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What we learned from Rams, Jets victories on Monday

The Monday Night Football double-header is a Week 1 tradition. Here's what we've learned so far:

  1. After a humbling low-wattage first-half performance, Sean McVay and the Rams rebounded in the second half to steal time of possession, momentum and a win from the Raiders in Jon Gruden's homecoming. The league's leading offense from a season ago didn't look it in the first two frames. Reigning Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley had just five touches; offseason acquisition Brandin Cooks was nowhere to be found; and Jared Goff looked off.

The Rams responded in the second half by scoring 23 unanswered points. L.A. emphasized establishing the run with Gurley, who eventually salted the game away with 147 total yards on 23 touches, and finding Cooks in the middle of the field (5 rec., 87 yards). Goff still looks stiff biding his time in the pocket and probably could have used some preseason snaps with the starters. But in a tight game like this one, Goff and the Rams offense prevailed despite the big plays they didn't hit and because of the mistakes they didn't make.

  1. With new Rams cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters stalking the flanks of Wade Phillips' defense, Carr didn't even bother throwing in their direction. The Raiders quarterback completed 27 passes, but starting wide receivers Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson and Seth Roberts combined for just five catches for 43 yards. Instead, the Raiders relied on third-down back Jalen Richard (8 rec.) and tight end Jared Cook, whose matchups against L.A.'s linebackers and safeties were far more appealing. Cook was Oakland's most dangerous weapon on the night, an absolute fiend up the seam who recorded a league-best 181 yards on nine receptions. Carr's overreliance on Cook was eventually exploited, however, late in the fourth quarter when Peters jumped a Cook crossing route and pick-sixed a limp pass attempt. Carr's nervy three-pick performance in his first game with Gruden should worry Raiders brass, who have committed nearly a quarter-billion dollars to the pair.
  1. Did the Raiders miss Khalil Mack on Monday night? Yeah, I'd say so. Save for one point-saving strip sack by Bruce Irvin, the Raiders pass rush did little to bother Goff, who had plenty of and/or too much time in the pocket. The ramifications of Mack's departure and the acquisition of two first-rounders won't be fully understood for some time. But in the short term, it's clear that, despite the promising youth on Oakland's defensive line (P.J. Hall, Mo Hurst), the Raiders are already missing the edge threat that Mack provided in spades.
  1. Pick sixes. Special teams scores. Competent QB play. How in the world did the Jets -- these Jets -- pull this off? During Gang Green's total-football onslaught in the third quarter, when the Jets scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams in the span of 156 seconds and racked up 31 points total, it felt like the world had flipped on its axis, that all that was true was now false and all that was known was now myth. This was a new world.

The aftermath: Down two defensive starters, New York held Detroit to just 10 offensive points and piled up five interceptions. The Jets defense hadn't recorded a defensive touchdown in an NFL-record 73 straight games before Darron Lee's pick-six of Matthew Stafford -- that's five whole years. New York's special teams had been among the worst in the league under coach Todd Bowles, at least until new acquisition Andre Roberts ran a punt back 78 yards to the crib and averaged 45.7 yards per punt return. Even the pass rush, dormant since the days of John Abraham, showed up! This type of out-of-nowhere performance has occurred before in the Bowles era -- New York's victory over the Colts on a Monday night in 2015 comes to mind -- but nowhere near this magnitude. It's only one week and one game against a flawed opponent, but something is different about this Jets club -- and it starts with the man under center.

  1. Sam Darnold is the real deal, babe. Bouncing back from an embarrassing first-play pick-six, Darnold was unfazed on his following drives, completing 75 percent of his passes and throwing two touchdowns of different varieties -- a bomb to Robby Anderson and an anticipatory crosser to top target Quincy Enunwa. After Detroit tied the proceedings at the top of the second half, Darnold responded with the drive of the game, connecting with Terrelle Pryor twice and Enunwa for the quick score. The six-play march put New York ahead for good. Bolstered by an unstoppable ground attack and impressive O-line play, Darnold's performance was one of the most impressive rookie QB debuts in recent memory. Credit first-year offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates and journeyman coach-on-the-field Josh McCown for grooming and supporting the rookie, the youngest QB in the modern era, to start and win his first game in the NFL.
  1. The Lions were the better team in this one for maybe 15 seconds. Stafford then stepped on the field. His night could not have been worse. The QB threw four interceptions, one of which went for six, and suffered what looked to be two separate injuries to his upper and lower body but managed to keep playing. Banged up, rusty, regressing -- whatever the excuses were, Stafford threw Detroit out of this ballgame after pulling the Lions back in with a quick scoring drive to start the second half. It didn't help that Detroit's refurbished backfield (Kerryon Johnson, LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick) was dead on arrival Monday night, racking up just 39 yards. Blount (minus-3 yards) exited early, and Ameer Abdullah was a healthy scratch. Save for Kenny Golladay, Detroit's offense was a disaster. Better luck next week.
  1. What an unbelievable debut for Lions coach Matt Patricia. Unbelievable in that it is difficult to believe and understand how, in his coaching debut with an offseason to scheme, the architect of the New England Patriots' Super Bowl-winning defenses oversaw this type of showing. Detroit only allowed 349 total yards and 18 first downs, fine numbers given the nature of the blowout, but the Lions defense was susceptible all night to the big play, a characteristic that can and should be blamed on coaching. Patricia was the sixth first-year head coach to lose his opener this weekend, so at least his misery has company.
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