September has rolled around, there’s a chill in the air, and most importantly for sports fans – the NFL is really, truly back! Sure everyone’s been enjoying the preseason, but it’s just not the same – the pre season doesn’t have the same stakes, and for the majority of the preseason, a team’s best players aren’t even on the field, as they’re being saved for the regular season. The regular season is where the excitement is and it’s finally upon us.
Football fans likely spent the entirety of Sunday, and a large portion of Monday evening, with their eyes glued to the screen as play after play unfolded. There were surprises in rookies that performed better than anyone would have anticipated, and old pros perhaps not measuring up to fans’ hopes. There were poorly executed plays and plays that went far, far better than anyone thought they were going to go. If you’re a die-hard fan of a particular team, you may have spent the jam-packed Sunday slots tuned to only one game, in which case you potentially missed a lot of memorable moments happening in other games. Even if you’re just a general football fanatic, in the act of flipping between six or seven games at a time you’re bound to miss moments.
Week one was everything that NFL fans had hoped for, and the memorable moments from it are as diverse as the fans watching them. Some moments are merely a spot in the week's flurry of activity to shine for certain players, from seasoned veterans like Matt Ryan to fresh rookies like Allen Hurns. Some were truly unpredictable plays, split seconds of a game where something either went wrong or went right to produce a moment worthy of repeating on any highlight reel.
Here are ten of the best moments from week one.
10 Matt Ryan Flying High
Matt Ryan, starting quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, is a phenomenal quarterback. While he may not go in the early rounds of fantasy drafts like Peyton Manning, he’s a solid bet and everyone felt he’d do well, if not amazingly, in the Falcons’ first regular season game. Any Matt Ryan doubters have likely been silenced after the performance he gave against the New Orleans Saints. The Saints are definitely not an easy team to play against, and they possess a defense whose pass rush was admirable last season. However, they appeared to be no match for Matt as he completed 31 of 43 passes to produce a staggering 448 yards, including three touchdowns, no picks, and no turnovers. He also was only sacked once. Falcons fans spent week one excited about their team’s performance, and any fantasy owners of Matt Ryan raked in the points week one because of his memorable performance.
9 Maurice Jones-Drew Bicycle Kicks to Derek Carr
Sometimes, when you’re flipping between games, plays can blur together a little bit. This moment, however, definitely stood out to absolutely anyone who may have been watching. The Oakland Raiders’ running back Maurice Jones-Drew fumbled the ball. Not that remarkable, right? Players do that all the time. True, but the awe factor occurred after the fumble itself. After being hit by Quinton Coples and fumbling the ball, Jones-Drew somehow kicked it backwards in a movie-worthy bicycle kick. That would have been pretty cool in and of itself, but he also managed to send it right into the hands of Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. Props to both Jones-Drew for not giving up despite being on his way to the ground, and to Carr for watching closely enough to take advantage of the kick. It’s a moment that will earn a spot on many highlight reels and will rarely be repeated.
8 8. Dez Bryant 49ers Hit
In the NFL, the hits are hard. Usually at least once a game, there’s a moment that causes viewers to wince as they can almost physically hear the crunch of the impact, of pounds and pounds of muscle plowing into a target. In the game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys, that moment came when 49ers safety Antoine Bethea came at Dez Bryant with the force of a truck. He hit Bryant in the lower half of his body, and while it seemed like an insanely hard hit during the game, you need to see the slowed down version to fully appreciate what a beast of a hit it was. Bryant’s body basically rippled from the strength of the impact. When it rains in Romo-land, it pours. Though Bryant was understandably a bit shaken immediately after being plowed down, he thankfully didn’t sustain any injuries.
7 Turn Down For Watt
The Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt recently signed a monster extension with the team. Anyone who was doubting whether Watt was worth that much money, whether he would live up to the expectations born of such a huge paycheck, need only turn to his performance in week one. Watt was, as usual, a beast on the field against the Washington Redskins. He had three tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery, and a pass deflection. Watt is one of the most fun defenders to watch, because as soon as you see that hulking blonde pile of muscle coming, you know someone’s getting slammed into the ground. He is a force to be reckoned with and what he does, he does impeccably. That’s why they pay him the big bucks.
6 Green Machine
The Cincinnati Bengals weren’t doing too well in their Sunday game against the Baltimore Ravens, having given away a fifteen point lead. Wide receiver A.J. Green seemingly decided enough was enough, and laid down the law for his team mates in the huddle – full effort on the next play. Green definitely backed up his talk with a whole lot of action as he managed to catch a 77-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton with less than five minutes to go. It brought the victorious Bengals a 23-16 win.
5 Newton on the Field
As everyone knows, the Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was sidelined for Sunday’s game, courtesy of a lingering rib injury. However, he certainly wasn’t just lounging at home and watching his teammates play on the big screen. Despite being unable to play, he was so dedicated to his teammates and so into the game that at one point he raced onto the field to give some advice to his offense, directing the play even when he wasn’t clad in his Panthers jersey. Newton apologized to the head coach Ron Rivera for his burst of enthusiasm, but let’s face it – it’s just another thing that won this charming southern boy even more fans’ hearts. For fans disappointed at not being able to see Newton in action in week one, it was a great moment.
4 Hurns So Goodand
Allen Hurns is a rookie playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars. While he did well in the pre season, it was his week one performance that stunned fans and sent everyone straight to google to check who on earth this Hurns guy was. In Jacksonville’s game against Philadelphia, Hurns racked up an impressive four catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns. It’s not just impressive for a rookie – it broke an actual record. His week one performance made Hurns the first player in NFL history to snag two touchdowns receiving in the first quarter of an NFL debut. Not bad for week one, rook.
3 49ers Defense Squash Rumors… and Players
Fantasy owners were told to be slightly wary of the San Francisco 49ers defense this season, as they lost several crucial starters to either injury or suspension. Fans were keeping an eye on San Francisco’s defensive game against the Cowboys, and the 49ers defense managed to successfully squash any claims that they were a crumbling defense, weakened by the loss of so many starters. The 49ers forced four turnovers in the first half alone, and while many of their victories came because of Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo’s questionable decisions, they’re definitely not a defense to be discarded and they still have the potential to move the 49ers to a strong season.
2 Antonio Brown Face Kick
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Antonio Brown was on a great run, ball grasped tightly and touchdown in his sights. However, Spencer Lanning of the Cleveland Browns became an obstacle. Brown responded by allegedly attempting to hurdle over Lanning and continue his run, but having mistimed his leap, ended up kicking Lanning right in the face mask in a move straight out of a video game. Brown was flagged for unnecessary roughness, because, you know, you can’t go around kicking guys in the face, whether accidentally or not. He got a fifteen yard penalty while simultaneously securing his spot on many a highlight reel of the 2014 season.
1 Graham Gano’s With The Band
The Carolina Panthers’ Graham Gano is in it to win it, and he won’t let anyone get in his way – not even pesky band members. The kicker wanted to ensure he was warmed up and well prepared for the second hand of the game, but the field was still occupied by the Bethune-Cookman marching band. The marching band was finishing up its halftime show, and Gano’s patience wore thin as he moved a trombone player to the side in order to complete a practice kick. Both parties apologized after the game – Gano for moving the band member, the band for going over their agreed upon time – and there’s no bad blood. If you need cheering up, just watch footage of Gano after the kick, surrounded by a sea of marching band members with a humorous ‘what do I do’ expression on his face.