San Francisco 44 with 6 seconds left in the half. Cousins was sacked before he could try the Hail Mary.

After an exchange of punts in the third quarter, the 49ers faced 3rd and 8 at their own 20. Garoppollo was intercepted by Hughes, who returned it 28 yards for a touchdown and a 17-3 Vikings lead. Garoppollo came right back after a touchback and went deep to Juszczyk for a 56 yard gain. Yet on 2nd and 6 from the Minnesota 15, Jimmy G threw incomplete twice. Gould hit from 33 to get the 49ers within 17-6. After a touchback, Cousins did what he was paid $84 million in guaranteed money to do. On 3rd and 5 from the Minnesota 41, Cousins went to Adam Thielen for a 34 yard gain. An 11 yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph had the 49ers dominating 24-6 with 4 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter.

Garoppollo tried to mount a rally. He threw a 22 yard touchdown pass to Pettis to get the 49ers within 24-13 after three quarters. The 49ers started the fourth quarter at their own 31. Garoppollo was quickly intercepted again, but the 49ers held on defense. The 49ers moved from their 14 to a 3rd and goal at the 4 with a little over 8 minutes to play in the game. Garoppollo threw incomplete. Needing 2 scores, Kyle Shanahan opted for the field goal. Gould hit the 22 yarder and the 49ers were within 8 points. With 1:45 to play and the 49ers at their own 11, Garoppollo went deep and was intercepted again. Cousins finished 20 of 36 for 244 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. Garoppollo had a rough outing, going 15 of 33 for 261 yards, one touchdown, and 3 interceptions. The Vikings believed coming into the season that they were now a complete team. Time will tell, but on this day they were. 24-16 Vikings

Houston Texans at New England Patriots — Bill O’Brien frequently goes 9-7 and sees his squad get blasted by the Patriots. With a healthy DeShaun Watson back in the lineup, this was the best chance the Texans would have to be more than New England’s punching bag. The Patriots were supposedly a group in a dysfunctional state, with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski angry at Bill Belichick’s dictatorial ways. Ignore the gossip. It was business as usual.

In a surprising turn of events, New England came out with 3 straight running plays. They went 3 and out and the Texans took over at their own 22. Watson’s first snap out of the shotgun was a fumbled snap recovered by the Patriots at the Houston 19. On 3rd and 12, Brady went to Gronkowski for a 21 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Patriots. Later on the Patriots faced 3rd and 6 at their own 10. Brady was intercepted by Mathieu give the Texans a golden opportunity with 1st and 10 at the New England 17. On 3rd and 10, Watson was sacked. Fairbairn hit the 42 yard field goal to get the Texans on the board, but it was a moral victory for New England. The Patriots moved 75 yards and began the second quarter with a 4th and 1 at the Houston 25. Belichick went for it and Brady snuck for 2 yards. Brady threw a 12 yard touchdown pass to White to make it 14-3 Patriots.

From the Houston 37, the Texans again moved into the red zone. From the New England 15, Watson was sacked again to stop the threat. Fairbairn hit from 36 to get the Texans within 14-6. With 5 1/2 minutes left in the half from the New England 42, Watson went for it all and was intercepted in the end zone. With 90 seconds left in the half of a reasonably close game, the Patriots did what they have done throughout their 18 year dynasty. They delivered the kill shot. Hill ran for gains of 8 and 11. Brady went deep to Gronkowski for 28 yards. Ronny bulkhead fumbled, but the Patriots retained possession when Chris Hogan fell on it. Brady hit Dorsett for 12, 14 and then for the 4 yard touchdown. With a 21-6 halftime lead, the Patriots coasted.

In the third quarter Gronkowski fumbled and the Texans took over at their own 45. However, on 4th and 5 from the New England 17, Bill O’Brien went for it and Watson threw incomplete. Stephen Gostkowski would hit a 39 yard field goal to give the Patriots a 24-6 lead. With Watson struggling, Houston got its ground game going. Alfred Blue ran for 17 and 11 and Miller tacked on gains of 5 and 6. Blue ran for a one yard touchdown as the Texans trailed 24-13 after three quarters. New England then held the ball for 7 minutes on a 13 play drive. Gostkowski hit a 35 yard field goal with 10 minutes left for a 27-13 Patriots lead.

With 4 1/2 minutes left the Patriots fumbled a punt and the Texans recovered at the New England 16. Watson hit Ellington for a 5 yard touchdown with 2:08 to play. The Texans used their timeouts and held on defense, but a perfect punt pinned the Texans back at their own one yard line with only 43 seconds to play. With 5 seconds left from the Houston 43, Watson’s Hail Mary was incomplete. Bill Belichick won his 251st game to move into third place all time, one win ahead of Tom Landry. Yet Belichick will probably complain about how his team slept through the second half and played poorly. They won, which will not satisfy him in the slightest. That is why he wins. 27-20 Patriots

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints — This was supposed to be a tuneup for the Saints, who last year were one Minneapolis Miracle away from the NFC Title Game. The Buccaneers were a dumpster fire and Jameis Winston was suspended the first 3 games. Sean Payton and Drew Brees were expected to steamroll Tampa Bay easily. Again, cue ESPN uber-announcer Chris Berman. “THAT’S why they PLAY the games.” The Saints made it look easy at the start from their own 29. Brees connected with Alvin Kamara for a 35 yard gain. On 3rd and 2 from the Tampa 5, Kamara ran it in for a 7-0 Saints lead. The backup quarterback for the Buccaneers looks like a homeless person, but it is actually Ryan Fitzpatrick and his magic beard. Fitzpatrick can actually play football. The Buccaneers took over at their own 32. From their 42, Fitzpatrick went deep to DeSean Jackson for a 58 yard touchdown and a 7-7 ballgame.

The Saints moved 11 plays in over 5 minutes from their 25 to a 3rd and 3 at the Tampa 17. Brees threw incomplete. Wil Lutz hit the 36 yard field goal for a 10-7 Saints lead. After a touchback, Barber ran for 23 yards and again for 12 more. Fitzpatrick then hit Godwin for16 yards and to Mike Evans for 21 more. Fitzpatrick got the last 3 yards himself as the Buccaneers led 14-10 after a wild first quarter of a game that was just heating up. From the Saints 26, Brees hit Ted Ginn for 9 yards and Thomas for 35 more. On the first play of the second quarter, Brees went deep to Ginn for a 28 yard touchdown and a 17-14 Saints lead. After a touchback, Fitzpatrick hit Godwin for 16. On 3rd and 4 from their own 47, Fitzpatrick went to Howard for a 35 yard gain. On 3rd and 7 from the Saints 15, Fitzpatrick threw incomplete. Chandler Catanzaro hit the 33 yard field goal for a 17-17 ballgame.

The Saints went 3 and out after a sack of Brees and the Bucs soon faced 3rd and 2 at their own 30. Fitzpatrick put on a clinic, hitting Evans for 12, Howard for 19, and Evans again for 15. On 3rd and 6 from the 9, Fitzpatrick went to Godwin for the touchdown and the 24-17 Buccaneers lead. The Saints took over at their own 32 and disaster struck immediately. Mike Gillislee fumbled and Evans returned it 34 yards for a defensive touchdown and a 31-17 Buccaneers lead. With 4 1/2 minutes left in the half, Brees went to work. He hit Kamara for 18 yards and again for 23 more. On 3rd and 1 from the Tampa 6, Brees hit Thomas for the touchdown with one minute left in the half. The Saints and their pinball offense had put up 24 points. Their supposedly fixed defense was not expecting a Buccaneers pinball offense led by Fitzpatrick to put up 31 points.

In the third quarter the Buccaneers kept rolling. This was not the ugly Buc Ball of defense bailing out the offense. This was offense scoring at will. Fitzpatrick hit Evans and Jackson for a pair of 10 yard gains. From the Saints 36, Fitzpatrick went deep to Evans for a 32 yard gain with roughing the passer making 1st and goal at the 2. On 3rd and goal at the 3, Fitzpatrick threw incomplete and an unnecessary roughness penalty on the offense meant 4th and goal at the 18. Catanzaro hit the 36 yard field goal to make it 34-24 Buccaneers. Later in the third quarter, the Buccaneers took over at their own 26. Fitzpatrick went to Humphries 20 yards. On 3rd and 6 from midfield, Fitzpatrick went deep to Evans for the 50 yard touchdown. After three quarters the Buccaneers had a 41-24 lead.

The third quarter was ending with the Saints at their own 44. Brees hit Thomas for a 19 yard gain but fumbled the ball away. The Buccaneers took over at their own 35. The bucs faced 3rd and 4 at their own 41 to start the fourth quarter Fitzpatrick hit Evans for 7 yards. On 3rd and 9 just shy of midfield, Fitzpatrick threw incomplete but defensive pass interference gave the buccaneers 15 yards. On the next play Fitzpatrick went deep to Jackson for a 36 yard touchdown. In front of a stunned home crowd, the Buccaneers led 48-24 with 12 1/2 minutes left in regulation. The Saints still had Brees.

After a touchback Brees hit Carr for 9 and Watson for gains of 6 and 21. Unnecessary roughness on the next play tacked on 15 more yards. On 4th and 4 from the Tampa 13, Brees hit Watson for 6. On 3rd and goal at the one, Kamara got in. Kamara ran in the 2 point conversion to get the Saints within 48-32 with 9 minutes left. Tampa Bay moved from their 25 to a 4th and 3 at the Saints 26. Catanzaro came in for a 44 yard field goal try to ice the game. The kick was no good with 5 minutes left, and the Saints clung to life. From the Saints 34, Brees hit Thomas for 13, Ginn for 16, Thomas for 21 and 9, and Kamara for the 7 yard touchdown. Brees hit Ginn for another successful 2 point conversion. With 3 1/2 minutes left, the Saints were within 8 points.

With 2:42 to play and the Saints out of timeouts, everything came down to the Bucs facing 3rd and 11 at their own 24. One more stop and Brees would get the ball back. Fitzpatrick scrambled for 12 yards and then took 3 knees. Brees finished a ridiculous 37 of 45 for 439 yards and 3 touchdowns with 0 interceptions. Somehow the Saints lost. Fitzpatrick was a red hot 21 of 28 for 417 yards and 4 touchdowns, also with 0 interceptions. Jameis Winston may not get his job back if Fitzpatrick and his magic beard keep playing like this. Meanwhile, somebody needs to give Brees a defense. When you put up 40 points and lose, the offense is not the problem. 48-40 Buccaneers

Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Giants — This was the first Captain Grumpy Bowl, as Tom Coughlin came back to try and beat the team that forced him out a couple of years ago. The Jaguars made the AFC Title Game last year while the Giants were a 2-14 mess. This was the first game for Pat Shurmur as Giants head coach. As expected, it was a fairly ugly game with plenty of defense. The field goal kickers did most of the work. Josh Lambo hit a 39 yarder for the Jaguars, and Alex Rosas responded from 27 for a 3-3 game. In the second quarter Lambo hit again from 39. The Jaguars got it back and moved 57 yards. Blake Bortles threw a one yard touchdown pass to TJ Yeldon for a 13-3 Jaguars lead. Rosas hit from 31 and in the third quarter from 44 as the Giants trailed 13-9 after three quarters.

With 11 1/2 minutes left in regulation, Eli Manning was intercepted by Myles Jack, who returned it 32 yards for a defensive touchdown and a 20-9 Jaguars lead. The Giants came back two plays later when rookie running back Saquon Barkley raced for a 68 yard touchdown. The 2 point try failed but the Giants were within 5 points. Both defenses dug in for the rest of the game and the Giants were down to their final chance. The Jaguars punted on 4th and 6 from their own 40 with 54 seconds left. The punt was fumbled, the Jaguars recovered, and the Giants were done. Tom Coughlin was so pleased at the win that he almost smiled. 20-15 Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers — Every year the Chargers are a trendy pick, and every year they disappoint. With Joey Bosa out with an injured foot, the the Chargers were expected to rely on Philip Rivers to do everything as usual. Patrick Mahomes started his first NFL game in last year’s season finale, a win. The Chiefs have some serious playmakers, and special teams started the scoring. Tyreeq Hill took a punt back 91 yards to the house for a 7-0 Chiefs lead. The Chargers did get on the board with a 45 yard field goal from Caleb Sturgis, but the Chiefs had too much firepower. Mahomes hooked up with Hill on a 58 yard touchdown for a 14-3 Chiefs lead.

The Chargers tried to make a game of it. Sturgis hit a 39 yarder to get the Chargers to within 14-6. In the second quarter the Chargers got it back at their own 4 yard line and mounted a 12 play, 96 yard, 6 minute drive. Rivers hit Green for 15 and Melvin Gordon for 25. On the ground Ekeler ran for 9 and Gordon for 11 more. Rivers hit Ekeler for a 13 yard touchdown. The 2 point try failed bu the Chargers were within 14-12. The Chiefs then held the ball for 11 plays and 6 minutes. At the 2 minute warning Harrison Butker nailed a 46 yard field goal to put the Chiefs up 17-12 at halftime. The Chiefs missed a chance to extend the lead after moving from their own 10 to the Chargers 38 yard line. An offensive holding call pushed them out of long field goal range.

It was a temporary delay. The Chiefs moved 75 yards in 11 plays and 5 1/2 minutes to start the second half. Mahomes hit Hill for 21 yards to start the drive and Kareem Hunt ran for gains of 7 and 5. From the Chargers 20, Mahomes found Sammy Watkins for 16 yards  and Thomas for the one yard touchdown to make it 24-12 Chiefs. The Chargers moved from their own 9 yard line to a 3rd and 4 at the Chiefs 26. Rivers was intercepted by Parker at the 14 yard line to kill the drive. On 3rd and 13 from their own 11, Mahomes went deep to Hill for 34 yards, to Conley for 15 more, and to Sherman for a 36 yard touchdown. This was not the dink and dunk West Coast Offense. Mahomes has a cannon of an arm, and the Chiefs led 31-12 after three quarters.

The Chargers tried to rally. Rivers hit Keenan Allen for a 20 yard touchdown to cap a 91 yard drive. Rivers hit Antonio Gates for the 2 point conversion to get the Chargers within 31-20 with 12 minutes remaining in regulation. The Chiefs went 3 and out and the Chargers were still alive. Then the Chargers fumbled the punt and the Chiefs were dead. The Chiefs recovered at the Chargers 2 yard line and on 3rd and goal at the one, Mahomes hit Hill for the touchdown. The Chiefs led 38-20 with 9 1/2 minutes left.

After a touchback, Rivers furiously led the Chargers back. On 4th and 2 from the Chiefs 27, Rivers hit Allen for 23 yards. On the next play Rivers hit Williams for a 4 yard touchdown. Again the 2 point try succeeded as Melvin Gordon ran it in. The Chargers were within 10 points with 5 minutes left. Anthony Lynn opted against an onside kick. Again the Chiefs went 3 and out. With 3 minutes left the Chargers moved from their own 14 to a 1st and 10 at the Chiefs 28 with 1:51 to play. Rivers threw incomplete twice and a short pass lost 2 yards. With 1:11 left and needing 2 scores, Anthony Lynn brought in Sturgis for a 48 yard field goal try. After that a successful onside kick would give the Chargers a chance to tie the game. They never got that chance. Sturgis missed, and the Chargers were done. New Year, different city, same Chargers. West Coast Offense guru Andy Reid now has a thoroughbred at quarterback, making Reid a most happy Walrus Lite. 38-28 Chiefs

Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals — Washington might be a team on the rise, but Arizona is definitely a team on the decline. With Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer retiring, new coach Steve Wilks is clearly presiding over a rebuilding team. Washington has a quarterback in Alex Smith and a running back in Adrian Peterson who both have a chip on their shoulders. After a scoreless first quarter, the levee broke and the Redskins blew the game open. Smith capped off an 80 yard, 11 play, 6 minute drive by hitting Thompson for a 13 yard touchdown to start the deluge. A 15 play, 73 yard, 9 minute drive was capped when Peterson got in from one yards out. The Redskins the moved 92 yards in 10 plays as Smith hit Reed for a 4 yard touchdown and a 21-0 Redskins lead at the intermission. The second half was a lifeless formality. Dustin Hopkins hit a 31 yard fourth quarter field goal for Washington, and Johnson prevented the shutout with a 2 yard garbage time touchdown run. The Redskins may not be that good, but the Cardinals are that bad. 24-6 Redskins

Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers — Two years ago the Cowboys were supposed to be starting a new dynasty with Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. That was two years ago. The Panthers have a new owner, but the same coach in Ron Rivera and quarterback in Cam Newton. The Panthers are about defense, and they brought it in this game. After a scoreless first quarter, a 30 yard punt return set the Panthers up at the Dallas 35. Newton ran for a 4 yard touchdown. Graham Gano tacked on a 27 yard field goal to end the half. A scoreless third quarter had the Panthers up 10-0 entering the fourth quarter. A 63 yard drive saw Newton hit Devon Funchess for gains of 15 and 14. The fourth quarter began with Arah running in from one yard out to make it 16-0 Panthers after the missed extra point. The Cowboys finally got on the board with a 4 yard touchdown run by Elliott and a successful 2 point conversion with 9 minutes left. With 2:18 left, on 4th and 10 from the Carolina 48, Prescott threw incomplete. With 1:39 left on 3rd and 7 from the Dallas 23, Prescott was sacked and fumbled. Suffocating defense got Carolina the win. 16-8 Panthers

Seattle Seahawks at Denver Broncos — 5 years ago these teams both made the Super Bowl. Since then Peyton Manning has retired, The Legion of Boom is no more. Richard Sherman has defected to archrival San Francisco and Kam Chancellor has retired, Gary Kubiak has retired, and Wade Phillips has gone on to the Los Angeles Rams. Nevertheless, these teams did play a far more exciting game than the Super Bowl. Russell Wilson and Case Keenum both threw 3 touchdown passes. Wilson was intercepted twice and Keenum was picked off 3 times in his first game with the Broncos. Wilson was 19 of 33 for 298 yards and Keenum was 25 of 39 of 329 yards. The stats were close, and so was the game.

Keenum’s first interception was returned 25 yards to the Denver 15. One play later Wilson hit Dissly for the touchdown and the 7-0 lead. After a touchback Keenum came back with a 29 yard touchdown to Lindsay for a 7-7 ballgame. Late in the first quarter the Seahawks took over at their own 5 yard line. Carson rushed for 24 yards and a short pass from Wilson to Dissly went for a 66 yard gain. The second quarter began with Seattle facing 1st and goal at the 5. On 3rd and goal from the 7, Wilson hit Brandon Marshall for the touchdown, but it was nullified for offensive pass interference on Marshall. Sebastian Janikowski is now with Seattle after 18 years in Silver and Black. Seabass hit the 35 yarder for a 10-7 Seahawks lead. After a touchback, Keenum came back and threw a 43 yard touchdown pass to Emanuel Sanders for a 14-10 Broncos lead. Denver got it back at their own 37 and Brandon McManus hit a 51 yard field goal to make it 17-10 Broncos.

The last 2 minutes of the half was wild. Just past the 2 minute warning, Janikowski came in for a 46 yard field goal to trim the lead. It was no good. Keenum quickly hit Sanders for a 31 yard gain to the Seattle 33. From the 26, Keenum was intercepted at the Seattle 18. With 37 seconds left in the half on 2nd and 1 from the Seattle 41, Wilson was sacked for a 22 yard loss. Pete Carroll let the clock run out.

In the third quarter a Seattle fumble had the Broncos set up at the Seattle 40. Keenum was immediately intercepted by McDougal, who returned it 39 yards to the Denver 41. On 3rd and 7 from the Denver 20, Wilson went deep to Marshall for the touchdown and the 17-17 tie.

With 3 minutes left in the third quarter and Seattle facing 3rd and 7 at their own 23, Wilson was intercepted again. Denver took over at the Seattle 35 and gained nothing. McManus bailed the Broncos out with a clutch 53 yard field goal to make it 20-17 Broncos after three quarters. After a touchback, the last play of the third quarter saw the Seahawks facing 3rd and 11 at their own 34. Wilson hit Marshall for 15 yards. The fourth quarter began with Wilson going deep to Tyler Lockett for a 51 yard touchdown and a 24-20 Seahawks lead.

After a touchback, Lindsay ran for gains of 14 and 5. Keenum went to Sutton for a 25 yard gain. On 3rd and 10 from the Seattle 31, Keenum went to Butt for 22 yards with roughing the passer making it 1st and goal at the 4. Keenum hit Thomas for the touchdown and this topsy-turvy game now had the Broncos up by a field goal with a full 11 minutes left. Denver’s defense stopped Seattle on their next 2 drives. With just over one minute left, the Broncos faced 4th and 5 at the Seattle 39. Vance Joseph opted to punt. Seattle took over at their own 12 with one minute left. A fumbled shotgun snap had Seattle in desperation mode. With 2 seconds left on 3rd and 19 from their own 14, Wilson was intercepted again. Pete Carroll does not have the same team he had in recent years, while Vance Joseph got a much needed win. 27-24 Broncos

Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers is the Sunday night game. This one will be talked about for years, maybe longer. The Bears have a new coach, a nondescript bald guy named Matt Nagy. This moribund NFC North bottom dweller became an instant sensation with the trade for Khalil Mack. Mack’s impact was felt immediately as the Packers punted on their first drive and the Bears took over at their own 14. Runs and short passes moved the Bears to their own 44. Trubisky then went deep to Gabriel for 31 yards. On 3rd and 2 from the Green Bay 17, Trubisky hit Burton for 15 yards. Trubisky ran it in himself for the 2 yard touchdown and the 7-0 Bears lead. Green Bay punted again and the Bears took over at their own 32. Trubisky went deep to Robinson for 33 yards. Despite 2nd and goal at the 3, an incompletion followed by a swing pass that lost 5 yards killed the drive. Cody Parkey hit a 26 yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter to make it 10-0 Bears.

Things got worse for the Packers. With 9 1/2 minutes left in the half, Rodgers got belted. He was down for awhile and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher. His knee was in bad shape, and the Green Bay faith fun worried that their entire season had ended. The best quarterback in the league was replaced with a guy who was cut from the worst team in the league. DoShone Kizer failed in Cleveland, and now had to come in under tough circumstances. With 3 minutes left in the half, the Packers had moved to a 3rd and goal at the 9. Kizer got sacked by Mack, who ripped the ball out of his hands. The fumble recovery was pure brute force. The Packers got it back and with 50 seconds left in the half faced 3rd and 19 at their own 30 after a sack of Kizer. Running the ball is just not an option for pass happy West Coast Offense Mike McCarthy. A short pass was intercepted by Mack, who returned it 27 yards for a touchdown. The Bears led 17-0 over the Packers in front of a shell-shocked home crowd at Lambeau Field. In the third quarter the Bears moved 60 yards in 12 plays and 6 minutes. The drive bogged down at the 15 yard line, but Parkey hit the 33 yard field goal. The Bears led 20-0.

Then came the events that will be retold to kids. Aaron Rodgers emerged out of the locker room and onto the field. He could not fully plant his leg, but he was going to play. He moved the Packers from their 31 to the Chicago 23. A pair of incomplete passes ended the drive. Mason Crosby hit a 42 yard field goal. After three quarters, the Packers trailed 20-3.

The Bears went 3 and out and the Packers soon faced 3rd and 14 at their own 15. Rodgers found Allison for just enough. Rodgers then went back to Allison for 12 more. The fourth quarter began with Rodgers going deep to Allison for a 39 yard touchdown. The crowd erupted as the Packers were within 20-10. The Bears soon faced 3rd and 1 at their own 34. In the days of Vince Lombardi and George Halas, this meant a run of brute force, strength against strength. Now all these coaches play gutless football rather than smash-mouth. Nagy went with a screen pass that was caught for no gain. The Bears punted. The Packers got it back at their own 25. Rodgers went deep to Devontae Adams for a 51 yard gain. Rodgers went back to Adams for a 12 yard touchdown. With 9 minutes to play, the Packers were within 20-17.

The remaining 9 minutes would tell if the Bears would find a way to lose this game due to their inexperience. Instead, Trubisky showed far more poise than many 2nd year players. He led a 14 play drive that ate up over 6 1/2 minutes. On 3rd and 3 from the Chicago 32, Trubisky got just enough himself. On 3rd and 2 from the Chicago 43, Cohen gained 5 yards. On 3rd and 7 just past midfield, Trubisky found Miller for 11 yards. Then came a decision that defines coaches. The Bears faced 3rd and 2 at the Green Bay 14. The Packers were out of timeouts and there was 2:47 on the clock. The entire football world knows that you must run the ball in this situation. An incomplete pass stops the clock. A run takes the clock down to the 2 minute warning. A first down ended the game. Resist the West Coast Bullsh*t. Do not dink. Do not dunk. Run. The. D@mn. Ball.

Nagy decided to pass. Trubisky threw incomplete. Parkey hit the 39 yard field goal. The Bears led 23-17, but 2:39 still remained. Was there any doubt what would happen next? After a touchback, Rodgers threw a pair of incompletions, including one that should have been the game winning interception. It was right in the defender’s bread basket. He dropped it. The Bears left the door open, and Rodgers made them pay. On 3rd and 10 Rodgers zipped a mass over the middle to Randall Cobb, who split to the seam, got to the sideline, picked up one last block, and made it to the end zone for a 75 yard touchdown. The Bears got it back at their own 18 with 2:08 left. On 2nd and 9 Trubisky threw 3 straight incompletions but was bailed out by a roughing the passer call. On 1st and 10 at the Chicago 46, Trubisky threw 3 straight incompletions. On 4th and 10 he was sacked and fumbled. The Cheeseheads had a win for the ages. This was the precise collapse that in 2006 had Chicago beat Arizona and lead to a Dennis Green Meltdown. The Bears may not be who we thought they were, but Nagy coached like a guy coaching his first game. As for Aaron Rodgers, he just gets better with age. He also gets to sleep with Danica Patrick. You don’t need 2 good legs for that. 24-23 Packers

New York Jets at Detroit Lions was the opening Monday night game. The Jets went 5-11 the past 2 seasons but Todd Bowles clearly got as much as he could out of a depleted roster. The Lions fired Jim Caldwell and brought in Bill Belichick understudy Matt Patricia to coach his first NFL game. The Jets decided to start rookie Sam Darnold as they approached the 50th season of futility since Joe Namath led them in Super Bowl III. This had all the makings of a blowout. It was, but not as expected. On the first play from scrimmage after a touchback, Darnold threw his first NFL pass. It was intercepted by Quentin diggs and returned 37 yards for a touchdown. The game was less than 20 seconds old and the Jets trailed 7-0. This is why J-E-T-S stands for Just End The Season. Before owner Woody Johnson could return from England to fire everyone, truth became stranger than fiction.

After an exchange of punts, the Jets got a big break when Roberts returned a punt 43 yards to the Detroit 32. Darnold hit Enunwa for a 15 yard gain. On 3rd and 7 from the Detroit 14, Darnold hit Enunwa for 8 yards. Isaiah Crowell ran up the middle for a 6 yard touchdown and a 7-7 game. After a touchback, Matthew Stafford through incomplete twice and then was intercepted by Claiborne. The Jets took over just past midfield. Myers hit a 35 yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter to make it 10-7 Jets. The Lions moved after a touchback to a 1st and 10 at the Jets 28. Stafford was then intercepted again. With 3 minutes left in the half a 16 yard punt return had the jets starting just past midfield. On 3rd and 2 at the 2 minute warning, Darnold went deep to Anderson for a 41 yard touchdown. The Jets led 17-7, and Darnold had his first NFL touchdown pass not counting the earlier one to the other team.

With 1:51 left after a touchback, the Lions moved to a 3rd and goal at the 3. Stafford there incomplete. Matt Prater hit the 21 yard field goal as the Lions trailed 17-10 at halftime. The Lions after a touchback and a false start faced 1st and 15 at their own 20. Stafford made it look easy, going to Golden Tate and Kenny Golladay for a pair of 26 yard gains. Stafford then went to Tate for a 24 yard touchdown. Less than 2 minutes into the third quarter, the game was tied 17-17. What happened over the next 13 minutes of the third quarter was a shock to anyone who has ever watched football.

After a touchback, Darnold hit Terrell Pryor for 12 yards. Powell ran for a 10 yard gain. Darnold hit Pryor for 20 and then went to Enunwa for a 21 yard touchdown. The Jets led 24-17. The Lions soon faced 3rd and 1 at their own 34. Stafford was intercepted by Lee, who returned it 36 yards the other way for a 31-17 Jets lead. The Lions then went 3 and out and punted. Roberts returned the punt 78 yards for a touchdown. The Jets had scored on offense, defense and special teams as 3 touchdowns in less than 2 1/2 minutes had the Jets up 38-17. Two plays after a touchback, Stafford was intercepted again by Lee. The Jets took over at the Detroit 18. Myers hit a 32 yard field goal to make it 41-17 Jets. The Lions finally mounted a drive, moving from their 25 to a 3rd and 7 at the Jets 26. Stafford then threw incomplete. Prater missed a 44 yard field goal. Two plays later Isaiah Crowell raced for a 62 yard touchdown. A shellshocked crowd saw the Jets score 31 unanswered points in less than 9 minutes to turn a tie game into an epic blowout. J-E-T-S just got very respectable. The Lions have been a national joke before. On this night they were again. 48-17 Jets

Los Angeles Rams at Oakland Raiders was the closing Monday night game. The subplots were everywhere. Jon Gruden returned to the black hole. Aaron Donald got his monster contract. Khalil Mack was traded to Chicago. The Rams were thinking Super Bowl. The Raiders were one or two years from moving to Las Vegas after losing out on the Los Angeles market. Howie Long lit the Al Davis torch. Then they played football. After a touchback and a couple of Marshawn Lynch carries, the Raiders had 1st and 10 at their own 35. Derek Carr zipped a pass to Jared cook, who raced for a 45 yard gain. On 2nd and goal at the 10, Lynch got the carry and appeared stopped at the 4 yard line. He kept bulldozing, and the offensive line jumped on the pile and pushed it forward. By the time the scrum had ended, Lynch had the ball over the goal line for a brutal 10 yard touchdown run. The Black Hole was rocking as the Raiders led 7-0 early on. After an exchange of punts, the Rams took over at midfield. Jared Goff made it look easy, going to Cooper Kupp for 11, Woods for 20, and Todd Gurley for the 19 yard touchdown and a 7-7 deadlock. After that both defenses dug in.

The field goal kickers did most of the work for awhile. In the second quarter Mike Nugent hit a 24 yarder for the Raiders. Greg Zuerlein answered from 20 for the Rams as each team drove deep but each defense got stops short of the end zone. Nugent hit a 48 yarder as the half was ending to give the Raiders a 13-10 lead. Zuerlein hit from 28 in the third quarter to again tie the game 13-13. A field position had the Rams taking over at their own 42. Goff found Cooks for 17 yards and again for 30 more. On the last play of the third quarter, Goff went to Kupp for the 8 yard touchdown and the 20-13 Rams lead.

The Rams got it back only 90 seconds into the fourth quarter at their own 12. Goff hit Gurley for 17. On 3rd and 1 from their own 41, Gurlet got 2 tough yards. On 3rd and 3 at the Oakland 37, Goff had his pass batted down. However, Zuerlein drilled a 55 yard field goal off the dirt to put the Rams up 23-13 with 9 1/2 minutes left. The Raiders were misfiring on offense and the Rams offense had completely overmatched the Raiders defense and their porous secondary. In the first half Derek Carr was a white hot 20 of 24 for 199 yards. Over the next 21 minutes he was 1 for 5 for 4 yards. Conversely, Todd Gurley in the first half had 5 carries for 20 yards. In the second half he had over 116 yards rushing. On 3rd and 7 from the Oakland 28, Carr hooked up with Cook for a 32 yard gain. Yet on the next play, Carr threw a pass across the field where the only person in the vicinity was Littleton. It was the easiest interception of his career, and with only 8 minutes left the noose was tightening on the Raiders. The Rams then moved the ball on a 13 play, 69 yard drive that bled the clock. By the time the Rams reached the Oakland 5 yard line, the Rams had out-gained the Raiders 264 to 57 in the second half. On 3rd and goal at the 5, a run gained 3 yards. Zuerlein hit the 20 yard field goal as the Rams led 26-13 with only 3:15 to play.

The final dagger came when a limping Carr was intercepted for the third time. Marcus Peters returned it 50 yards for the score, practically walking into the end zone. The game was now officially a blowout. Chucky lost his first game coaching the Raiders 20 years ago before leading the Silver and Black to consecutive division titles. He lost his first game coaching Tampa Bay 16 year ago before leading them to a Super Bowl victory. He lost his first game coaching the Raiders the second time around. Better days will be ahead. Gruden has a 10 year, 100 million dollar contract. The fans expect better, and their defense needs to be vastly improved. The shadow of Khalil Mack will hang over this franchise every day until it is. As for the Rams, great teams win road games in hostile environments. Sean McVay is an innovative offensive mind. Having Michelin Man Wade Phillips as your defensive coordinator doesn’t hurt matters. 33-13 Raiders

When religion conflicts with football

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

When religion conflicts with football

What should a Jew do when Rosh Hashanah conflicts with football

RIP, Bandit

Sunday, September 9th, 2018

RIP, Bandit

Burt Reynolds: Rest in Peace – Forever the Alpha Male’s Alpha

NFL 2018 Week 1 Prequel

Thursday, September 6th, 2018

NFL 2018 Week 1 Prequel

NFL Kickoff 2018 Week 1 Preview and Bettor’s Guide

NFL 2018 Preseason Week 4 Raiders Recap

Sunday, September 2nd, 2018

NFL 2018 Preseason Week 4 Raiders Recap

The preseason usually tells us very little, but 2018 told us absolutely nothing. The Raiders barely played their starters the entire preseason. The traditional formula went out the window. Derek Carr played a few snaps in games 1 & 3 and nothing in games 2 & 4. His backup quarterbacks EJ Manuel and Connor Cook both looked terrible. In the final preseason game, the Raiders were at the Seattle Seahawks.

With Carr and Marshawn Lynch sitting, Chris Warren got plenty of chances to be the backup bellcow running back. The Raiders went 3 and out and the Seahawks took over at their own 24. Russell Wilson had the night off. Backup Davis led a 13 play, 6 1/2 minute drive, but it only netted 34 yards. From the Oakland 29, Davis was sacked. From the Oakland 36, Davis went deep to Brown for the touchdown. However, it was nullified by offensive holding to kill the drive.

Oakland took over at their own 11. From the 15, EJ Manuel went to Brown for a 22 yard gain with 15 more tacked on for lowering the head to initiate contact. On 3rd and 7 from the Seattle 45, Manuel went deep to Hatcher for the touchdown and the 7-0 Raiders lead.

Grayson returned the ensuing kickoff 35 yards to the Seattle 46. Despite Khalil Mack still not playing due to a contract holdout, the Raiders defense held on 2nd and 1 and on 3rd and 1. Pete Carroll decided to go for it. After 2 failed runs, a pass play actually lost one yard. From their own 47, Manuel quickly went to Hatcher for 21 yards. That was enough for Nugent to hit a 51 yard second quarter field goal to make it 10-0 Raiders.

The Seahawks needed only one play to strike back. Austin Davis went to Damore’ea Stringfellow for an 81 yard touchdown to get the Seahawks within 10-6. The extra point was no good. The Raiders went 3 and out and the Seahawks moved from their own 27 to a 4th and 1 at the Oakland 39. Again Pete Carroll went for it and Davis threw incomplete.

A field position game had the Raiders taking over at the Seattle 45 with 5 1/2 minutes left in the half. On 3rd and 7, Manuel found Hatcher for 8 yards. Manuel went back to Hatcher for a 19 yard touchdown to make it 17-6 Raiders with 2:15 left in the half. Yet from the Seattle 18, Davis worked the 2 minute drill perfectly. With 39 seconds left in the half, Seattle faced 3rd and 10 at the Oakland 33. Davis went to Swoopes for 16 yards. On the next play defensive pass interference put the ball on the one. Mike Davis got in. Former Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski made the extra point. After 18 seasons in the Black Hole, Seabass is now trying to make the Seattle roster. He did not help himself by missing the earlier extra point. The Seahawks trailed 17-13 at halftime.

In the third quarter the Seahawks took over at their own 9. On 3rd and 10 from the Seattle 48, third string quarterback McGough went deep to Turner for a 52 yard Seattle touchdown. Yet on further review the score was reversed to an incomplete pass. For the second time in the game a Seattle touchdown was nullified as the Seahawks punted. Both teams then went 3 and out and the Raiders took over on their own 20. The Raiders faced 3rd and 13 at their own 17. Manuel went deep to Ateman for a 43 yard gain. On 3rd and 15 at the Seattle 45, Manuel went deep to Said Blacknail for a 45 yard touchdown. The Raiders led 23-13 after three quarters as Nugent missed the extra point.

In the fourth quarter Connor Cook came in and salted the game away. A 61 yard drive ended when Cook went to Hatcher for a 22 yard touchdown to make it 30-13 Raiders. Seattle would get one more touchdown and a surprise as Seabass missed his second extra point. There were seasons where he would not miss 2 extra points the entire season. He missed 2 in one game. It could have been jitters from playing his old team.

Manuel finished a white hot 18 of 22 for 255 yards for 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. It did not matter as Manuel and Cook were both waived after the game. The Raiders traded for AJ McCarron, so Derek Carr now finally has a capable backup.

Yet the Euphoria of the win and the 3-1 preseason evaporated after the game. In a shocker that will reverberate through the league for years to come, the Raiders traded Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears. While the Raiders did get the Bears 1st round draft picks in 2019 and 2020 in addition to other trade swaps, this was still a gut punch to the locker room and the Raider Nation. Jon Gruden has 100 million dollars and a 10 year contract, and he just traded away the best defensive player in the league. Rumors swirled that Owner Mark Davis and General Manager Reggie McKenzie wanted Mack to stay. Time will tell if Gruden is crazy or crazy like a fox. The Raiders begin the regular season on Monday Night Football at the Los Angeles Rams. The 2018 preseason is now in the books with the conclusion of the win over Seattle’s backups. 30-19 Raiders

eric

NFL 2018 Preseason Week 3 Raiders Recap

Monday, August 27th, 2018

NFL 2018 Preseason Week 3 Raiders Recap

The Oakland Raiders hosted the Green Bay Packers in the third preseason game for both teams. Normally the third preseason game is the closest to regular season action. Starters often play into the third quarter as teams see where they really are.

Not this year. Not this game. Aaron Rodgers did not play at all as backup Brett Hundley got the nod. The Raiders did play their starters. Coming into the game the Raiders were expected to have a high-octane offense and a suspect defense. With Khalil Mack still holding out, that is only amplified.

Derek Carr and most of the starters had last week off, but they started this game. On the first play from scrimmage, a perfectly executed play action pass went to Amari Cooper for a 49 yard gain. Al Davis had to be smiling above at the completed bomb. Cooper showed extra awareness by running for extra yards when the defenders thought the play was over. Another completion by Carr on the drive to Jared Cook led to 1st and goal at the 5. Jon Gruden wanted Muscle Hamster Doug Martin to get some carries to see if he could be the top backup to Marshawn Lynch. Yet a pair of carries set up 3rd and goal at the 3. Former left tackle and current right tackle Donald Penn was manhandled on the play, leading to Carr fumbling. Carr fell on the ball at the 15. Mike Nugent hit the 32 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Raiders, but it was another unfinished drive. It was also Carr’s only drive of the night.

The Raiders defense has been awful the last couple years. Earlier in the week, 2017 second round pick Obii Melifonwu was cut. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was brought in. With the Packers facing 3rd and 9 at their own 20, Hundley easily took apart the Raiders defense and moved the Packers into the red zone. The Raiders got lucky when a pass to the end zone was dropped. On 3rd and 1, a run up the middle was stuffed. Mike McCarthy decided to go for it on 4th and 2, but a false start killed that. Mason Crosby hit the field goal for a 3-3 game.

With 3 1/2 quarters to play, both teams now had backup quarterbacks playing. An illegal block negated a 58 yard kickoff return. Connor Cook completed a couple of solid passes to get the Raiders to midfield. aAfter that, under pressure, he misfired a couple times and the Raiders punted. Penalties had the Packers facing 3rd and 22 inside their own 10. McCarthy went with a give up run and a punt.

In the second quarter a promising drive ended without points. From the Green Bay 40, Connor Cook tried to go for the bomb. The receiver had a couple steps but the ball was badly underthrown and intercepted. With the Packers facing 3rd and 7 at their own 20, Arden Key sacked Hundley for a 12 yard loss. Cook stayed in the game, but the first string offensive line was done for the night. On 3rd and 4, a simple pass in the flat was off the mark and dropped. on the next Oakland series they moved to the Green Bay 32. Yet Cook again misfired on third down and Nugent missed a 49 yard field goal wide. Aided by a defensive penalty for lowering the head to initiate contact, the Packers moved to a 3rd and 4 at the Oakland 30. Hundley misfired. In the regular season, a field goal would be a no brainer. In preseason, going for it is fine. Hundley threw incomplete again.

With a little over 90 seconds left in the half, Cook had a sideline pass intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Illegal contact on the defense nullified the entire play. Hundley would then get belted and fumbled. This hideously ugly game went to the half tied 3-3. The only thing to be learned from this game is what we already knew. Brett Hundley and Connor Cook are not Aaron Rodgers and Derek Carr

The ugliness continued when the Packers fumbled the second half kickoff. They retained possession as former Browns bust Deshone Kizer took over as the Packers third string quarterback. With the Packers facing 3rd and 12 deep in their own territory, Kizer barely avoided being sacked in the end zone for a safety. EJ Manuel came in for the Raiders as the battle of third string quarterbacks was now in full swing. Manuel did run for a 13 yard gain, but then on 3rd and 11 a high snap was mishandled for a big loss. On 4th and 27, another punt.

On the next series, Emanuel fumbled the ball away to set the Packers up at the Oakland 35. Late in the 3rd quarter, the Packers faced 2nd and goal at the 3. Hundley threw incomplete twice. In a bizarre decision even for the preseason, Mike McCarthy opted to go for it rather than kick the field goal for the lead. On 4th and goal from the 3, a draw play went for the touchdown. However, in this blunder-filled game, an illegal chop block nullified the score. Mason Crosby hit the 36 yard field goal for a 6-3 Packers lead after three quarters.

In the fourth quarter Manuel led the Raiders 64 yards in 13 plays in nearly 6 minutes. He zipped a pass over the middle to Greg Whalen for a long gain. On 3rd and 3, Chris Warren took a pitchout 10 yards. On 3rd and 9 from the Green Bay 12, Manuel went to the corner of the end zone and overthrew Seth Roberts. Nugent hit the 32 yarder for a 6-6 game with 11:45 left in regulation.

The Raiders missed a golden chance for the lead when a near interception was dropped. Defender Pringle had a clear streak to the end zone, but it was not meant to be. On 3rd and 10 from the Oakland 45, Manuel found Hatcher for 15 with another 15 tacked on for roughing the passer. On 1st and goal at the 9, a fade pass to the end zone drew defensive pass interference meant 1st and goal at the one. After 55 minutes of futility, the game saw its first touchdown that actually counted. Warren banged into the end zone, and somehow there were no penalties to nullify the score. The 68 yard drive had the Raiders up 13-6 with 5 minutes left in regulation.

Kizer the completed a deep ball for 28 yards, with another 15 tacked on for a hit on a defenseless receiver. It was a mind-blowing call given that the defender clearly led with his shoulder and not his head. It was a textbook hit. For years nobody knew what a catch was. Now nobody knows what a tackle is. On 3rd and 4, Kizer scrambled for a 6 yard gain to the Oakland 25. With 2:15 to play the Packers had all 3 timeouts plus the 2 minute warning. 3 straight incompletions meant 4th and 10 with 1:54 to play. Kizer was sacked.

The Packers took timeouts on defense. On 3rd and 1, Warren got stopped and the Packers still had life in the game that would never end. A holding penalty on the return had the Packers taking over at their own 8 yard line with 80 seconds to play and 0 timeouts. Kizer completed 3 short passes that had the Packers far short of midfield and nowhere near Hail Mary territory. In attempting to stop the clock, Kizer fumbled the snap and the clock kept running. By the time Kizer recovered, there was time for only one more play, an incompletion. The Raiders finally had the ugly win.

The Raiders managed to defeat a third string quarterback who was not good enough to stay on the roster of a team that went 0-16 last year. Both teams had at least 10 penalties for 100 yards. There is plenty of room for improvement, but the bottom line is the Raiders have no depth at quarterback. Without Derek Carr, they have no chance. 13-6 Raiders

eric

NFL 2018 Preseason Week 2 Raiders Recap

Sunday, August 19th, 2018

NFL 2018 Preseason Week 2 Raiders Recap

Many leatherheads have come to see the preseason as pointless. If ever there was a game to validate that view, this was it. Blame the NFL schedule makers. 

The Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Rams played in Week 2 of the preaseason. They also play on Week 1 of the regular season. That meant this game was going to be pure vanilla. 

Normally the starters barely play in Week 1 if at all. Then they play more in Week 2. This was the reverse. The starters did not play at all. That happens in the first and sometimes the fourth and last preseason game. For the second preseason game, that is unheard of. 

Derek Carr and Marshawn Lynch took the night off. So did Jared Goff and Todd Gurley. Jon Gruden and Sean McVay were not going to give the slightest hint of what they will do when the game actually counts. So rather than quickly devolve into a battle of backups, this game simply started that way. 

Connor Cook started for the Raiders. On the very first play from scrimmage, a high snap sailed over Cook’s head. The Raiders were lucky to escape with only a 10 yard loss. The drive was dead at the start. Sean Mannion was the Rams starter as they also ran 3 plays and punted. Both teams went 3 and out on their first two drives. 

The Raiders third drive began with offensive holding. Repeating first down allowed them to go four and out instead of three and out. They still did not have a first down. 

The Rams finally got going on their third drive. They moved from their own 28 to a 2nd and 8 at the Oakland 24. After an incomplete pass, Mannion threw a swing pass that was blown up in the backfield for a 6 yard loss. Greg “the leg” Zuerlein’s 48 yard field goal try was no good as the game remained scoreless. The Rams held the ball for 6 minutes but came up empty. 

On the next series the Raiders did not go 3 and out or 4 and out. They were worse. Only 2 plays were needed. After an incompletion, Cook fumbled at the Oakland 38. Wilson returned it 23 yards for the Rams to the Oakland 15. 

Early in the second quarter, The Rams faced 3rd and goal at the one. Mannion kept it himself and lost a yard. Sean McVay decided to go for it, which would never happen in the regular season. On 4th and goal at the 2, Kelly got the carry up the middle for the touchdown and the 7-0 Rams lead. 

With 0 first downs, Chucky had seen enough. EJ Manuel was brought in the game. Cook was out. Manuel did hook up with Jalen Richard for a 29 yard gain to the Rams 47, but on 3rd and 10, a West Coast Offense dink and dunk pass gained 3 yards. After the Rams went 3 and out, the Raiders did the same. On 3rd and 7 from their own 37, Manuel threw a 3 yard West Coast Offense dink and dunk pass. 

While Manuel was dinking and dunking, Mannion was airing it out from the Rams 22 to Hodge for a 47 yard gain. That was enough for Zuerlein to connect from 42 to make it 10-0 Rams just before the 2 minute warning. 

The Raiders could not even make it to the half without more self-inflicted wounds. From their own 25, Manuel was sacked for a 7 yard loss. Then on 3rd and 13 he was sacked for a 6 yard loss and fumbled. The Rams took over at the Oakland 25. Despite 1st and goal at the 9 with 35 seconds left, the Rams were kept out of the end zone. Zuerlein hit from 28 to end the half with the Rams up 13-0. 

In the third quarter a punt pinned the Raiders at their own 6 yard line. The Raiders punted it back to set the Rams up at midfield. An unnecessary roughness penalty on Hamilton made it easy for the Rams. Yet from the Oakland 14, third string quarterback Allen threw a pair of incompletions. backup kicker Fickens hit a field goal to make it 16-0 Rams midway through the third quarter.

Although preseason games don’t count, the Raiders finally decided to make a game of it. Chris Warren carried for straight times for a total of 25 yards to midfield Cook found Butler for 24 yards and Yurachek for 10 more. Warren ran for 9 yards and then the 3 yard touchdown. The 2 point try failed when Cook threw incomplete, but at least the Raiders were on the board down 16-6 late in the third quarter.

Despite the scoring drive, when the Raiders got it back, Manuel was again in for Cook. Gruden was giving them both plenty of chances to earn the backup spot to Carr. A shanked 29 yard punt had the Raiders at their own 40. On 3rd and 11 from their own 44, Manuel threw incomplete but illegal contact gave the Silver and Black new life. Warren ran for a 23 yard gain to the Rams 16, but that was about it. Backup kicker Mike Nugent hit the 31 yard field goal. With 12 minutes left in regulation, the Raiders were within 16-9.

After a touchback, Allen was quickly intercepted by Cowser, who returned it 15 yards to the Rams 21. On 3rd and 15 Manuel went deep incomplete but the Raiders were again bailed out by the refs. A defensive penalty for using the head to initiate contact meant 1st and goal at the 13. Manuel hit Greg Whalen for a 10 yard touchdown with 10 minutes to play. In a regular season game, the coach opts to kick the extra point every time. In preseason, nobody wants overtime. Gruden went for 2, and Warren failed to run it in. However, the Raiders had all the momentum down 16-15.

Momentum quickly shifted with the Rams facing 3rd and 2 at their own 32. Allen went deep to Krieger-Coble for a 35 yard gain. Despite 1st and 10 at the Oakland 16, the Rams again failed to finish a drive. Fickens hit a 32 yard field goal as the Rams led by 4 points with 5:45 to play.

On 3rd and 7 from their own 28, Manuel hooked up with Ateman for a 25 yard gain. On 3rd and 7 from the Rams 44, Manuel was sacked for a 10 yard loss. After 3 straight scoring drives, the Raiders came up empty. With 3 minutes left, Gruden decided to punt and rely on the defense.

A perfect punt had the Rams pinned at their own 6. A run lost 3 yards and it looked like the Raiders would get the ball back. However, a defensive facemark penalty gave the Rams an automatic first down at the 2 minute warning. With Oakland out of timeouts, Allen took 3 knees to end things.

Both teams are 1-1 in the preseason. While the Raiders showed resilience in coming back, let’s be honest. A game without Carr, Goff, Lynch, and Gurley tells us nothing. The two best pass rushers are holding out, each one waiting on the other one to get their contract done. Without Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald on the field, it is hard to judge either defense. For the second week in a row, this preseason game left us without the slightest clue of what will happen in the regular season. Given that these teams play on Monday Night Football to kick off the season in only 3 weeks, that is exactly how Jon Gruden and Sean McVay wanted it. 19-15 Rams

eric

NFL 2018 Preseason Week 1 Raiders Recap

Sunday, August 12th, 2018

NFL 2018 Preseason Week 1 Raiders Recap

America’s long national nightmare is over. Football is back. True, real football does not begin until September. Preseason is a lie, but it is all we leatherheads have.

The Black Hole was rocking as Chucky returned to the team he began coaching 20 years ago and left after the infamous Tuck Rule game. The Oakland Raiders kicked off their 2018 preseason by hosting the Detroit Lions. This game was the debut for new Lions coach Matt Patricia.

The first preseason game usually tells us absolutely nothing. This game may have told us even less than that. Matthew Stafford did not even play. Derek Carr played only one series.

Carr began with a pair of completions for 11 total yards. Jordy Nelson got one of those catches for 4 yards. On the third play of the game, Marshawn Lynch broke off tackle for a 60 yard touchdown run. However, it was called back due to an offensive holding penalty on rookie Kolton Miller. The grade has been so high on Miller that the Raiders have let Donald Penn hold out. After the Lions punted on their first series, Miller earned his second holding penalty on the return. Speaking of holdouts, Khalil Mack is still not in camp.

Matt Cassel started at quarterback for the Lions and Connor Cook took over after the first series for the Raiders. From just shy of midfield, Cook went deep to Johnny Holton for a 41 yard gain. Yet on 3rd and goal at the 3, Cook threw incomplete.

The kicking game will be key for the Raiders this year. Sebastian Janikowski was cut a few weeks ago. Seabass was with Gruden the first time around, but after 18 years he was released. Backup Georgio Tavecchio was cut last week, leaving rookie Eddie Piniero. Piniero’s 21 yard field goal had the Raiders up 3-0 after the first quarter.

The Raiders got it back and Cook had his best drive of the night. On 3rd and 5 from the Oakland 32, he found Martavius Bryant for 18 yards to midfield. From the Detroit 34 to start the second quarter, Cook went deep to Butler for 24 yards. On 3rd and goal at the 7, this time the Raiders finished the drive. Cook hit Spitzer for the touchdown to make it 10-0 Raiders early in the second quarter.

The Lions got back in the game with help from a 15 yard penalty on Karl Joseph for lowering his head to make contact. On 3rd and 11 from the Oakland 25, Cassel hit Valles for 13 yards. Abdullah got in from the one to get the Lions within 10-7 midway through the second quarter. On the next Detroit series, they brought it 3rd string quarterback Rudock. He did not have success.

With 1:10 left in the half, the Raiders took over at their own 29. Cook worked quickly, hitting Jalen Richard for 16, 9 and 5  yards. Piniero drilled a 48 yard field goal to put the Raiders up 13-7 at halftime.

The Lions began the third quarter facing 3rd and 1 at their own 38. Johnson ran for a 57 yard gain to the Oakland 5, but offensive holding wiped it all away. 3rd string quarterback EJ Manuel came in and the Raiders moved from their own 26 to a 1st and goal at the Detroit 6. Manuel then fumbled the snap and the Lions recovered in a game getting uglier by the moment.

The Lions would soon face 3rd and 11 at their own 6, when Rudock hit johnson for 19 yards. On 3rd and 10 from the Detroit 25, Rudock only gained 2 yards. Yet defensive holding kept the drive going. On 1st and 10 from the Oakland 11, a sack of Rudock finally killed the drive. The Lions held the ball for a staggering 18 plays and 8 minutes. Yet on the first play of the fourth quarter, they settled for a 24 yard field goal from Santoso to trail 13-10.

Both teams then faced 3rd and 1, ran the ball, and failed to convert. With 6:17 left, the Raiders took over at their own 42. Warren ran for gains of 19, 11 and 3. Yet on 1st and 10 from the Detroit 13, another offensive holding penalty killed the drive. With 2:17 to play, Piniero hit a 45 yard field goal. However the Raiders only led by 6 points. They had not closed the door. Making matters worse, Piniero kicked the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, allowing the Lions to start at their own 40.

Normally in preseason games, coaches do not go all out. Yet in his very first game, Matt Patricia decided to bring Matt Cassel back in the game. On 4th and 11 from the Detroit 39 with 1:13 left, Cassel hit Lucas for 14 yards.With 40 seconds left the Lions had 1st and 10 at the Oakland 35. Cassel threw incomplete twice and was then sacked and fumbled. The Raiders recovered to lock up the win.

Jon Gruden has plenty of things to improve. However, trying to judge a Raiders game without Derek Carr or Khalil Mack is useless. Marshawn lynch is clearly ready. Kicker Piniero is off to a good start. The defense looked good most of the night. Kolton needs to stop holding and start blocking. 16-10 Raiders

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