The second week of NFL play was as fun, energetic and stunning as the first. While it’s still September, there’s been consistency from coaching to special teams mistakes. Time to see who/what stood out better after Sunday’s games.
Winners: Rams trading for Matthew Stafford
When general manager Les Snead traded quarterback Jared Goff and first round picks to Detroit for Matthew Stafford, the plan was to not just win a super bowl, but to find a quarterback who could carry an offense to win pivotal games leading up to. A 27-24 win in Indianapolis showed that gamble’s paying off two weeks into the season.
Stafford threw two touchdowns to receiver Cooper Kupp and more importantly guided Los Angeles’ offense in a tight second half. The Rams offense drained time off the clock so Colts quarterback Jacob Eason would not to see the field. Indianapolis had less than a minute to go 80 yards after Matt Gay’s 38 yard field goal.
The Rams play more quality opponents this season but starting 2-0 against two teams considered playoff caliber makes them a favorite to go deep in the playoffs.
Coach Fangio’s a legend whenever defense is brought up. It’s shameful sports pundits think he could be fired this season. Sunday puts those rumors to rest for at least a month.
The Jacksonville Jaguars will be horrendous this season and may not win more than two games. Down 7-0 early, Denver scored 23 unanswered. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw two touchdowns and the defense intercepted first round pick Trevor Lawrence twice.
It’s tempting to dismiss the win against an easy opponent. They bullied the New York Giants to begin the season, winning their first two games. Denver closes out September against a flailing New York Jets team. Unlike the Kansas City Chiefs, the Broncos could be undefeated by October.
Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback and the roster close to full health makes a difference. The harder teams show up next month and will be Denver’s first big test before December fifth versus Kansas City.
Fans of rookie quarterback Justin Fields
Nobody outside the Bears’ coaching staff or front office wants Andy Dalton to be the starting quarterback in Chicago. Those people were ecstatic Fields got the nod after Dalton left mid-game over an ACL injury.
Justin Fields’ entrance energized the team and the Bears scored 13 points in his performance. While he threw an interception and was a reason Cincinnati came three points of sending the game to overtime, the rookie executed and played his best when he had to. His best drive was the last one where he found ways to run out the clock and force the Bengals to use their time outs, cementing the Bears’ first win of the season.
For anyone who wants to see good quarterback play in Chicago, those people might see the former Buckeye play at least half the season. A mobile quarterback gives coach Matt Nagy’s offense the best chance to win against playoff caliber teams.
Tom Brady and Mike Edwards
There’s something about the Atlanta Falcons that makes Tom Brady play some of his best football. The NFC South’s version of the Buffalo Bills had no answer for the five touchdowns Brady threw in the first game Tampa Bay played in a week and a half. His 129.2 rating is more eye opening when you see he threw under 300 yards.
He’s adding to the record book throwing for 154 touchdowns in his forties, a record that will take decades to surpass. Despite the great performance, it took a team effort to secure the win.
The defense didn’t have a good game after holding multiple double digit leads the first half. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan got better but the defense stepped up to get a comfortable lead back. Defensive back Mike Edwards shut the door with not one but two interceptions returned for touchdowns, burying any hopes Atlanta had of a comeback.
The big names on Tampa Bay will get the headlines but players like Edwards help solidify the team, stepping up when needed. It’ll be a long time before we hear of a player having multiple touchdowns via interception in the same quarter.
The Baltimore Ravens quarterback and former league MVP was 0-3 against Kansas City, the only team he’s faced multiple times and couldn’t beat. Sunday night looked like 0-4 until he stepped up the second half.
Jackson’s abilities include running the ball and making defenders miss. The porous Kansas City defense can’t stop the run and for sure can’t cover wide receivers ten or more yards without holding. He used that to his advantage running for two touchdowns in the second half and throwing the touchdown of the year to Marquise Brown.
Jackson’s best moment was a fourth down conversion to seal the win with under 40 seconds remaining. That tie breaker could loom large by Thanksgiving.
Losers: Anyone betting on the New Orleans Saints to be contenders
The thrashing of Aaron Rodgers on a neutral field is a reason most fans and analysts were high on New Orleans. This again proves that whatever we think after one week of play, it doesn’t hold up by the second.
Carolina played a perfect game against a Saints team that couldn’t muster 100 yards passing until the fourth quarter. Yes, there are coaches out due to COVID-19. Most of this roster is still familiar with Sean Payton, his coaching, and have played before.
All the bets on who makes the Super Bowl means nothing early in the season. Let’s have this discussion when the playoffs arrive since there will be a season of play to judge who can do what, not one or two games in September.
Minnesota started red-hot. Kirk Cousins threw three touchdowns to three different receivers. They led 20-7 early. That didn’t last long.
The Vikings scored 13 points the rest of the game and missed a game winning field goal. Minneapolis’ radio play-by-play announcer was devastated the kick went right after he called it good on-air. They’re 0-2 to start the season.
Coach Mike Zimmer isn’t the problem but one has to wonder how long he’ll stay after two crushing losses to start the season. Seattle, Cleveland and Carolina are their next three of four opponents before the bye week. That’s not promising.
Pittsburgh Steelers defense
The main topic is Derek Carr’s improvement and franchise record in passing yards two straight games. This conversation is different if Steelers star T.J. Watt doesn’t injure his groin in the first half. Pittsburgh gave up three field goals that half. There were no adjustments for the second.
Melvin Ingram III was the only other defender to sack Carr. The defense is among the league’s best and couldn’t beat a new look offensive line. It’s not like Las Vegas was hard to game-plan for either. Raider runningback Josh Jacobs is out for a few weeks and Peyton Barber doesn’t have the same skill level. It was one dimensional and the Steelers had no answers. The 61 yard touchdown Carr threw to receiver Henry Ruggs III was shocking and Daniel Carlson’s field goal with 20 seconds left deflated any good energies.
Every loss Pittsburgh’s taken to the Raiders since 2006 has cost them a spot in the playoffs. Denver and Seattle have better offenses and could play a Steelers team at their most vulnerable. Mike Tomlin needs some solutions by October.
I am once again wondering why one of the worst cornerbacks to play in the NFL has a starting job or is on an active roster. Flowers, who plays like he can’t see out of both eyes, was tasked with trying to tackle Tennessee Titans runningback Derrick Henry.
Not only was there no tackle, he had no idea Henry would run inside and not out. Tre Flowers cannot read a field if his life depended on it. His best attribute is tackling and even that’s suspect. One would expect with a 30-16 lead, the secondary could stop a runningback. We learned Flowers can do neither.
The Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets look awful to start the season and are taking a lot of jokes. We can cut them some slack because of new quarterbacks and coaches. Atlanta is not a laughing matter.
Arthur Smith was brought in to bring better out of a team led by veteran quarterback Matt Ryan. His contributions include the worst loss to start the season in the entire NFL and a Tom Brady and Mike Edwards highlight reel. This team is so bad they cut their punter Cameron Nizialek after Sunday’s loss.
If the Falcons can’t beat the Washington Football Team or either the New York Giants or Jets, this could be one of the ugliest seasons in franchise history, and that’s saying something.