Preseason Week 1 takeaways: QB Baker Mayfield starts, QB Deshaun Watson returns, QB Zach Wilson limps off

Preseason Week 1 takeaways: QB Baker Mayfield starts, QB Deshaun Watson returns, QB Zach Wilson limps off thumbnail

3: 34 PM ET

  • ESPN NFL Nation reporters

The first full week of the 2022 NFL preseason commenced Thursday night, with the New England Patriots hosting the New York Giants and the Baltimore Ravens welcoming the Tennessee Titans to get the slate started.

Friday brought us a full five-game slate of games, with Deshaun Watson taking the field for the first time since the 2020 season. His start followed an apology to the women who have accused him of inappropriate sexual misconduct during massage sessions, saying on the Cleveland Browns‘ pregame show that he was “truly sorry” to the women he had impacted.

The New York Jets will be without Zach Wilson for two to four weeks after he injured his right knee Friday night. The second-year quarterback will undergo arthroscopic surgery soon.

Saturday featured eight games, starting with the Washington Commanders hosting the Carolina Panthers. Baker Mayfield got the start as he battles Sam Darnold for the QB1 job. Matt Ryan also made his debut in an Indianapolis Colts uniform at the Buffalo Bills, while first-rounder Kenny Pickett flashed in his Pittsburgh Steelers debut.

Here are the biggest takeaways from this week’s games, along with the rest of the Week 1 preseason schedule.

Quick links:
Full schedule | Depth charts | PickCenter

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NFL preseason games on Thursday, Aug. 11

New York Giants 23, New England Patriots 21

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Giants: This was exactly what the Giants’ offense needed after an up-and-down start to training camp. Quarterback Daniel Jones and the starting offense moved the ball well and probably should have reached the end zone, if not for a bad third-down drop by wide receiver Kenny Golladay near the goal line. Jones still finished 6-of-10 passing for 69 yards and ran for another first down. It should take any outside pressure off him even though backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor followed by going 13-of-21 passing for 129 yards with a touchdown toss to Richie James. Overall, the Giants’ offense and quarterbacks showed signs that they’re headed in the right direction, and there is no need to make any rash moves or panic with another month to go before the regular-season opener in Tennessee. — Jordan Raanan

Next game: vs. Bengals (7 p.m. ET, Sunday, Aug. 21)

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Patriots: On a night when Mac Jones and most of the Patriots’ starters didn’t play, it was a chance to focus on the sideline and get a feel for the team’s unconventional coaching setup offensively. Senior football adviser/OL coach Matt Patricia called the plays for the first three series when Brian Hoyer was at quarterback, and then it appeared that offensive assistant/QBs coach Joe Judge was calling the plays when rookie Bailey Zappe entered at quarterback. Signs point to Patricia as the primary playcaller, but it was notable to see Judge also perform some of those duties in the preseason opener.

“I thought it would be a good opportunity for us to do that,” Belichick said. “We’re going through a process.”

When asked who will call plays during the regular season, Belichick said: “Don’t worry about that. We’ll work it out.” — Mike Reiss

Next game: vs. Panthers (7 p.m. ET, Friday)


Baltimore Ravens 23, Tennessee Titans 10

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Ravens: Tyler Huntley once again showed why he’s among the NFL’s top backup quarterbacks. Huntley was more accurate in the preseason opener than he has been all of training camp, completing 88.9% of his passes (16-of-18) and putting great touch on his 14-yard touchdown pass. He also converted a fourth down with a physical 14-yard run. The Ravens will always be at their best with Lamar Jackson (who didn’t play Thursday night), but they know they can remain competitive with Huntley. The Ravens extended their preseason winning streak to 21 games. “It means a lot to the culture, just to show that we’re a winning team,” Huntley said. “And we don’t care what kind of game it is, the Ravens are going to fight to get a win.” — Jamison Hensley

Next game: at Cardinals (8 p.m. ET, Sunday, Aug. 21)

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Titans: The Titans got a live look at Malik Willis with this surprise start against the Ravens. Willis played into the third quarter and completed 6 of his 11 pass attempts for 107 yards. His best throw was a 48-yard play-action pass to Racey McMath. The rookie’s 7-yard scramble for a touchdown showed that he can make big plays running with the ball as well. There were times when it was evident that Willis needed to speed up his process instead of holding on to the football too long. Even though he got the start, Willis is listed as the No. 3 quarterback behind Ryan Tannehill and Logan Woodside. He will get to build on his performance in joint practices with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and in the second preseason game next week. — Turron Davenport

Next game: vs. Buccaneers (7 p.m. ET, Saturday, Aug. 20)

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NFL preseason games on Friday, Aug. 12

Atlanta Falcons 27, Detroit Lions 23

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Falcons: The Atlanta Falcons wanted to get rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder significant snaps to start the evaluation process of their third-round pick. And while Ridder is not close to unseating Marcus Mariota as the starter, the Falcons got what they wanted. Ridder played three quarters, completing 10 of 22 passes for 103 yards and 2 touchdowns while also rushing six times for 59 yards. While the numbers won’t show it, Ridder looked more on-point early than most preseason practices — and his numbers were deflated a little bit by drops from receivers. There were a couple of bad passes — an overturned interception due to a penalty and another throw nearly picked off — but it’s a good first step for Ridder, who still has a ways to go offensively. — Michael Rothstein

Next game: at Jets (8 p.m. ET, Monday, Aug. 22)

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Lions: Quarterback Jared Goff and the new-look offense played only the opening series but showed their potential with a touchdown on the opening drive capped by a 9-yard run up the middle by running back D’Andre Swift. Goff went 3-of-4 with 47 passing yards and appeared much more comfortable with his options — notably wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who made two catches for 29 yards on a pair of targets. Goff knows he has to prove himself this season to secure a long-term future in Detroit and got off to a strong individual start, even if it’s just the preseason and behind an offensive line with high expectations this year. However, the Lions haven’t won a preseason game since Aug. 24, 2018 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3. — Eric Woodyard

Next game: at Colts (1 p.m. ET, Saturday, Aug. 20)


Cleveland Browns 24, Jacksonville Jaguars 13

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Browns: Quarterback Deshaun Watson‘s first appearance since the 2020 season was a rough one. Playing the entire first quarter, Watson completed just 1 of 5 passes for seven yards. With him at QB, the offense failed to generate a single first down. To make things worse, starting center Nick Harris had to be carted off the field after the second snap because of a knee injury. What happened before kickoff, however, overshadowed anything Watson did on the field. For the first time, he apologized to the women who have accused him of inappropriate sexual misconduct during massage sessions, saying on the Browns’ pregame show that he was “truly sorry” to the women he had impacted. Meanwhile, Watson and the Browns continue to wait on whether appeals officer Peter C. Harvey will extend Watson’s six-game suspension. — Jake Trotter

Next game: vs. Eagles (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Aug. 21)

Jaguars: The Jaguars’ offense looked … functional. The first-team offense put 13 points on the board, scoring on all three of their possessions against Cleveland (one set up by a fumble recovery by Shaquill Griffin). Last year’s first-team offense didn’t find the end zone until the final preseason game, but Trevor Lawrence and tight end Evan Engram hooked up on a 9-yard TD pass on fourth down to cap the Jaguars’ third possession. Granted, the Browns were without five starters (including defensive end Myles Garrett), but the offense was efficient and committed no penalties. The personnel this season is markedly better, especially at receiver and tight end, and coach Doug Pederson is a major upgrade as a playcaller. It was an encouraging start. — Michael DiRocco

Next game: at Colts (1 p.m. ET, Saturday, Aug. 20)


New York Jets 24, Philadelphia Eagles 21

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Jets: The Jets’ entire season may have been altered in one horrible night, as QB Zach Wilson suffered a potentially serious knee injury in the first quarter. He left the game immediately. The team didn’t provide a diagnosis, except to confirm it’s a knee injury — the same knee he hurt last season. This would be a devastating blow for the Jets, who have built everything around him. Their backup quarterback options are Joe Flacco and Mike White. The coaching staff has ties to the 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo, so he could be an option if the injury is season-ending. — Rich Cimini

Next game: vs. Falcons (8 p.m. ET, Monday, Aug. 22)

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Eagles: One scary moment aside, Jalen Hurts‘ preseason debut couldn’t have gone much better. He went a perfect 6-of-6 for 80 yards in his one series of work, capping his night with a 22-yard touchdown strike to tight end Dallas Goedert. Fans held their collective breath — and coach Nick Sirianni lost his cool, screaming in the direction of the Jets’ sideline — when linebacker Quincy Williams decked Hurts out of bounds following a scramble. But Hurts popped up, dusted off his jersey and completed the scoring drive. Hurts generally took what the defense gave him underneath and mixed in some off-script plays, including a sprint to the right to extend the play before finding Quez Watkins for a 28-yard gain. If he can strike that balance between creator and distributor during the regular season, this Eagles team is going to be a handful. — Tim McManus

Next game: at Browns (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Aug. 21)


Arizona Cardinals 36, Cincinnati Bengals 23

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Cardinals: The Cardinals offense was able to score in the red zone, an issue last season, and the defensive line looked like it hasn’t missed a beat with new coach Matt Burke. But remember this name: Greg Dortch. The speedy wide receiver continued to make a name for himself with four catches for 53 yards. They were the types of catches that should land him on the 53-man roster. — Josh Weinfuss

Next game: vs. Ravens (8 p.m. ET, Sunday, Aug. 21)

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Bengals: The Cincinnati Bengals got another painful reminder about why good offensive line play is so important. Quarterback Brandon Allen, the team’s top backup, left the game after he was sacked on the first series. The offensive line had a shaky showing, particularly on the left side. That includes second-year player Jackson Carman, the lone projected offensive starter who played in the first half. Carman, who is still fighting to secure that spot, was whistled for a holding penalty. Cincinnati must be better, especially after allowing 19 sacks in four postseason games in 2021. — Ben Baby

Next game: at Giants (7 p.m. ET, Sunday, Aug. 21)


Green Bay Packers 21, San Francisco 49ers 28

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Packers: The stat sheet won’t tell the full story on quarterback Jordan Love‘s performance. His three interceptions stick out, but upon closer inspection, it’s possible that none were entirely his fault. Packers coach Matt LaFleur called them “unfortunate interceptions” during a halftime interview on the Packers TV Network. “We had basically two drops, and then on the other one, we had two receivers run the wrong routes,” LaFleur said. “So I thought there was a lot of good. He moved the ball; he pushed the ball down the field.” Love, the third-year backup, played only the first half. He finished 13-of-24 for 176 yards with 2 touchdown passes to go along with his three picks. Tight end Tyler Davis let the ball bounce off his hands on the first interception, while rookie receiver Romeo Doubs allowed the ball to be wrestled away on the second. On the third, Love tried to hit receiver Amari Rodgers, but he was not open. Love did show improvement from last year in some areas. Both of his first-half touchdown passes — 33-yarders to Doubs and Danny Davis — were well-placed throws. Doubs, the star of training camp practices, caught three passes for 45 yards and the touchdown on seven targets but also had two drops. — Rob Demovsky

Next game: vs. Saints (8 p.m. ET, Friday)

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Trey Lance finds Danny Gray along the sideline who makes his way into the end zone to score a 76-yard touchdown for San Francisco.

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49ers: As coach Kyle Shanahan promised, quarterback Trey Lance did play in Friday’s preseason opener against the Packers. It was nothing more than an 11-snap cameo, but Lance offered a tiny glimpse into the potential the Niners believe he offers. He finished 4-of-5 for 92 yards with a touchdown and carried once for 7 yards. The highlight came on a 76-yard touchdown pass to rookie wideout Danny Gray down the left sideline. With neither team game-planning or using many starters, there are no sweeping conclusions to make. But seeing Lance hit a deep touchdown outside the hashes is a good sign for an offense that has the fewest pass attempts outside the numbers traveling 20-plus air yards in the league since 2019 (77). — Nick Wagoner

Next game: at Vikings (7 p.m. ET, Saturday, Aug. 20)

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NFL preseason games on Saturday, Aug. 13

Carolina Panthers 23, Washington Commanders 21

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Panthers: Baker Mayfield definitely has an edge in the competition for the starting quarterback job, but Sam Darnold isn’t backing down. Mayfield looked in command of the first-team offense in his only series, completing four of his first five pass attempts and finishing 4-for-7 for 45 yards. But he did fumble in the red zone to stall a drive in an area where the Panthers are hoping he helps. They ranked 25th in red zone offense last season. Darnold completed only 54% of his passes in the red zone in 2021 and had a QBR of 34 inside the 20. But on his first possession Saturday, after taking over at the Washington 19 following a turnover, he went 2-for-2, including a beautiful 8-yard touchdown to Rashard Higgins. He got an additional series and went 0-for-1 under third-down pressure. So neither quarterback gained a huge advantage over the other. The big test comes Tuesday and Wednesday in joint practices at New England. This battle that is leaning toward Mayfield should end there. — David Newton

Next game: at Patriots (7 p.m. ET, Friday)

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Commanders: Though quarterback Carson Wentz was solid — 10-of-13, 74 yards in his Washington debut — it was troubling to see running back Antonio Gibson fumble on his second carry. Gibson fumbled five times in the first 10 games last season and six times overall, losing four. But he said he worked on it this offseason, using a weighted ball during sessions with his trainer. Rookie Brian Robinson played the next series and looked good. Robinson carried six times for 26 yards. Robinson showed patience and gained yards after contact. Gibson returned in the second quarter with the second unit. Washington’s coaches liked Gibson’s work in the spring and, thus far, in training camp — he fumbled twice in one practice, though. Coaches said Gibson looked more explosive after lowering his body fat from 18% to around 12% in the offseason. However, Robinson could provide a strong option for Washington if Gibson’s fumbling woes resume this season. Gibson finished with 2 yards on four carries, but the fumble will be the main point of discussion with him. — John Keim

Next game: at Chiefs (4 p.m. ET, Saturday, Aug. 20)


Chicago Bears 19, Kansas City Chiefs 14

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Bears: The Bears might have ended every drive in the first half with a punt, but there are several positives to examine from Justin Fields‘ 18-play preseason debut, which saw the second-year quarterback go 4-for-7 passing for 48 yards. The Bears had a handful of dropped passes that need to get cleaned up, but coach Matt Eberflus didn’t seem too worried about that with the first-team offense. Fields’ limited snaps featured two highlight throws, including a 26-yarder to Darnell Mooney and a dime to Tajae Sharpe that was thrown while the quarterback was being hit by a free rusher. The Bears need to find reliable pass-catchers for Fields with N’Keal Harry, Byron Pringle and Velus Jones Jr. dealing with injuries, and Sharpe is emerging as a big-body threat who could carve out an important role in this offense.

As for his performance and the areas he wants to see improved, Fields maintains his stance that the offense still has many areas to correct coming off the preseason win. “We’re not perfect at anything,” Fields said. “Just improving overall.” — Courtney Cronin

Next game: at Seahawks (8 p.m. ET, Thursday)

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Chiefs: The Chiefs’ defensive line showed signs of life in the first half, a development the team was eager to see after it was 29th in the league in sacks last season. Chris Jones and rookie George Karlaftis each beat a one-on-one block to get a sack while Frank Clark had a pressure in limited playing time. There are few bigger issues for the Chiefs this season than improving their pass rush. In addition, backup defensive linemen Taylor Stallworth and Khalen Saunders each beat a block to get into the backfield and make a tackle on a running play. — Adam Teicher

Next game: vs. Commanders (4 p.m. ET, Saturday, Aug. 20)


Buffalo Bills 27, Indianapolis Colts 24

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Bills: Coach Sean McDermott wasn’t taking any chances to start the preseason, sitting out almost all of his starters. It was hardly a clean game from the backups, though, and another unneeded reminder of quarterback Josh Allen‘s importance to this team. New backup quarterback Case Keenum had a clumsy day playing against some of the Colts’ starters, completing 11 of 18 passes and throwing two interceptions. Third-string quarterback Matt Barkley fared a bit better, throwing an interception but leading the Bills to a comeback in the second half.

Rookies put on quite a show for the Bills in all three phases, however. Fifth-round wide receiver Khalil Shakir had a few impressive catches, coming down with all five of his targets for 92 yards. Punter Matt Araiza boomed an 82-yarder — equaling the longest punt in the NFL last year — that resulted in a touchback. After second-year pass-rusher Boogie Basham strip-sacked Nick Foles, rookie linebacker Terrel Bernard ran the fumble back 69 yards for a touchdown. With limited roster spots available, younger players taking advantage of opportunities is key for the Bills’ depth. “All the way through the game, rookies were making contributions,” McDermott said. — Alaina Getzenberg

Next game: vs. Broncos (1 p.m. ET, Saturday, Aug. 20)

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Bills punter Matt Araiza shows off his kicking prowess as he boots an 82-yard punt into the end zone.

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Colts: The Colts provided a lengthy look at their Matt Ryan-led offense, with the team’s new starting quarterback leading the first unit for four possessions and playing into the second quarter. That said, it was an underwhelming performance for the starting offense, which played without 2021 rushing champion Jonathan Taylor. The group produced just three points despite being afforded repeated opportunities because of a pair of early turnovers forced by the Indianapolis defense. Of particular note was a lack of dynamic play from the Colts’ young wide receivers, who struggled with consistently making contested catches. Ryan finished 6-of-10 for 58 yards, his longest connection being a 17-yard completion to Michael Pittman Jr. Defensively, the Colts produced five turnovers as they look to build on last season’s No. 2 finish in takeaways (33). — Stephen Holder

Next game: vs. Lions (1 p.m. ET, Saturday, Aug. 20)


Pittsburgh Steelers 32, Seattle Seahawks 25

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Steelers: While Mitch Trubisky likely remains the favorite to earn the starting quarterback job, rookie Kenny Pickett impressed in his first NFL game action with his mobility, poise and ability to throw on the run. He orchestrated a game-winning drive, capped off by a 24-yard touchdown pass to receiver Tyler Vaughns with three seconds left. After turning the ball over on downs late in the fourth quarter on a fourth-down sack, Pickett got a shot at redemption after rookie Mark Robinson‘s strip sack of Drew Lock. Pickett responded with a quick scoring drive, including an 8-yard scramble up the middle to set up the game-winning score. Pickett finished his first NFL preseason action completing 13 of 15 attempts for 95 yards and two touchdown passes, along with a two-point conversion pass to tight end Connor Heyward. He also had three rushes for 16 yards.

Though Pickett’s debut was the most anticipated, all three quarterbacks had solid nights, each scoring on their first drives. Trubisky went 4-for-7 for 63 yards and a touchdown pass in two drives, while Mason Rudolph completed 9 of 15 passes for 93 yards and a pretty touchdown pass to George Pickens — on which Rudolph dropped a 26-yard dime in the corner of the end zone which the rookie receiver hauled in while tapping both feet in bounds — in a little more than a quarter of work. — Brooke Pryor

Next game: at Jaguars (7 p.m. ET, Saturday, Aug. 20)

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Steelers rookie George Pickens catches a touchdown pass from Mason Rudolph.

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Seahawks: For the first 28 minutes that Drew Lock played Saturday night, it looked like Pete Carroll would have a hard time keeping Geno Smith atop the depth chart in the Seahawks’ quarterback battle. Lock was outplaying Smith for the second week in a row, even if it wasn’t as decisive as last Saturday’s mock game. But with a short field and a chance to lead Seattle on a game-winning drive — and make his most convincing case yet to leapfrog Smith — Lock lost a fumble when he was drilled in the back by an unblocked defender. Before that, he had a strong night, completing 10 of 14 attempts for 114 yards and two touchdown passes plus a two-point conversion. All of that came against Steelers backups, whereas Smith faced some starters while playing the entire first half. He finished 10-of-15 for 101 yards and a rushing touchdown. The Seahawks have to give Lock more first-team reps at some point in order to adequately gauge him against Smith, who has gotten almost all of them through the first 2½ weeks of camp. Will this be the week? — Brady Henderson

Next game: vs. Bears (8 p.m. ET, Thursday)


Miami Dolphins 26, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24

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Dolphins: It was rookie quarterback Skylar Thompson‘s show, with Tua Tagovailoa sidelined and Teddy Bridgewater handling emergency duties. The seventh-round pick has come along nicely over the past two weeks as his processing speed catches up to his arm talent; he looked comfortable and took shots downfield when they were available. Beyond Thompson, wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. consistently made plays as a receiver and punt returner — the latter position being his best shot at making the final 53-man roster. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Next game: vs. Raiders (7 p.m. ET, Saturday, Aug. 20)

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Buccaneers: The Bucs sat 29 players — a significant portion of their roster. Outside linebackers Cam Gill and Anthony Nelson each contributed a sack and had two tackles for a loss. Wide receiver Tyler Johnson had six catches for 73 yards and Jaelon Darden scored on a 23-yard touchdown catch to build their cases for the Bucs’ fifth and sixth receiver spots. After two series from quarterback Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask stepped in. He was intercepted on a pass intended for running back Rachaad White and fumbled as he was hit from behind by Darius Hodge, which Sam Eguavoen scooped up and scored off for Miami. As poor as protection was on those plays, Trask needed to show better pocket awareness. Trask threw a dime to Jerreth Sterns for a 19-yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone in the second half — the highlight of his night — but needs to make a lot more of those plays to evoke confidence as a possible Brady successor. He is very clearly the third-best quarterback on this team, and it’s not even close. — Jenna Laine

Next game: at Titans (7 p.m. ET, Saturday, Aug. 20)


Houston Texans 17, New Orleans Saints 13

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Texans: The Davis Mills-led offense failed to pick up a first down in Mills’ two series of action, as he went 3-for-3 passing for 14 yards. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton called a conservative set of plays for the first-team offense, as the majority of the plays were runs. But when Dameon Pierce entered the game in the second quarter, he was a bolt of lightning for the offense. The running back continued flashing the explosiveness he has shown throughout training camp, rushing for 49 yards on five carries. On his first carry of the game, he broke for 20 yards, which sparked the Texans’ first touchdown drive. It won’t be too long before Pierce is the lead back in the running back room if he keeps providing impactful runs. — DJ Bien-Aime

Next game: at Rams (10 p.m. ET, Friday)

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Saints: Quarterback Andy Dalton showed why the Saints were so keen to sign him when he filled in for an injured Jameis Winston on Saturday. Dalton played only one series but went 5-for-5 and completed a touchdown pass to running back Dwayne Washington, who walked into the end zone thanks to a nicely setup screen behind offensive linemen Erik McCoy and Andrus Peat. Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry didn’t play, but Dalton still looked sharp coming off a nice week of camp, where he has taken over the starting reps with Winston out. It was a long drop-off from Dalton to Ian Book, who finished 15-of-22 for 121 yards, five sacks and an interception. Book’s two turnovers led to 10 points for the Texans, and his lone potential touchdown pass fell incomplete on what looked like a drop from wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith.

The Saints played well defensively for most of the game, with starting cornerback Paulson Adebo translating his stellar play in camp into the preseason. While a blown coverage allowed the Texans to take the lead in the final minutes, the Saints’ three interceptions stood out, with linebacker Chase Hansen getting one to continue his impressive play in camp. — Katherine Terrell

Next game: at Packers (8 p.m. ET, Friday)


Denver Broncos 17, Dallas Cowboys 7

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Broncos: All eyes have been on the Broncos’ offense for much of the offseason, and while right tackle Calvin Anderson was the only starter who played, the Broncos had a smattering of boos wash over them after a first quarter that included just two first downs and 29 yards in three possessions. But the Broncos showed a willingness to push the ball downfield in the passing game as things wore on — Josh Johnson threw for 172 yards and two touchdown passes in his half of work, including a 24-yard touchdown to Kendall Hinton. But keep the “work in progress” label handy despite the win. Coach Nathaniel Hackett has repeatedly said how important the run game will be in this offense, and the Broncos — with backups facing backups — still rushed for all of 8 yards in the first half and 15 over the first three quarters without a rushing first down. Most everybody digs the long ball, sure, and preseason games are there to work the wrinkles out, but the Broncos have plenty of ironing to do. — Jeff Legwold

Next game: at Bills (1 p.m. ET, Saturday, Aug. 20)

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Cowboys: When last season ended, Mike McCarthy said the Cowboys’ “No. 1 focus going forward is the penalties. There were far too many.” They led the NFL with 127 penalties in 2021. Saturday’s loss to the Broncos was not a good way to start on that supposed focus. The Cowboys finished with 17 accepted penalties, the most against any team in the preseason so far, for 129 yards. In the first half, they were penalized nine times for 65 yards. First-round pick Tyler Smith, who had 16 penalties last year at Tulsa, was called for holding twice. Yes, most of the Cowboys’ regulars did not play vs. Denver. However, when the coach’s No. 1 focus of improvement is such an issue the first time out, it does not speak well regardless who is playing. — Todd Archer

Next game: at Chargers (10 p.m. ET, Saturday, Aug. 20)


Los Angeles Rams 29, Los Angeles Chargers 22

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Rams: It’s hard to take a lot of stock from the Rams’ performance in the preseason because head coach Sean McVay doesn’t play his starters, even for a series. The offensive highlight came in the second quarter, when wide receiver Lance McCutcheon caught a pass from Bryce Perkins down the left sideline and ran through two defenders for a 60-yard touchdown. McCutcheon led the team with four catches (on five targets) for 80 yards, two touchdowns and a two-point conversion. Despite McVay saying he was looking forward to seeing wide receiver Tutu Atwell during the preseason, he didn’t play Saturday night. Atwell, a second-round pick in 2021, played only 10 offensive snaps for the Rams as a rookie. McVay said after the game that Atwell didn’t play because he has shown during camp that he will have a role on this team and the Rams didn’t want to risk him getting injured in the game. — Sarah Barshop

Next game: vs. Texans (10 p.m. ET, Friday)

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Chargers: Chargers coach Brandon Staley has taken a page from his former boss Sean McVay’s book, electing to sit most of his starters in the preseason. The exception? Players engaged in a position battle or in need of game experience. The competition at right tackle between Trey Pipkins III and Storm Norton has been the most prominent of training camp and remained so in the preseason opener against the defending Super Bowl champion Rams (who played zero starters). Pipkins, a third-round pick in 2019, started and played two series before Norton, a fourth-year pro and former undrafted free agent, took over. Staley has played it close to the vest when asked if Pipkins or Norton is leading the way, but it appears Pipkins is getting every possible opportunity to win the job, starting both an intrasquad scrimmage and preseason game. — Lindsey Thiry

Next game: vs. Cowboys (10 p.m. ET, Saturday, Aug. 20)

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NFL preseason games on Sunday, Aug. 14

Minnesota Vikings vs. Las Vegas Raiders: 4: 25 p.m. ET, NFL Network

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