Week 1 takeaways, big questions: Cards’ offensive explosion, Bills’ letdown and Darnold’s revenge

Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season had a little bit of everything. The Cardinals’ offense looked great in a big win over the Titans, as Kyler Murray starred with five total touchdowns. Tennessee struggled all day, as did another AFC powerhouse, the Bills.

Elsewhere, Sam Darnold had a day against his old team, the Texans surprised with a big outing against Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars, and Carson Wentz’s debut in Indianapolis didn’t go to plan. Rookies across the league showed their talent by finding the end zone, the Eagles blew out the Falcons, and Washington has a lot of looming questions regarding the quarterback position after Ryan Fitzpatrick left the game with a hip injury. Minnesota and Cincinnati went to overtime, while the 49ers had to fend off a late comeback attempt by the Lions.

Our NFL Nation reporters respond to it all, with the major takeaways and top lingering questions from this week’s action — and what it all means going forward. Plus, they each look at the bigger picture with their current team confidence rating — a 0-10 grade of how they feel about the team’s future outlook coming out of the week. Let’s get into it. (Games will be added throughout the day on Sunday and then again following Monday Night Football.)

CINCINNATI BENGALS 27, MINNESOTA VIKINGS 24

Standout performer: Bengals RB Joe Mixon with 127 rushing yards, 1 TD

Bengals

What to know: The future of the Bengals will hinge on quarterback Joe Burrow. On fourth-and-inches in overtime, Burrow appeared to check out of a play at the line of scrimmage. Burrow instead dropped back and hit tight end C.J. Uzomah for a 32-yard strike that set up the game-winning field goal. — Ben Baby

Are the Bengals going to lock up safety Jessie Bates to a long-term extension? Because he earned his money on Sunday. Bates turned a potential loss into an eventual win when he forced a fumble with the Vikings in field-goal range. Bates’ agent just gained a big data point in contract negotiations. — Baby

Baby’s confidence rating: 7.0. The Bengals are somehow never out of it as long as they have Joe Burrow on the field. — Baby

Next game: at Bears (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Vikings

What to know: No, the issues from the preseason — especially those on offense — were not an overreaction. Those concerns turned out to be an accurate representation of where this team is at after an ugly outing in Cincinnati. Minnesota received some help from the Bengals, but today was hideous offensively. Kirk Cousins looked uncomfortable, the offensive line made error after error and the Vikings couldn’t establish any semblance of a run game with Dalvin Cook. The claims made the last few weeks that the offensive issues from the preseason wouldn’t show up once all their starters got on the field together was posturing, and today’s loss proved that. — Courtney Cronin

How do they fix the offensive line issues? It’s hard to get anything going offensively when the O-line racks up countless holding and false-start penalties that had Minnesota playing from behind all game. The offensive line was responsible for 70 of the team’s 116 total penalty yards on Sunday, and the interior got pushed around. Cousins does not look comfortable behind this unit or like he knows where his protection is, and that’s a problem that doesn’t appear to have an easy fix. — Cronin

Cronin’s confidence rating: 5.0. The Vikings have to go on the road again next week to play an Arizona team that beat Tennessee 38-13. Considering how poorly the offensive line held up against Cincinnati, it’s difficult to fathom how they’ll be any better against the Cardinals pass rush, which featured a five-sack day from Chandler Jones in Week 1. — Cronin

Next game: at Cardinals (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 41, DETROIT LIONS 33

Standout performer: 49ers RB Elijah Mitchell with 104 rushing yards, 1 TD

49ers

What to know: For three quarters, the 49ers offered a reminder of how dominant they can be when healthy and firing on all cylinders. They also let up late and nearly coughed up a 28-point lead. The needed caveat here is that the Lions again look like contenders for the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft; if the Niners are going to return to contender status, they can’t let their foot off the gas, especially against inferior opponents. — Nick Wagoner

How will the 49ers continue to integrate Trey Lance into the offense? Lance threw his first career touchdown pass on his second NFL snap (and first pass attempt) but only played sparingly after that, taking a total of four snaps. Because the game was essentially over at halftime, there was no need for coach Kyle Shanahan to show too much of what he has in mind for Lance, but it’s clear he won’t be afraid to get the rookie quarterback involved where he sees fit. — Wagoner

Wagoner’s confidence rating: 6.5. It was a promising start for the 49ers, but injuries to running back Raheem Mostert and cornerback Jason Verrett — and letting off the gas in the fourth quarter — put a damper on an otherwise dominant performance, which tempers this rating quite a bit. — Wagoner

Next game: at Eagles (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Lions

What to know: A new era in Motown felt like business as usual to start the game, with the Lions trailing by at least 21 points at halftime of their season opener for the third time since the 1970 merger. Jared Goff became the first QB not named Matthew Stafford to start a season opener for Detroit since Jon Kitna in 2008, but he looked stiff early on — beginning 1-of-5 for 12 yards and an interception on passes with more than 5 air yards down the field in the first half. The Lions eventually warmed up, getting within one score after going down 38-10 in the third. They refused to quit. Goff ended with 338 passing yards and three touchdowns while completing 38 of 57 attempts in his Detroit debut. — Eric Woodyard

Was running back Jamaal Williams getting the starting nod over D’Andre Swift a one-time thing? Or was Swift’s groin injury more serious than it appeared and the coaching staff wanted to ease him back onto the field? To his credit, Swift did jump right in on the second drive of the game with a 4-yard run up the middle, then took a short screen pass up the middle for a 43-yard touchdown in the third. It’s still something worth noting, particularly when Swift is expected to be “The Guy” this season with Williams as his complementary piece. — Woodyard

Woodyard’s confidence rating: 4.5. Expectations are low this season for the Lions with so many new faces. To their credit, after falling behind big, they made the game respectable with some true fight in the end with a pair of late touchdowns plus a fumble and onside kick recovery. This 49ers team is potentially very good, so it’s not the worst thing to lose this opener — especially after such a dramatic finish. — Woodyard

Next game: at Packers (Monday, Sept. 20, 8:15 p.m. ET)

PITTSBURGH STEELERS 23, BUFFALO BILLS 16

Standout performer: Steelers LB T.J. Watt with two sacks, five QB hits, a tackle for a loss

Steelers

What to know: The Steelers’ defense was always going to be the strength of this squad, and that was especially evident as the defense kept the game close in the first half and spurred the second-half comeback for the Steelers’ 23-16 win. Of Pittsburgh’s 20 unanswered points, 17 were the result of two Bills turnovers on downs and a blocked punt/return touchdown — which was put into motion when Cam Heyward had a third-down sack of Josh Allen one play earlier. T.J. Watt, just off a massive payday, had two sacks, and was a disruptive force throughout the afternoon. The Bills managed to convert 7 of 16 third downs, but they were 0-for-2 on fourth downs. The offense is going to have to work through growing pains early, but the defense showed Sunday it’s more than capable of buoying the entire team. — Brooke Pryor

What’s up with the Steelers’ OL? The Steelers’ offensive line was the biggest question mark entering Sunday’s game, and it remains the biggest one after it. The line, which included two rookies making their NFL debuts, was abysmal as a unit — especially in the first half. The Steelers had just seven rushing yards, and first-round pick Najee Harris was averaging 1.1 yards per carry. Roethlisberger also got sacked twice in the first half. The second half was better, and the run game picked up behind the line with 76 total yards and 4 yards per carry. — Pryor

Pryor’s confidence rating: The Steelers outperformed their underdog status entering the matchup, and the first half showed major deficiencies on the offensive line — but the defense gives the Steelers’ plenty of reason for optimism.

Next game: vs. Raiders (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Bills

What to know: Despite a dominating defensive effort in the first two quarters, the Bills allowed 20 straight points to the Steelers coming out of the half and lost a commanding lead. The defense allowed Pittsburgh to put together three drives of nine-plus plays in the second half alone and failed to generate consistent pressure against a young offensive line. The Bills also had a punt blocked, which was returned for a TD. — Alaina Getzenberg

Can the Bills’ offense replicate last year’s success? Accuracy downfield proved to be a major problem for Josh Allen in his first game of 2021, despite facing the lowest blitz rate of his career, per ESPN Stats & Info. He completed just 30 of 51 passes, a career high in pass attempts, for 270 yards against the Steelers and had trouble connecting with both Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley. The offensive line, one of the team’s biggest questions coming into the game, also struggled with Allen’s limited movement, which played a part in the Steelers not needing to blitz. The line was also called for six holding penalties, four of which were accepted, something coach Sean McDermott called, “unacceptable.” Allen improved on his accuracy issues last season, but the ability to build on last year’s success will be something to watch going forward. — Getzenberg

Getzenberg’s confidence rating: 6.3. There are clear issues to be corrected on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, and being outscored 23-3 in the second half is a telling statistic, but it’s not enough for major concern after just Week 1 for a team with such a high ceiling. — Getzenberg

Next game: at Miami (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

CAROLINA PANTHERS 19, NEW YORK JETS 14

Standout performer: Panthers QB Sam Darnold with 279 passing yards, 2 total TDs

Panthers

What to know: The jury is still out on quarterback Sam Darnold. While the third pick of the 2018 draft was efficient against his former team in Sunday’s win against the Jets, it should not have been that close. Carolina scored only one touchdown on four trips inside the New York 10-yard line, continuing a red zone issue that plagued it last season. Darnold only proved he can play well against a bad team. — David Newton

Can the offensive line protect Sam Darnold against a good defense? This group that coach Matt Rhule says remains a work in progress gave up only one sack, but Darnold was hit eight times. Darnold’s ultimate success depends on how he is protected against top defenses such as the New Orleans Saints, who are coming up next. — Newton

Newton’s confidence rating: 5.1. Just not enough evidence that Carolina can beat a better-than-average team after this showing against a team that has been a disaster the past few years. — Newton

Next game: vs. Saints (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Jets

What to know: Zach Wilson knows how to take a punch. Unfortunately for the Jets, he took too many. Their ballyhooed quarterback showed no quit against a relentless pass rush, but he also made too many rookie mistakes. At times, the game was too fast for him, but he settled down and displayed some of the talent that made the Jets draft him second overall. It was a great learning experience. There’s no reason to be down on Wilson, who will improve every week. — Rich Cimini

Can the Jets protect Wilson? Their pass protection was brutal against the Panthers, and now they face the prospect of not having left tackle Mekhi Becton, who suffered a potentially serious knee injury. You had to expect some growing pains because the starting five had no game reps together in the preseason, but this was ridiculous — six sacks and 14 pressures. — Cimini

Cimini’s confidence rating: 3.5. Can’t win if you can’t score, and this offense looked like something out of the Adam Gase era for two-plus quarters. — Cimini

Next game: vs. Patriots (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 32, ATLANTA FALCONS 6

Standout performer: Eagles QB Jalen Hurts with 264 passing yards, 3 TDs, 62 rushing yards

Eagles

What to know: There’s reason to be excited about the Eagles and their young offensive playmakers. Quarterback Jalen Hurts outdueled veteran Matt Ryan in his fifth career start, going 27-of-35 for 264 yards with three touchdowns, and Eagles rookies DeVonta Smith (6 catches, 71 yards) and Kenny Gainwell (43 total yards) each found the end zone in their debuts. Add in the performances of Miles Sanders (113 total yards) and Jalen Reagor (6 catches, 49 yards, TD), and that’s a whole lot of production out of a relatively inexperienced group. They’ll look to keep it up against a strong 49ers defense next week. — Tim McManus

How high is this team’s ceiling? That kind of convincing road win will get people talking about coach Nick Sirianni and the Eagles. Expectations were low entering this season, but the Eagles overperformed on both sides of the ball Sunday, particularly on defense by keeping Atlanta and its talented skill players out of the end zone. The upcoming stretch in the Eagles’ schedule will tell the true tale: their next five games are against the Niners, Cowboys, Chiefs, Panthers and Buccaneers. — McManus

McManus’ confidence rating: 6.3. The Eagles impressed in coach Nick Sirianni’s first game at the helm. It will take more evidence before believing they’re the real thing, but it was about as good a start as they could have asked for. — McManus

Next game: vs. 49ers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Falcons

What to know: Welp. That loss to the Eagles was really, really ugly. Everything kind of fell apart for Atlanta. The offense fizzled after two strong drives to start the game. The defense was beaten by a thousand gashes and zone reads and short passes it couldn’t defend. And it got worse from there. This was about as bad as it could get in coach Arthur Smith’s debut. It was known the Falcons had some roster holes and lacked depth, but for it to be such a complete meltdown is concerning. When a team’s penalty yards (99) approaches either its rushing (124) or passing (136) yardage, you know it has been a really bad day. — Michael Rothstein

What’s up with the offense? Things started out strong, with Smith bringing out a bit of no-huddle with a personnel set in different formations. But after that, everything sputtered. The Falcons’ run game — which had 86 yards in the first quarter — finished with 124. The passing game barely threw intermediate routes, let alone deep shots. Atlanta reached the red zone twice and settled for field goals. The offensive line had three false starts. The good news, I guess, is that it can’t get any worse. Except Atlanta plays the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2. — Rothstein

Rothstein’s confidence rating: 4.2. It’s still early in the season, but there’s not much to like in any phase from Atlanta after one game. — Rothstein

Next game: at Buccaneers (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)

HOUSTON TEXANS 37, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 21

Standout performer: Texans QB Tyrod Taylor with 291 passing yards, 2 TDs

Texans

What to know: It’s very early in the season, but after one week, Houston leads the AFC South. If the division continues to struggle, the Texans could win more games than it seemed they would on paper. Last season, half of the team’s wins came against the Jaguars. This year, it looks like there are winnable games in the AFC South. The real question: Is winning enough that they don’t get a top pick in 2022 really a good thing for the long-term future of the franchise? — Sarah Barshop

Is this Texans defense for real? Houston matched its 2020 total with three interceptions on Sunday. Going into the season, it was clear that Houston’s formula for success this season was a strong performance on defense and special teams. The team only allowed 14 points to Jacksonville, but can Lovie Smith’s defense continue taking the ball away against non-rookie opposing quarterbacks? The Texans will find out against the Cleveland Browns’ Baker Mayfield in Week 2. — Barshop

Barshop’s confidence rating: 3.5. Houston looked good in the season opener, but Week 2 against the Browns will be the better test to see whether the Texans will be better than expected this season. — Barshop

Next game: at Browns (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Jaguars

What to know: The Jaguars looked ill-prepared in Urban Meyer’s first game as an NFL head coach, which is inexcusable. Mistakes happen, but having too many men in the huddle, lining up incorrectly twice (in the first half), and burning two timeouts in the first quarter to avoid delay penalties are preventable problems. Those are the kind of things that bad teams — and the Jaguars have been bad the last three seasons — do regularly. — Mike DiRocco

Should we expect these kinds of struggles out of QB Trevor Lawrence all year? Not to the extent that we saw against the Texans. He’s going to make mistakes. That’s what rookie quarterbacks generally do. Let’s also remember that his receivers dropped six passes. The game got out of hand in the first half, and that forced the Jaguars to abandon the run in the second half, and that makes things harder for any quarterback. Lawrence made some really good throws (the TDs to Chris Manhertz and DJ Chark, for example) and scanned the field pretty well, but he also was off target on a bunch of others and stared down his receivers at times, too. It was a rough start, but Lawrence doesn’t lack confidence, and this won’t shake him. Being balanced on offense and keeping games close will help him become more consistent, but mistakes will happen. — DiRocco

DiRocco’s confidence rating: 2.5. The offensive issues were bad enough, but Tyrod Taylor — not Tom Brady or Russell Wilson or Josh Allen — carved up the Jaguars’ defense. — DiRocco

Next game: vs. Broncos (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 28, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 16

Standout performer: Seahawks QB Russell Wilson with 254 passing yards, 4 TDs

Seahawks

What to know: So far, so good with the Seahawks’ new offense. It started fast, with Russell Wilson touchdown passes on three of its first four possessions. It was explosive, with big plays from Tyler Lockett and Chris Carson. It was far from perfect, though, stalling out in the third quarter. Then again, no one could have expected perfection out of the gate with a first-time playcaller in Shane Waldron and no snaps for Wilson and most of the starters in the preseason. But the Seahawks will take 28 points, four touchdown passes and no mistakes from Wilson any day, especially against a good Indy defense. — Brady Henderson

Are the Seahawks good enough at cornerback? If their pass rush has as much firepower as it showed Sunday, then maybe they will be. Pressure on the quarterback can make life easier for the guys on the outside. That was the case against Indy with three sacks (from Rasheem Green, Darrell Taylor and Benson Mayowa), 10 QB hits and even more pressure than those numbers would suggest. Tre Flowers and D.J. Reed held up well enough against a Colts receiving corps that was without T.Y. Hilton. It’ll be a much tougher test next week against Julio Jones, A.J. Brown and the Titans. — Henderson

Henderson’s confidence rating: 8.7. Russell Wilson has covered up a lot of deficiencies over the years, so the Seahawks don’t have to be perfect around him, especially if he’s playing as well as he did Sunday. — Henderson

Next game: vs. Titans (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

Colts

What to know: Carson Wentz was supposed to see what it’s like to have time in the pocket to throw while having one of the top offensive lines in front of him this season in Indianapolis. Wentz instead spent a significant portion of the game getting sacked, hit or scrambling to avoid having both of those things happen because the entire offensive line played poorly. The Colts gave up three sacks and 10 quarterback hits. The goal was for Wentz to avoid being sacked and hit like he did last season (50 sacks) in Philadelphia. Things aren’t off to a good start so far for the Colts quarterback. And oh yeah, Aaron Donald, the premier defensive lineman in the NFL, and the Rams are up next for the Colts in Week 2. — Mike Wells

Which Colts defense is the real one? Will the Colts’ defense be more of the unit that forced four punts, a turnover and sacked Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson four times on six second-half drives than the group that gave up 257 yards and struggled to get off the field on third down in the first half? The Colts gave up only 332 yards a game last season. Wilson faced minimal pressure in the first half while being able to pick apart the defense. It didn’t help that the Colts didn’t have veteran cornerback Xavier Rhodes (calf). — Wells

Wells’ confidence rating: 5.8. Losing in Week 1 isn’t anything new for the Colts because they’ve now dropped eight straight season openers. But they weren’t supposed to play as bad on both sides of the ball in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score. The offensive line should improve once left tackle Eric Fisher (Achilles) returns and the defense can build off its second-half play. — Wells

Next game: vs. Rams (Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)

ARIZONA CARDINALS 38, TENNESSEE TITANS 13

Standout performer: Cardinals QB Kyler Murray with 289 passing yards, 5 total TDs

Cardinals

What to know: The Cardinals’ defense is legitimate — as in Super Bowl good. It was anchored by pass-rusher Chandler Jones’ five sacks, which tied the franchise record. It showed its depth with newcomer J.J. Watt in the backfield more than Titans back Derrick Henry Sunday. Cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. showed his versatility and made plays from sideline to sideline. The defensive line all but shut down Henry. Arizona’s defense showed what it’s capable of against an offense that made the playoffs last season. — Josh Weinfuss

Who will be the Cardinals’ best offensive weapon after wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins? It’s going to depend on the game, but Arizona showed Sunday it has offensive depth. Christian Kirk caught two touchdowns, A.J. Green could be an option despite a quiet first start and Rondale Moore is also worth keeping an eye on. Kyler Murray is going to be Kyler Murray and Hopkins is Hopkins. If defenses want to commit to them, Arizona has plenty of other options who can help them score 40 points a game. — Weinfuss

Weinfuss’ confidence rating: 9.0. The Cardinals have the roster and firepower to be very good this season, demonstrated by five touchdowns from Kyler Murray, two each from DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk and five sacks from Chandler Jones. — Weinfuss

Next game: vs. Vikings (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)

Titans

What to know: The slow start by the Titans can be traced to having only one full week of practice as a unit before the season opener. Tennessee has notoriously gotten off to slow starts. Sunday was no different as they fell behind 24-6 in the first half. Another week of practice together should help. But the Titans would be wise to start next week’s game with tempo on offense to create a sense of urgency. — Turron Davenport

What’s up with running back Derrick Henry? Henry gained 8 yards rushing in the first half. That marks his lowest total as a starter since 2019, when he picked up 4 yards against the Carolina Panthers. The struggles start with the offensive line. Arizona’s defensive line consistently pushed the line of scrimmage into the Titans’ backfield. Henry was hit at or behind the line of scrimmage eight times resulting in a net loss of three yards over the first three quarters. — Davenport

Davenport’s confidence rating: 4.5. The Titans’ offensive line was dominated by Arizona and questions remain about right tackle, in addition to left tackle after a bad performance from Taylor Lewan. — Davenport

Next game: at Seahawks (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS 20, WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM 16

Standout performer: Chargers QB Justin Herbert with 337 passing yards, 1 TD

Chargers

What to know: The Chargers made some of the goofiest errors (fumbling in the end zone deep in Washington territory, which gave Washington a touchback) but managed to win the game thanks to QB Justin Herbert, who threw for 337 yards while completing 31 of 47 passes. Herbert had the end zone fumble and threw a red zone interception but managed to keep his cool, throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to Mike Williams early in the fourth quarter after Kyzir White forced a fumble deep in Washington territory which Joey Bosa recovered. The Chargers had two red zone turnovers but were able to play keep-away for the last 6:43 out to get the win. — Shelley Smith

How will the team clean up some of these errors? Receiver Mike Williams saved the game with his touchdown reception, and he and Keenan Allen combined for 17 catches for 182 yards. Along with the two red-zone turnovers, a roughing-the-passer penalty on Joey Bosa late in the first half led to three Washington points. They’ll need to cut down on the mistakes going forward. — Smith

Smith’s confidence rating: 5.4. They won a game that last year they would have lost, as the Chargers were able to convert several third downs on their final drive to prevent the dramatic losses which they’ve had the last two seasons. — Smith

Next game: vs. Cowboys (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

Washington

What to know: Washington had multiple issues, but third-down defense was a major one. The pass rush did not bother quarterback Justin Herbert nearly enough as Los Angeles converted 14 of 18 third downs. While the offense needed to do more, the defense is supposed to be the rock. In the red zone, Washington’s defense stiffened, but the inability to get off the field on third down was a major problem. A lot of that stemmed from Herbert’s fantastic passing, but some of that was about a line that needed to harass him more. Washington’s line did not live up to the hype Sunday. — John Keim

What is the impact if Ryan Fitzpatrick must miss time? Fitz left the game with a hip injury, leaving the offense to Taylor Heinicke. Heinicke showed that he can run this offense well and provides a spark. The question with him has always been durability and what happens as teams get more film on him. Kyle Allen would be elevated to the No. 2 role. They do not have another QB on the practice squad. Washington has had too many seasons where injuries have been an issue at quarterback, so this is a tough way to start the season. — Keim

Keim’s confidence rating: 5.0. Washington remains a talented young team in some areas, but now there are questions — again — at quarterback, and the defense couldn’t bail them out. The key to this season will be how the team progresses in the second half, and one game does not sidetrack them. But it does show that they have questions that still must be answered. — Keim

Next game: vs. Giants (Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET)

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 31, DALLAS COWBOYS 29

Standout performer: Cowboys QB Dak Prescott with 403 passing yards, 3 TDs

Buccaneers

What to know: Unlike Super Bowl LV, in which the Buccaneers’ defense kept the Chiefs out of the end zone, the Bucs’ offense had to carry them this time. Quarterback Tom Brady threw for 379 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions, and the defense surrendered 403 passing yards and three touchdowns to Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. Had it not been for two missed field goal attempts by the Cowboys’ Greg Zuerlein, the Bucs would have been doomed by four turnovers. Still, the offense looks more improved than it did at the beginning of last season, suggesting that yes, they really can be better than their title-run season. — Jenna Laine

Did the Cowboys create the template to beat Tampa Bay? They attacked the Bucs with screens and made their defense step up and tackle on the perimeter. This could be especially problematic if starting cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (also their nickelback) misses any time after dislocating an elbow, and if they continue to be without safety Jordan Whitehead. — Laine

Laine’s confidence rating: 7.0. Brady delivered some epic throws for the defending Super Bowl champs, but the defense was disappointing against Dallas. The Bucs must correct their errors with games against the Rams and Patriots right around the corner. — Laine

Next game: vs. Falcons (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)

Cowboys

What to know: There are reasons to be encouraged by the Cowboys’ Week 1 game: Dak Prescott’s 403 yards, Amari Cooper’s 13 catches for 139 yards and the defense’s four takeaways. And then there are reasons to be discouraged by the loss: Ezekiel Elliott had 33 yards on 11 carries, the Cowboys allowed four touchdown passes, and there were too many mistakes on special teams. “Like coach said in the postgame, the only thing we know after this game is that we aren’t going undefeated,” Cooper said. “It wasn’t all bad. We did some good things, too.” — Todd Archer

How much worry should there be regarding kicker Greg Zuerlein? He hooked a 31-yard field goal attempt and was off from 60 yards — which is fine — but also had an extra point hit the upright. He didn’t kick much over the summer because of back surgery and had one attempt in the preseason. The Cowboys need to do a better job offensively in the red zone, but Zuerlein can’t miss makeable kicks like this. — Archer

Archer’s confidence rating: 7.5. The offense did what was expected. Scoring 29 points against Tampa Bay is a good showing even if it didn’t — or couldn’t — run the ball. Dallas shredded the Bucs’ pass defense, and Prescott was sacked once. And Dallas doesn’t play Tom Brady every week. — Archer

Next game: at Chargers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

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