All the Best Plays From Week 1 of the 2023-24 NFL Regular Season

All the Best Plays From Week 1 of the 2023-24 NFL Regular Season

Well, Week 1 of the 2023-24 NFL regular season is in the books and I have to admit – it’s good to have football back! While some of us got to experience a much-needed ‘Victory Monday’ to start the season, others were left with a dreaded ‘Overreaction Monday.’ Either way, we’ve all had enough time to soak it in. 

Week 1 gave us a little bit of everything, didn’t it? I mean, if you were to tell me that the Chiefs, Vikings, Bills, and Bengals would all be sitting at 0-1 after the first week of play, I probably wouldn’t have believed you – especially considering they played the Lions, Jets, Buccaneers, and Browns, respectively. 

At the same time, I guess that’s what we should expect from Week 1 because you never really know what might happen. We saw some of the top teams in the league fail to secure a victory and some of the best QBs play like they were seeing ghosts, but put that panic button away – there’s still a lot of football left.

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Recapping Week 1 of the 2023-24 NFL Regular Season

All the Best Plays From Week 1 of the 2023-24 NFL Regular Season
via Shutterstock (Anastasiia Shevchuk)

For those who couldn’t watch Week 1, the Lions defeated the Chiefs on Thursday night, the Browns held Joe Burrow to 82 yards, the 49ers pummeled the Steelers, the Cowboys destroyed the Giants, the Jets defeated the Bills – without Aaron Rodgers – and the Dolphins and Chargers had the game of the week.

Your weekly leaders include Tua Tagovailoa (466 passing yards), Christian McCaffrey (152 rushing yards), Tyreek Hill (215 receiving yards), Bobby Wagner (18 tackles), Josh Allen and T.J. Watt (3.0 sacks), and Jordan Whitehead (3 interceptions). We also witnessed 5 defensive touchdowns in Week 1.

Three quarterbacks threw for 3 touchdowns, but it wasn’t who you’d expect – Tagovailoa, Jordan Love, and Mac Jones. Meanwhile, Aaron Rogers is out for the season, Josh Allen had four turnovers, Patrick Mahomes threw a pick-six, and Daniel Jones threw two interceptions and was sacked seven times. 

There was a lot of excitement, so let’s take a look at all the best plays in Week 1 of the NFL regular season!

15. Brian Branch’s 50-Yard Interception Return TD

On September 7, 2023 (Thursday Night Football), the Detroit Lions upended the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs 21-20 in what was a thriller of a game. The Chiefs held a 14-7 lead, but Brian Branch kept the Lions in it with a 50-yard interception return for a TD with four minutes left in the third quarter. 

Branch was playing in his first-ever NFL regular season game after being drafted No. 45 overall (2nd round) by the Lions in the 2023 NFL Draft. There’s no better way to start your career than picking off the best quarterback in the game – let alone scoring a touchdown off of it and helping your team to a victory.

14. Hunter Henry’s 12-Yard One-Handed Catch on 4th Down

The New England Patriots had a rough start to the new season – allowing the Philadelphia Eagles to score 16 quick points in the first quarter. They never gave up, though, and scored 14 unanswered points of their own in the second quarter. By the fourth quarter, they were still just eight points away from a tie. 

With just under 12 minutes left, the Patriots found themselves in a 4th & 8 situation at the Eagles’ 36-yard line. Instead of going for the field goal, New England decides to go for the first down. If it weren’t for this one-handed catch by Hunter Henry, they wouldn’t have gotten it. They got the first down, but not the W. 

13. Aaron Jones’ 51-Yard Reception Off Trick Play From Jordan Love

The Green Bay Packers were up 10-6 at the start of the third quarter, but they needed points if they wanted to maintain that lead with plenty of time left to play. Luckily for them, Aaron Jones got the memo and he put on a masterful drive that began with 16 yards on three carries over the first two minutes. 

That’s when the Packers drew up this incredible trick play that left Jones alone on the outside with three blockers in front of him. He let the blockers do their job and blew past the initial point of attack for a 51-yard reception. He was brought down at the 7-yard line, but ended the drive with a 1-yard rushing TD.

12. Zay Jones’ 18-Yard TD Catch From Trevor Lawrence

The Colts tied the game up at 7-7 just three seconds into the second quarter, but things went silent for both the Colts and Jaguars for nearly 10 minutes. With five minutes left in the first half, the Jaguars were looking to take the lead and that’s exactly what they did with this incredible circus catch by Zay Jones

With 18 yards to go, Trevor Lawrence dropped back to pass and didn’t hesitate to launch one into the endzone – where Jones had a defensive back draped all over him. The ball was a little out of Jones’ reach, but that didn’t matter because he extended his body and made the catch for an 18-yard TD. 

11. Cardinals’ Strip Sack Returned for TD

The Arizona Cardinals had the Washington Commanders backed up at their own 26-yard line with under one minute left in the first half – it was 3rd and 10 and the Cardinals were down 6-7. They decided to bring the pressure and it was a good decision because it led to a much-needed defensive touchdown. 

It was Dennis Gardeck who knocked the ball loose while he sacked Sam Howell around the 13-yard line. The ball bounced to the 3-yard line before Cameron Thomas scooped the ball up and dove into the endzone for 6 points. The Cardinals took a 13-7 lead late in the first half, but still ended up losing 20-16. 

10. DaRon Bland’s 22-Yard Interception Return TD

The Cowboys’ defense was something else in Week 1. Dallas was already up 9-0 and they had the Giants backed up to their own 16-yard line with 2:30 left in the first quarter – it was 3rd and 19, so the Giants had a long way to go. Daniel Jones dropped back to pass and found Saquon Barkley in the flat.

Unfortunately for Barkley, Trevon Diggs was locked onto his target and delivered a massive blow that sent the ball flying out of Barkley’s hands and into the hands of DaRon Bland – who ran it in for a 22-yard interception return TD. It was the Cowboys’ second D/ST TD of the first quarter, but more on that below!

9. Bijan Robinson’s 11-Yard TD Catch From Desmond Ridder

We knew Bijan Robinson was going to be a star in this league and we knew he was capable of plays like this, but it hits differently now that he’s here and we get to see it in a regular season NFL game. He didn’t have to wait long before getting the first touchdown of his career and, oh boy, was it a beautiful tuddy. 

The Falcons had just forced a turnover and had the ball at the Panthers’ 17-yard line. Robinson had a 1-yard catch and a 5-yard run before turning nothing into something on the first play of the second quarter. He caught the ball at the 13-yard line, juked the defender, broke two tackles, and got the TD. 

8. Darius Slay’s 70-Yard Interception Return TD

The Philadelphia Eagles couldn’t turn the first drive of their season into a TD, but they got the field goal. The New England Patriots were up next and they were moving the ball fairly well – they had 34 yards on three rushes and three passes, but found themselves looking at a 3rd and 4 on the Eagles’ 42-yard line. 

Mac Jones found Kendrick Bourne for what would’ve been a first down, but he bobbled the ball and it deflected right into the hands of Darius Slay – a cornerback for the Eagles. He outran a few defenders before breaking a tackle and running it in for a 70-yard interception return TD – the third of his career. 

7. Quay Walker’s 42-Yard Interception Return TD

Jordan Love had just thrown his third touchdown of the game and the Packers had a 31-14 lead over the Bears with 13 minutes left in the game. All they had to do was play a little defense and run the clock out. With the Bears struggling to move the ball, the Packers made them pay with a dagger of a defensive TD.

Justin Fields dropped back to pass on 3rd and 11 and thought he had his receiver open for a first down, but it was a bad throw into double coverage. Quay Walker absorbed the pass and was looking for a hole to run through before colliding with a defender. He stayed on his feet and ran it in for a 42-yard pick-six. 

6. DeForest Buckner’s 26-Yard Fumble Return TD

This is one of the weirdest plays you’ll see all season. The Colts had just fumbled the ball 40 seconds before this play started, giving the Jaguars the ball at their own 46-yard line. An offensive holding was called on Jacksonville, backing them up to the 36-yard line and pinning them in a 1st and 20 situation. 

Trevor Lawrence was sacked and the ball went flying in the air. At first, everyone stopped playing because they thought it was an incomplete pass, but no whistle was blown. DeForest Buckner realizes this, so he picks the ball up and starts running it into the endzone for a 26-yard fumble return touchdown.

5. Christian McCaffrey’s 65-Yard Touchdown Run

Christian McCaffrey had a quality first half and his team was up 20-7, but he was still searching for that first touchdown of the season when the 3rd quarter started. He didn’t have to wait long for his opportunity to come. It happened on the second play of the second half and he took it to the house for a 65-yard TD. 

McCaffrey was handed the ball at the 35-yard line and immediately found a hole near the left end. Despite running into his own player and spinning off of him, he manages to break a tackle before getting a textbook block from his receiver, Brandon Aiyuk. He got more help downfield before running it in for six. 

4. Tyreek Hill’s 4-Yard TD Catch From Tua Tagovailoa

What a game we had in Los Angeles, huh? The Chargers and Dolphins were going back and forth the entire game. Between the two teams, there was 969 yards of total offense and 70 total points scored. With just four minutes left, the Chargers took a 34-30 lead with a 25-yard field goal, but Miami was rolling.

The Dolphins found themselves staring at a 3rd and 10 just 10 seconds later, but Tua Tagovailoa threw a 47-yard catch to Tyreek Hill – putting them at the Chargers’ 28-yard line. They continued to move the ball and Tua found Hill for a 4-yard over-the-shoulder TD grab – giving them a lead with under 2 minutes left. 

3. Garrett Wilson’s 3-Yard TD Catch From Zach Wilson

The Buffalo Bills went into the second half with a 13-3 lead over the Aaron Rodgers-less New York Jets. A Jets’ field goal in the third quarter made it a 13-6 game with 15 minutes left, but they needed a TD and some stops to get them back in this game for good. The stops came and the touchdown came too. 

Of course, it took 10 minutes for that TD to come. Zach Wilson had a couple of good throws that helped them get to the 3-yard line. It wasn’t the best throw and was thrown into dangerous territory, but he connected with Garrett Wilson – who had himself one of the best catches of Week 1. It was a beauty!

2. Cowboys’ 58-Yard TD Off a Blocked Field Goal

We’ve already talked about the Dallas Cowboys’ defense once, but they were so good that we could’ve talked about them five times – we chose two. Much like the interception return TD they had, this TD came in the first quarter and was the first of two D/ST touchdowns by the team – this one a blocked field goal. 

The Giants were attempting a 45-yard field goal, but they weren’t expecting Juanyeh Thomas to find his way through the line of scrimmage for the easy block. The ball bounced into the hands of Noah Igbinoghene, who ran the ball into the endzone (untouched) for a 58-yard TD off a blocked field goal.

1. Xavier Gipson’s 65-Yard Walk-Off Punt Return TD in OT

We talked about the Wilson-Wilson touchdown that tied the game up at 13-13, but let’s take this one into overtime – the only OT game in Week 1. The Buffalo Bills won the toss and started with the ball, but weren’t able to make anything of it with an offensive holding and two incomplete passes by Josh Allen.

Sam Martin punted the ball 42 yards to the Jets’ 35-yard line with rookie Xavier Gipson back to field it. He caught it cleanly and waited for the right opportunity – letting the blockers do their job. He found a seam along the right side, got some key blocks, broke a tackle, and took it in for a walkoff punt return TD.

What Should NFL Fans Expect Moving Forward? 

If there’s one thing NFL fans love to do after Week 1, it’s overreact. Before you get too excited or too disappointed in your team’s season-opening performance, let us remind you that the first week won’t define the rest of the season – for any team. We still have 16 games left and a lot can change in that time.

The Bills, Chiefs, Bengals, Chargers, and Vikings won’t be winless for long – they’ll figure things out and will likely earn their first win of the season in Week 2. With that said, the Cowboys and 49ers are going to be the teams to beat if they continue to play like they did in Week 1 – but even they are far from perfect.

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One thing I can say with confidence is the NFL is going to be exciting this season and we’ll have plenty to celebrate every week moving forward. This very well might be the season of the underdogs and unsung heroes, but it’s only a matter of time before the Goliaths of the NFL find their footing in the new season. 

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