Chicago Bears @ Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers won this game comfortably as Aaron Rodgers looked confident on offense and crucially, the defense was able to marginalize the Bears running backs. A poor decision by the Bears to not throw the ball more often, led them to struggle to run the ball as their offense looked predictable. Mike Glennon did not impress when he twice threw straight to the defensive backs of the Packers with no Bears in sight. The Chicago Bears looked hapless on defense as they gave away multiple penalties throughout the game.

Although he wasn’t used much during the game, Ty Montgomery got lots of touches on the opening drive for Green Bay and he made excellent progress for the offense. On Aaron Rodgers’ first throw of the game, Randall Cobb spilled the ball and it was recovered by the Chicago Bears defense. However, appropriately, the referee said that his elbow was down and therefore it wasn’t a turnover. To make a third down, Rodgers faked a hand-off to Montgomery and threw to Martellus Bennett. Next, Davante Adams scored a receiving touchdown for the Packers on the first series.

In what was an omen for the rest of the night, on the very first offensive play by the Chicago Bears, Mike Glennon was strip-sacked by Clay Matthews and the ball was recovered by the Packers. Rodgers’ subsequently threw to Randall Cobb for a three yard touchdown. HaHa Clinton-Dix almost came up with a turnover from the Bears’ running back Jordan Howard; however Howard was ruled to be down by contact. Another turnover to the Packers took place soon after, when the ball was snapped off Mike Glennon’s knee.

The Packers’ next possession amounted to nothing when Jordy Nelson dropped an impressive throw down the side line by Rodgers. Although Nelson scored two touchdowns in this game, he also dropped the ball on a couple of occasions. Both teams went three and out on their possession with Rodgers getting sacked in the process.

After an unusual bounce, the punt by the Packers unintentionally hit the back foot of the Chicago blocker at about midfield. This turn of events favored the Chicago Bears; however they were unable to capitalize with a score. After the unusual bounce, the game was delayed briefly due to the weather. The Bears still struggled after the delay. The Bears received a favorable measurement by the referees using the chains on a third down running play that looked shy of the first down marker. On a third down and long, Glennon threw deep but the receiver could not keep a hold of the ball after good pressure from the line backer Joe Thomas.

With Green Bay in control of the ball, Rodgers didn’t see pressure coming from behind and was sacked on a third down. The Bears again failed to take advantage as an inexplicably bad pass by Mike Glennon resulted in a gift of an interception for HaHa Clinton-Dix. Rodgers then threw deep to Jordy Nelson, who hesitated after the catch, when more initiative would have led to a touchdown. It didn’t matter that Nelson delayed because on the next play Aaron Jones ran the ball through the heart of the Bears’ defense for a touchdown.

The next possessions for each team produced punts. As the Bears took control of the ball, time was running out in the first half.  The Bears’ desperation seemed to change John Fox’s style of offense. Glennon threw more aggressively downfield to his receivers, who picked up yards after the catch. The previously imposing Packers’ defense was unable to stop the Bears for the first time. Kendall Wright capped off a nice drive with a touchdown catch from a well-timed and accurate fade by Glennon. The Bears may have made this a more competitive game if they had played with the same urgency throughout the match.

Mike Glennon threw a nice pass to a wide open Kendall Wright for a first down. The Bears failed to move the ball afterwards. Green Bay has looked excellent on defense all night. The field goal attempt was missed by the Bears after a penalty was declined by Green Bay. This miss was symptomatic of the poor game the Bears played. The Green Bay offense were able to make third downs whereas the Bears struggled even to run the ball effectively.

On the next series, the Packers received a fortunate call by the referee who placed the ball past the first down marker when Martellus Bennett appeared well short of a first down. However, a good challenge by the Bears’ head coach, John Fox, led to a reversal of the call and this meant the Packers had a 4th down and 1 yard. The Packers passed the ball to Jordy Nelson on the side line and it paid off because he made the first down. On what seemed like it should have been a tricky attempt, the Packers had made it look easy. Then Aaron Rodgers then teamed up with his favorite receiver, Jordy Nelson, for another simple touchdown.

After one nice pass to his teammate, Mike Glennon contrived to throw the ball to the opposition once again. This time Kentrell Brice was in the right place and he caught the straight-forward interception. Randall Cobb had a nice catch on the near side line for Green Bay to set up the score. Jordy Nelson found himself in acres of space in the end zone after the Bears failed to track him. Rodgers threw the easy pass for a touchdown and the extra point was made by Mason Crosby.

Strangely, the Bears decided to predominantly run the ball for the next drive. It eventually led to a score for Jordan Howard, who found the end zone using brute force. Despite the good drive, the time on the clock ran had run down and the game was over soon after. The Bears struggled to run the ball all night and when they did manage to run at the Packers’ defense, it was too little too late.

The running game of the Chicago Bears was stopped effectively by the Green Bay Packers most of the time during the game. The Bears found it difficult to move the ball consistently. Rodgers looked relaxed at quarterback, while Glennon looked skittish in the pocket. If Glennon hadn’t turned the ball over so easily and the Bears had decided to throw the ball more often the Packers may not have had such an easy night. Nevertheless, the Bears did not put up much of a fight and it seems this game was won well before both teams took to the field.

Week 3: Los Angeles Rams @ San Francisco 49ers

This California clash resulted in an exciting, high-scoring game inside Levi’s Stadium. Somewhat surprisingly, both teams were able to make plays on offense, score lots of points and move the chains. New, youthful and full of energy, Sean McVay of the Rams and Kyle Shanahan of the 49ers seem to have brought a fresh approach to their teams, particularly on offense. It was, perhaps unexpectedly, the defenses that looked vulnerable during this game. The teams seemed evenly matched and as a result the game was an electrifying spectacle with numerous incidents that left the viewer breathless.

The opening play of the game was an interception thrown by Bryan Hoyer to Nickell Robey-Coleman. Hoyer also through a pass that might have been a pick six for Trumaine Johnson had Johnson been able to anticipate the throw slightly quicker. Hoyer did manage to rush for a touchdown after exhausting his pass options on the second drive of the game for the 49ers. At this point, Hoyer appears as though he is an interim quarterback until the 49ers draft a new leading man in the 2018 Draft. Despite his lame duck status, Bryan Hoyer had a decent game and was particularly impressive when the Rams got in his face. At one point he looped the ball over the onrushing defenders to score a touchdown.

Jared Goff was sacked by the 49ers pass rush after failing to see the defenders rapidly approaching. The young quarterback’s vision should improve during the course of his sophomore season. To be fair to Goff, on the very next play, he did manage to avoid a 49er defender and throw a nice spiral to Robert Woods on the side line. Later, Goff stared to his left on a throw that was misplaced and almost intercepted. Needless to say, Jared Goff is an unfinished quarterback at this stage.

The unconvincing Tavon Austin, who raised eyebrows when he signed an eye-watering $42 million, 4 year extension to his contract in 2016, almost cost the Rams the game on special teams. Pierre Garçon, in contrast, signed a five year deal in 2017 for $47.5 million and that looks a savvier contract for the 49ers compared to the Austin deal for the Rams. Garçon looked spectacular on the night, making many highlight reel catches, including one that even the referees didn’t believe was a catch at first.

Tavon Austin has not impressed since coming into the league and remains a special team specialist because of this. Austin took his eye off the ball and let it slip through his arms. His dropped catch was followed by nearly dropping a second later in the game. This sloppy play underlines the importance of the often overlooked special teams aspect of the game. Austin has been a key player in the Rams woeful offense in recent years but will be hoping to change this with the help of Sammy Watkins.

The end of the game proved particularly thrilling especially after Pharoh Cooper fumbled the kick-off return. Cooper looked too eager to impress on special teams when he ran back at full pace straight into the oncoming tackle. Nevertheless, the athletic catch by Aldrick Robinson was phenomenal. One of the last plays of the game was an excellent onside kick executed perfectly by the 49ers. This game had everything. There was some excellent over the shoulder catches made by the likes of Pierre Garçon that moved the offenses downfield significantly. A clutch sack by Aaron Donald near the end of the game on 4th down clinched the game for the Rams. The game even had a straight forward catch from kick off dropped by Tavon Austin and a turnover to the 49ers. The disappointing Austin also juggled by ball when Goff tossed him it during the 4th quarter.

The Los Angeles Rams, who have been featured a lot on the behind the scenes television shows Hard Knocks and All or Nothing, have suffered discontent and disillusion over recent seasons. The San Francisco 49ers, on the other hand, has been in turmoil in the years since John Harbaugh departed as head coach. The instability at the top of the 49ers organization has caused them to have one of the worst records in the NFL over recent seasons. Admittedly, the 49ers roster looks empty and lacking in star players and that situation will have to be addressed in the Draft and free agency if the team hopes to improve.

The Rams, with Jared Goff in his second season in Los Angeles, showed he has made progress as a signal caller since his shaky rookie season. Goff made some impressive throws but also made some poor decisions on certain throws that could have easily resulted in interceptions. Goff, at times, has the tendency to hold on to the ball for too long as he scans the field for an open receiver. This led to a play in the middle of the game which lost the Rams significant yardage when Goff could have thrown the ball away.

The Rams play calling reveals a lack of trust in Goff. One such instance was a 3rd and 12 where they instructed Goff to throw the ball sideways rather than downfield and instead relied on a 48 yard field goal when the game was 14 to 7 in the Rams favour. It is perhaps unsurprising that the Rams lack trust in their inexperienced quarterback but giving him more to do on offense and allowing him to make mistakes is the only way he will improve.

Todd Gurley II ran the ball into the end zone for the Rams to score the opening touchdown. He also scored an easy second touchdown after catching a pass from Goff while no 49ers were present. Gurley scored his third touchdown of the night in a similar manner to his second but this time ran to the left side. The jury is still out on Gurley however, who has largely disappointed for the Rams, despite much early promise and being named Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press.

Carlos Hyde, in contrast, has been solid for the 49ers providing the only reliable production for the 49ers offense. Hyde managed 84 yards on 25 carries while Gurley managed 113 yards on 27 carries. Hyde was very determined to get into the end zone at the end of the game. Particularly impressive was his recovery after he slipped and he nearly managed to get in the end zone after fighting through lots of defenders.

During the game, Matt Breida, the 49ers alternative running back, let go of the ball and Aaron Donald was close to intercepting. Raheem Mostert, the 49ers other running back followed Breida and did in fact turnover the ball to Robey-Coleman a couple of plays later. Sammy Watkins, who was injured an awful lot during his time with the Buffalo Bills, was underutilized by the Rams during the game, although he did make one great over the shoulder catch during the game. This was because Goff struggled to throw deep accurately and consistently.

Tentatively, Goff is steadily improving for the Rams whereas Bryan Hoyer is still susceptible to throwing interceptions. The young head coaches energized a game that might otherwise have been lackluster. Can they keep this momentum going throughout the season? Ultimately, it was penalties that favored the Rams in this close game. The offenses of both sides were impeccable with Pierre Garçon being the undoubted MVP. Both teams had strong stops near their goal line that saved touchdowns. There were a few great tackles, impressive kicking and some unbelievable toe drag catches. This game was well worth watching.

Week 2: Miami Dolphins @ Los Angeles Chargers

The newly-named Los Angeles Chargers were playing their first serious game at their interim home, the StubHub Center, a 27,000 capacity stadium in Carson, California. The Miami Dolphins preparations had been disrupted by hurricanes during the previous weeks. Veteran quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers were going head to head in this interesting battle. Many interesting battles took place all over the field, with Dolphins’ Jarvis Landy and DeVante Parker looking to outshine the Chargers’ Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates.

The nonchalant Cutler and the ultra-competitive Rivers were a fascinating contrast. Jay Cutler, who, on signing with the Dolphins, claimed a quarterback didn’t need to do much cardio, was a sharp contrast to Rivers, who turned his SUV into a mobile film room. However it was the running game that proved decisive in this game, as the Dolphins’ Jay Ajayi overshadowed his counterpart, the Chargers’ Melvin Gordon.

The Chargers started the game by trying to run the ball but went 3 and out. The Dolphins on the other hand, managed to work the ball up field, with the help of a couple of penalties, before kicking a field goal. There were lots of yellow flags being thrown by the referees throughout the game as ill-discipline cost both teams’ vital yards on defence. The South Korean born Chargers kicker Younghoe Koo, who was iced by Vance Joseph, the Broncos head coach on Monday Night Football, levelled the game at 3-3.

Next, Philip Rivers led the Chargers all the way to the red zone before running back Melvin Gordon punched the ball in for a touchdown. The Dolphins failed to score on their next possession with new Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler lucky to avoid being sacked. Philip Rivers, on the contrary, did get sacked on a 3rd and 1 play where the Chargers perhaps unwisely decided to throw the ball.  Koo missed the 43 yard field goal attempt and so the score remained 10 to 3 to the Chargers. Jay Cutler’s wayward heave downfield ended the first half.

The Miami Dolphins opened the second half with an impressive drive capped off by a touchdown pass caught by Kenny Stills. The extra point tied the game. Philip Rivers, who was sporting a bruise under his right eye, managed to earn four first downs in a row to reach the red zone. He then inexplicably threw a pass to the back of the end zone that deserved to be intercepted but wasn’t. The Dolphins somehow allowed the aging Antonio Gates, previously banned for taking performance-enhancing drugs, to catch the next pass for his 112th touchdown and in doing so passed Tony Gonzales for the most touchdown passes by a tight end.

Jarvis Landy, a shifty player, had a good game for the Miami Dolphins, catching the ball 13 times for 78 yards. DeVante Parker, who had earlier dropped a pass that ought to have been caught, outmuscled Casey Heyward on the side line to move the Dolphins into the vaunted red zone. Melvin Ingram, who impressed in the opening game against the Denver Broncos, sacked Jay Cutler on third down and goal to save the potential touchdown. The score was now Dolphins 13 against Chargers 17.

This was a game of running backs. The London-born, left-hander Ajayi played great, rushing for 122 yards. Melvin Gordon, the former Wisconsin running back, didn’t have such a great game but has been getting progressively better since his disappointing rookie season. Gordon did leap a defender on one play and made a first down shortly afterwards. However, Melvin Gordon’s running did not lead to anything worthwhile for the Chargers and they even had their punt blocked.

On the Dolphins possession, DeVante Parker’s play encapsulated a microcosm of his time in the NFL. He showed both his flaws and his talent. First he failed to catch a ball on the side line but later somehow caught a hopeful ball thrown high in the air by Cutler and then he failed to catch a 50/50 jump ball in the end zone. The Chargers defence held up relatively well when push came to shove and stopped the Dolphins from scoring a touchdown. The field goal made it 17-16 to the Chargers.

The Chargers were pinned back well into their own territory before punting the ball. Jay Ajayi was tasked with winning the game for the Dolphins who needed to reach field goal range to seal the match with a successful kick. Ajayi then took the Dolphins to barely within the territory necessary for a field goal to be kickable. Cody Parkey who was claimed off waivers on 3rd September, successfully made the 54 yard kick. The Dolphins were now leading the game.

Could The Chargers do what they failed to do in Denver and win the game when they gained possession of the ball? Rivers had 1 minute to work his way into field goal range. With his customarily unorthodox throwing Rivers did just that. The ball was now in field goal range, ready for Younghoe Koo to be the hero. The pressure was on Khoo to make the field goal but unfortunately for the Chargers he missed it. This was another agonizing loss in a tight game for the Chargers, something they have made a habit of in recent years.

Week 1: Kansas City Chiefs @ New England Patriots

With slot receiver Julian Edelman out for the season after suffering a knee injury in preseason, the New England Patriots seemed somewhat out of sorts. After a good start to the game from the Patriots offense, the Kansas City Chiefs quickly responded. Eric Berry, the inspirational Chiefs safety, who returned to football after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, ruptured his Achilles tendon during this game.

Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski didn’t get much separation during the game and didn’t seem like his usual dominant self. Danny Amendola, who is looking to fill the shoes of Edelman in the slot receiver position, also didn’t impose himself on the game. It is week 1, however it seems as though a lot of players aren’t prepared for the football season. The shifty Brandin Cooks didn’t make much of an impact on his debut. Tom Brady also didn’t have his best game despite putting up 27 points.

Alex Smith, on the contrary, had a fantastic game. With Patrick Mahomes II watching, Smith took care of the ball and delivered some accurate, long-distance throws for a change. The rookie Kareem Hunt also had a tremendous game despite coughing up the ball to New England on his first carry. Unsurprisingly Tyreek Hill generated an impressive 133 yards including a TD run where he found himself wide open after poor play from the Patriots defensive backs.

Andy Reid will be thrilled with his team after they went into Foxborough and beat the Patriots soundly. Alex Smith took care of the ball as usual and yet was still able to take more risks downfield, which will please the Chiefs fans that have been critical of the signal caller at times. The Chiefs offense, which has looked too tentative and careful at times, suddenly looked explosive and exciting this Thursday night. With the addition of Hunt at running back and perhaps some improved play by the pass rushers, the Chiefs will be a dangerous opponent during this season.

Bill Belichick will continue to look stony-faced after the New England Patriots failed to put pressure on the opposing quarterback. Tom Brady, the ultimate competitor, will undoubtedly be looking to be back to his best against the New Orleans Saints next Sunday after a few misplaced passes. Will the addition of Brandin Cooks, who often looks to burst downfield, replace Edelman, who is best in the slot, in Brady’s dink and dunk offense.  Tom Brady, who turned 40 in August, may struggle to throw the ball downfield accurately on a regular basis from now on. It will be Brady’s surrounding cast of receivers who will have to improve most however, as the offense looked out of sorts.