Goal-line Stand: Chiefs shock Patriots, make early-season statement to NFL

Updated: September 14, 2017
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It’s a new season and a new year for my weekly column, “Goal-line Stand.” After anxiously awaiting for the NFL season to begin, Week 1 finally arrived and gave us a glimpse of what’s to come in 2017.

Of course there are an enormous amount of overreactions from across the league after one game — that’s the case every year. But we did get a chance to learn a few things early on.

This week we’ll focus our attention on the Kansas City Chiefs and their impressive victory over the defending Super Bowl champs, the Jacksonville Jaguars‘ defense and how it bottled up the Houston Texans, the new and improved Sean McVay-led Los Angeles Rams, and the most interesting division in the NFL, the NFC East.


First-and-goal: Chiefs put the NFL world on notice by defeating New England in Week 1

After watching all the games in Week 1, the team that caught my attention the most was the Chiefs. Not only did they go out and beat the Patriots, who many felt would cruise their way through the regular season (once again), they did so on opening night and in front of a nationally televised audience.

Kansas City drafted Patrick Mahomes II to be an eventual replacement at quarterback for Alex Smith. But man, was Smith on top of his game Thursday night. The 33-year-old veteran completed 28 of 35 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns. He didn’t turn the ball over and had a passer rating of 148.6 — best in the NFL after one week. He was nearly flawless. Smith outdueled Tom Brady and led the Chiefs to 28 second-half points, en route to a 42-27 victory.

Brady was just 16-of-36 with no touchdown passes. That’s something you don’t say, or type, very often.

Andy Reid may have also found himself a new running back to have some fun with. Kareem Hunt, a third-round draft pick out of Toledo, put on a show. He made a ton of fantasy owners happy, rushing for 148 yards, catching five passes for 98 yards and scoring a combined three touchdowns. And Tyreek Hill‘s success from last year continued into opening night, as he caught seven passes for 133 yards and a touchdown.

They did take a blow by losing All-Pro safety Eric Berry for the season to a ruptured Achilles tendon. But this Chiefs team is one to keep an eye on. I have a good feeling they’ll be around come January.


Second-and-goal: Jaguars dominate Texans, even with Blake Bortles at quarterback 

Jacksonville didn’t look great during the preseason. Then again, that was the preseason. We should never overreact to what we see in those meaningless games. But it may have given the Jaguars a chance to right the ship. After Blake Bortles struggled and Chad Henne was on the verge of taking over as the starter, coach Doug Marrone chose to stick it out with Bortles and give him a chance to “re-earn” his spot.

He didn’t do anything extraordinary on Sunday, completing just 11 passes on 21 attempts. But he took care of the ball, threw a touchdown pass and didn’t put his team in harm’s way. Jacksonville leaned on the rushing attack, led by first-round draft pick Leonard Fournette, who carried the ball 26 times for 100 yards and scored a touchdown of his own.

The Jaguars’ defense is what was most impressive. They sacked the Texans’ quarterbacks a total of 10 times, led by four from Calais Campbell. Dante Fowler Jr. scooped up a fumble and returned it for a score. And they forced Bill O’Brien to pull quarterback Tom Savage from the game in favor of rookie Deshaun Watson, who came in and provided a spark, but still wasn’t able to manufacture much offense against that Jaguars D.

Is this the year where Jacksonville can finally put it all together? Only time will tell. But hey, at the very least, they’re off to a 1-0 start for the first time since 2011.


Third-and-goal: Was the Rams’ blowout victory a sign of what’s to come?

I know, the Colts didn’t have Andrew Luck behind center. And yes, the odds of Scott Tolzien going out and throwing for 300-plus yards were very slim. But who would’ve thought the most lopsided victory of the week would come in the hands of the Rams?

McVay is a first-year head coach taking over a team that finished 4-12 a season ago. And boy oh boy, what a debut it was for him. The Rams completely owned the Colts, and Jared Goff took steps toward looking like the No. 1 overall selection from last year. He earned his first career win as a starting quarterback in the NFL, completing 72 percent of his passes and throwing for 306 yards and a touchdown. It’s incredible what a new coordinator and voice in the locker room can do for a young signal-caller.

Goff has a few new weapons to work with as well, in receivers Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and rookie Cooper Kupp. They combined for 12 receptions in their first outing with the Rams. If Todd Gurley, who rushed for a touchdown on Sunday, can get back to his rookie ways, and Goff continues to develop under McVay, the Rams could be an intriguing team this season. Their defense still appears to be stout, and that was without Aaron Donald on the field. Just imagine how good they could be if the offense starts to meet the defense halfway.


Fourth-and-goal: The division that keeps us on the edge of our seats, the NFC East

It’s the most unpredictable division in the NFL. We never know which team will come out on top. There hasn’t been a repeat winner in the division since the Philadelphia Eagles won it four straight years from 2001-2004.

Coming into this season, the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys were favored, and they met on Sunday night. The Giants were without Odell Beckham Jr., which proved to be an even bigger deal than what you’d expect. They were only able to put up three points without their star wideout, leading to a 19-3 victory for the Cowboys.

Ezekiel Elliott was able to play in the season opener, and he picked up where he left off in 2016. The second-year back rushed the ball 24 times for 104 yards and caught five passes for another 36 yards. Dallas’ offense looks completely unstoppable at times, thanks in large part to its massive offensive line. Even against a very talented Giants defense, Dak Prescott completed 24 of 39 passes for 268 yards and a touchdown. The Cowboys, who were 13-3 last season but lost to the G-Men twice, were able to get revenge early on and send a friendly reminder to the NFC East of what they’re capable of.

In the other divisional matchup, the Eagles and Washington Redskins battled it out. Neither team looked particularly impressive, but the Eagles played a more balanced game and were able to come away with a 30-17 win. Carson Wentz showed flashes of how efficient he can be at times, and he’s yet to build a strong chemistry with his new targets — Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. Wentz completed 67 percent of his passes for 307 yards, two touchdowns and an interception — which Ryan Kerrigan returned for a pick-six. Kirk Cousins was a bit off the mark on Sunday, missing several throws that we’ve seen him make before. Terrelle Pryor had many up-and-down moments, while Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed didn’t play too well.

We never know what’ll happen in this division, but that’s what makes it so entertaining. Maybe the Cowboys keep up this pace and earn a second straight NFC East crown, or maybe the Giants bounce back once Beckham is in the lineup. Who knows? But, it’s still early. We still have 15 more games to play.

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