NFL Winners and Losers: Wait, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo ... actually lost?

The last time Jimmy Garoppolo started a game and his team lost, it was against Towson on Dec. 13, 2013. Garoppolo’s Eastern Illinois Panthers put up 511 yards and 39 points but lost an FCS quarterfinal game, 49-39.

On Sunday the Minnesota Vikings joined the illustrious group that includes the 2013 Towson Tigers, beating a team led by Garoppolo. The Vikings won 24-16.

If you listened to all the noise of the offseason, you’d have wondered if Garoppolo would experience an NFL loss. He had started seven NFL games and his teams had won all seven, including a five-game winning streak with the San Francisco 49ers to finish last season. All the over-the-top Jimmy G memes since that winning streak didn’t hold up on Sunday.

For the first time in forever, Garoppolo struggled. He completed just 15-of-33 passes, for 261 yards. He threw three interceptions, to just one touchdown. That’s an ugly 45.1 passer rating for the 49ers’ $137.5 million man.

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Let’s get this out of the way: A lot of quarterbacks will struggle against the Vikings. Last season Minnesota had one of the two best defenses in the NFL, along with the Jacksonville Jaguars. On Sunday the Vikings looked like they’re just as good, and maybe better.

But regardless of opponent, it was still a rough outing for Garoppolo.

“None of us did good enough to win today,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “Especially on offense.”

There were issues other than Garoppolo. Alfred Morris lost a fumble near the goal line. Receiver Kendrick Bourne admitted he missed an assignment that led to a pick-six by Vikings rookie cornerback Mike Hughes. (To Garoppolo’s credit he didn’t blame Bourne, saying afterward, “Whenever you throw an interception, it’s always on the quarterback.”) There were many plays that were almost made by Garoppolo’s receivers, and a lot of them should have been made. It didn’t help that the 49ers were without Jerick McKinnon, who is done for the season with a torn ACL, and Marquise Goodwin, who exited early in Week 1 with a quad injury. Injuries at guard forced the 49ers to shuffle the line, as well.

Still, it was surprising to see Garoppolo play poorly. He has never had a game like this in the NFL, and probably had very few at Eastern Illinois for that matter. The 49ers were in the red zone four times and got only one touchdown out of it. The game was close throughout. Had the 49ers made some more plays near the end zone, it might have been a different outcome. It’s not fair to pin everything on the quarterback, but he’s the one making $27.5 million per season.

It will get better for Garoppolo. This is probably the best defense he’ll play all season. Hopefully the 49ers have a little better injury luck. We all know Garoppolo is very talented, and he’ll play well more often than not.

It was just a bit startling, after an offseason of full-bore hype, to see Garoppolo’s team actually lose. Most of us probably weren’t watching the last time it happened.

“You never want to lose,” Garoppolo said. “It sucks.”

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, center, is sacked by Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (93) and defensive end Everson Griffen (97). (AP)

WINNERS

Von Miller’s defensive player of the year campaign: Miller has a Super Bowl MVP award, but not an NFL defensive player of the year award. That might change this season.

Miller was amazing on Sunday. The Broncos’ 27-24 win was choppy in parts, especially with Case Keenum throwing three bad interceptions in his first Denver game, but Miller was the constant. Harassing Russell Wilson all day, usually from Wilson’s right side, Miller had three sacks and forced two fumbles.

The Broncos are going to have to clean some things up. They were gashed by Seattle tight end Will Dissly, and let’s say he’s not starting for a lot of fantasy teams. Keenum’s interceptions were troubling. But Miller is the type of player who can take over a game. If he keeps playing like this, he’ll have a DPOY award to go next to his Super Bowl MVP.

Andrew Luck: The Colts didn’t beat the Bengals, but they probably won’t win much this season. The team as a whole is not very good. But this much was clear after Week 1: Andrew Luck is healthy, and he still has the ability to take the Colts further than they should dream of going.

Luck, playing with a poor supporting cast, was asked to throw 53 times on Sunday, his first regular-season game since missing all last season after shoulder surgery. He completed 39 of those 53 passes for 319 yards, with two touchdowns. He threw a pick on his first pass, but was very good after that. He looked like the Luck we recall, especially on a pretty 26-yard touchdown pass to Eric Ebron. This all came after a huge, dirty hit by Bengals safety Shawn Williams, for which Williams was ejected.

The Colts stayed in the game until late even though it was clear the Bengals were the better team. It wasn’t over until Jack Doyle fumbled and Bengals safety Clayton Fejedelem returned it 83 yards for a touchdown. The Colts were competitive because of Luck. It wasn’t a winning day, but Luck did his part. In the big picture, just seeing Luck look like his normal self was a victory.

Tom Brady: Deshaun Watson is the NFL’s fun new flavor. Watson was amazing as a rookie before he tore his ACL. His return received a ton of attention, and for good reason.

Then Brady, who is 19 years older than Watson, totally outplayed him Sunday.

Brady led a methodic 27-20 win over Watson’s Texans. Brady was better than Watson, throwing for 277 yards and three touchdowns. Watson, who often looked uncomfortable in the pocket and, as a result, held the ball tool long, had 176 yards and one lone touchdown late in the game, after the Patriots took a 14-point lead.

It’s fairly amazing a 41-year-old Brady could completely outplay the 22-year-old Watson. There’s no positive history among 41-year-old NFL quarterbacks. Brady is just the third quarterback in NFL history to throw a touchdown pass in Week 1 at 41 years or older, joining George Blanda and Warren Moon. Perhaps Brady’s best play came in the fourth quarter, just after the two-minute warning after Houston cut the Patriots’ lead to 27-20. Brady moved around in the pocket, bought a lot of time, rolled to his right and hit James Develin for a big 10-yard gain on second-and-8. As he was moving around, you forgot for a moment that Brady was in his 40s.

It looked just like the same old Brady on Sunday, the same quarterback who won an MVP last season and threw for 505 yards in a Super Bowl. Maybe he will play until he’s 45.

Adrian Peterson: What a day for old future Hall of Famers in the NFL.

Peterson, unsigned most of the offseason at 33 years old, looked just fine in his first Washington Redskins’ game. Peterson had 166 total yards, 96 rushing and 70 more receiving. A bulk of that came on a 52-yard catch. Washington dominated a totally overmatched Arizona Cardinals team in a 24-6 win.

Peterson had bursts of his old self last season too. He had a couple big games with the Cardinals. Maybe he won’t keep this going. But it’s pretty amazing he had even one vintage game like this, after it seemed like he might have been at the end of the line this offseason.

Jacksonville Jaguars defense: We know the Jaguars defense is back for more this season.

The Jaguars looked like they had three extra defensive players on the field for much of Sunday’s 20-15 win over the New York Giants. In other words, it looked a lot like last season. Every time Eli Manning dropped back he was under pressure. Every time a Giants receiver or back got the ball, he seemed to be swarmed by three or more Jaguars. Saquon Barkley’s incredible talent created a 68-yard touchdown run, but that was the only touchdown the Giants scored. Take out that Barkley play, and a Giants offense everyone was excited to see had just 256 yards.

The Jaguars offense won’t do much, especially with Leonard Fournette on the shelf, as he was most of Sunday after suffering a hamstring injury. But the Jaguars defense is still incredible. They look just as good as they did most of last season.

LOSERS

Saints defense: Nobody, aside from perhaps everyone associated with the Buffalo Bills, had a worse day than the Saints defense.

Last season the Saints defense was a revelation, a highly improved group that allowed the team to become contenders again. That group was nowhere to be found on Sunday.

Facing Ryan Fitzpatrick as he subbed for suspended Jameis Winston, the Saints looked incompetent. Fitzpatrick had 417 yards, four passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown. Mike Evans had 147 yards and DeSean Jackson had 146. It was a great day for the Buccaneers offense, and particularly Fitzpatrick, as the Bucs tied a team record for points in a 48-40 win. However, the Saints looked terrible at home against a team they were expected to blow out. Maybe it’s just a one-week blip. The Saints looked bad on defense their first couple games last season too before turning it around. But given how awful Sunday was, it’s fair to wonder if the Saints defense is simply going to be bad again.

Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans: A new coach offered new hope for the Titans and Mariota. Perhaps it was just a bad coaching staff holding Mariota back last season.

Or maybe not. Mariota struggled and then in a familiar sight, he was on the bench with an injury for much of the second half. The Titans lost 27-20 in a weird game that turned into a marathon because of delays. 

Mariota was hurt on what could be considered a dirty hit. Dolphins defensive end William Hayes hit Mariota after he handed off to Derrick Henry. Mariota went down and was flexing his hand. He came back and played some but said he couldn’t feel his fingers or grip the ball. He also didn’t deny that he thought it was a dirty hit when asked.

“I thought it was late and low, but that’s not a decision for me to make,” Mariota said, according to the Titans’ team site.

Mariota was pulled after throwing interceptions on consecutive passes. The injury was surely affecting him, but at the end of the day it was a disappointing outing, losing 27-20 to a mediocre Dolphins team to start the season. And now the Titans have to wonder if their oft-injured quarterback will miss more time.

Los Angeles Chargers: It didn’t take long for Lucy to pull out the football from Charlie Brown, a.k.a. those who believed in the Chargers, yet again.

The Chargers have a supremely talented roster and it doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to pay off. In a big Week 1 AFC West matchup against the defending division champion Kansas City Chiefs, the Chargers got blasted. The 38-28 final was closer than the game itself. Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill had their way against the Chargers defense. The outcome was never in doubt.

It all seemed familiar. The Chargers have started slow in previous seasons. One loss doesn’t mean the Chargers won’t be very good this season. But after so many times disappointing everyone, it’s best to wait until the Chargers actually win some games before believing in them again.

Pittsburgh Steelers: The story on Sunday was the Browns. They’re compelling, after an amazing 1-31 run the past couple years. A great season of “Hard Knocks” adds to that too.

But let’s not ignore what happened to the Steelers on Sunday. They were up 14 points against a team that was 1-31 the past couple seasons, and they didn’t get a win. That’s not good.

The Steelers spent a lot of time complaining about Le’Veon Bell’s holdout this week. That’s a theme with the Steelers: They seem to get distracted by all the drama in their locker room. Even the over-celebration of James Conner’s first career touchdown seemed like at least a little bit of a message to Bell.

The Steelers seem like a mess and it’s only one week into the season. They couldn’t finish a 21-7 fourth-quarter lead against the Browns and finished with a weird tie. The Steelers often pull themselves out of these spots, but it’s a troubling way to start the season.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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