Tom Brady stepped on to the field in Cleveland to cheers and “Welcome back Tom!” signs.
He had a friendly crowd on the road for his season debut, after missing the first four games through suspension from the Deflategate scandal. He hit Julian Edelman for a 10-yard gain on the first play of the game. He’d throw to Rob Gronkowski on the next play for 19 more.
The start of Brady’s 17th NFL season picked up where most of them left off. Brady threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns as the Patriots rolled to a 33-13 win over the Cleveland Browns, the NFL’s only winless team. New England is 4-1 and atop the AFC East.
Brady didn’t look rusty in his season debut – though his tight end target in the end zone today was not Gronkowski but Martellus Bennett, who caught all three of Brady’s touchdown passes. Brady even did track star Usain Bolt’s lightning bolt pose after a four-yard scramble for a first down late in the third quarter. By then the game was 30-13, and out of hand.
He wasn’t in much of a mood to think about the start of his 17th season, the most for a quarterback in Patriots history.
“This isn’t a time for me to reflect,” Brady said during a post-game press conference. “I’m happy we won today. I’m happy we win every time we play. I have a job to do, and there’s no point in looking back at anything. Whether we won Super Bowl, or lost championship games, or the last four weeks, you know, none of it matters. Just go out and do the best I can do every week.”
The Patriots have their QB back under center. They’re tied for the best record in the AFC. Brady is giving uneventful quotes. Everything is pretty much back to normal.
Quote of the week
“I just fucked up. I let my team-mates down.”
It looked like the Eagles were headed to 4-0. If they converted a third and two, they’d be able to kneel out a victory over the Detroit Lions. But Ryan Mathews fumbled after taking a pitch, the Tyrunn Walker recovered along the sideline and the Lions were able to kick a game-winning field goal.
Detroit held on for a 24-23 win when Darius Slay picked off Carson Wentz. The Eagles didn’t have a turnover all season, and then turned it over on consecutive offensive plays. It did look like the ball touched Jason Kelce when he was out of bounds, which would have allowed the Eagles to punt on the next play. But Mathews owned the mistake after the game anyway.
The Lions led 14-0 after the first quarter, and Matt Stafford’s three first-half touchdown passes helped Detroit to a 21-10 half-time lead. But the Eagles’ defense recovered in the second half and looked like they were about to escape with a win until the final two minutes. The turnover was the first interception of Wentz’s NFL career after throwing 134 pick-free passes to start his career.
“I was surprised he even threw that,” Slay said postgame. “I was in great position, so I’m like ‘OK.’ But then I look in the air and I said, ‘Oh, the ball is coming for real. He’s really throwing this. Oh well, it’s time for his first career pick.’ He’s a talented guy, man. I was kind of surprised. I didn’t believe all the hype at first.”
The Lions are 2-3, and won for the first time since their opening-week comeback win over the Colts. The Eagles fell to 3-1, and out of first place in the NFC East.
Stat of the week
1,740. That’s how many yards Matt Ryan has thrown for this season, the most in the NFL. He added 267 more in Sunday’s 23-16 victory over the Denver Broncos. The Falcons upset the Broncos in Denver by dominating the first half and holding off a late comeback attempt. Denver was held to 267 total yards, including just 84 on the ground. Tevin Coleman caught four passes for 132 yards, including a 49-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter.
Fantasy player of the week
Ben Roethlisberger threw for 380 yards and four touchdowns as the Steelers pulled away in the second half for a 31-13 victory over the Jets. Le’Veon Bell rushed for just 66 yards, and Roethlisberger punched it in close to the goal line with TD passes of 5, 5, and 1 yard. (He also had a 72-yarder to Sammie Coates.) The Steelers improved to 4-1.
Animated gif of the week
In response to the NFL’s crackdown on touchdown celebrations and taunting, Cleveland’s Andrew Hawkins did a clever bit after his score. Hawkins placed the ball on the ground, turned as if he were pretending to be robot, and walked away.
Perhaps the NFL celebration crackdown will lead to more artistic work from the NFL’s prolific touchdown scorers. Instead of Antonio Brown doing a Key and Peele-inspired twerking routine, he can stand still and pontificate on the place of football in an increasingly hostile world.
Elsewhere around the league
– A pair of rookies continued to dominate in Dallas as the Cowboys moved into first place in the NFC East. Ezekiel Elliott ran for 134 yards on just 15 carries, including 2 touchdowns, and Dak Prescott threw for a touchdown and ran for another one. The Cowboys beat the Bengals, 28-14, in a game that was not as close as the score indicated. Dallas scored on its first three possessions to take a 21-0 half-time lead.
– The Vikings are 5-0 after another dominating performance by their defense. Minnesota’s D held Houston to 214 total yards, a lot of it coming in garbage time. Through five games, the Vikings have allowed just 63 points. That’s helping Sam Bradford ease into the new offense; he had his best game of the season Sunday with a 22-for-30, 271-yard, two-TD performance. Minnesota has a bye next week, then visits Philadelphia – who traded Bradford just before the season after Teddy Bridgewater got hurt.
– After struggling to start the year, Marcus Mariota broke out of a funk in the 30-17 win over the Miami Dolphins. The Tennessee Titans’ No2 overall pick last year completed 20 of 29 passes for 163 yards and 3 touchdowns in the win. He also ran for another score. But it was the continued dominance of DeMarco Murray on the ground that helped the Titans to their second win of the season. He rushed for 121 yards on 27 carries, his second 100-yard game of the year; Tennessee had 235 yards on the ground as a team.
The Dolphins fell to 1-4. Their only win is over the Browns, who are 0-5 this year. Ryan Tannehill was booed by the home crowd at several points during the game. They play the Steelers at home next week.
– The Baltimore Ravens couldn’t capitalize on several chances to score a touchdown in the second half and fell to Washington, 16-10. Baltimore’s CJ Mosley intercepted a Kirk Cousins pass and returned it to the Washington 1-yard line – and then fumbled it out of the end zone, giving the ball back to Washington at the 20. Cousins then led a drive into Balitmore territory that ended in a field goal. It looked like Baltimore had taken the lead on a touchdown catch by Beshad Perriman with 33 seconds left, but the catch was overturned on replay. Both teams are 3-2.
– For the second time this season, Andrew Luck threw a touchdown to TY Hilton to give the Colts a fourth-quarter comeback win. Two weeks ago, Luck hit Hilton for a 63-yard score to beat San Diego. Today, Luck hit Hilton for a 37-yard score to put the Colts in front of the Bears. Indianapolis held on for a 29-23 victory. They’re 2-3.
– San Diego just keeps finding ways to lose games. As mentioned above, the Chargers lost to the Colts in week three when they gave up a late touchdown. They blew a 21-0 lead in week one. A late fumble led to the game-winning touchdown by the Saints last week. And today, the Chargers botched the snap on a game-tying field goal attempt with two minutes left. The Raiders won, 34-31. As a result, San Diego is 1-4.
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