I firmly believe that I’m not the only person who had a warm feeling all inside the chest region on Sunday. That lovely feeling wasn’t provided by a lovely smelling indica from the dispensary. It came from the reality that the NFL had finally returned.
No more training camp tales about rookies to watch out for, Page Six stories about Tom Brady’s personal life, or gritty Detroit Lions “Hard Knocks” episodes. The best football players in the world put on their helmets and shoulder pads and got to thumping for real. No more red jerseys. Live contact for everybody for a three-plus hour session.
Yes, the NFL is as problematic as are many other largely successful American institutions, but at least the consumable good that it provides doesn’t perform less optimally when it knows a new version is going to be introduced to the market.
Sure there are too many games and also the hard salary cap and 53-man roster limit make it difficult for teams to keep talent and be competitive for several consecutive years. That being said, for five months sports fans get to watch athletes play war games on live television while decked in armor. It’s arguably the best entertainment that television can provide, which bears out in the ratings.
Week 1 was filled with great plays, surprises, and also loaded with drama. The 2022 season’s first witching hour included two overtime games, but much of the intrigue was due to kickers failing. Cairo Santos missed a couple of extra points as Chicagoland was flooding, but the Bears still defeated the San Francisco 49ers by nine points. However, unsuccessful kicking attempts by other teams, kicked off quite the memorable Week 1.
Another low-scoring game, but mostly because of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense. They hounded Joe Burrow and the 2021 AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals all afternoon and forced five turnovers.
That’s typically enough to down any opponent, but the Steelers offense still struggled even with Ben Roethlisberger’s noodle arm accepting retirement. They ended up scoring the exact same amount of points that they scored in their season-opener in 2021, and in that victory, the Bills only turned the ball over once.
Despite not being able to hold onto the ball, the Bengals were able to eventually tie the game at 20-all. They scored a touchdown with two seconds remaining, but weren’t able to put the game away. The Bengals were stuck with a backup long snapper all day, and his high snap was both a factor in Evan McPherson’s — the kicker who vaulted the Bengals to last season’s Super Bowl with clutch playoff kicks against the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs — missed that final extra point in regulation and also a 29-yard field goal attempt in overtime.
The Steelers responded in overtime with their own missed 55-yarder that extended the game. But when they got a second chance they wouldn’t be denied. Chris Boswell attempted a kick only two yards closer and as time expired he lifted Mitchell Trubisky’s 5.1 yards per pass attempt to a road victory over last year’s AFC Champions.
Of the early slate of Sunday’s Week 1 matchups, this one had to be one of the least anticipated. It was Matt Ryan’s first game with the Indianapolis Colts, who again have an exceptional roster. They were taking on the Houston Texans who might be so bad this season that they received the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. However, at the end of the first half, the Colts were down 7-3. The touchdown Houston scored followed a Colts turnover.
The Colts continued to play inept football in the second half, including a second turnover that led to another Texans touchdown, and by the end of the third quarter, the Texans were up 20-3. Maybe casting judgment on the Colts if the first game of the season ended at that score would’ve been harsh, but their stacked team has Matt Ryan at quarterback and they’re playing against Davis Mills and a highly dysfunctional organization.
Eventually, the better team did end up tying the game, and that’s where the score stayed at the end of regulation.
The score was 20-20 and far from a 2022 NFL barn-burner. Overtime didn’t provide much drama until the Colts had the chance to start the season the way that they were supposed to. Victory was within reach if their kicker could nail a 42-yard field goal to win the game.
In his first two years as a professional kicker Rodrigo Blankenship missed three of 17 field goals between 40-49 yards. In Week 1 of 2022, he missed his fourth from that range, failing to convert on a 42-yarder with less than two minutes remaining, and now the Texans and Colts begin the season at 0-1-0.