Maybe Marcus Mariota and the Titans deserved all the hype after Tennessee’s quarterback threw three touchdown passes — one a stunning 75-yarder to big back Derrick Henry — and the Titans rolled to a 43-13 rout Sunday over the Cleveland Browns, who fell flat on their faces in their highly anticipated opener.
Titans tight end Delanie Walker had two TD catches in the fourth, and Tennessee’s defensive backs intercepted Baker Mayfield three times in the fourth period.
Cameron Wake sacked Mayfield in the end zone for a safety in the first half, and the Titans dominated the undisciplined and perhaps overblown Browns, picked by some to contend for a Super Bowl title after adding Odell Beckham Jr.
The Browns committed 18 penalties for 182 yards, a poor reflection on first-year coach Freddie Kitchens. Cleveland also had a player ejected for kicking a Titans defender. The performance left Cleveland fans and wondering if they’ve been duped.
The Browns are 1-19-1 in openers since 1999.
The Titans always seem to be overlooked, but after just missing the playoffs last season, coach Mike Vrabel had his team ready. Mariota finished 14 of 24 for 248 yards, completing his two scoring passes to Walker in a span of 3:29 of the final quarter when the Titans opened a 23-point lead.
Mayfield, who took several big hits while playing behind a patchwork line, brought Cleveland within 15-13 with a 3-yard TD pass to David Njoku. But the Titans countered immediately as Henry, who sat out the preseason with a calf injury, took a short pass, picked up a few blocks and rumbled down the sideline for the long score.
Kevin Byard picked off Mayfield moments later, and Mariota connected with Walker for an 11-yard score. The three-time Pro Bowler was making his return after suffering a season-ending broken leg in last year’s opener.
Mayfield went 25 of 38 for 285 yards, with his last throw returned 38 yards for a TD by Malcolm Butler. Beckham finished with seven catches for 71 yards in his Cleveland debut.
at New England 33, Pittsburgh 3: A day after the acquiring former Steelers malcontent Antonio Brown, the defending Super Bowl champions showed they might not even need him, getting 341 yards and three touchdown passes from 42-year-old Tom Brady to beat Pittsburgh.
Phillip Dorsett caught two touchdown passes, including a 58-yard score, and Josh Gordon — another disgruntled receiver who wore out his welcome elsewhere — caught one TD pass. On the night New England unveiled its sixth NFL championship banner, Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman caught six passes for 83 yards and also completed a throw to help the Patriots begin their quest for back-to-back titles.
The last team to do that: New England in 2003 and `04.
Facing the last team to beat them, the Patriots opened a 20-0 lead before Pittsburgh kicked a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 1 with 10:17 left in the third quarter. Brady responded with a 58-yard touchdown pass to Dorsett and a 27-3 lead.
Dorsett, who will be moving down the depth chart Monday when the Patriots make Brown’s signing official, had four catches for 95 yards and the first multi-score game of his career.
Ben Roethlisberger completed 27 of 47 passes for 277 yards and an interception, with much of the production coming on non-scoring drives in garbage time. The offense showed the effects of losing two of its biggest playmakers: Brown, who talked and tweeted his way out of both Pittsburgh and Oakland in one offseason, and running back Le’Veon Bell, a two-time All-Pro who sat out all of last season to avoid a franchise tag.
In their place, James Conner gained 21 yards on 10 carries; the Steelers gained only 32 yards rushing in all. Top receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster caught six passes for 78 yards, 26 of it coming on one throw in the final six minutes with the Steelers already trailing 33-3.
Kansas City 40, at Jacksonville 26: Despite losing star receiver Tyreek Hill early, Patrick Mahomes threw for 378 yards and three touchdowns while leading the Chiefs to a testy and tactful victory over the injury-riddled Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
Mahomes took a beating and even had to leave the game to get his left ankle taped in the second quarter. He nonetheless looked every bit as good as he did during last year’s MVP campaign, leading the Chiefs to scores on each of their first seven possessions.
Jacksonville lost quarterback Nick Foles to a broken left clavicle.
Sammy Watkins caught nine passes for a career-high 198 yards and three TDs. Watkins slipped through the middle of Jacksonville’s defense for a 68-yard score on the third play of the season and added a 49-yard TD reception late in the opening quarter. He made defenders Ronnie Harrison, Jalen Ramsey and Miles Jack look silly while strolling into the end zone twice. He beat Ramsey again for a short TD in the fourth period.
Mahomes picked apart what some believed is an elite defense, throwing for 313 yards in the first half and doing most of it without Hill. The three-time Pro Bowler departed after landing on his left shoulder near the sideline.
Baltimore 59, at Miami 10: Lamar Jackson tied a franchise record with five touchdown passes to help the Ravens humiliate the Dolphins and rookie coach Brian Flores.
The Ravens set a franchise record for points in the first half, and an NFL record for points in the first half of an opener, taking a 42-10 lead at the break. They broke franchise marks for points and total yards with 643.
Baltimore gained 49 yards on the first play — a run by newcomer Mark Ingram — and hardly slowed down after that. Jeers began when the score reached 14-0, evidence of the impending avalanche already obvious.
Jackson’s first nine passes, all completions, went for 204 yards and four touchdowns. That included scores of 47 and 83 yards to first-round draft pick Marquise Brown in the first 11 minutes.
at Seattle 21, Cincinnati 20: Russell Wilson hit Tyler Lockett for a 44-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter, and the Seahawks withstood a career day from Andy Dalton to beat the Bengals.
Wilson and the Seahawks struggled offensively for most of the game, but got the big plays they needed on a day Dalton looked great running new coach Zac Taylor’s offense. Wilson was 14 of 20 for 196 yards and two scores, including a 10-yard TD pass in the first half to Chris Carson, who broke three tackles on his way to the end zone.
Wilson’s numbers were pedestrian compared to Dalton’s. The veteran threw for a career-high 418 yards and two first-half touchdowns to John Ross. But the Bengals failed to score on three possessions inside Seattle’s 36-yard line in the third quarter.
Ross, who had 210 yards receiving all of last season, finished with seven catches for 158 yards. He caught a 33-yard touchdown on a flea-flicker midway through the second quarter and hauled in a 55-yard TD pass with 7 seconds left in the first half after Seattle safety Tedric Thompson misjudged Dalton’s pass.
at Dallas 35, N.Y. Giants 17: Dak Prescott tied his career high with four touchdown passes while throwing for 405 yards, and the Cowboys rolled up 494 yards under new play-caller Kellen Moore. Ezekiel Elliott carried 13 times for 53 yards and a touchdown.
Saquon Barkley ran 59 yards on his first carry of the season , setting up Eli Manning’s touchdown pass for a 7-0 lead. But the Giants simply couldn’t keep up with a Dallas offense anxious to see what could happen at full strength.
As expected, Elliott didn’t seem to be in peak form after spending almost all of training camp trying to stay in shape in Mexico while waiting for the $90 million, six-year contract extension that was settled on the morning of the first full workout of the regular season.
The two-time NFL rushing champion did find a seam for a 10-yard touchdown to put the Cowboys up 35-10 early in the third quarter. Elliott finished with 53 yards on 13 carries.
at San Francisco 31, Tampa Bay 17: Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon returned two of a retooled the 49ers defense’s three interceptions of Jameis Winston for touchdowns and Robbie Gould kicked three field goals in the defeat of the Buccaneers. Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 166 yards and one touchdown in his first game in nearly a year.
Winston threw for 194 yards to become Tampa Bay’s career passing leader, including a 10-yard scoring pass to Chris Godwin that trimmed a double-digit deficit to 20-14 late in the third quarter. Ultimately, though, the Bucs could not overcome the fifth-year quarterback’s mistakes and dropped their debut under coach Bruce Arians, who was lured out of retirement after Tampa Bay finished 5-11 last season and missed the playoffs for the 11th straight year.
Garoppolo, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, completed 18 of 27 passes with one interception. His 39-yard pass to Richie James Jr. put the 49ers ahead for good early in the second half.
at Philadelphia 32, Washington 27: Carson Wentz threw a pair of deep touchdown passes to DeSean Jackson as Eagles overcame a 17-point deficit to beat the Washington Redskins 32-27 on Sunday.
Wentz was 28 of 39 for 313 yards and three TDs in his first game since Week 14 after not taking a snap in the preseason. Jackson had eight catches for 154 yards. The Eagles (1-0) racked up 436 total yards.
Case Keenum threw for 380 yards and three TDs, helping the Redskins (0-1) build a 17-0 lead in his first start with his fourth team in four seasons.
But Philadelphia’s high-powered offense took over and the defense settled down after a sloppy start.
Minnesota 28, at Atlanta 12: Anthony Harris highlighted a thorough thrashing by Minnesota’s defense with two interceptions of Matt Ryan passes and a fumble recovery while Dalvin Cook carried a revived running attack for the Vikings.
Eric Wilson recovered his own blocked punt at the Atlanta 21-yard line after a three-and-out by the Falcons on the first possession of the game, and the Vikings were well on their way to winning a fourth straight opener. Including the blocked punt, their first in five years, they turned all four Falcons turnovers into touchdowns.
Kirk Cousins connected with Adam Thielen for a 23-yard score to finish the short first drive and crossed the goal line on a 1-yard sneak in the second quarter to cap a 79-yard march to give Minnesota a 21-0 lead. Cousins went 8 for 10 for 98 yards, all career lows for games he started, but there was no need for more.
Cook had 21 rushes for 111 yards and two touchdowns behind the new zone blocking scheme influenced heavily by new offensive adviser Gary Kubiak, the former Houston and Denver head coach. Cousins averaged 38 attempts per game in his first season with the Vikings, and much to head coach Mike Zimmer’s chagrin they finished with the third-fewest rushing yards in the NFL. The new system directed by offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski and the favorable field position sure shifted the ratio hard the other way.
Buffalo 17, at N.Y. Jets: Josh Allen threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to John Brown with 3 minutes left, and the Bills rallied from a 16-point second-half deficit. Buffalo took advantage of Jets middle linebacker C.J. Mosley exiting the game with a groin injury.
Buffalo also took advantage of kicking woes by the Jets (0-1) as Kaare Vedvik, claimed last week off waivers from Minnesota, missed an extra point and a 45-yard attempt and ended up being the difference in the game.
Le’Veon Bell caught a touchdown pass and had a 2-point conversion in his Jets debut, and Jamison Crowder had 14 catches for 99 yards in his first game with his new team — but Adam Gase’s offense otherwise sputtered behind a line that gave Sam Darnold little time to throw.
Allen finished 24 of 37 for 254 yards and a touchdown, and had one of his two interceptions returned 17 yards for a touchdown by Mosley. Brown caught seven passes for 123 yards.
Darnold was 27 of 40 for 179 yards and the TD to Bell, who ran for 60 yards on 17 carries. The running back, who sat out all last season in a contract dispute with Pittsburgh, also caught six passes for 32 yards.