The Schein Nine  

 

Pats, Lamar Jackson, Kellen Moore among Week 1's big winners

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Panicking off Week 1 is easy. And sometimes merited. Oh, sure, I could rant about the Browns' lack of discipline or Jameis Winston's lack of ball security. We could get into a classic Jets loss or vintage Lions tie. And the Dolphins? Well, they're in a completely different category of ineptitude.

But what's the fun in that? Football is BACK, and that's a glorious thing to say. Can't take away that new-season glee from me! For Week 1, I'm going positive. All positive.

How was Kyler Murray's highly anticipated debut? Forget the slop in the first three quarters -- the fourth quarter and overtime were majestic. Arizona's glass isn't half full, it's overflowing. And that wasn't the only storyline that tickled my fancy on Sunday ...

Here are my favorite positive developments from the first NFL Sunday of the 2019 regular season, Schein Nine style:

1) New England Patriots' all-around (timeless) dominance

Sunday night had the feel of watching the Warriors firing on all cylinders in the regular season. New England's 33-3 beatdown of Pittsburgh was simply majestic. Not a fair fight.

Father Time's previously undefeated mark has apparently been toppled by Tom Brady. Throwing for 341 yards and three touchdowns in your first game as a 42-year-old?! Freakin' extraordinary, something that cannot be glossed over. The connection with Phillip Dorsett, who paced the Pats with 95 receiving yards and two touchdowns, was stellar. Josh Gordon (three catches for 73 yards and a score) looked like the physically imposing wideout who damages defenses whenever he steps on the field. And wait until Antonio Brown gets going.

And how about New England's defense? That's the bigger-picture story here, when it comes to the Patriots' efforts to winning a third title in four years: This is Bill Belichick's best defensive group in years. The defensive backfield is unreal. The Steelers were flat-out stoned. They couldn't run. They couldn't pass. They couldn't function.

The Patriots won by 30 points, and it felt even more lopsided than that.

2) Tennessee Titans' offense

This is kind of a huge deal. It's not hyperbole to call this a make-or-break season for Marcus Mariota. And while Cleveland's star-studded offense received most of the offseason love, the Browns' defense boasts big-time players and coaches, too. I submit all that for perspective on what Tennessee accomplished in pasting and demoralizing Cleveland in the Dawg Pound, 43-13 -- and doing so without suspended left tackle Taylor Lewan.

Sunday was the Titans' largest margin of victory since 2012. Derrick Henry pounded Cleveland for 159 total yards and two touchdowns. Mariota rocked steady with 248 yards and three touchdowns through the air. And Delanie Walker, who refused to take the cheese on the Browns hype being a thing, hauled in a pair of touchdown grabs in his first regular-season game since the gruesome ankle injury in last year's season opener.

The AFC South is the only division, in my opinion, with four teams that can finish first. The Titans entered Week 1 with plenty of questions, including how long Mariota would be the guy. Sunday was an inspiring start.

3) Lamar Jackson's perfect day

Perfect. Absolutely perfect. And not surprising. Jackson was breathtaking in Baltimore's 59-10 shellacking of the Dolphins, and it's a harbinger of things to come.

Jackson posted a perfect passer rating of 158.3, completing 17 of his 20 passes for 324 yards and five touchdowns. Not bad for three quarters of work, eh? Yes, Miami is in the midst of a rebuild, smartly thinking about 2020 and 2021. But don't spin Jackson's opening statement any other way.

Jackson told me last week on SiriusXM Radio that he expected greatness -- and I'm right there with him. General manager Eric DeCosta brilliantly drafted "Hollywood" Brown, who caught two bomb touchdowns in his NFL debut. John Harbaugh deftly promoted Greg Roman to run the offense, and he's perfect for Jackson. Lamar is going to have a monster second season. And he supplied a splendid retort to the haters on Sunday, on the field -- and in the postgame:

4) Carson Wentz's healthy returns

The Redskins jumping out to a 17-0 lead in Philly was stunning. The ensuing genius of Carson Wentz was not.

The fourth-year quarterback's healthy. He's fully entrenched with a well-deserved, mega-bucks contract. And Sunday's effort counts as being clutch, with Wentz pulling the Eagles out of a deep first-half hole for a 32-27 win. Wentz was brilliant, throwing for 313 yards and three touchdowns -- against zero picks. Don't be surprised. He's a star.

5) Kellen Moore's prolific play-calling debut

My preseason pick for Assistant Coach of the Year provided quite a first impression in Dallas' 35-17 win over the Giants. The Cowboys' offense hummed, falling 6 yards shy of 500 on the day. Sure, the Giants are dreadful, but there was a different feel to this Dallas attack.

Dak Prescott was simply sensational, eclipsing 400 yards passing with four touchdowns and zero picks, matching Lamar Jackson with a perfect passer rating. Dak spread the ball around brilliantly: Second-year breakout candidate Michael Gallup led all receivers with seven catches for 158 yards, while Amari Cooper (six catches for 106 yards) and Randall Cobb (four for 69) each found the end zone. Jason Witten was wide open on his touchdown grab -- what a cool story his return from the booth is. And wait until Ezekiel Elliott kicks off the rust from his holdout.

With Moore calling the plays, Zeke pounding the rock and the talented defense swarming, Dallas can make a legit run in January.

6) Dalvin Cook's ground control

When he's healthy, he's special. And when Cook is, well, cooking, the Vikings are a totally different team. It takes the heat off Kirk Cousins and keeps the loaded defense fresh.

Cook was terrific in Minnesota's dominant defeat of Atlanta, gashing the Falcons for 111 yards and two scores on 21 carries. The guy's a home-run hitter, as evidenced by his first touchdown -- one cut, and then he's shot out of a cannon down the sideline, erasing all defenders' angles.

7) Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson's stand-in supremacy

Melvin who? Ekeler capped off a prolific day with a walk-off, pulsating touchdown to beat Indy in what had all the makings of a "same old Chargers" loss. Quite fitting Ekeler was the hero. The jitterbug back ran the ball 12 times for 58 yards and hauled in six catches for 96 yards, scoring three total touchdowns in the process. Meanwhile, Justin Jackson was a beast in his six carries, racking up a robust 57 yards.

The sports gods haven't been kind to the Chargers in recent years. And Melvin Gordon's (foolish) holdout, Derwin James' killer injury and kicker Mike Badgley not being healthy enough to go on Sunday could've really gotten this team off to a bad start. But the Bolts are loaded and well-coached, and they overcame all obstacles. This felt like a needed ray of sunshine to begin the season.

8) Zac Taylor's promising first game in the big chair

Yes, Taylor lost his coaching debut to the Seahawks in Seattle, 21-20. And there's no such thing as a moral victory in the NFL. ... But the Bengals' came relatively close to earning one, with their inspiring energy and execution in one of the most hostile venues in this league.

I loved the Taylor hire. And while this could end up being a long year -- the Bengals have already been snake-bitten on the injury front -- there will be signs of promise, signals that things are headed in the right direction. We'll see Taylor's charges stepping up (SEE: 2017 top-10 pick John Ross finally breaking out with seven catches for 158 yards and two scores), providing building blocks for the future. And there's a silver lining to hard-fought losses, too ... Maybe, if a premium draft slot comes to fruition in the 2020 NFL Draft, Taylor can hand pick a first-rounder at the game's most important position.

9) Buffalo Bills' character

It's well-documented that I'm in on this team. I pegged Buffalo as my Cinderella team in April and picked the Bills to make the playoffs in August. And their effort on Sunday undoubtedly bolstered my feelings.

The toughness, togetherness and talent was on display, as the Bills erased a 16-0 third-quarter deficit to beat the rival Jets on the road. Don't be surprised. This is what the Bills are under Sean McDermott. This is what to expect from this defense late in games. This is what to expect from the Josh Allen-John Brown connection.

I'm calling for a 4-0 Bills start, which will include a win over the Patriots.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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