Tom Brady is still playing at a stupefying level, the first taste of the Urban Meyer experience was a largely forgettable one, Aaron Rodgers did not look like a reigning MVP, Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase jumped right back into 2019 form, Kansas City edged out Cleveland with the help of a failed punt and eight underdogs won outright. It’s safe to say that Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season did not disappoint.
Now that the first run of PFF analysis has been finalized and made available in PFF's Premium Stats, we get to fill you in on this week’s top performers. Here, we present PFF’s Team of the Week and player awards from Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season.
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PFF TEAM OF THE WEEK
QB: Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
RB: Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
WR: Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
WR: Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers
TE: Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Flex: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
LT: Trent Williams, San Francisco 49ers
LG: Joel Bitonio, Cleveland Browns
C: Frank Ragnow, Detroit Lions
RG: Alex Cappa, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
RT: Jack Conklin, Cleveland Browns
DI: Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers
DI: Javon Hargrave, Philadelphia Eagles
Edge: Chandler Jones, Arizona Cardinals
Edge: Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas Raiders
LB: Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
LB: Christian Kirksey, Houston Texans
CB: Casey Hayward Jr., Las Vegas Raiders
CB: Joe Haden, Pittsburgh Steelers
S: Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers
S: Logan Ryan, New York Giants
Flex: Byron Murphy Jr., Arizona Cardinals
Editor's Note: The PFF Team of the Week was updated following the conclusion of Monday Night Football.
Offensive Player of the Week: QB Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The 44-year-old quarterback earned a 93.0 PFF grade for a Week 1 win that ended in classic Tom Brady fashion. He got the ball back down one point with just over a minute to play, and he marched the Tampa Bay offense to the Dallas 18-yard line, where Ryan Succop nailed a 36-yard field goal with single-digits remaining on the clock.
Brady put the ball right where it needed to be all night long and finished with five big-time throws to no turnover-worthy plays. He was throwing receivers open, attacking their leverage and executing the offense with perfect timing.
Tom Brady is in a zone now, starting with this rocket between two defenders to Gronk.pic.twitter.com/vOD5Uf5TDt
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 10, 2021
Defensive Player of the Week: Edge Chandler Jones, Arizona Cardinals
PFF often preaches that sacks can be noisy and that not all of those big plays are created equal. But in Jones' case, he earned that unreal production and was truly a dominant force.
Four of his five sacks were the result of a genuine pass-rush win. And the one that was unblocked resulted in a strip-sack that led to a touchdown a few plays later. Along with those five impact plays, Jones tacked on a quarterback hit, a hurry and one other pass-rush win to lead him to a 93.1 pass-rush grade for the game.
Chandler Jones has THREE sacks in the first quarter ????
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 12, 2021
Rookie of the Week: QB Mac Jones, New England Patriots
Jones may have left his first start as a Patriot with an L, but the 15th overall pick was hands down the most impressive rookie of Week 1. He was decisive and made the right reads while showing off his pinpoint accuracy.
The Alabama product connected on several big-time throws both from a clean pocket and when under duress. He earned a 76.6 passing grade anchored by four big-time throws.
— NFL (@NFL) September 12, 2021
Offensive Line of the Week: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa’s offensive line got plenty of work throughout Brady’s 50-dropback night, and they seized the opportunity. The offensive line finished as one of four in Week 1 that didn’t allow a single sack or hit on the quarterback. The group as a whole combined for a 78.7 pass-block grade, over six grading points higher than any other offensive line. Brady got the ball out swiftly, but the group still held strong on the longer-developing plays.
Secret Superstar of the Week: QB Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia quarterback is not getting enough attention for his elite performance in his team's blowout win in Atlanta. Hurts finished with an 89.5 PFF grade and led all quarterbacks in negatively graded throw rate. For reference, he ranked 33rd in the latter metric in 2020.
Hurts was far more disciplined from the pocket while still making plays on the move outside of the pocket. He executed a quick, short passing attack from the pocket that found a lot of success as opposed to holding onto the ball and taking risks, as he did in 2020.
Jalen Hurts inside the pocket
|2020||2021 Week 1|
|9.7||Avg. Depth of Target||3.0|
|0.19||EPA per pass||0.57|
Hurts completed five of his eight passes out of the pocket for 50 yards and a score, one of which was a big-time throw.
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) September 12, 2021
Hurts also showed off his ability to be a threat on the ground by picking up four first downs on a mixture of zone reads and scramble runs. Atlanta may have a defense that is near the bottom of the league, but Hurts' season-opening performance is encouraging.
Play of the Week: Terry McLaurin's circus catch
Terry McLaurin HOLY COW. This is absurd. pic.twitter.com/hBUgPHwu2V
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) September 12, 2021
Adjusting to catchable but inaccurate passes has been a strength of McLaurin’s through his first few years in the NFL. Since entering the league in 2019, McLaurin ranks third in total receiving yards coming from catchble but inaccurate targets with 558, behind only Davante Adams (705) and Tyreek Hill (564).
Game-Changing Moment: Dalvin Cook’s fumble in overtime
The Minnesota Vikings–Cincinnati Bengals showdown in the Queen City went down to the wire. The game went deep into overtime and, after three punts, looked to be swinging in the Vikings’ favor at the two-minute warning — they sat inside the Bengals’ 40-yard line with a fresh set of downs. That was until a controversial fumble that the refs deemed as a turnover.
Cincinnati Bengals Win Probability Change: +62.1%
Quarterback Joe Burrow then proceeded to lead the Bengals down the field to a game-winning 38-yard field goal. And speaking of Burrow, he had a decent day in his return to the field after his season-ending knee injury. He found success downfield by completing six of his nine 10-plus-yard passes for 155 yards and a touchdown, one of which was a deep pass to rookie Ja’Marr Chase, who had no issue catching the ball after his preseason yips. He caught all five of his catchable targets and generated 3.37 yards per route run.