Ravens 38 — Browns 6
BALTIMORE (AP) — Looking every bit like the reigning NFL MVP, Lamar Jackson threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns to help the Baltimore Ravens beat the Browns 38-6 Sunday, 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.
Facing a Cleveland secondary depleted by injuries, Jackson completed 20 of 25 passes and racked up a team-high 45 yards on the ground. A year ago, the multi-faceted star set an NFL single-season record for yards rushing by a quarterback and threw 36 TD passes.
The Browns were incapable of stopping him. As a result, Cleveland still hasn’t opened with a victory since 2004.
Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield threw an interception on the opening series, the first of three Browns turnovers. Those miscues, two missed kicks by Austin Seibert and an unsuccessful fake punt call by Stefanski contributed to the rout.
Mayfield went 21 for 39 for 189 yards and was sacked twice.
With no fans allowed — a decision rendered by the Ravens late last month after meeting with government officials and health experts — traffic outside the stadium was light, most parking lots were barren and the smell of grilled meat from tailgates was noticeably absent.
Sections behind the end zones were filled with cutouts of people. Section 146 included 575 cutouts of 14-year-old Mo Gaba, a popular Ravens fan who died in July after several bouts with cancer. In addition, the letters MO within the word Baltimore in one end zone were stenciled in gold.
The Ravens raced out of the tunnel before the game with the public address system announcing their arrival, along with fireworks and smoke billowing out of a makeshift castle. Missing, of course, were cheerleaders and the deafening roar of the crowd.
Once the game started, Baltimore looked every bit like the team that finished the 2019 regular season with an NFL-best 14-2 record. Marlon Humphrey picked off a throw by Mayfield and Jackson promptly tossed a touchdown pass to tight end Mark Andrews.
On the ensuing possession, Stefanski gambled on a fake punt and L.J. Fort diagnosed the play and busted it up. That set up a field goal for a 10-0 lead.
Cleveland responded with a 75-yard drive, but a touchdown pass to David Njoku was followed by a botched conversion. The Browns then withstood a 47-yard completion from Jackson to Marquise Brown by forcing a fumble by Patrick Ricard inside the 10.
Late in the half, Jackson went 5 for 5 for 75 yards on a 99-yard drive that ended with the first of rookie J.K. Dobbins’ two touchdowns.
The Browns moved into position to cut into the deficit, but successive miscues — a third-down drop by Odell Beckham Jr. and a missed field-goal attempt by Seibert — gave the ball to Baltimore with 46 seconds remaining.
Jackson directed a 69-yard drive — passing for every one of those yards — and made it 24-6 with a 9-yard toss to Andrews. Baltimore’s opening drive of the second half was more of the same, ending with Jackson’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Willie Snead.
Browns: T Jedrick Wills Jr. left with a leg injury and did not return. ... Three projected starters in the secondary were out with injuries: Grant Delpit, Greedy Williams and Kevin Johnson. ... LB Jacob Phillips left in the third quarter with a knee injury.
Ravens: Tackle Ronnie Stanley left in the third quarter with an ankle injury. He did not return. ... CB Jimmy Smith (back spasms) was added to the injury list Sunday morning and listed as questionable, but he avoided the inactive list and played.
Browns: It’s a quick turnaround for Cleveland, which hosts the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night.
Ravens: A road trip to Houston next Sunday. Baltimore is 9-2 overall against the Texans, who opened Thursday with a loss in Kansas City.
Pats 21, Dolphins 11
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Cam Newton looked just fine as Tom Brady’s replacement, rushing for two touchdowns, and New England beat Miami.
Newton rushed for 15 times for 75 yards and threw for 155 yards, leading a Patriots offensive attack that did most of its damage on the ground in their first game since the departure of Brady to Tampa Bay as a free agent.
Sony Michel added a touchdown for New England, which had 217 of its 357 yards on the ground. Newton was 15 of 19 passing.
Most of the sights and sounds normally associated with Gillette Stadium’s usually raucous crowd were silenced by a Massachusetts COVID-19 ordinance prohibiting fans from attending for at least the first two games of the season.
Aside from the play on the field, the only familiar staples of a normal game day were the presence of Patriots mascot and cheerleaders, though they cheered from a concourse high above New England’s entrance tunnel.
It didn’t seem to bother the Patriots, who had plenty to cheer about.
Miami struggled for most of the game offensively and lost top receiver DeVante Parker, who left in the third quarter with a hamstring injury. Ryan Fitzpatrick was 20 of 30 for 191 yards and three interceptions. Miami was held to 269 total yards.
Newton scored from 11 yards early in the third quarter to put New England up 14-3.
The Patriots were threatening again late in the period, but Jerome Baker kept the Dolphins in the game. He stripped N’Keal Harry inside the 5-yard line, causing a fumble through the end zone for a touchback.
Miami then cut New England’s lead to 14-11 in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard TD run by Jordan Howard and 2-point conversion run by Fitzpatrick with 10:31 left.
The Patriots went quickly on their ensuing series and moved inside Miami’s 40, thanks to a 23-yard run by Julian Edelman and 15-yard penalty on Baker for a late hit. Newton muscled inside the 1 on a fourth-and-1 draw play. Michel went over the top for a TD on the next play.
Bills 27, Jets 17
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Josh Allen led three consecutive first-half touchdown drives, and Buffalo overcame its own sloppiness and injuries to two starting linebackers in a 27-17 season-opening win.
John Brown had six catches for 70 yards and a touchdown, and Stefon Diggs finished with eight catches for a team-leading 86 yards in his Bills debut after being acquired in a trade with Minnesota in March.
Allen finished 33 of 46 for 312 yards in becoming Buffalo’s first player to top 300 yards since Tyrod Taylor had 329 in a 34-31 overtime loss to Miami on Dec. 24, 2016.
Buffalo’s defense was a force despite losing Matt Milano to a hamstring injury in the second quarter, and after the outside linebacker intercepted Sam Darnold’s weak pass over the middle. Middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds did not return after hurting his shoulder while trying to tackle Jets receiver Jamison Crowder, who scored on a 69-yard touchdown catch and run, which briefly cut Buffalo’s lead to 21-10 with 5:10 left in the third quarter.
The Bills defense, however, came through on New York’s next possession. Safety Jordan Poyer stripped the ball from tight end Chris Herndon, and the fumble was recovered by Jerry Hughes at the Jets 38 two plays into the fourth quarter.
The turnover set up Tyler Bass hitting a 22-yard field goal — after the rookie missed his first two attempts wide right. Bass, a sixth-round draft pick out of Southern Georgia, won the kicking job ahead of veteran Stephen Hauschka last month.
Bass’ first miss from 38 yards led to Crowder’s touchdown three plays later.
Allen also scored on a 2-yard run, though his fumbles proved costly with both coming inside Jets territory. The Bills’ opening drive ended at New York’s 19, when Marcus Maye punched the ball out of Allen’s arm and the ball sailed into the hands of safety Bradley McDougald.
After driving the Bills on three consecutive scoring drives, Allen closed the first half by fumbling at the Jets 12.
Darnold finished 21 of 35 for 215 yards, with a touchdown and an interception in a matchup of two of the five quarterbacks selected in the first round of the 2017 draft. Crowder had seven catches for 117 yards and a touchdown. Josh Adams scored on a 2-yard plunge in the final minute.
The Jets finished the game without starting running back Le’Veon Bell, who was ruled out in the second half due to a hamstring injury.
New York resembled the team that opened 1-7 last season — a stretch that began with the Jets squandering a 16-0 lead at home in a 17-16 loss to the Bills — as opposed to the one that closed 6-2, including a season-ending 13-6 win at Buffalo in a game the playoff-bound Bills rested most of their starters.