The Dallas Cowboys annihilated the New York Giants last night, 40-0. It was, far and away, the most lopsided score in Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season so far. (And will remain as such, barring something crazy going down between the Bills and Jets). From the offset, things went sideways for the Giants. A blocked field goal returned for a touchdown in the first quarter set the tone for the rest of the night, and things spiraled from there.
Dallas dominated in all three phases of the game on a level no one anticipated. Which now begs the question: Was that the biggest Week 1 blowout ever? And surprisingly enough, that answer is no. There are at least four teams who were humiliated more thoroughly than the Giants were last night. That probably sounds nearly impossible for Giants fans, but it's true. Here are the three biggest Week 1 blowouts of all time:
The #Giants became the eighth team to lose a 40+ point shutout in their opener. (The ’29 Providence team played up to its name that day.)
Terrible start, though history shows their season is far from over.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) September 11, 2023
4. Baltimore Ravens 59 – 10 Miami Dolphins Week 1 2019
Funnily enough, the Cowboys win wasn't even the biggest Week 1 blowout in the past five years. 2019 was a fun year to be a Baltimore Ravens fan. Lamar Jackson set the world on fire, throwing for over 3,000 yards and running for more than 1,200 on his way to league MVP honors. The Ravens only lost three games all year with Jackson at the helm (one of which was their first playoff game, though). That electric season began here with a 49-point drubbing of the Miami Dolphins.
These Dolphins would limp through the 2019 regular season to a 5-11 record, which was probably kinder than they deserved. They started the season 0-7, and in the four games before their bye, they were historically terrible. Across their first four games, the Dolphins scored 26 points while allowing 163. In Week 2, they followed this performance up with a 43-0 humiliation at the hands of the New England Patriots. This was not a good football team.
The game was well over just a few minutes into the second quarter. By the 13:49 mark in the second quarter, Lamar Jackson had already torched the Dolphins defense with passing TDs of 33, 47, and 83 yards. They were up 28-0. The halftime score was nearly 42-3 before Ryan Fitzpatrick salvaged a shred of dignity for the Dolphins on a two-minute drill to give them their only touchdown of the game. Jackson was eventually pulled from the game in favor of backup Robert Griffin III, who would also get in on the scoring before the 59-10 final score settled. But not before he finished the game 17-20 for 324 yards, five touchdowns, and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. The year of Lamar Jackson had begun. The Cowboys' blowout was almost as good.
3. Cleveland Browns 51 – 0 Pittsburgh Steelers Week 1 1989
The Cleveland Browns shut out the Pittsburgh Steelers 51-0 in Pittsburgh is the weirdest game to make this list. Chuck Noll was entering the twilight of his coaching career in 1989, but the Steelers were still competitive. And the Browns were ascendent, looking to make the playoffs for a fifth year in a row. These teams would finish the regular season half a game apart, the Browns at 9-6-1 and the Steelers at 9-7. Both would go 1-1 in the playoffs, and they'd even split the season series when the Steelers got revenge winning 17-7 in Cleveland. But for some reason, when Week 1 rolled around, only the Browns were ready to start the 1989 season.
This game was the story of utter domination by the Browns defense. They scored two defensive touchdowns, held the Steelers to five first downs, and kept them under 40 yards on the ground and 90 in the air. The Steelers never had anything going, giving up their first score of this season on a fumble returned for a touchdown. Bernie Kosar led the Browns from under center, but he had nothing on the Lamar Jackson domination mentioned above. The Browns run game was good, going for over 150 yards. But the offense simply served to cap off an incredible performance from the defense that constantly took the ball away from Pittsburgh, finishing with three interceptions and five fumble recoveries.
T-1. Atlanta Falcons 62 – 7 New Orleans Saints Week 1 1973
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Step aside, Cowboys. In the combined 13 years of existence the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints had as NFL franchises before the 1973 season, they combined for exactly one season that finished above .500. Not out of the ordinary for expansion franchises at all. And since the Saints had beaten the Falcons in their first meeting back in 1967, the Falcons were riding a seven-game win streak against the Saints into the 1973 season. So maybe history favored the Falcons here, but nothing indicated the most lopsided beatdown in the rivalry's history was about to take place. This game is also still the worst loss in Saints' history. But the craziest part about this game is that all the scoring took place across just three quarters.
The game was 0-0 after one and 24-0 Falcons going into halftime. Saints quarterback Archie Manning finished the day with as many interceptions as he had completions, going 5-13 for 62 yards and a touchdown. Backup QB Bob Davis through a sixth pick to cap the darkest day in Saints history. The Saints' defense couldn't stop anything on the other side of the ball. Falcons QB Dick Shiner finished with a perfect 158.3 passer rating on 13-15 passing for 227 yards and three touchdowns.
The Saints were worse against the run, giving up 218 yards and three touchdowns to Falcons rushers as they were gashed repeatedly as the game wore on, and garbage time allowed the Falcons to force the ball down their throats. It was an ugly game for New Orleans and a sign of another lost season on its way. Atlanta would ride this momentum into their best season as a franchise yet. They finished 9-5 and tacked on a ninth straight win over the Saints later in the year for good measure as well.
T-1. Houston Oilers 55 – 0 Oakland Raiders Week 1 AFL 1961
The single most humiliating Week 1 loss I could find was back before the NFL-AFL merger in 1961. In Week 1 of the AFL season, the Houston Oilers sent the Raiders back to the preseason winning 55-0. That's what happens when the best team in the league matches up with the worst though, as the Oilers were on their way to an AFL championship, and the Raiders to dead last. They played again in the last week of the season too, with the Oilers also winning 47-16. But this game was something else. The Oilers held the Riaders to 99 net yards, while nearly gaining 500. Oakland turned the ball over five times, and couldn't stop a Pop Warner team on defense.
Raiders starting quarterback Tom Flores finished with a putrid 2.8 quarterback rating on the day. That's what 7-21 for 59 yards and two picks gets you. Houston running backs Charley Tolar and Billy Cannon led the way for the Oiler offense, combining for over 180 yards for rushing between the two of them. Hall of Famer George Blanda led the way in the air, throwing for 233 yards and three touchdowns. He also led the way on special teams, going 8/8 on PATs and FGs over the course of the game.
What's even crazier about this game, is that the 1961 Raiders immediately followed it up by getting shut out again in Week 2. This time it was an equally embarrassing 44-0 score against the Chargers. In that game, they surpassed their yardage total by seven from their Week 1 effort, but also increased their turnovers to six. So across two games of football, the Oakland Raiders accounted for 205 yards of offense, 11 turnovers, and a combined score of 0-99. Is that the worst stretch of football any team in the history of the sport has played across two games? It's very possible. I challenge anyone reading this to find a worse two-game stretch of professional football played by any team ever. So Giants fans, don't worry. It could always be worse than your loss to the Cowboys.