Week 1 ICYMI: No loss for Browns, but no win either
Browns tie! Browns tie! Browns tie!
It’s not a win, but Cleveland will take it after going 0-16 last year and 1-15 in 2016.
The Browns rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter against the rival Steelers and snapped a 17-game losing streak with a 21-21 result that left fans celebrating in the rain. They had a chance to win the game, but Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt blocked Zane Gonzalez’s 43-yard field-goal attempt with 9 seconds left in overtime.
For a while, it seemed the Steelers would cruise to another easy win over the Browns even without Le’Veon Bell. The All-Pro running back is still holding out over a bitter contract dispute, causing some animosity among his teammates. Backup James Conner had 135 yards rushing and two touchdowns and caught five passes for 57 yards. But Ben Roethlisberger threw three interceptions and fumbled twice, and Conner’s fumble in the fourth quarter helped the Browns rally.
Conner, a star at Pitt who became a city favorite while recovering from a cancer diagnosis in November 2015, may have cost Bell some leverage with his strong performance.
In case you missed it, here are the other top topics after the NFL season’s opening Sunday:
BREATHE EASY, WISCONSIN: Aaron Rodgers returned in the second half after being carted off the field with a knee injury and led the Packers back from a 20-0 deficit to a 24-23 win over the Bears. Rodgers threw three touchdown passes, including a 75-yarder to Randall Cobb with 2:13 left in the game. The stadium fell silent and everyone in Green Bay panicked when Rodgers went down. The Packers missed the playoffs after losing Rodgers last season and are 6-10-1 without him since 2013. Backup DeShone Kizer threw a pick six to Khalil Mack, who disappeared in the second half after a dominant start in his first game for Chicago.
BIG PLAY BUCS: Ryan Fitzpatrick had a 417-yard, four-touchdown performance filling in for the suspended Jameis Winston in a 48-40 upset at New Orleans. Fitzpatrick threw touchdown passes of 50 yards to Mike Evans and 58 and 36 yards to DeSean Jackson. The Buccaneers had 529 total yards against the Saints, who countered with 475. Tampa Bay, coming off a 5-11 season, was the biggest underdog of the weekend at 9 1/2 points.
BECKHAM IS BACK: Odell Beckham Jr. had 11 catches for 111 yards and drew two pass interference penalties on the same drive in his first game since last October following ankle surgery. Beckham won the 1-on-1 battle against outspoken All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, but the New York Giants lost the game. The Jaguars got a pick six by Myles Jack in a 20-15 victory on the road.
PHILLY PHILLY: Needing a spark for his sputtering offense, Eagles coach Doug Pederson turned to a familiar trick play in the third quarter of Philadelphia’s 18-12 victory over Atlanta on Thursday night. Quarterback Nick Foles caught a 15-yard pass from wide receiver Nelson Agholor to extend a drive that ended with a touchdown. Foles caught a 1-yard TD pass from tight end Trey Burton in the first half of Philadelphia’s 41-33 win over New England in the Super Bowl. That play was called “Philly Special.” This one was “Philly Philly.” Pederson used the same personnel group, but a different formation this time around.
NATIONAL ANTHEM: Miami Dolphins receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson were the only two players to kneel during the national anthem opening weekend. Colin Kaepernick called them “brothers” and thanked them on social media. Dolphins teammate Robert Quinn raised his fist. Niners receiver Marquise Goodwin did the same at San Francisco’s game at Minnesota. Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas and linebacker Brandon Marshall, and Seahawks linemen Duane Brown and Quinton Jefferson, retreated to their respective tunnels while the anthem played. In Los Angeles, Chargers left tackle Russell Okung raised his fist.
TROLLING THE BOYS: Former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant had fun taking shots at his old team during an 18-6 loss at Carolina. Bryant wrote on Twitter: “It’s kind of cool calling out all of the signals and knowing which route players are about run.” He engaged with fans, suggested he’d have success in New England or Washington and said he didn’t think Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wanted him out of Dallas.
JIMMY GAROPPO(NOOOOO): Playing his first game since signing his megadeal with San Francisco following seven career starts, Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t look like a $137.5 million quarterback. He tossed three interceptions in a 24-16 loss to Minnesota, including a pick six. Garoppolo was 2-0 as a starter for the Patriots in 2016 and 5-0 for the 49ers last year.