The Tampa Bay Buccaneers saw plenty of room for improvement even after a 48-25 defeat of the Atlanta Falcons that featured five touchdown passes by superstar Tom Brady. 

NFL Super Bowl champions the Buccaneers held a 28-10 lead following the opening drive of the second half, but watched Matt Ryan and the Falcons narrow the deficit to three by the end of the third quarter on Sunday.

Brady's final TD pass of the game and a pair of interception returns for touchdowns by Mike Edwards in the fourth period accounted for the lopsided final score, but the Buccaneers did not sound satisfied afterward. 

"The defence made some huge plays, that's the great thing," Brady told reporters. "Fourth quarter, three-point game and they make a huge stop and [we] went down there and scored, which was good. Then a few big turnovers, so that was great to see.

"Offensively, we grinded out and found a way but obviously we all wish we could have done some things to be more productive. It was a good team effort."

Brady improved to 9-0 in his career against the Falcons and broke one of his own NFL records in the process. 

The 44-year-old has already thrown nine touchdowns through two games this season – a new career-high after two games of a season.

Brady has thrown for at least four passing touchdowns in four successive regular-season games, dating back to last term. It ties Hall of Famer Dan Marino for the NFL's second longest streak since 1950 – one shy of Peyton Manning's streak of five straight games.

Including the playoffs, Sunday was the ninth straight game in which the Buccaneers won while scoring at least 30 points, breaking the league record of eight previously shared with Brady's 2007 and 2011 New England Patriots. 

On the heels of a tense 31-29 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the season opener, Tampa Bay are grateful to be unbeaten but do not believe they have found a rhythm. 

"We left points out there," Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said. "Obviously we got 14 out of the defence but we left points out there offensively.

"I haven't seen us getting close to playing consistently yet. Hopefully we'll get there next week because we're going to have to."

The Buccaneers will face the high-powered Los Angeles Rams in Week 3 in their first road game of the season, and Brady agrees that the offence will need to do more going forward. 

"What I think and I'm sure other guys feel the same way is I think we can do better," Brady said. "I really do. I think we have the opportunity, the way the games are flowing and the opportunities we're getting with the ball we can maybe have even more opportunities.

"We were a little loose with the ball, some penalties at different times that have knocked us out of some scoring drives. Some missed throws that I've had, some missed reads. I certainly wish I had made a few better throws tonight.

"But, again, it's good to get the win. We're 2-0 and there's a lot to build on."

Dak Prescott praised the resilience of the Dallas Cowboys after the overcame the Los Angeles Chargers 20-17 in the NFL on Sunday.

Staring down the possibility of a second consecutive heart-breaking road defeat to start the season, the Cowboys showed their determination in Week 2.

That was the message from star quarterback Prescott after Greg Zuerlein's 56-yard field as time expired gave the Cowboys victory over the Chargers. 

After watching Tom Brady march Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers down the field in the final minute to set up a game-winning kick in the season opener, the Cowboys' defence got the job done in the second half against the Chargers.

An 11-play Chargers drive in the third quarter ended with a Damontae Kazee interception of Justin Herbert in the end zone, four plays after an apparent Herbert TD pass was called back due to a holding penalty. 

It was more of the same on a 12-play Los Angeles drive that consumed much of the fourth quarter, as Herbert and the Chargers reached the Dallas two-yard line before having a touchdown negated due to an illegal shift.

Two plays later, Micah Parsons sacked Herbert for an 18-yard loss and the home side had to settle for a game-tying field goal from Tristan Vizcaino rather than a go-ahead touchdown. 

To Prescott, those two stands were indicative of a team determined to stick together. 

"We're resilient, we're gonna fight, we're always in the fight," Prescott told CBS. "I think tonight we showed our brotherhood, we trusted each other, we played complementary football.

"Defence came up with a great turnover there in the red zone and we finished off with a win."

Zuerlein saw to that with his booming 56-yarder, which Prescott "had all faith" the veteran kicker would make. 

More important over the course of the game was a revived Dallas rushing attack after the team ran just 18 times for 60 yards at Tampa Bay. 

The Cowboys more than tripled that yardage total on Sunday, going for 198 on 31 carries as Tony Pollard ran for 109 yards while averaging 8.4 per rush and Ezekiel Elliott piled up 71 yards, with both backs finding the end zone. 

"It started with the offensive line," Prescott said. "They came out and they set the tone, they were physical. That allowed both of those backs to get going. Those guys hit the holes and just allowed us to be balanced.

"That's what we said, after last game -- we're gonna do whatever it takes to win, whether it's throwing a lot, run and a lot or be balanced. Tonight, it took all of that to get it done."

Kyler Murray's magic touch and a stunning field goal miss at the death gave the Arizona Cardinals a 34-33 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

While Murray's latest series of highlight-reel plays were the talk of the game, the Vikings had a chance to win it on the final play as Greg Joseph set up for a 37-yard field goal. 

But Joseph, who had hit twice from 52 yards earlier in the game, sent his kick wide right to set off a wild celebration in Arizona as the Cardinals remained unbeaten. 

Arizona had trailed 20-7 midway through the second quarter after three Kirk Cousins touchdown passes, but Murray took control of the game with his legs and his arm. 

The quarterback started the rally with a 12-yard touchdown run, then delivered a scrambling, 77-yard bomb to a wide-open Rondale Moore less than two minutes later to give the Cardinals the lead. 

Nick Vigil picked off Murray on the second play of the second half and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown, but the Cardinals star marched his team right back down the field and hit A.J. Green as Arizona went back on top. 

After the teams traded field goals in the fourth quarter, the Vikings had a chance to win it on Joseph's leg, but it was not to be.

Murray completed 29 of 36 passes for 400 yards and three touchdowns as he got the better of Kirk Cousins, who was 22 of 32 for 244 yards and three TDs. Minnesota's Dalvin Cook had 22 carries for 131 yards. 

 

Cowboys edge Chargers on last-second field goal

Greg Zuerlein's 56-yard field goal as time expired gave the Dallas Cowboys a 20-17 victory at the Los Angeles Chargers. 

It was a welcome bounceback for the Cowboys after their season-opening defeat at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and it came with a starring role for a surprising player. 

Tony Pollard carried just three times for 14 yards in the opener but exploded for 109 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries against the Chargers. 

Ezekiel Elliott added 71 yards and a score on the ground while Dak Prescott completed 23 of 27 passes for 237 yards. 

Zach Wilson endured an awful home debut with the New York Jets, throwing four interceptions, but he will work to make sure the performance does not dent his confidence moving forward. 

Quarterback Wilson was the second overall pick in the NFL Draft but is coming into a poor Jets team seemingly set to struggle in the AFC East. 

A first divisional matchup on Sunday did little to boost hopes as the Jets were beaten 25-6 by the New England Patriots – an 11th straight defeat to Bill Belichick and his team. 

Wilson had a miserable outing, with the Jets booed by their home fans in their first game at MetLife Stadium this year. 

The former BYU QB had thrown two touchdown passes in a 19-14 Week 1 defeat to the Carolina Panthers, becoming only the second rookie for the Jets to do so on their first start, along with Sam Darnold in 2018. In that group, only Mark Sanchez (272) threw for more than his 258 yards. 

It was a different story against a strong Patriots defense, however, as four picks – including two on his first two passing attempts – ruined Wilson's day. 

"When your first two passes are interceptions, it's tough to find that rhythm," he said. "You're not on the field much. 

"Also, the first quarter's over and we've only had a couple of plays out there on the field. We've got to start better; I've got to start better. 

"Really we've just got to execute across the board. I'm going to take that this week – it's on my shoulders, so I've got to do better." 

Wilson said his performance could be summed up by "a lack of execution", but he is ready to overcome this early adversity in his pro career. 

"This is what we signed up for, right? There's going to be games like this, with the ups and downs," he said. "We saw it last week in the first half as well. 

"We just keep getting reminded how long the season is and how we can get back and keep getting better. 

"I just have to remember the situation that I'm in – I'm an important piece in this whole thing, so how can I keep learning and getting better? 

"You've got to keep that swag and that mojo every single week. 

"[Moving on] is what I feel like you have to be able to be good at. It's tough. Obviously you're frustrated about things that have happened, but there's that switch inside where you've just got to hit the reset button. Every single play is a new play." 

Wilson's opposite number Mac Jones was also a first-round selection this year and came into the game having thrown for 281 yards (plus a TD) in Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins – a record for a Patriots rookie quarterback on their debut. 

With 186 yards and no TD passes this week, Jones also took a step back, but New England still won. Afterwards, he had sympathy for Wilson. 

"I think Zach's a really good player," Jones said. "As rookie quarterbacks – as I told him after the game – we've just got to continue to get better. It's just part of the game. 

"Our defense is really good. It's a tough defense to go against – I've gone against them in practice and probably thrown a lot of picks too. 

"It sucks, but Zach's going to be a great player. He's a really hard worker, he kept his head up and we just had some words there. 

"I don't know him that well personally, but he's definitely going to continue to grow, just like I will too." 

The Buffalo Bills got their 2021 NFL season up and running with a sixth straight win over the Miami Dolphins, who lost Tua Tagovailoa to a rib injury.

Tipped by many to make the Super Bowl this year, the Bills endured an underwhelming start in defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but a 35-0 success in Miami got them back on track.

Buffalo benefited from Tagovailoa's departure early in the game, as he had to be carted back to the locker room after a hit from A.J. Epenesa when he attempted a short-range pass on fourth down.

By that point, the second-year Dolphins quarterback had been sacked twice on a three-and-out opening drive before seeing Devin Singletary run 46 yards for the Bills' first touchdown.

Josh Allen threw to Stefon Diggs for a second score, but Buffalo failed to add to their advantage in the remainder of a chaotic first half, epitomised by Levi Wallace's pick from back-up Miami QB Jacoby Brissett moments after receiving a penalty for taunting.

Allen found his range again at the start of the third quarter as Dawson Knox made a low catch in the end zone – this the QB's seventh consecutive start against the Dolphins with multiple TD passes. Only Philip Rivers (against the Houston Texans) had previously enjoyed such a run against a single team.

Miami were never in the game thereafter and Zack Moss added a pair of rushing scores with two bruising runs, the second after Allen was called just short.

Super Cooper rescues Rams

NFC West rivals the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers survived scares against the Indianapolis Colts and the Philadelphia Eagles respectively, each coming through to move to 2-0.

The Rams were grateful to Cooper Kupp for his nine catches for 163 yards and two TDs – following 108 yards and a score last week – after a botched snap for a punt had gifted the Colts their first lead early in the fourth quarter. Carson Wentz ended the game on the sideline.

Wilson woeful for Jets

Zach Wilson's home debut for the New York Jets was a miserable one as he threw four interceptions in a defeat to the New England Patriots.

Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals paid the price for Joe Burrow's three interceptions from three consecutive passes – including a pick six – against the Chicago Bears, who were not punished for a shaky Justin Fields display after Andy Dalton's injury.

Wilson's Jets predecessor Sam Darnold threw for 305 yards, two TDs and a pick in the Carolina Panthers' win over the New Orleans Saints.

Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim insists his team are "not in the business of getting rid of good players", amid speculation over the future of Chandler Jones.

Former New England Patriots pass-rusher Jones sat out OTAs and minicamp as well as reportedly requesting a trade as he entered this season, the last of his current contract.

Last season, three-time Pro Bowler Jones suffered a torn bicep in Week 5 ending his campaign early.

But the 31-year-old started 2021 with a bang, recording an astonishing five sacks as the Cardinals opened with a big 38-13 win at the Tennessee Titans.

Ahead of the Cardinals playing the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, Keim was asked whether the team would be able to tie Jones down to a new deal.

"We are not in the business of moving on and getting rid of good football players," Keim said to Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

"You always want to get good players under contract, but there are always a million different moving parts. 

"I have to continue to look at the roster moving forward, generally from a three-year standpoint."

Per Stats Perform data, Jones' five-sack showing was just the eighth time this century a player has recorded that number in a single game. 

The last player to achieve the feat was in fact Haason Reddick, also for the Cardinals, in Week 14 of last season against the New York Giants.

Reddick has since moved on to the Carolina Panthers, but having Jones back with a point to prove should be of huge benefit.

While Jones is focused on what takes place on the field, he acknowledges the contract situation is hard to ignore entirely.

"I'm just playing football, honestly," Jones said. "I just let my agent take care of that – the contract situation – but it is the last year of my contract and I just let that take care of itself.

"Is it something that, I mean, [I think about] off the field? Yeah, I mean, of course. I don't know where I'm gonna live next year. 

"But in the same situation, I think, when the season starts, I tell my agent let's put all that to a side, you take care of that.

"If you want to talk about it, you talk about it. As far as for me, I'm going to play, and I'm going to play my best football, and we'll see what happens then.

"When it comes to the season, I think doing your job is essential, putting the team first, ignore the noise and just managing expectations.

"I think I play best when I don't go in thinking about the deal or the contract."

The Cardinals' Week 1 win was their second largest victory since Kliff Kingsbury became head coach in 2019. 

They play a Vikings team who suffered a disappointing overtime defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals to begin the season.

After letting a Week 1 victory slip through their fingers in an overtime thriller with the Las Vegas Raiders, the Baltimore Ravens head into their second game perhaps feeling a sense of jeopardy about the direction of their season.

The Ravens have been beset by injuries on both sides of the ball and, following their 33-27 defeat to the Raiders, have the unenviable task of trying to get back to 1-1 by defeating Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

It is a challenge that has consistently been beyond Baltimore in recent years. The Ravens have lost their last four meetings with the Chiefs and can hardly consider themselves to be in an advantageous situation going into Sunday's primetime clash.

The Ravens lost each of their top three running backs to injury before the start of the season, with J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill all on the shelf. A torn ACL robbed Baltimore of cornerback Marcus Peters for the entire season, while wide receivers Rashod Bateman and Miles Boykin are on injured reserve and out until at least Week 4.

As if that was not enough, they will be without left tackle Ronnie Stanley on Sunday, forcing Alejandro Villanueva to switch position and take his place with interior lineman Patrick Mekari filling in at right tackle.

The Chiefs defense is far from the most fearsome in the NFL and managed only 12 pressures in Kansas City's opening win over the Cleveland Browns.

However, being shorn of skill position talent and playing behind a makeshift offensive line is a long way from ideal for quarterback Lamar Jackson as he attempts to outduel Mahomes.

With their successive MVP seasons in 2018 and 2019 respectively, Mahomes and Jackson have led the new generation of dual-threat quarterbacks taking over the NFL but performed at opposite ends of the spectrum in Week 1.

According to Stats Perform data, Mahomes added 2.81 yards per attempt in expected passing situations against the Browns, third in the NFL. Jackson was 21st with minus 0.87 yards per attempt versus the Raiders.

Mahomes delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball on 82.4 per cent of his attempts, compared to 69% for Jackson.

When pressured by the Browns, Mahomes' well-thrown percentage dipped to 66.7 but with an air yards per attempt average of 18.6. By contrast, Jackson was at 63.6 while averaging 5.3 air yards.

Though not particularly accurate under pressure, Mahomes still found a way to test the Browns deep, which should be a cause for concern for the Ravens' secondary given Peters' absence and injuries to Marlon Humphrey and Jimmy Smith, who are both questionable for the game.

Jackson was not able to do the same in defeat to the Raiders and now must somehow find a way to keep up with Mahomes despite a complete lack of continuity on offense.

With the advent of the 17-game season, going 0-2 is not the death knell it once was. The Ravens have a little extra wiggle room than they did in the 16-game era but, realistically, if they want to compete in the AFC, Jackson will need to overcome statistical evidence and the recent history of this matchup and get Baltimore off the mark against the odds.

The Los Angeles Chargers made a winning start to the new NFL season in Week 1 but now face the challenge of having to adapt to a major loss on their offensive line.

It was announced on Friday that right tackle Bryan Bulaga had been placed on injured reserve due to back and groin problems.

That robs quarterback Justin Herbert of a veteran presence up front for at least three games as he looks to guide the Chargers to the playoffs following a superb Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign in 2020.

However, the numbers suggest it should be a survivable loss for the Chargers despite Bulaga's considerable pedigree as a player in his 11th NFL season.

Bulaga's replacement is Storm Norton, a former undrafted free agent who played 36 snaps in last week's win over the Washington Football Team. 

Last year, Norton played in six games, starting three and, while there is a considerable difference in their experience, there is evidence that points to him outperforming Bulaga in 2020.

Indeed, Norton allowed a pressure rate of 9.0 per cent on 134 pass protection snaps last year compared to 9.7 per cent on 175 for Bulaga.

Bulaga's adjusted sack rate allowed of 1.1 per cent was superior to that of Norton (1.5 per cent), but the Chargers can afford to have hope that there should not be much of a drop-off on the right side of the line in the former Green Bay Packer's absence.

What should give them further reason for confidence is the performance of Herbert when under pressure in Los Angeles' opening win.

Of quarterbacks to be pressured at least five times in Week 1, Herbert had the fourth-best well-thrown percentage under duress, delivering an accurate ball 81.8 per cent of the time.

Replicating that performance may not even be a necessity in the next two games for Herbert, who in Week 2 goes against a Dallas Cowboys defense without pass rusher Demarcus Lawrence that pressured Tom Brady only 13 times in their opening loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Week 3 sees the Chargers face the Kansas City Chiefs, who managed 12 pressures against the Cleveland Browns.

For context, the San Francisco 49ers racked up a league-high 30 pressures in Week 1 and, though Week 4 opponents the Las Vegas Raiders had success in pressuring Lamar Jackson 19 times in Week 1, the early numbers indicate Herbert might not face enough consistent pressure for Bulaga's injury to develop into a significant issue.

Norton was not a liability when called into action last season. He is set to enter the fray against opponents who will pose serious challenges to the Chargers but not ones who are known for having fearsome pass rushes. The loss of Bulaga is a blow but, given the success of his deputy in a small sample size and Herbert's proficiency against pressure, it is not one that should lead them to approach the coming weeks with any fear.

After 2020, in which injuries and poor defensive play doomed Dallas to another season without playoff football, the Cowboys are already dealing with significant losses on both sides of the ball in 2021. 

Wide receiver Michael Gallup is on injured reserve and out until at least October because of a calf issue, but a more impactful injury came in practice this week as defensive end Demarcus Lawrence suffered a broken foot. 

Lawrence has since had surgery and will be sidelined for six to eight weeks, robbing the Cowboys of one of the more versatile defensive ends in the NFL. 

Last season, Lawrence was the only edge defender in the NFL with a pressure rate of at least 20 per cent to cross that same threshold in terms of run disruptions. Lawrence's pressure rate was 20.1 per cent in 2020, when he disrupted a run 22.7 per cent of the time. 

His absence leaves a massive void for a defense that gave up the 10th-most yards per play (5.87) last year and conceded 6.73 per play to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their thrilling Week 1 loss. 

The NFL is an offensive league and the evidence from Week 1, which saw Dallas rack up 451 net yards on Dak Prescott's return, indicates the Cowboys have the firepower to compete in the NFC. 

But without Lawrence making a huge impact against both the run and the pass, can the defense do enough to make sure that impressive offensive production is not wasted, as was the case when Prescott was healthy? 

Lawrence's potential replacements

With Randy Gregory on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the options immediately behind Lawrence on the depth chart are not particularly intriguing ones. 

Former Indianapolis Colts third-round pick Tarell Basham has just 7.5 sacks in his career and his pressure rate of 14.9 per cent for the New York Jets last season was below the average for edge rushers (16 per cent). 

Should the Cowboys stick to their depth chart, he will likely split time with Bradlee Anae, who played in only three games in his rookie year before featuring on 10 snaps against the Buccaneers. 

Though not the most impressive athlete for the position, Anae did produce during his time in college with Utah, his 2019 pressure rate of 21.4 per cent third among edge rushers with at least 100 snaps in the Pac-12. 

But for a player of such limited experience to step into Lawrence's shoes is a tall ask, and the Cowboys may need to shuffle the personnel to be effective without arguably their premier defensive player. 

The Parsons project

First-round pick Micah Parsons is already drawing significant praise one game into his NFL career, already looking like the player best placed to challenge Lawrence for the title of Dallas' top defensive star. 

Yet the Cowboys have depth at linebacker with Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith also in the mix at the spot, leaving some to question whether Parsons could be deployed more frequently on the edge in Lawrence's absence. 

Dallas experimented with Parsons in a designated pass rusher role in the offseason and he had the chance to soak up some knowledge from Lawrence during his preparations for his rookie year. 

"Last week we were watching film of pass rush and D-Law came up to me and was like, 'You pass rush like that, rook?'" Parsons said back in June. 

"I was like, 'Yeah, I used to be a defensive end.' He was like, 'All right, tap in with me.' Me and him have been getting closer." 

And the Cowboys may be very tempted to use Parsons off the edge, the ex-Nittany Lion having prospered in that role across a small sample size in 2019. 

In 33 edge snaps for Penn State two seasons ago, he registered a pressure rate of 24 per cent and a run disruption rate of 23.5 per cent, comfortably above the averages of 14.6 per cent and 8 per cent for those respective metrics for Power 5 players with at least 50 edge snaps. 

To make the decision to ask Parsons to deliver similar production in the pros on a more consistent basis is a risky move, one that could backfire in two different areas if the rookie cannot rise to the challenge and Vander Esch and Smith prove ineffective at linebacker. 

However, given the depth of talent the Cowboys have on offense, it is a gamble they may have the wiggle room to take. 

Maintaining offensive pace

The Cowboys' offensive performance in Week 1 was a spectacular continuation of what Dallas had going for the opening four weeks on that side of the ball in 2020 before Prescott was lost for the season. 

Dallas put up 509.5 net yards per game between Weeks 1 and 4 last year and their efforts against Tampa hinted they can again operate at a similar pace. 

Their hopes of doing so will be aided by their upcoming schedule. Having hung over 400 net yards on a defense that was sixth best in the NFL in yards per play allowed (5.12) in the opener, the Cowboys should be confident of doing similar to the opponents on the horizon. 

Using the most optimistic timescale, Lawrence could be back to face the Denver Broncos on November 7. 

Of the six defenses the Cowboys will face before that game, only the New York Giants (9th) finished in the top 10 in yards per play allowed. The Giants gave up 30 points to Taylor Heinicke and the Washington Football Team on Thursday. 

History suggests the Cowboys should succeed moving the ball and scoring points consistently in the coming weeks, meaning the defense is unlikely to be in a position where it has to put the team on its back. 

Prescott and the offense producing at early 2020 levels can help the Cowboys as they look to remain in a position to emerge from the NFC East without Lawrence at their disposal on defense. 

And, when Gregory returns, if defensive coordinator Dan Quinn can harness the best out of him as well as Basham and Anae while intelligently using Parsons' pass-rushing prowess to an extent that does not have a detrimental impact on the play at linebacker, then the Cowboys may be able to welcome Lawrence back while sitting in an excellent position to push for a first postseason berth since 2018. 

Going into the 2021 season, few observers had the Philadelphia Eagles as NFC East favourites. After they dispatched the Atlanta Falcons 32-6 in Week 1, it is fair to wonder whether the last team to beat Tom Brady in a Super Bowl were underestimated. 

Yet Philadelphia's second game under new head coach Nick Sirianni is likely to be significantly tougher than their first, which came against a Falcons team caught in transition with Atlanta fighting the prospect of a rebuild staring them in the face. 

In Week 2, the Eagles face the San Francisco 49ers, seen by many as Super Bowl contenders, a status vindicated by the first 55 minutes of their performance in a victory on the road against the Detroit Lions. 

The Niners led 38-10 and 41-17 at Ford Field, but the final margin of victory was a much tighter 41-33 as the Lions staged a late rally after San Francisco had brought in its backups on defense with the game seemingly in hand. 

Philadelphia may see that as a reason to be confident they can move the ball on San Francisco. However, the Eagles' defense must be wary of a Niners offense that exploded for 8.04 yards per play in the opener, exploiting a weakness that was all too apparent in the Atlanta game. 

While the Eagles' defensive line dominated matters when it came to rushing the passer, it was consistently moved off the ball in the run game, the Falcons averaging 4.77 yards per carry, the eighth-best mark in the NFL in Week 1. 

San Francisco was slightly behind that average with 4.68 as the Kyle Shanahan offense, notoriously ultra-friendly to running backs, allowed sixth-round rookie Elijah Mitchell to rush for 104 yards and a touchdown after starter Raheem Mostert went down with a knee injury. 

The ground game is pivotal to the 49ers' success on offense as it sets up a play-action passing attack that arguably does a better job of opening the middle of the field than any other in the NFL. 

Atlanta found early success against Philadelphia in that area too, as the Eagles linebackers played aggressively in getting downhill to guard the threat of the run, and it is fair to assume Shanahan and the Niners will do a far superior job of taking advantage of such openings than the Falcons did during their dismal showing. 

Mostert is now out for the season having elected to undergo surgery on his knee but that does not lessen the need for the Eagles to slow down Mitchell, whose yards after contact per attempt average of 3.15 was second only to his team-mate's 7.5 on two carries in Week 1. Rookie third-round back Trey Sermon will be active for Week 2; his 2.77 yards after contact per attempt for Ohio State were sixth in the Power 5 last year. 

By the same token, San Francisco must have a keen focus on stopping Philadelphia's ground game, which was third in the league with 5.58 yards per carry last week, after the 49ers' run defense put on a disappointing display versus Detroit. 

Indeed, the Lions averaged 4.83 yards per attempt (seventh-most in the league) as the absence of Javon Kinlaw from the defensive line proved telling for the 49ers. 

Kinlaw has practiced in a limited capacity this week and his presence as a defender who can soak up double teams on the interior of the line should serve as a boost to DeMeco Ryans' group. 

Yet there will still need to be improvements from the players behind the line for San Francisco to stiffen its run defense, the Niners' linebackers having had clear issues plugging the wrong gaps in the win over the Lions. 

Should they fail to make those strides, that will make life harder on a defense that has historically struggled to contain mobile quarterbacks on the zone-read plays that Jalen Hurts and the Eagles will look to attack them with on Sunday. 

It's a passing league and two fearsome sets of pass rushers and a collection of exciting receiving options will surely have plenty of bearing on how this intriguing NFC matchup plays out. But, in the end, it is a game that may come down to which defense can stem the tide on the ground

The Green Bay Packers will be without edge rusher Za'Darius Smith for at least three weeks as he is set to be placed on injured reserve. 

Smith has been dealing with a lingering back injury and played only 18 of Green Bay's 60 defensive snaps in their 38-3 Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints. 

"Unfortunately, we're going to have to shut him down for a while," Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said on Friday. 

"It's a matter of just, do you keep him in a limited role? Or do you shut him down for a while, try to get him healthy and then get him up to the snap count that we'd like him to be, just like he's been in the past, because he's such an impact player. So, that's just the route that we thought was best long term." 

It means Smith is poised to miss not only Monday's home game with the Detroit Lions, but also difficult clashes with the San Francisco 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Signed as a free agent in 2019, Smith racked up 13.5 sacks in his first season before registering 12.5 last year, with the Packers reaching the NFC Championship Game in each of those campaigns. 

However, his overall pressure rate tailed off from 27.4 per cent, fourth among edge rushers, in 2019 to 16.5 per cent in 2020. 

With Smith on the sideline, the onus will be on his namesake Preston Smith (10 per cent pressure rate in 2020) and Rashan Gary (19.1 per cent) to provide the pass rush and help the Packers prevent their opening-game disappointment stretching into the coming weeks as they aim to go one better than in the previous two seasons. 

Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season threw up more questions than answers, but there remains no doubting Patrick Mahomes' outstanding talent.

In one of the highlights of the opening round of games, Mahomes threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Kansas City Chiefs to a comeback win over the Cleveland Browns.

All eyes will be on Mahomes again in Week 2, and the Chiefs have an intriguing matchup against fellow quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens.

This battle between two of the past three MVPs has been one-sided in the past, though, as Stats Perform discovers in the most interesting facts from Sunday's biggest games.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Baltimore Ravens

The Chiefs will have few concerns about going on the road, boasting a 5-1 record against the Ravens in Baltimore all-time. They have also won each of the teams' past four meetings.

This dominance is reflected in Mahomes' record against Jackson, winning all three head-to-heads and averaging 378.7 passing yards per game to his opponent's 170.3.

Of course, Jackson is a greater threat across the ground than through the air, leading the Ravens in rushing yards against the Las Vegas Raiders last week for the 21st game of his career (including the postseason). In that time, no other QB has led his team in rushing in more than 12 games.

But even if Jackson can guide the Ravens into a lead, that brings no guarantee of victory. They gave up a 14-point lead for the first time in 99 games against the Raiders, while the Chiefs recovered from 12 points down at home to the Browns and actually have a 10-8 record after trailing by double digits since the start of 2018.

Dallas Cowboys @ Los Angeles Chargers

Another clash between two top QBs on Sunday sees Dak Prescott take the Cowboys to the Chargers having last week continued his impressive run even in defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Due to injury, Prescott has only actually played six games since the start of last year, but he has passed for at least 400 yards in four of them – no other player has more than two such games in that span.

However, Dallas have lost a league-high three games while posting 450-plus total net yards since the beginning of 2020.

The Chargers have their own prolific passer, too, in Justin Herbert, who threw for 337 yards in a win against the Washington Football Team in Week 1, meaning he now has 4,673 passing yards through 16 career games – a tally only topped by Mahomes' 5,100 in his first 16 games.

Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins

Josh Allen is another elite passer who would hope to be in MVP contention at the end of the year, but he was less impressive in the Bills' opening defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers, completing only 30 of 51 passes.

While that was a career high for pass attempts, NFL teams are 4-20 when having a QB throw 50 or more since the start of last season.

Allen at least has fond memories of facing Miami. In the first of the sides' two meetings last year, he threw for career bests in yards (415) and TD passes (four), while the second clash saw the Bills score 56 points – a tally they have only ever topped once, also against the Dolphins in 1966.

Buffalo have five straight wins against Miami, although the Dolphins are in form with 10 wins in 13 games after 10 victories in their prior 33.

Elsewhere...

New Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew Stafford will fancy his chances against the Indianapolis Colts. His passer rating of 156.1 in Week 1 led the league, but Russell Wilson, against the Colts, was second with 152.3. Stafford threw three TD passes, including two of more than 50 yards – a feat only previously achieved once by a player in their first game with the team in the Super Bowl era (John Stofa for the Cincinnati Bengals in 1968).

Jameis Winston took a slightly less spectacular route to his five TD passes last time out, with 148 passing yards the fewest from a QB to throw five for five scores.

Meanwhile, first overall pick Trevor Lawrence threw for 332 yards, the most by a player on his debut since Cam Newton's 422 yards in 2011, but he also had three interceptions – something he never did in his 40 games at Clemson.

Each of the first-round rookie QBs will be aiming to build on feats of some manner, with 21-year-old Trey Lance the youngest player in the Super Bowl era to throw a touchdown on his first NFL pass.

Mac Jones, who this week faces Zach Wilson, threw for 281 yards – the most by a New England Patriots rookie on debut.

Taylor Heinicke is determined to establish himself with the Washington Football Team, and his display in the 30-29 win over the New York Giants was hailed as "gutty" by Ron Rivera.

Filling in for Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is out with a hip injury and likely not available until November, Heinicke threw two touchdown passes in a game for the first time in his short NFL career.

The quarterback has had prior spells in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers, but before this season he had tallied just eight games in the league.

Now Heinicke has a chance to play a string of games for Washington, and even though he threw an interception with 2:22 remaining in Thursday night's game, he came good after that, commandeering the drive that resulted in Dustin Hopkins making a match-winning field goal.

Heinicke finished the game with 34-for-46 passing for 336 yards and the two touchdowns, as Washington won their first game of the season.

Speaking on Thursday Night Football, Heinicke said: "Defense came up big and we had a chance to close them out there and throwing a pick is not what you want to do.

"A lot of guys came up to me and said we've got one more chance to do it and fortunately we did. Defense came up and we went down and scored."

Asked whether he considered he had done enough to stay on the team, Heinicke said: "I do, and I have confidence that I can do it. If those guys in the locker room and the facility believe in me, that's all that matters and I think they do, so let's try to keep this ball rolling."

An impressed Rivera was captivated by Heinicke looking to make amends for his error, and by the 28-year-old's overall performance..

"It was very gutty," said the Washington coach. "The thing that was real impressive about him was the way he bounced back after the turnover. Prior to that, he went down and, in what, three plays, he scored a touchdown and turned around, and we were trying to kill the clock, and he made a bad read, made a bad decision.

"But getting that opportunity, he stepped up again."

Heinicke lost his cool and threw down his helmet after the interception, before gathering his thoughts and moving on.

"He was p*****. He was upset at himself, he really was," said Rivera. "He slammed his helmet into the ground. It was just one of those things that you just felt if we can get the ball into his hands...

"He does have the ability to throw the ball, and make all the throws And we've seen that. And he's got a lot of confidence. And when he gets into a really nice rhythm, he can deliver a good ball.

"He's got a little swagger to him and his team-mates feed off of it, they really do."

The New York Giants were left to rue missed opportunities and a costly late Dexter Lawrence offside as they went down 30-29 to the Washington in Thursday Night Football in Maryland.

Dustin Hopkins successfully converted a 43-yard attempt for the win on the buzzer, although he had missed his initial 48-yard try, only to get a second chance due to Lawrence jumping early.

Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke, in only his third NFL start, completed 34 of 46 passes for 336 yards, compared to Giants QB Daniel Jones who had 22 from 32 for 249 yards.

Heinicke, who was playing for the injured Ryan Fitzpatrick, claimed his first career win as a starting QB, highlighted by a key fourth-quarter pass for a Ricky Seals-Jones touchdown.

The result earns Washington their first win of the season, while the Giants are 0-2 after their opening defeat to the Denver Broncos.

Jones had put the Giants ahead when he rushed into the end zone in the first quarter, breaking a Kamren Curl tackle.

Washington leveled it up with a Terry McLaurin touchdown from Heinicke's pinpoint throw, after Giants offensive lineman Nick Gates was carted off with a gruesome lower leg fracture. McLaurin had 11 catches and 107 yards for the game.

New York were denied another running Jones touchdown in the second quarter for a tight hold call against CJ Board, eliminating a 58-yard play, before dependable Giants kicker Graham Gano made it 10-7.

Washington grabbed a 14-10 lead at half-time when running back JD McKissic drove down the left for a late touchdown.

Gano reduced the deficit, before Darius Slayton's touchdown from a Jones pass for a 33-yard completion. Hopkins made it 20-17 at the final change with a 49-yard attempt.

The lead changed three times in the final quarter, with Jones pushing the ball downfield, enabling Gano to get within range for a 52-yard attempt, with Hopkins responding with nine minutes to go to make it 23-20.

Slayton fluffed a golden chance to open up a big Giants lead when he got open in the end zone but dropped a Jones pass.

Gano extended New York's lead to six points before Heinicke found McKissic down the sideline for a 56-yard play, the longest of the game. From the next play, Heinicke delivered to tightend Seals-Jones for a catch into the corner to put Washington up 27-26 with 4:33 to play.

Washington gave up a turnover before the Giants earned territory, settling for Gano to convert his 35th consecutive attempt to put them up 29-27 with two minutes to play.

Heinicke and Washington edged forward, with Hopkins' initial attempt with five seconds on the clock missing, before converting his reprieve for the win.

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