The first NFL Sunday of the season has come and gone, and a number of Hawkeyes made an impact in Week 1 — but none more than George Kittle and Anthony Hitchens.
George Kittle, 49ers
Kittle’s preseason was derailed with a separated shoulder suffered Aug. 9, but you wouldn’t have known it from watching him play Sunday. Kittle hauled in five receptions for 90 yards on nine targets from Jimmy Garoppolo — all team-highs — in San Francisco’s 24-16 loss at Minnesota.
Kittle missed out on a potential monster performance due to a couple of miscues, Rotoworld’s Nick Mensio wrote:
George Kittle could realistically have 200 yards and a couple TDs today. Dropped what might have been an 80-yard TD. Garoppolo missed him after he beat Harrison Smith deep in 4Q. Then Garoppolo overshot him on that would-be 4-yard TD. Kittle sitting at 5-90 on 9 targets. #49ers— Nick Mensio (@NickMensio) September 9, 2018
Already proving to be Garoppolo’s favorite target Sunday, even more opportunities could be on the way for Kittle with San Francisco’s top wide receiver Marquise Goodwin suffering an injury.
Anthony Hitchens, Chiefs
Hitchens impressed in his Chiefs debut in a big way, racking up a league-high 15 total tackles, including a team-high seven solo and two for losses. Hitchens’ performance helped Kansas City to a 38-28 road win against the Chargers.
Anthony Hitchens' debut for the #Chiefs had him finish with a game-high 15 total tackles, including two for loss.— BJ Kissel (@ChiefsReporter) September 10, 2018
Only three times since 1970 has a #Chiefs' player finished w/ more than 15 tackles in a game.
Donnie Edwards had 16 in 1998, 2000, & Napoleon Harris had 18 in 2007. pic.twitter.com/Ix4586UCpc
Mike Daniels, Packers
Hawkeyes were all over the field for Green Bay in their stunning 24-23 comeback victory against Chicago, and Daniels made his presence felt. “Diesel” sacked Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky once and made two other tackles.
Josh Jackson, Packers
Jackson made his NFL regular-season debut at nickel cornerback for Green Bay, a spot that saw another Hawkeye (Micah Hyde) flourish recently before moving on to Buffalo. Jackson recorded three tackles, including one for a loss.
Bryan Bulaga, Packers
Bulaga faced one of the NFL’s toughest assignments in Week 1 as he was tasked with blocking newly minted $141 million man, Khalil Mack.
It didn’t go particularly well early on, and then disaster struck in the second quarter:
Bryan Bulaga is s good RT, but Mack is one of the top defenders in the game, he's still coming through you. pic.twitter.com/pHysDMearu— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) September 10, 2018
Rodgers left the game on that play with a leg injury, but fortunate for he, Bulaga, and Green Bay, he’d later return to rally his team for victory.
Bulaga was in a tough spot against Mack in his first game back since suffering a torn ACL last November. Things won’t get much easier next week when he’ll have to protect Rodgers from a Minnesota pass rush that recorded three sacks in Week 1.
Desmond King, Chargers
King’s team started off on a losing note against Kansas City’s high-powered offense, but the second-year corner tallied five tackles with one pass defensed.
Adrian Clayborn, Patriots
Clayborn saw surprisingly sparse usage in his New England debut, playing on only 30 percent of snaps according to The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin. He still registered two QB hits against Houston’s Deshaun Watson nonetheless.
Marshal Yanda, Ravens
We’d be remiss to not recognize Yanda’s return from last year’s broken ankle that limited him to two games. Yanda and the Ravens obliterated Buffalo, 47-3, in Sunday’s most dominant team performance.
Christian Kirksey, Browns
Kirksey recorded three tackles and one pass defensed in helping Cleveland end its 13-game losing streak in season openers — though this one was a 21-21 tie with Pittsburgh.