New Orleans – Drew Brees and Tom Brady, the two leading passers in NFL history, couldn't muster vintage performances in the first NFL game featuring two starting quarterbacks in their 40s.
But while Brees avoided game-turning mishaps with an offense he's led since 2006, Brady suffered some costly cross-ups with his new team.
Brady threw two interceptions in his Tampa Bay debut, Alvin Kamara scored touchdowns running and receiving, and the New Orleans Saints beat the Buccaneers 34-23 on Sunday.
"I made some just bad, terrible turnovers,” Brady said. "I obviously have got to do a lot better job.”
The first of Brady’s interceptions led to Kamara’s 6-yard touchdown run. The second pick thrown by the new, 43-year-old Bucs QB — who left the New England Patriots in free agency after 20 years and six Super Bowl triumphs — was returned 36 yards for a touchdown by Janoris Jenkins.
"Win the turnover battle like we did, have a turnover for a touchdown, you’re a 90-something percent winner in those games,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. "Just a lot of things happened in that game that despite how you play, those things can help you win games. The energy and effort I was pleased with.”
The 41-year-old Brees passed for 160 yards and two TDs. He did not turn the ball over and took only one sack. His first TD pass was a dump-off to Kamara from 12 yards out. In the fourth quarter he hit free-agent signing Emmanuel Sanders for a 5-yard score.
"I’d probably say I played awful,” Brees said. "Certainly, we are used to playing at a much higher level offensively and especially in the passing game. So, we’ll get that back on track.”
Still, Brees found satisfaction in beating Brady's Bucs.
"Of course, it’s significant and it’s unique and I’d be lying to you if I said to you it didn’t mean a little bit more," Brees said. "I've got so much love and respect for (Brady) and what he’s able to accomplish.
"We played against each other in college, for goodness sake, in 1999,” Brees continued. "At the end of the day, I think we would both pinch ourselves if you told us back then we’d have the opportunity to play this long and be a part of so many great teams and so many great moments, historic moments.”
Few witnessed this latest bit of history in person, with government leaders and the Saints having agreed that no fans should attend the opener amid the coronavirus pandemic.
That turned the normally deafening 73,000-seat Superdome into more of an echo chamber. When Wil Lutz’s field goal put New Orleans up 17-7, the squeaking of pulleys could be heard across the stadium as the net behind the goal post was lowered.
"It sort of felt like we were at a Tampa Bay game,” Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan said.
Brady compared the environment to "a scrimmage.”
"But obviously, it counts,” he added. "We’ve got to look each other in the eye and all work harder, put more urgency on the things we have to do.”
Tight end Jared Cook caught five passes for 80 yards for New Orleans, highlighted by a 46-yard reception down the left side that set up Sanders' TD.
Brady was 15 of 28 passing for 157 yards and one TD through the first 54 minutes. He padded his numbers in garbage time, finishing with 239 yards and two TDs, the second scoring strike going to Mike Evans with 2:41 left.
Tampa Bay's opening drive was promising for Brady, who the Bucs hope can lead them to their first playoff appearance since the 2007 season.
He lofted a 26-yard completion to Chris Godwin along the right sideline, drew a pass interference penalty with a 22-yard attempt to Mike Evans and capped the drive with a 2-yard keeper, after which he emphatically spiked the ball.
It was a fleeting, triumphant moment for the Bucs in a game defined more, in the end, by their new star's mistakes.
Rams 20, Cowboys 17
In Inglewood, California, Malcolm Brown rushed for a career-high 79 yards and two touchdowns, Jared Goff passed for 275 yards and the Rams opened SoFi Stadium with a victory over Dallas.
Robert Woods had six catches for 105 yards to help the Rams improve to 4-0 in season openers under coach Sean McVay and spoiled the debut of Mike McCarthy, Dallas’ first new head coach in a decade.
Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown and caught another scoring pass, but the Cowboys began a season of high expectations by losing three starters to injury in the first half and then failing to mount a late comeback in a scoreless fourth quarter for both teams.
Cardinals 24, 49ers 20
In Santa Clara, California, DeAndre Hopkins had a career-high 14 catches for 151 yards in his Arizona debut and set up Kenyan Drake’s 1-yard TD run with 5:03 to play.
Kyler Murray threw for 230 yards and a touchdown and ran for 91 yards and another score to help the Cardinals overcome a pair of fourth-quarter deficits to beat the defending NFC champion 49ers in a smoky opener at an empty stadium.
Chargers 16, Bengals 13
In Cincinnati, Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow ran 23 yards untouched for a touchdown — the best moment of his NFL debut — but the Chargers roughed him up and rallied.
Playing in empty Paul Brown Stadium, Burrow got his first snaps in the NFL and learned the hard way what it’s like to face a tough front line.
Washington 27, Eagles 17
In Landover, Maryland, Peyton Barber ran for two touchdowns and Dwayne Haskins rallied Washington from a 17-point deficit.
After falling behind 17-0 following a pair of touchdown passes by Carson Wentz, Washington relied on a punishing defense and opportunistic offense in its first game since owner Dan Snyder finally agreed to change the team’s name and former employees alleged sexual harassment in the organization.
Rivera lived up to his "Riverboat Ron” nickname earned in nine seasons with Carolina. In his first game after finding out he has a form of skin cancer, Rivera went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Eagles 5 with the score tied midway through the fourth quarter. Barber ran for the first down and then scored from the 3 to give Washington a 24-17 lead.
Wentz was sacked eight times and threw two costly interceptions behind an injury-depleted offense line featuring two guys – right tackle Jack Driscoll and right guard Nate Herbig – starting their first career games.
Ravens 38, Browns 6
In Baltimore, looking every bit like the reigning NFL MVP, Lamar Jackson threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns, ruining Kevin Stefanski’s debut as Cleveland’s head coach in a game played without fans in attendance.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic kept the seats empty and the play was sloppy following a preseason without any games, two constants prevailed: Jackson was the focal point of a high-powered offense and the Browns lost another opener.
Patriots 21, Dolphins 11
Packers 43, Vikings 36
Seahawks 38, Falcons 25
Bears 27, Lions 23
Jaguars 27, Colts 20
Raiders 34, Panthers 30
Bills 27, Jets 17