The first week of National Football League action in the 2018 season had it in spades.
If you’re going to start anywhere talking about the week that was in the NFL, you have to start with the nationally television Sunday night game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.
All seemed lost for Packers fans as the game progressed with Bears second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky completing pass after pass and Green Bay hero Aaron Rodgers fell time and again under a Bears pass rush led by newly acquired superstar Khalil Mack.
Then, things went from bad to worse when two pass rushers converged on Rodgers and he went down with all 300-plus pounds of one of said Monsters of the Midway crashing down on his left knee. Packers fans watched in shocked silence as their gunslinging hero visited the medical tent and then somberly rode to the locker room area in a cart, leaving Deshone Kizer to fill his spot on the field.
NBC announcers Chris Collinsworth and Al Michaels were sure Rodgers was done for at least the night and probably longer. However, after the intermission, there was Rodgers back under center.
In a Kirk Gibson-esque effort, Rodgers quarterbacked the team on one good leg as the Pack gradually bit deeper and deeper into the 17-0 lead the Bears had racked up in the first half.
Drive after drive resulted in points for the Packers while the defense made stand after stand and finally gave Rodgers one last possession with nearly three minutes remaining in the fourth and final quarter.
He didn’t need nearly that much time as after Kyle Fuller dropped an interception that would have clinched the game, Rodgers found long-time teammate Randall Cobb on a 10-yard slant route and Cobb broke free for an additional 60 yards to the end zone.
Mason Crosby’s point after attempt gave Green Bay its first lead of the game, 24-23, but there was still plenty of time to spare for Trubisky and the Bears to make one last-ditch effort to reclaim a game that had slipped away from them at Rodgers’ magical hands.
The Packers defense bowed up their necks again and made the stop, only for veteran pass rusher Clay Mathews to be called for a blatant roughing the passer penalty on fourth and long that gave the Bears yet another chance.
The good news for Green Bay was their defense had one last stand left in it and that penalty did not come back to bite them as the Packers escaped with the one-point win.
But that was just one of the dramatic stories to happen around the league.
The Cleveland Browns came from behind to force overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers and seemed to be destined for the team’s first win since Week 16 of 2016, but it was not to be as Steelers young standout TJ Watt broke through and blocked what would have been a game-winning field goal late in the extra period.
That game ended in a tie, despite the impressive showing of Steelers running back James Conner, who stepped in for star Le’Veon Bell.
Conner rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns and added 57 yards receiving while Bell remains in a contract dispute and refuses to play thus far this season after the team retained his services through the use of the reviled franchise player tag. Speculation is that he may not sign the franchise tender enacted by the team until Week 10 in order to get onto the field by a Week 11 deadline in order to have the year counted off his contract so that he can be eligible for free agency at the end of the year instead of remaining under the Steelers’ control again in 2019.
In Miami, the drama came from the sky as the Tennessee Titans and the Dolphins suffered through two separate weather delays that extended the game into a seven-hour marathon of waiting. That game saw former Mizzou quarterback Blaine Gabbert step in for the Titans’ star signal caller Marcus Mariota and fail to lead Tennessee through a come-from-behind attempt as the Dolphins held on for a 27-20 win.
In New Orleans, former Rams quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick thrilled Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans by leading the Bucs to a 48-40 shootout win against Saints quarterback Drew Brees and the vaunted New Orleans offense.
In total, from the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles topping Atlanta on Thursday night to the Rams and Raiders closing out the week in the second of two Monday night affairs, 10 games in Week 1 were decided by one possession or less.
At times it was ugly, it was wild and it was exhilarating. Plus, it was just the beginning.