Most Super Bowl teams have at least one bad game the next season. Sometimes it happens in Week 1.
Maybe we’ll look up at the end of December, maybe even the end of September, and the San Francisco 49ers’ opening-game loss to the Arizona Cardinals will look like a blip in another successful season. Hopefully for 49ers fans, it was just a one-off.
Whatever happens next, Sunday wasn’t a fluky loss. Arizona had 29 first downs to 18 for the 49ers. The Cardinals outgained the 49ers 404-366. The 49ers were 2-of-11 on third-down conversions and 0-for-2 on fourth down. Arizona deserved the win.
It might not be a problem if it wasn’t for the Super Bowl hangover, which might include Jimmy Garoppolo.
Since the 1997 season, both Super Bowl participants have won their respective divisions just once. That says either the Kansas City Chiefs or 49ers are likely to not win another division title, and we all saw how good the Chiefs looked in Week 1. It’s a trend that can’t be ignored.
There wasn’t much concern from 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan. He said that issues on third down and in the red zone were the reason San Francisco found itself in a close game. He was mostly fine with how the 49ers played otherwise.
“I thought we started out very well. Thought we had a chance to run away with it a little bit in the first half,” Shanahan said. “Anytime you average eight yards a play and you’re holding them pretty good on the other side of the ball, I thought we’d have more points to show for it than what we did.”
The focus will be on Garoppolo, fair or not. When the 49ers blew a lead in the fourth quarter of last season’s Super Bowl, Garoppolo’s overthrow of Emmanuel Sanders in the final minutes got more attention than all of the 49ers’ defensive mistakes combined. That’s the life of a quarterback.
Garoppolo didn’t have injured receivers Deebo Samuel or Brandon Aiyuk on Sunday, and tight end George Kittle was obviously affected by a knee injury suffered in the first half. Garoppolo wasn’t bad, but he couldn’t rally the 49ers for a winning score on their final drive. So he will take an inordinate amount of the blame. Again. The San Francisco Chronicle’s column on Monday had the headline, “49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo has another fourth quarter to forget as hangover clangs on.” It’s not the kind of attention you want after a long, long offseason.
The 49ers should be fine. They can still run the ball. Their pass catchers should get healthier, though Kittle’s injury is worrisome. Shanahan can coach. The defense is still very good. Sunday’s loss was not a great way to start the season, but it wasn’t a cause for panic.
For now, the 49ers should still be considered one of the NFC’s best teams, just one that started in an 0-1 hole. Then again, if Sunday was a sign of things to come, the 49ers would join a very long list of teams that couldn’t recapture their magic after reaching a Super Bowl.
Here are the power rankings after Week 1 of the NFL season:
Maybe I’m overreacting to one week, but that was a horrendous performance and I’m not sure why it’ll get any better. There are very few blue-chip players on either side of the ball and Adam Gase isn’t a good coach. Other than that, things are going really well for the Jets.
Carolina put up 30 points and lost. That will be a theme this season. The Panthers are going to give up a lot of points, but they have a lot of playmakers on offense, including Robby Anderson, who had 115 yards and might have a big season away from Adam Gase. It’ll be a fun team to watch.
Joe Burrow’s debut was OK, not great. He missed a few throws he needed to make to lift the Bengals to a win. His fourth-quarter interception was a bad rookie mistake. There’s room for growth, and at least Burrow looked like he belonged.
Gardner Minshew II was excellent, completing 19-of-20 passes for 173 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in Jacksonville’s upset win. The Jaguars went about the offseason like they were tanking for Trevor Lawrence, but they might be fine with Minshew.
Chase Young had 1.5 sacks in his debut, and Washington had eight sacks as a team. A stellar defensive line can help a rebuilding team win a few more games than it should, and Washington seems to have one.
27. New York Giants (0-1, LW: 27)
I can’t even blame the Giants. Monday night seemed like it was much more about the Steelers playing well than New York’s issues. Still, the offensive line has a long way to go and it better happen fast.
26. Miami Dolphins (0-1, LW: 25)
Christian Wilkins had perhaps his best day as a pro, with six tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and two passes knocked down at the line. Wilkins, a 2019 first-round pick, had a quiet rookie season so Sunday’s performance was a great sign.
25. Detroit Lions (0-1, LW: 23)
Matt Patricia can be angry over being questioned over the Lions blowing way too many fourth-quarter leads during his time, but it’s his defense that let Mitchell Trubisky to look like a star and reel off three fourth-quarter touchdowns in a Bears win. It was a really bad way for Patricia to start a season in which he presumably has to show something positive.
24. Cleveland Browns (0-1, LW: 16)
Odell Beckham Jr. had three catches for 22 yards on 10 targets, and 16 of those yards came on one catch. It’s fair to give Beckham a pass because the Ravens might just be that good, but it’ll be very concerning if he doesn’t look better against the Bengals this week. The same can be said about the Browns as a team.
23. Denver Broncos (0-1, LW: 15)
The Broncos won’t want to watch the film of Monday night’s loss. They had way too many brutal mistakes, like rookie Jerry Jeudy’s two drops, not getting in the end zone on fourth down at the 1-yard line, an interception taken off the board due to a defensive penalty and Melvin Gordon’s key fumble in the first half. And then Vic Fangio absolutely blew it by not calling timeouts when the Titans got into field-goal range in the final minute. The Broncos had plenty of heartbreaking losses last season, and that’s how this season started, too.
22. Los Angeles Chargers (1-0, LW: 22)
Austin Ekeler’s season opener: One target, one catch for three yards. That has to change if the Chargers offense is going to be even average. Getting Ekeler the ball in the passing game, where he’s at his best, will be their focus of Week 2.
21. Indianapolis Colts (0-1, LW: 13)
Marlon Mack’s season-ending injury likely just means more work for Jonathan Taylor, and that was probably going to happen at some point anyway. However, eroding the running back depth could change the Colts’ overall philosophy a bit. And I’m not sure you want Philip Rivers being the focal point of the offense going forward.
20. Las Vegas Raiders (1-0, LW: 24)
Derek Carr had a typical Derek Carr game: 239 yards, one touchdown, no major mistakes, nothing all that flashy (though his TD pass to Nelson Agholor was fantastic) ... and everyone will immediately forget all the positives the first time Carr makes a mistake this season.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1, LW: 9)
The offseason hype on the Bucs was a little too much. And any overreaction the other way this week won’t be of much use either. The Saints are a very good team and the Buccaneers were adjusting to a lot of changes. It’s not ideal to lose to the other titan in the NFC South, but it shouldn’t change anyone’s opinion on the Bucs. Let’s wait to see how they look against the Panthers this week.
18. Atlanta Falcons (0-1, LW: 26)
All three Falcons receivers had at least nine catches and 114 yards. And they were never really competitive in a Week 1 home loss. That’s a really bad sign for a team that has gotten off to slow starts the past couple years.
17. Houston Texans (0-1, LW: 20)
It’s repetitive to keep hammering Bill O’Brien for the DeAndre Hopkins trade. But you can’t get away from it when Houston struggles to keep up with Kansas City and then Hopkins dominates for Arizona in its upset win. It’s still hard to believe that trade happened, and it will be a story as long as O’Brien is Houston’s coach. It’s that bad.
16. Minnesota Vikings (0-1, LW: 18)
This was not the year, without a preseason, to turn over a cornerback group. The Vikings’ new cornerbacks were torched by Aaron Rodgers. Minnesota will get better on defense because Mike Zimmer is a good coach, but it also might take a little longer than usual.
15. Chicago Bears (1-0, LW: 21)
After three quarters, it seemed hard to believe that Mitchell Trubisky would be the Bears’ starter in Week 2. To call Trubisky’s fantastic fourth quarter a job-saving performance might be an understatement. The question is if Trubisky can build off that success, or at least if it gives him a little more job security if things go poorly in the next game or two.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (0-1, LW: 14)
The Eagles were so beat up at running back, wide receiver and the offensive line that it’s hard to evaluate them after one week. No matter the injuries, it’s not good to blow a 17-0 lead to a Washington team expected to be one of the NFL’s worst. A Week 2 home game against the Rams takes on a lot more importance than it should for Philly.
13. Arizona Cardinals (1-0, LW: 19)
We knew the offense would be good, especially with DeAndre Hopkins. The defense wasn’t great on Sunday, but it was good enough. If Arizona plays defense to that level all season, it can win the NFC West.
12. Dallas Cowboys (0-1, LW: 6)
The call on Michael Gallup was unfortunate, but officials missed a call on Aldon Smith’s hands to the face that resulted in a Dallas interception. Calls generally will even out. What the Cowboys need to be focused on is why their ballyhooed offense produced practically no explosive plays and just 17 points.
11. Los Angeles Rams (1-0, LW: 17)
The Rams hit Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott seven times on Sunday. Aaron Donald had four quarterback hits, the rest of the Rams had three combined. Take the time to appreciate Donald. It’s either Joe Greene or Donald for the title of greatest defensive tackle ever, and Donald is going to keep adding to his resume.
10. Tennessee Titans (1-0, LW: 8)
Stephen Gostkowski has had a great career. Unless you have no heart, or are a Broncos fan, you had to feel good about Gostkowski being able to kick the winning field goal on Monday night after missing three field goals and an extra point earlier in the game. That would have been one awful plane ride home had Tennessee lost.
9. New England Patriots (1-0, LW: 12)
Cam Newton had 15 rushing attempts, his most since 2015, and 14 of them were designed runs, according to Pro Football Focus. It was great to see Newton look effective in that role and for the Patriots to play to his strengths, but it’s fair to wonder if Newton can hold up all season if that’s the weekly plan.
8. San Francisco 49ers (0-1, LW: 4)
In general with the power rankings, it’s not smart to overreact to one game. The NFL is competitive and just about everyone is capable of beating anyone else once. Some teams have to show more than once they’re either much better or worse than preseason expectations. That’s why Arizona isn’t moving ahead of San Francisco yet. Jacksonville won’t be ahead of Indianapolis, and Washington won’t be ahead of Philadelphia after one game either. Sometimes Week 1 upsets signal a true change that sticks all season. Good luck figuring out which ones fit that category.
7. Green Bay Packers (1-0, LW: 11)
It’s not like Aaron Rodgers is incapable of vintage performances like he did on Sunday. He had a game like that against the Raiders last season, too. We’ll have to see what happens when a defense has a cornerback that can at least compete against Davante Adams. Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (who did have two drops to go along with two touchdowns) were good on Sunday, but they’ll have to keep passing tests before anyone is convinced they can be above-average complements to Adams.
6. Seattle Seahawks (1-0, LW: 10)
Jamal Adams’ debut: 12 tackles, two quarterback hits, one sack. The Seahawks paid a lot to get the All-Pro safety, but he’s going to have a huge impact on their defense this season.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0, LW: 7)
Having seen the Steelers defense blast Saquon Barkley for four quarters and Ben Roethlisberger throw it as well as he did, I’m tempted to move Pittsburgh up even further. That team looked like it can win a Super Bowl (though, they might not win the division).
4. Buffalo Bills (1-0, LW: 5)
Social media had fun with Josh Allen missing an easy touchdown pass in the end zone, but anyone who watched the Bills dissect the Jets knows how good Allen was on Sunday. Yes, he is going to miss some easy throws. That will always be a part of his game. But he can also make a lot happen with his arm and his legs, and his performance on Sunday was a positive step, regardless of what you might have seen on Twitter.
3. New Orleans Saints (1-0, LW: 3)
Because Drew Brees is 41, every missed throw is a reason to wonder if he’s hitting the wall. The Saints won easily on Sunday, but it wasn’t a great Brees performance. He had just 160 yards and averaged 5.3 yards per attempt. It doesn’t matter too much yet because the Saints won easily, but it’s worth keeping an eye on Brees over the next few games.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0, LW: 2)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire already looks like the real deal. Drafting a running back in the first round is debatable but that was the right situation for it: The Chiefs didn’t have many other needs, it was the final pick of the first round and Edwards-Helaire adds a dangerous dimension to the Chiefs’ offense. Like the offense needed more help.
1. Baltimore Ravens (1-0, LW: 1)
Lamar Jackson will be an MVP candidate again. Marquise Brown looks like he’ll have a second-year breakout. Mark Andrews is one of the best tight ends in football. J.K. Dobbins could have a big rookie season. And the defense is still nasty. The Ravens are not going anywhere.
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