The 32 things we learned from Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season:
1. Sunday’s Week 1 slate of games coincided with the 21st anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Naturally, the pregame commemoration was especially poignant in the New York market, where the MetLife Stadium crowd carried much of the rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Ironically, it was Baltimore coach John Harbaugh who sported a Ravens-branded FDNY hat on the sideline, while Jets coach Robert Saleh eschewed a lid (as he typically does). Harbaugh switched to a Ravens-branded NYPD hat during his postgame press conference following Baltimore’s 24-9 victory.
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2. For the historians, it’s also now been 21 years since Tom Brady first became a starter in the NFL, when former New England Patriots QB Drew Bledsoe was injured in 2001 during the NFL’s return following the tragedies on Sept. 11.
2a.TB12 improved to 7-0 all-time against the Dallas Cowboys after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cruised 19-3 on Sunday night.
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2b. The Falcons, Vikings, Patriots and Bucs have also never notched a victory against the GOAT.
2c. Now 45, Brady officially became the oldest quarterback to start an NFL game. And the record-breaking résumé grows.
3. For the first time since 2007, there were no rookie quarterbacks in any starting lineup on opening weekend.
4. Week 1 didn’t lack for drama, but whether it was the weather (Chicago), some highly regarded teams (Rams, Packers, Bengals, 49ers) falling flat, special teams nonsense, or a nice helping of penalties – both ridiculous (see: Chicago) and legitimate – opening weekend was sloppy enough that you might conclude that a good portion of the league should take preseason a little more seriously.
4a. The Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals, who met seven months ago in Super Bowl 56, both lost. It’s the first time this century that the previous season’s Super Sunday participants each opened 0-1.
5. The thumb injury suffered by Cowboys QB Dak Prescott presumably means Dallas’ interim plan to defend its NFC East title will rely on a combination of QBs Cooper Rush and Will Grier – which can’t be a comforting thought to fans of “America’s Team,” Jerry Jones … or Mike McCarthy. Dallas’ next five games are against the Bengals, Giants, Commanders, Rams and Eagles – a crucial stretch given the Cowboys could start 0-3 in the division.
6. There are 10 new head coaches entering the 2022 campaign, and they went a collective 6-2-1 Sunday with the Denver Broncos’ Nathaniel Hackett set to debut Monday in Seattle. Among the winners was Giants boss Brian Daboll, whose fiery sideline demeanor and decision to go for two points and the win with 76 seconds to go will be a plus in New York … for now.
7.Two years in a row QB Aaron Rodgers (195 yards, INT) and the Green Bay Packers have been trash in Week 1. It’s just one game, but is it fair to say Rodgers and WR Davante Adams should’ve fought to save their football marriage?
8. Could this finally be the year the league gets a 2,000-yard receiver? Minnesota Vikings star Justin Jefferson needs to average just 113.5 per game the rest of the way after his 184-yard, two-TD outburst helped take down Rodgers’ Pack.
9. Tyreek who? The Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes went off for 360 yards and five TD passes in Arizona on Sunday afternoon, ensuring that Buffalo Bills counterpart Josh Allen won’t be running away and hiding with the MVP award.
9a. Mahomes has 18 TD passes and zero picks in Week 1 games during his career.
10. Could new LA Chargers pass rusher Khalil Mack, who had three sacks against the Las Vegas Raiders and former teammate Derek Carr on Sunday, be on the short list of 2022 defensive player of the year candidates? Pretty nice when you’re healthy, lining up opposite Joey Bosa (1½ sacks) and getting staked to leads by QB Justin Herbert.
11. How is Ravens QB Lamar Jackson’s season going to unfold after he failed to reach a contract extension with Baltimore prior to this weekend’s self-imposed deadline? Time will tell, but noteworthy that Jackson, who threw three TD passes against the Jets, only ran six times for 17 yards. He entered the season averaging 10.6 rushing attempts per game over the course of his career.
12. Jackson’s former teammate, current Jets QB Joe Flacco – he famously bet to play out his own contract in 2012 and led Baltimore to a Super Bowl victory – threw 59 passes in his first game against his former team. Flacco is now 0-10 in games when he throws the ball at least 52 times.
13. Based on how the 2021 first-round quarterbacks played Sunday, maybe the San Francisco 49ers should’ve drafted Justin Fields third overall instead of Trey Lance. The rain and terrible sod at Soldier Field may have been an equalizer, but no question Fields did a lot more with a lesser supporting cast in Chicago’s 19-10 upset.
13a. Since taking over in 2017, San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan is now 8-29 in regular-season games not started by QB Jimmy Garoppolo.
14. The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Cincinnati Bengals twice on Sunday, once on the field in overtime and once on Twitter. (For the record, Pittsburgh forced five turnovers.)
15. Despite a down season in 2021, Pittsburgh’s Minkah Fitzpatrick signed a record-setting contract (4-year, $73.6 million extension) for a safety this offseason – it was later eclipsed by the Chargers’ Derwin James – and definitely started earning his money Sunday. The two-time All-Pro had a 31-yard pick six, tied a career-best with 14 tackles and blocked the extra point that sent the game into overtime, where the Steelers prevailed. Fitzpatrick likely can’t afford to let up moving forward if teammate T.J. Watt’s pectoral injury is serious enough to knock last season’s Defensive Player of the Year out for a protracted period.
16. After undergoing an appendectomy at the start of training camp and while trying to mesh with a front five that underwent an O-linedectomy in the offseason with four new starters, perhaps Bengals QB Joe Burrow should have anticipated a rough 2022 debut. But his career-worst five turnovers, including four INTs, were two more than he’d ever surrendered in an NFL game.
17. Welcome back, Saints WR Michael Thomas. The former All-Pro, plagued by injuries in recent seasons, had his first two-TD game in nearly three years – both of Sunday’s scores coming in the fourth quarter – as New Orleans survived the Falcons in Atlanta 27-26.
18. Von Miller posted two sacks Thursday night in his Bills debut, matching what he did in his final game with the Rams – a winning effort in Super Bowl 56. Miller’s new crew took down his former teammate, Matthew Stafford, seven times. Buffalo had the league’s top-ranked defense in 2021, though it only averaged 2.47 sacks per game in the regular season. Early indications are that Miller could be the final piece to a long-awaited Super Bowl formula in western New York.
19. For the first time since Sean McVay became Rams coach in 2017, his team is below .500 at any point in a season.
19a. Los Angeles’ 21-point loss was the second worst ever in Week 1 for a team coming off a Super Bowl victory.
20. If Miller’s was the major move of the offseason – and Tyreek Hill and Adams will be among those in this debate – could WR A.J. Brown’s be the next-most consequential? Per Elias, Brown’s 155 receiving yards (10 catches) were the most ever by an Eagles player making his team debut.
21. QB Matt Ryan’s first game with the Indianapolis Colts ended in a 20-20 tie against the Houston Texans. None of Ryan’s 222 games with the Atlanta Falcons wound up deadlocked.
22. Some applause for TE O.J. Howard, who scored both Texans TDs on Sunday. Howard has gone from the penthouse (Bucs, Bills) to the outhouse during 2022 alone, but nice to see him getting an opportunity to showcase the talent that made him a first-round pick in 2017.
23. Since becoming the Patriots’ coach in 2000, Bill Belichick had never lost his first four matchups to an opposing quarterback … until Sunday. Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa is now 4-0 against Belichick and helped the Dolphins improve their record at Hard Rock Stadium to 8-2 against the Pats in the teams’ last 10 meetings in South Florida.
23a. All that offseason consternation about the Patriots offense and departure of OC Josh McDaniels – what’s the big deal? New England put up seven points, 271 yards and landed QB Mac Jones in the trainers’ room Sunday with an injured back.
24. New Panthers QB Baker Mayfield didn’t manage to (bleep) up his former Browns teammates nor cool the seat under his new coach, Matt Rhule.
25. However, Mayfield would’ve pulled out the win if not for a Cleveland player with whom he never played. Browns K Cade York’s game-winning 58-yard FG in the final seconds was the longest ever by a rookie in his team’s season opener. A fourth-rounder, York was the highest-drafted kicker since 2016.
25a. The Steelers’ Chris Boswell and Saints’ Wil Lutz also drilled game-winning three-pointers Sunday.
25b. However, some kickers – the Colts’ Rodrigo Blankenship and Titans’ Randy Bullock – won’t sleep well. And the Bengals’ Evan McPherson will be dreaming about long snapping support.
26. NBC’s new “Sunday Night Football” announcing duo of Mike Tirico and Cris Collinsworth is off to a fast start. They interjected some humor into Thursday’s Rams-Bills kickoff game, then Tirico had fun with Collinsworth’s failing vocal cords Sunday night in Dallas. “Should I make a ‘Voice’ joke?” Tirico cracked, while working in a promotion for NBC’s popular reality show.
27. At least the Chiefs can rest easy knowing they’ve got quite the kicking handcuff — safety Justin Reid it turns out — for Harrison Butker, who missed part of Sunday’s game with an ankle injury.
28. Washington fans got the full Wentz on Sunday, their new quarterback serving up two interceptions before connecting for two of his four TD passes in the final 10 minutes, bringing the Commanders back for a 28-22 triumph over Jacksonville.
29. Jaguars rookie OLB Travon Walker, this year’s No. 1 pick, became the first drafted player since T.J. Watt in 2017 to collect a sack and interception in his NFL debut.
30. But I have to tell Neil, one of my biggest fans – he loves hearing me on D.C. sports radio shows in addition to reading this column – that Sunday’s game outside the nation’s capital was unwatchable. Not because the Commanders and Jags didn’t provide some decent football theater, but because those new Washington uniforms look far worse in game action than they did conceptually. And #HTTC? Horrendous.
31. From the “what do I know?” file, the four bottom teams in my latest power rankings – Texans, Falcons, Bears and Giants – nearly went 4-0 on Sunday. The quartet still wound up 2-1-1, Chicago prevailing in a Windy City downpour and Big Blue upsetting the Titans in Nashville. Proof positive that you just never know in the NFL.
32. Appropriate to bookend Sunday’s 9/11 milestone by also taking a moment to remember former Arizona Cardinals safety and U.S. Army Ranger Pat Tillman, who said in the aftermath of the attacks: “My great grandfather was at Pearl Harbor, and a lot of my family has gone and fought in wars, and I really haven’t done a damn thing as far as laying myself on the line like that.” Of course, Tillman, who left the NFL and enlisted following the 2001 season, wound up making the ultimate sacrifice when he was killed in Afghanistan in 2004. His memory lives on with the The Pat Tillman Foundation, which awards scholarships to current military members, military spouses and veterans. Thanks, Pat.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.