By Around the NFL staff
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On the surface, the opening Sunday of the 2016 NFL season delivered a string of fantastic finishes.
Digging deeper into a slate of games that failed to register a single noteworthy upset, one theme emerged: 2015 held serve.
After struggling to move the ball in August, the Saints‘ high-octane offense was undone by a porous defense.
And, finally, the perennially rebuilding Browns were outclassed by a superior opponent.
Here’s what else we learned in Week 1:
1. Baltimore pressured Tyrod Taylor all afternoon, limiting the quarterback to 111 yards on 15-of-22 passing. Buffalo struggled to get anything going on offense, and it showed in Colton Schmidt‘s seven punts. The mobile Taylor looked to be trying to stay in the pocket, but Baltimore’s defense didn’t just rush Taylor, they swarmed him, bottling up the dual-threat passer. Timmy Jernigan‘s sack on Taylor late in the fourth proved to be a huge stop.
2. The Ravens‘ offense was up-and-down for much of the day, a testament to both Buffalo’s defense and the early season struggles of most teams. The highlight of Baltimore’s afternoon offensively was a 66-yard touchdown connection from Joe Flacco to Mike Wallace, who showed that he still possesses the natural speed to burn most defensive backs, even after a couple seasons spent in irrelevance. Flacco finished with a solid stat line (23-34, 258 yards, one touchdown), but his most important possession came late in the fourth with Baltimore clinging to a 10-7 lead and desperately needing to both chew some clock and put some points on the board. Flacco spread the ball out to multiple receivers and moved into scoring position, eventually culminating in a Justin Tucker field goal that added some breathing room.
The running game, highlighted by Justin Forsett‘s weird week, remained a question mark after four quarters Sunday. Forsett had 10 carries for 41 yards, and Terrance West toted the ball 12 times for 32 yards, but it was evident that for Baltimore to move the ball, it had to be through the air. LeSean McCoybulled his way into the end zone for the Bills‘ only score on fourth-and-goal and didn’t do much else.
3. The brightest point for Baltimore’s offense had to be the return of Dennis Pitta, who finished with three catches for 39 yards and looked to be at least similar to the tight end we once knew. It’s always great to see a player who was once victim of multiple serious injuries return to the field and succeed.