Mateo Vazquez ’21
After much anticipation and the long-awaited delay, the Tripod is ecstatic to report that football is back in full swing. Although fans will not be present for most teams, there is still a great deal of action. The recent arrival of new players and, of course, recent trades were occurring in full swing this past week. The NFL started off the show strong with a game on Thursday night, with the Houston Texans facing last year’s Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs.
Houston controlled much of the field during the first quarter and did not let the Chiefs into the end zone. However, after the first quarter warm-up, the Chiefs began to have long, continued drives into the end zone. After their first quarter slump, the Chiefs kept putting points up on the board and had an easy win of 34-20 against Houston. With a very strong showing, last year’s champions showed they are still in good contention this year to make another run at a Super Bowl title. However, perhaps the most anticipated game of the opening week of the season was saved for Sunday night as many were waiting to see how Head Coach of the New England Patriots Bill Belichick would be able to lead the team without Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. Despite their absence, the Patriots seemed to be running as efficiently as ever, putting up 21 points against the Miami Dolphins to secure their first win of the season. Cam Newton had a strong showing for his first game and evidently demonstrated that this Patriots team has a lot of talent that will be on display for the season to come.
Throughout the game, it was quite clear that Miami was not able to penetrate the Patriots defense and make a clean attack at the end zone. One of the Patriots defensive players was out in full swing, and the team was relentless in their ability to lock down any open space and limit the ball mobility. On the offensive side of things, the Patriots did not give the Dolphins a break and kept the defense on their toes, with a lot of short passes. These short passes allowed the players to explode down the sidelines.
On the flipside of the conversation, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not do as well as everyone would expect for having both Brady and Gronkowski. During the game, Brady threw for 239 yards and two touchdowns, yet hit a slump during the second quarter, during which the team fell behind and could not catch up to the New Orleans Saints. Another area of focus was on Gronkowski, as his performance on the field was not what most were expecting, with just eleven yards in total ball movement. The Saints defense was able to keep Gronkowski under control, and as a result limited his effectiveness throughout much of the game. While this first game might not be what many expected for Brady, there is still plenty of time for the team to revisit their strategies and move forward more effectively. There is still a lot of football left in the season, and the energy that has already been brought to the first game is quite amazing.
However, out of all the games from yesterday the best matchup of the week by far was the LA Rams against the Dallas Cowboys. The Rams had a strong start during the first quarter with the offense shutting out the Cowboys and putting up a touchdown early on. With that being said, the Cowboys came back in the second quarter and responded with two touchdowns, managing to steal the lead from the Rams. The true nailbiter of the match-up occurred during the third quarter, when the Cowboys were only able to get a field goal kick and the Rams pushed through for a touchdown to seal the game at 20-17 and take the win. Much of the fourth quarter can be summed up as a battle of the defenses, as the Rams attempted to hold on to the win and Dallas did whatever they could to break through. With seconds left on the clock, the Rams were able to just barely secure their first win of the season. Yet, if you happen to be a Cowboys fan, there should be some key takeaways from this game that may show a promising future for Dallas.
The first interesting highlight from the game was the return of Alden Smith, Cowboys defensive end, who played for the Raiders in 2015 but had a few legal issues, including a DUI, hit and run, and multiple other offenses as well as an NFL suspension. For his first game back since then, he achieved 11 tackles and a sack. He has definitely shown that he can still hold his own and will prove to be a critical part of this Cowboys defensive lineup throughout the season.
Second, Ezikiel Elliott seems to be regaining his former All-Pro status after carrying the Dallas Cowboys offense through a majority of the game with a total of 96 rushing yards and a touchdown. Despite what others may argue, Elliott is still in his prime and demonstrating that he is still a powerhouse on the field.
Lastly, this was Mike McCarthy’s first game as Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys, and he has proved that he has a lot to bring to the team. While he is still following precedent from prior coaching by allowing Eliott to take most of the offensive workload, it is evident that during Sunday’s game, he has reformed the defense and greatly improved their chances of making the playoffs. His coaching style gives avid football watchers another thing to look forward to as the Cowboys prepare this week to face the Falcons on Sunday. While this year’s 2020 season may be shorter, there is no doubt a higher level of skill being demonstrated by all the teams from the improved practice time and general team reforms.