Sunday's NFL: Drew Brees bests Tom Brady in battle of old QBs
New Orleans — Drew Brees and Tom Brady, the two leading passers in NFL history, couldn’t muster vintage performances in the first NFL game featuring two starting quarterbacks in their 40s.
But while Brees avoided game-turning mishaps with an offense he’s led since 2006, Brady suffered some costly cross-ups with his new team.
Brady threw two interceptions in his Tampa Bay debut, Alvin Kamara scored touchdowns running and receiving, and the New Orleans Saints beat the Buccaneers 34-23 on Sunday.
“I made some just bad, terrible turnovers,” Brady said. “I obviously have got to do a lot better job.”
The first of Brady’s interceptions led to Kamara’s 6-yard touchdown run. The second pick thrown by the new, 43-year-old Bucs QB – who left the New England Patriots in free agency after 20 years and six Super Bowl triumphs – was returned 36 yards for a touchdown by Janoris Jenkins.
“Win the turnover battle like we did, have a turnover for a touchdown, you’re a 90-something percent winner in those games,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. ”Just a lot of things happened in that game that despite how you play, those things can help you win games. The energy and effort I was pleased with.”
The 41-year-old Brees passed for 160 yards and two TDs. He did not turn the ball over and took only one sack. His first TD pass was a dump-off to Kamara from 12 yards out. In the fourth quarter he hit free-agent signing Emmanuel Sanders for a 5-yard score.
“I’d probably say I played awful,” Brees said. “Certainly, we are used to playing at a much higher level offensively and especially in the passing game. So, we’ll get that back on track.”
Still, Brees found satisfaction in beating Brady’s Bucs.
“Of course, it’s significant and it’s unique and I’d be lying to you if I said to you it didn’t mean a little bit more,” Brees said. “I’ve got so much love and respect for (Brady) and what he’s able to accomplish.
“We played against each other in college, for goodness sake, in 1999,” Brees continued. “At the end of the day, I think we would both pinch ourselves if you told us back then we’d have the opportunity to play this long and be a part of so many great teams and so many great moments, historic moments.”
Few witnessed this latest bit of history in person, with government leaders and the Saints having agreed that no fans should attend the opener amid the coronavirus pandemic.
That turned the normally deafening 73,000-seat Superdome into more of an echo chamber. When Wil Lutz’s field goal put New Orleans up 17-7, the squeaking of pulleys could be heard across the stadium as the net behind the goal post was lowered.
“It sort of felt like we were at a Tampa Bay game,” Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan said.
Brady compared the environment to “a scrimmage.”
“But obviously, it counts,” he added. “We’ve got to look each other in the eye and all work harder, put more urgency on the things we have to do.”
Tight end Jared Cook caught five passes for 80 yards for New Orleans, highlighted by a 46-yard reception down the left side that set up Sanders’ TD.
Brady was 15 of 28 passing for 157 yards and one TD through the first 54 minutes. He padded his numbers in garbage time, finishing with 239 yards and two TDs, the second scoring strike going to Mike Evans with 2:41 left.
Tampa Bay’s opening drive was promising for Brady, who the Bucs hope can lead them to their first playoff appearance since the 2007 season.
He lofted a 26-yard completion to Chris Godwin along the right sideline, drew a pass interference penalty with a 22-yard attempt to Mike Evans and capped the drive with a 2-yard keeper, after which he emphatically spiked the ball.
It was a fleeting, triumphant moment for the Bucs in a game defined more, in the end, by their new star’s mistakes.
► (At) L.A. Rams 20, Dallas 17: Malcolm Brown rushed for a career-high 79 yards and two touchdowns, Jared Goff passed for 275 yards and Los Angeles opened SoFi Stadium with a victory over Dallas.
Robert Woods had six catches for 105 yards to help the Rams improve to 4-0 in season openers under coach Sean McVay and spoiled the debut of Mike McCarthy, Dallas’ first new head coach in a decade.
Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown and caught another scoring pass, but the Cowboys began a season of high expectations by losing three starters to injury in the first half and then failing to mount a late comeback in a scoreless fourth quarter for both teams.
Dak Prescott passed for 266 yards and a touchdown, but Dallas managed three points on its six drives in the second half. Michael Gallup made a long catch that would have put Dallas in field goal range with 21 seconds left, but was called for offensive pass interference for contact with Jalen Ramsey.
►Arizona 24, (at) San Francisco 20: DeAndre Hopkins had a career-high 14 catches for 151 yards in his Arizona debut and set up Kenyan Drake’s 1-yard TD run with 5:03 to play.
Kyler Murray threw for 230 yards and a touchdown and ran for 90 yards and another score to help the Cardinals overcome a pair of fourth-quarter deficits to beat the defending NFC champion 49ers in a smoky opener at an empty stadium.
Jerick McKinnon, in his first game in more than two years, caught a 5-yard TD pass from Jimmy Garoppolo to give San Francisco a 20-17 lead with 8:38 to play before Murray led a late comeback. His 33-yard pass to Hopkins got the ball down to the 1 and Drake ran it in on the next play to give Arizona the lead.
Garoppolo led the 49ers down to the 16 before throwing an incomplete pass to Trent Taylor on fourth-and-5 that ended the comeback attempt
►L.A. Chargers 16, (at) Cincinnati 13: Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow ran 23 yards untouched for a touchdown — the best moment of his NFL debut — but the Chargers roughed him up and rallied.
Playing in empty Paul Brown Stadium, Burrow got his first snaps in the NFL and learned the hard way what it’s like to face a tough front line.
The Bengals also had an in-character finish. A.J. Green was called for offensive interference in the end zone in the closing seconds, and Randy Bullock missed a 31-yard field goal try with 2 seconds left and pulled up lame.
A line anchored by Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram III held the quarterback from national champion LSU to 23 of 36 passing for 192 yards with three sacks and a costly interception. Twice, Burrow overthrew open receivers for what would have been touchdowns.
►(At) Washington 27, Philadelphia 17: Peyton Barber ran for two touchdowns and Dwayne Haskins rallied Washington from a 17-point deficit.
After falling behind 17-0 following a pair of touchdown passes by Carson Wentz, Washington relied on a punishing defense and opportunistic offense in its first game since owner Dan Snyder finally agreed to change the team’s name and former employees alleged sexual harassment in the organization.
Rivera lived up to his “Riverboat Ron” nickname earned in nine seasons with Carolina. In his first game after finding out he has a form of skin cancer, Rivera went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Eagles 5 with the score tied midway through the fourth quarter. Barber ran for the first down and then scored from the 3 to give Washington a 24-17 lead.
Wentz was sacked eight times and threw two costly interceptions behind an injury-depleted offense line featuring two guys — right tackle Jack Driscoll and right guard Nate Herbig — starting their first career games.
►(At) Baltimore 38, Cleveland 6: Looking every bit like the reigning NFL MVP, Lamar Jackson threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns, ruining Kevin Stefanski’s debut as Cleveland’s head coach in a game played without fans in attendance.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic kept the seats empty and the play was sloppy following a preseason without any games, two constants prevailed: Jackson was the focal point of a high-powered offense and the Browns lost another opener.
Facing a Cleveland secondary depleted by injuries, Jackson completed 20 of 25 passes and racked up a team-high 45 yards on the ground. A year ago, the multi-faceted star set an NFL single-season record for yards rushing by a quarterback and threw 36 TD passes.
The Browns were incapable of stopping him. As a result, Cleveland still hasn’t opened with a victory since 2004.
►(At) New England 21, Miami 11: Cam Newton looked just fine as Tom Brady’s replacement, rushing for two touchdowns.
Newton rushed for 15 times for 75 yards and threw for 155 yards, leading a Patriots offensive attack that did most of its damage on the ground in their first game since the departure of Brady to Tampa Bay as a free agent. Sony Michel added a touchdown for New England, which had 217 of its 357 yards on the ground. Newton was 15 of 19 passing.
Miami struggled for most of the game offensively and lost top receiver DeVante Parker, who left in the third quarter with a hamstring injury. Ryan Fitzpatrick was 20 of 30 for 191 yards and three interceptions. Miami was held to 269 total yards.
►Seattle 38, (at) Atlanta 25: Russell Wilson was cooking right from the start, throwing four touchdown passes. With the Falcons not allowing fans for at least their first two homes games because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Seahawks took advantage of what was essentially a neutral site to pull away in the second half.
Wilson completed 31 of 35 passes for 322 yards, throwing a pair of TD passes in the first quarter as Seattle built a 14-12 halftime lead, adding two more in the third quarter to put the Falcons away.
The biggest one came after the Falcons made what looked to be a crucial stop, leaving the Seahawks with fourth-and-5 at the Atlanta 38. The offense stayed on the field, but instead of going for the first down with a short throw, Wilson lofted one to DK Metcalf, who was streaking toward the end zone.
Metcalf beat cornerback Isaiah Oliver and hauled in the perfectly thrown ball without breaking stride to push Seattle to a 21-12 lead.
On the ensuing possession, Atlanta attempted a fake punt on fourth-and-2 from its 33. Blocking back Sharrod Neasman took a direct snap and had enough for the first down on a run up the middle, only to fumble the ball. It was recovered by Seattle’s Freddie Swain at the 36. Five plays later, Wilson zipped his fourth TD pass of the game.
►(At) Jacksonville 27, Indianapolis 20: Gardner Minshew threw three touchdown passes, including a 22-yarder to Keelan Cole in the fourth quarter, and Jacksonville stunned Indianapolis and Philip Rivers.
The Jaguars entered Week 1 as the NFL’s biggest home underdogs, with talk of tanking being the most prevalent preseason topic surrounding the revamped team. The tempered expectations may have contributed to the team only being able to distribute about 14,000 tickets for the league’s lone game played with fans in the stands Sunday.
Minshew gave the sparse crowd plenty to celebrate. The second-year pro completed 19 of 20 passes for 173 yards and no turnovers. He connected with DJ Chark, rookie Laviska Shenault and Cole for scores – and looked sharp all day.
Undrafted rookie running back James Robinson accounted for 90 yards, including 62 on the ground.
The Colts have themselves to blame for the loss. Coach Frank Reich went for it on fourth down from the 3-yard line early and failed to get points. Rookie kicker Rodrigo Blankenship hit the left upright from 30 yards out, another missed opportunity.
And Rivers looked solid at times, but also had some questionable throws with his new team.
►Las Vegas 34, (at) Carolina 30: Josh Jacobs ran for 93 yards and three touchdowns, Derek Carr threw for 239 yards and a score to spoil Matt Rhule’s coaching debut.
Jacobs’ 6-yard run around the right end with 4:14 left put the Raiders ahead for good after they’d surrendered a 12-point fourth quarter lead.
Carolina had a chance to take the lead, but the Panthers handed off to fullback Alex Armah — instead of All-Pro Christian McCaffrey — on fourth-and-inches at midfield, He was stopped at the line, turning the ball over on downs with 1:11 left. McCaffrey racked up 134 yards from scrimmage and scored two touchdowns for Carolina.
Teddy Bridgewater, who replaced Cam Newton as the starting QB, finished 22 of 34 for 270 yards and one touchdown in his Carolina debut. Robby Anderson, a free agent pickup from the Jets, had six catches for 115 yards and a go-ahead score.
►(At) Buffalo 27, N.Y. Jets 17: Josh Allen led three consecutive first-half touchdown drives, and the Bills overcame their own sloppiness and injuries to two starting linebackers.
John Brown had six catches for 70 yards and a touchdown, and Stefon Diggs finished with eight catches for a team-leading 86 yards in his Bills debut after being acquired in a trade with Minnesota in March.
Allen finished 33 of 46 for 312 yards in becoming Buffalo’s first player to top 300 yards since Tyrod Taylor had 329 in a 34-31 overtime loss to Miami on Dec. 24, 2016.
Buffalo’s defense was a force despite losing Matt Milano to a hamstring injury in the second quarter. Middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds did not return after hurting his shoulder while trying to tackle Jets receiver Jamison Crowder, who scored on a 69-yard touchdown catch and run.
The Jets finished the game without starting running back Le’Veon Bell, ruled out in the second half due to a hamstring injury.