The NFL’s second week of the season topped the first, with more headlines, drama, news and comebacks to re-watch and evaluate. The referees were solid another week, going as far as ejecting a player for “malicious intent to injure a defenseless receiver” (yes, we’re looking at you Quandre Diggs). Like last week, most of the games were close, fun and physical at least for three quarters. So who stood out, positively and negatively for the second week of the regular season?
Winners: NFC West
The best and most formidable division in the entire NFL, where the conference has produced the last two Super Bowl runner-ups in the National Football Conference, roared out to a 7-1 record, with three of the four teams posting 2-0 records two weeks into the season. The team with the loss is ironically the team that went to last year’s Super Bowl.
Last week, the Arizona Cardinals were a feature in the Winners section, and with great reasons. Yesterday, they dominated a Washington Football Team that played well against Philadelphia a week prior, and manhandled their defense with ease. DeAndre Hopkins scored his first touchdown with the Cards and Larry Fitzgerald again looks like an ageless wonder. Kyler Murray’s progression and knowledge of Kliff Kingsbury’s offense has him looking like an early MVP candidate, as he looks to be the complete player throwing and running the ball.
The Seattle Seahawks have a top five offense in the league as Russell Wilson’s thrown nine touchdowns in two games, scorching a New England Patriot defense that was the best in the league a season ago. Sophomore receiver D.K. Metcalf highlighted the second week offensive performance, burning the reigning defensive player of the year Stephon Gilmore most of the game. Carlos Hyde is a great addition in the runningback department and the offensive line looks improved. Jamal Adams was worth every bit of the trade Seattle executed. While free safety Quandre Diggs could be suspended after his vicious hit on Sunday night, time will tell how the defense adapts with losses to Marquise Blair and Bruce Irvin.
Last but not least are the dangerous Los Angeles Rams who look rejuvenated on all three sides of the ball. Jared Goff and Tyler Higbee are a great pair, combining for three touchdowns in two weeks, with all three against the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday. The defense looks improved and they’re top three in the league running the ball. This is after Todd Gurley went to Atlanta in the offseason. You could say this is what happens when you play a trash NFC East, so the matchup against the Buffalo Bills will be a fun watch next Sunday to see if this team is a true playoff contender.
Patrick Mahomes II
Harrison Butker is great to highlight from this game, but remember he missed the extra point when the Chiefs got their first touchdown, a key reason why this game went into overtime to begin with. Nevertheless, this is why Mahomes was paid the big money, and while this is an ugly win for Kansas City, this game is a great example of why the Chiefs are blessed to have one of the best two quarterbacks in the league.
Usually a team that wins their inaugural game after winning the Super Bowl loses the second week of the season, mostly by falling on their collective face. What stands out in that critical second game is how the quarterback performs. Mahomes went 27 of 47, threw two touchdowns and was sacked once against a Chargers team he’s been stifled against before. He also ran six times for 54 yards, including a game-long 21 yards that put Butker in better field position to make one of his kicks.
The Chiefs will have to face the Chargers again, but it will be in their home on January 3rd 2021. They’ll face everyone’s best throughout the season, yet this win builds confidence early in the season, and it’ll help the team focus more on exploiting their next two opponents, who are much better than Los Angeles.
Mike McCarthy and the Dallas Cowboys Coaching Staff
How about that for your first win for America’s Team? We’ll talk more on the Atlanta Falcons later on, but give props to the Dallas Cowboys, especially their coaching staff for keeping the team in the game throughout the second half.
This isn’t a team led by Jason Garrett anymore. Adding special teams coach John Fossel pays off more than just a dinky onside kick. Fossel’s respected as one of the best coaches on that side of the ball and knows kicker Greg Zuerlein well. McCarthy put together a pretty good staff that can still come out of the NFC East as one of the best teams in football once they find consistency. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan faces depth issues especially at linebacker, but he’s been in the league for a few decades because of how well he can fix and improve defensive rosters.
As for McCarthy, we’re gradually seeing Dak Prescott become the quarterback many expected or wanted him to become. Prescott became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 400 yards and run for 3 touchdowns. We’re two weeks in and Dallas has a great chance to take the division lead with four of their next seven games against sub .500 opponents before their bye week.
Monday night football games are grueling. 9:30 p.m. Monday night games are more grueling. Flying two time zones over and then coming home to play a critical divisional game early in the season is hell. You’d be lucky to get a win out of both scenarios.
Tennessee went two of two with the help of their new kicker, who looked better this weekend than he did Monday night. This is the first time Tennessee has been 2-0 since 2008.
I’ll throw away Stephen Gostkowski’s Monday night game until he repeats it. He stepped up against a surprising Jaguars team and Mike Vrabel’s confidence in him has a lot to do with it. Ryan Tannehill looks to be the solution behind center, something that’s crucial for the Titans to make a run in late January. With A.J. Brown out yesterday, Jonnu Smith had a career day, having two touchdowns on four catches. Adam Humphries remains a reliable option just like he was in Tampa Bay, and Anthony Firkser is someone to watch as the season progresses.
The defense had an off-day against Gardner Minshew II, but did enough in the end as they had two interceptions, including the Jaguars’ last offensive possession. This team will be fun to watch after they play the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday, with the opponents being Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Houston. At least they won’t be…
Losers: The Denver Broncos
Tennessee is the best case of winning two straight in less than a week, in one case having to go on the road a few timezones over. On the opposite end, you’ll find the Denver Broncos, who’ve had one of the worst weeks of football in a while. After a horrid Monday night game where they barely lost against Tennessee, the Broncos had to play in Pittsburgh the following Sunday. That didn’t go well.
Starting quarterback Drew Lock was almost body-slammed on a sack by Bud Dupree and left early with a shoulder injury. Audiences instead were treated to Jeff Driskel, the win-less backup the Cincinnati Bengals had last year. Driskel played pretty well, guiding the Broncos to 21 points and only a five point loss.
That itself isn’t bad, it’s what else the Broncos have to deal with. Von Miller already’s on IR for the year. In yesterday’s game, phenom wide receiver Courtlund Sutton tore his ACL. Defensive linemen Dre’Mont Jones and DeMarcus Walker could miss up to four weeks, further thinning out Denver’s pass rush. Minus what we knew about Miller, all of this happened within a week. Brutal.
I’ll get to the Chargers in the next section, but for right now, it’s of concern that Tyrod take care of his health and body. A lot of us expected Justin Herbert to make his debut some time this season, but no one expected it the second week in, especially because Taylor had chest pains to the point he had to go to the hospital during warm-ups.
We won’t know for sure if Los Angeles could’ve beaten the Chiefs with Taylor behind center. He can run well and isn’t as aggressive as Herbert, so he may not have thrown that game changing interception, but you can say his slow start against Cincinnati last week could’ve given the Chiefs more time to control the clock and find their rhythm earlier. What we do know is that Herbert’s learning curve playing behind center will go up, and he could be a leader on offense.
What’s saddening about the situation is Tyrod Taylor’s been run out of two cities he could’ve had better or legitimate chances to start in with Buffalo and Cleveland (minus Hue Jackson). You can ask if both those teams would be better with him in their systems over who they have now. Taylor should be the starter so Herbert can learn the system more and then hit the spotlight, but that won’t happen.
Losing Franchises Trying to Turn the Page
If you’re a fan or player of a football team who’s repeatedly kicked your jewels in for decades, yesterday could have been a tipping point for you.
Sports fans will bookmark what happened to the Atlanta Falcons yesterday for multiple reasons. The Falcons, who’ve become the Van Gogh of choking with double-digit leads, found another impressive way to lose on the road, early in the season and at the expense of a Matt Ryan-led offense. The turning point in their outstanding loss occurred when Julio Jones pulled a Renaldo Nehemiah and dropped a perfect pass in the endzone, cementing what could have been a double digit win. Then there’s the onside kick where none of the Falcon players remembered to pick the football up, again what could have sealed a win. Coach Dan Quinn said the players know the onside kick rules, but if that’s the case Dan, did they not care?
The Chargers wound up having a gift performance by Justin Herbert, after Tyrod Taylor had to be taken to the hospital for chest pains. Yes, Herbert was at times too aggressive especially on his first pro-career interception deep in Chiefs territory. The Chargers still found a way to lose, even when it involved punting the ball instead of going for it on short yardage. The Chiefs played poorly most of the game, looking like they were led by Tyler Palko and Dexter McCluster instead of Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill. Last but never least, the Chargers gave up two 58 yard field goals to Harrison Butker…in the same half.
Minnesota had yet to win against the Colts in either Baltimore or Indianapolis. Led by Kirk Cousins’ 11 of 26, 113 yards and three interception game, that streak would stay alive. If it wasn’t for Dalvin Cook the first two weeks in, Minnesota’s offense would be on the same level as Adam Gase’s in New York. We knew they lost talent on the defense, but the offense hasn’t stepped up when needed. Mike Zimmer has to improve the team in some aspect if they have any chance of crawling to .500.
Then there’s the Lions.
The Idiocy and Farrago That is Head Coach Matt Patricia
Piggybacking off of the last section, there’s a lot to say about the Lions, and believe it or not, the players don’t deserve too much blame on this. The issues go to the top where somehow, general manager Bob Quinn keeps his job.
The Lions led 14-3 at one point, walloping Green Bay most of the first half. The offense looked great, Jeff Okudah and the secondary held up, the front seven did their job. This was the fourth straight game Detroit led by double digits but lost. What happened?
Bad decisions which led to Stafford getting sacked, intercepted or three plays and back to defense cost them. Not one player had ten rushing attempts or more. That’s on coaching first and foremost. Darrell Bevell is a horrid offensive coordinator, so Stafford throwing more and not handing the ball off to either Adrian Peterson or Kerryon Johnson makes some sense. On the possession where Green Bay grabbed the lead, Detroit committed at least four penalties, all of which involve simple things that shouldn’t happen if you have a good coach, especially roughing or holding receivers.
The Lions play the Cardinals and Saints before having an early bye. One has to wonder with how they’ve lost their last four games, if there’s anything for Matt Patricia to salvage by the time they hit week five. Bob Quinn wanted different and somebody who stood out when he fired Jim Caldwell. Well, he certainly got that with a head coach who’s posted a worse record than Rod Marinelli.