NFL Week one: Browns stumble, Chiefs roll

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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) looks for a receiver late against the Houston Texans on September 10, 2020, at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Jill Toyoshiba/The Kansas City Star/TNS)

Michael Bur

It had been 221 days since Super Bowl LIV concluded when the new NFL season finally kicked off on Sept. 10. The reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs hosted the Houston Texans to start what will surely be one of the most uncertain seasons the NFL has ever experienced. 

What at first appeared to be a normal offseason quickly changed with big trades and signings, COVID-19, and most notably, the rise in discussions surrounding racial injustice seen across the country. Many NFL players quickly became some of the faces of a nationwide movement. The movement seemed to unite the NFL community with players of all races speaking out and standing with their teams. 

In June, in response to the NFL players’ “Stronger Together” video, the NFL issued a statement saying, “We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe Black lives matter.” This statement came with a promise from the league to commit $250 million over the next 10 years to help fight systemic racism. 

In August, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in an interview after being asked about Colin Kaepernick kneeling four years ago, “… I wish we had listened earlier, Kap, to what you were kneeling about and trying to bring attention to.”

Graphic courtesy of Olivia Field, Old Gold & Black

As the season kicked off last week, issues surrounding racial injustice in the country were still on everyone’s minds. Ahead of the Chiefs versus Texans matchup, all players stood in solidarity with one another and locked arms in a ‘moment of unity.’ On Sunday, many teams locked arms, knelt, raised fists, or remained in the locker room for the playing of the National Anthem and the unofficially known Black National Anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.” In Atlanta, home to longtime Congressional Representative John Lewis who passed away recently, it was stated by AP sportswriter Jimmy Golen that Falcons players “watched the opening kickoff sail through the end zone for a touchback, dropped to one knee, and remained there for about 10 seconds before trotting off the field to resume the game.”

Fans all around the world were ready for the kickoff of the football season, and a strange one it was. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the NFL gave all teams the option as to whether or not they would allow fans in the stadium. The Chiefs allowed their stadium to be filled to 22% capacity and the Jacksonville Jaguars allowed their stadium to be filled to 25% capacity. The remaining teams played games in empty stadiums. 

The Chiefs began their season with a 34-20 win over the Texans. Sunday saw a few upsets, including the Washington Football Team defeating divisional rival Philadelphia Eagles 27-17 and the Chicago Bears stunning the Detroit Lions with a 27-23 win. 2019 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson helped lead the Ravens to a 38-6 win over the Cleveland Browns. During Tom Brady’s debut as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, he faced off against Drew Brees and the Saints. In the battle between two future hall-of-fame quarterbacks, Brees and the Saints came out on top, 34-23. Brees finished with 160 passing yards and two touchdowns while Brady finished with two passing touchdowns, 239 passing yards and two interceptions.

Monday featured two games whose scores can be found in the next column.