Week 1 of the regular season, the week football fans and analysts alike wait for over six months a year for! Not only is it Week 1, but the first game of the 2021 NFL season was a classic! The NFC South has some big-time performers but also maybe the worst team in the league. Here’s a recap of Week 1 in the NFC South.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
At the age of 44 years young, QB Tom Brady threw for four touchdowns and 379 yards through the air, proving that he’s still got a little gas left in the tank. The offensive linemen for the Buccaneers have proven themselves as one of the best blockers in the league, not giving up any sacks on any of Brady’s 50 pass attempts. For the most part, the rest of the offense also looked like a well-oiled machine en route to a nail-biting, one-possession win against the Cowboys on Thursday night. Almost three pass-catchers broke the 100-yard mark for Tampa: WR Chris Godwin- 105, WR Antonio Brown- 121, and TE Rob Gronkowski- 90. However, on the other side of the ball, the Bucs had a glaring issue on defense: the secondary. In Thursday night’s thriller, Prescott threw for over 400 yards against a Bucs defense that finished inside the top five last year, leaving questions for the Tampa DBs to answer.
S Jordan Whitehead did not play in this week’s matchup, but HC Bruce Arians says he’s “hopeful” that Whitehead can return this week for game two. CB Sean Murphy-Bunting left the game in the first quarter with a dislocated elbow, and there’s yet to be a timetable for his return.
Next Game: Sun. 09/19 vs. Atlanta Falcons.
The best running back in the league returned to action this Sunday to help the Panthers take down the Jets. After missing 13 games in the 2020 season, Christian McCaffrey didn’t skip a beat, racking up 187 yards (98 rushing, 89 receiving) via 21 carries and nine receptions in the win. Sam Darnold’s Carolina debut was the beneficiary of McCaffrey’s dominance, as Darnold threw for a quiet yet productive 279 yds and a TD. The receiver of that touchdown? Former Jets teammate WR Robby Anderson. WRs D.J. Moore and Terrence Marshall Jr. also had their share of catches (six and three, respectively) on a Panthers offense that looked pretty good for Week 1.
Many Panthers fans were pleased to watch the defense on Sunday, which only gave up 14 points and 252 total yards. Veteran LB Shaq Thompson led the way with not only an INT but a sack and a team-leading 10 tackles as well. After not having a single sack all season in 2020, it seems like Thompson is having somewhat of a career resurgence! This can only mean good things for the Panthers heading forward!
Next Game: Sun. 09/19 vs. New Orleans Saints.
Week 1 for the Falcons didn’t go as well as it did for the rest of the division, making them the only team that didn’t win their Week 1 matchup. The big story in this game, unfortunately, was QB Jalen Hurts for Philadelphia and the monster game he had. With that being said, Atlanta is a fairly young team right now with a new head coach, so the early season struggles are expected. There were, however, a few good takeaways for the offense in this game. WR Calvin Ridley brought in five receptions for 51 yards and TE Kyle Pitts was targeted too, as he caught four balls for 31 yards. QB Matt Ryan could be playing in his last season as a Falcon if his performance continues to be unimpressive in the post-Dan Quinn era. 165 passing yards on 35 attempts are not former league MVP numbers, and the offense is going to have to improve to be competitive this season.
The defense for the Falcons seemed to just be a casualty of the war between Jalen Hurts and stardom, giving up 326 yards and three TDs to JUST Hurts himself. Up until possibly this season, the Eagles weren’t known to be a high-powered offense that puts up big numbers every week through the air. The fact that the defense can’t keep up with them means there are a lot of concerns heading into next week against the defending champs…
Next Game: Sun. 09/19 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
New Orleans Saints
Week 1 of the Saints’ post-Drew Brees era went better than anyone could have ever imagined. Not only did the Saints pull off the upset but they did it HUGE against the 2020 MVP and the Packers. QB Jameis Winston has shown the NFL that he deserves a starting job and is here to stay. He finished the day with five passing touchdowns in the 38-3 victory over the Green Bay Packers, leading the offense without WR Michael Thomas or any real WR1. If he can stay hot this season, the sky is the limit for the Saints. RB Alvin Kamara also had good season-opening numbers, with 82 yards rushing on 20 carries. RB Latavius Murray’s successor, Tony Jones Jr., had a fantastic day at the backup RB position, with 50 yards on 11 carries. We didn’t see too much of Taysom Hill (1/1 for three yards passing and two rushes for one yard) in this game, but I have a good feeling we’ll be talking about him before the season is over.
The New Orleans defense deserves an award this week after holding the explosive Packers offense to only three points! The secondary was a big focus this offseason (read about what Abs and I had to say about it here) and it showed on Sunday, as QB Aaron Rodgers only threw for 133 yards and had not one but two interceptions. HC Sean Payton and the Saints seem to be reloaded this year, and Tampa Bay may have some real competition within the division.
Next Game: Sun. 09/19 @ Carolina Panthers.
- DAL vs. TB statistics: https://www.espn.com/nfl/boxscore/_/gameId/401326322
- NYJ vs. CAR statistics: https://www.espn.com/nfl/boxscore/_/gameId/401326309
- PHI vs. ATL statistics: https://www.espn.com/nfl/boxscore/_/gameId/401326315
- GB vs. NO statistics: https://www.espn.com/nfl/boxscore/_/gameId/401326319
Edited By: Rupayan “Abs” Samanta.