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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Dan Gartland

SI:AM | The Most Noteworthy Performances From Sunday’s NFL Games

Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I spent all of yesterday looking forward to the Giants game, only for that to happen.

In today’s SI:AM:

🤠 Dallas’s defensive statement

👶 Rookie QB debuts

🎾 Djokovic’s brilliance

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Week 1 standouts

The first NFL Sunday was a surprising one in many ways, with several teams pulling off upset victories. It’s a lot to take in, and our team of writers has things covered from every angle, so here are just a few things that stood out to me.

The Cowboys’ defense

The Sunday night game looked good on paper. A rivalry game featuring “America’s Team” against one of last year’s pleasant surprises. But Micah Parsons and the rest of the Cowboys’ defense ensured it was an epic dud. Dallas beat the Giants, 40–0, in a game that got out of hand quickly.

Daniel Jones’s first game after signing his big contract extension was disastrous. He completed 15 of 28 passes for 104 yards and threw two picks. But honestly, considering the amount of pressure he faced from the Dallas defensive front, it could have been worse. Jones was sacked seven times and hit another 12 times. New York coach Brian Daboll deserves to face plenty of questions about why he left the team’s franchise quarterback in the game until the end of the fourth quarter while he was absorbing that beating.

The rest of the NFL should be scared by what the Cowboys did to Jones and the Giants. Parsons is as good as any pass rusher and while he had just one sack and two QB hits, the extra attention the Giants were forced to pay him allowed Osa Odighizuwa and Dorance Armstrong to have multi-sack nights. Combine that front seven with a skilled secondary (led by Trevon Diggs), and Dallas has a defense that could make it a serious Super Bowl contender, Gilberto Manzano writes.

Brandon Aiyuk

Brock Purdy has been successful because he has guys like Aiyuk as receivers. After leading the 49ers in targets, receptions and receiving yards last season, Aiyuk had a monster game in Week 1 against the Steelers, catching eight passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns. The first score came after he sent Patrick Peterson stumbling to the turf with some crisp route running, and the second came with Peterson draped all over him. His most impressive play won’t show up in the box score, though. On San Francisco’s first play of the second half, Aiyuk picked up two key blocks on Christian McCaffrey’s 65-yard touchdown run. First he sealed the edge, then got downfield and leveled Damontae Kazee. Watch him here (No. 11 in white). McCaffrey wouldn’t have scored without Aiyuk’s blocking.

Tua Tagovailoa

The Bills and new-look Jets got all the preseason love in the AFC East, but the Dolphins’ offense made a major statement in their Week 1 win over the Chargers. Tua Tagovailoa sliced and diced the Los Angeles defense to the tune of 466 yards (on 28-of-45 passing), with three touchdowns and an interception as Miami won, 36–34. It was a performance that Conor Orr believes should silence everyone who doubted Tagovailoa, coach Mike McDaniel and the Dolphins.

After displaying flashes of brilliance in his first two NFL seasons, Tagovailoa took a big leap forward last season, leading the league with a 105.5 passer rating. The concussion issues are a legitimate concern, but if Tua can stay healthy, the Dolphins’ offense can carry them far. Miami’s defense is another story, though. The Dolphins gave up 234 yards and three touchdowns on the ground yesterday. But with Tua leading a potent offense, there won’t be many games this season where Miami isn’t within striking distance.

The Browns’ defense

Perhaps the biggest surprise yesterday was how hapless the Bengals’ offense looked. Joe Burrow, fresh off signing the biggest contract in NFL history, completed 14 of 31 passes for 82 yards as the Browns beat Cincinnati, 24–3. Some of the Bengals’ underwhelming offensive performance can be chalked to the heavy rain in Cleveland for much of the game, but don’t discount the Browns’ defense. Cincinnati was held to just 142 yards of total offense, its fewest since 2017. It was just the third time in the past 30 years that Cleveland allowed fewer than 150 total yards. Much of the focus heading into this season was on whether Deshaun Watson would rebound after a lousy 2022, but an improved defense would be just as important to the Browns’ success this year. Orr broke down Cleveland’s defensive performance in more detail.

The best of Sports Illustrated

Gregory Fisher/USA TODAY Sports

The top five...

… NFL plays from Sunday:

5. Lamar Jackson’s spin move to avoid a sack.

4. Sam Howell and Brian Robinson’s ability to keep the play alive, leading to a touchdown pass.

3. A classically vicious stiff arm from Derrick Henry.

2. Tua Tagovailoa’s perfect ball placement on his game-winning touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill.

1. Bijan Robinson’s combination of agility and power on his first NFL touchdown.


On this day in 1966, John Miller became the first player in Yankees history to hit a home run in his first at bat. When did he hit his second home run?

  • Later in that same inning
  • In Game 7 of the World Series
  • On the same day a year later
  • In his final MLB game

Friday’s SIQ: On Sept. 8, 1939, Bob Feller picked up his 20th win of the season, becoming the second pitcher in the 20th century to have a 20-win season at age 20 or younger. Who is the only player since Feller to accomplish that feat?

  • Mark Fidrych
  • Fernando Valenzuela
  • Mark Prior
  • Dwight Gooden

Gooden’s season was one of the most dominant by any pitcher in MLB history, made even more impressive by the fact that he was only 20 years old. Since then, only 10 pitchers have thrown at least 100 innings in their age-20 season, and only one of them (José Fernández in 2013) had an ERA under 3.00.

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