To be clear, this is Henry’s column. He must have pissed off someone in corporate, though, because he got shipped to tonight’s Eagles/Bears game, leaving yours truly to break down all the Week 2 action. (He insists he’s looking forward to it. I don’t believe him.)
One of the prevailing themes in Week 1 was that most of the trends and storylines from last season carried on. The Saints still had no D. The Cowboys still couldn’t win without Tony Romo. The Steelers offense couldn’t be stopped. The Browns offense couldn’t be started.
Then came Week 2 and Heraclitus proved prophetic; change is the only constant.
That’s not entirely true actually. Some things are as they ever were. But a lot of teams looked significantly different from Week 1. Just like when you read The Outsiders in 8th grade English, let’s separate the round characters from their static counterparts.
Week 2 in a Nutshell
The Broncos’ Defense Is Bucking
Denver ran its record to 2-0 on the strength of a huge day from its defense. The unit put up two touchdowns (one fumble return, one pick-six) in a 34-20 win over Andrew Luck and the Colts. More impressively, they held Luck to 21 of 40 for 197 yards and one TD. The week prior? Luck and his wideout trio racked up 385 yards and four TDs.
The Browns Are Bottom Feeders
Cleveland raced out to a 20-0 lead on Baltimore with Josh McCown under center (and Ty looked like a genius for a quarter). Then things went all Clevelandy. Immediately after scoring their third unanswered touchdown, the Browns had their PAT blocked and returned the other way for two. They wouldn’t score another point the rest of the way and watched helplessly as Justin Tucker (three FGs) booted the Ravens to a 25-20 win.
The Seattle Offensive Line Is Offensively Bad
The biggest surprise of Week 2, in terms of outcome, was the Rams edging the Seahawks in a 9-3 barnburner. For the last year, Seattle has been able to overcome a brutal o-line thanks to Russell Wilson’s wizardry under center. But with Wilson hampered by an ankle injury, he wasn’t able to scramble for chunk yardage and mask their flaws. He was only sacked twice, but he was pressured all day and his limited mobility was evident. The o-line couldn’t run block, either – an area where they were respectable last season. The Hawks had just 67 rushing yards on the day, averaging 2.8 yards per carry.
The Jags Are Jagoffs
Jacksonville was the team that was supposed to make the jump this year. The AFC South looked as soft as ever and GM David Caldwell did a phenomenal job of bringing in talent, especially on defense. Blake Bortles and the offense were expected to make further strides and become one of the better units in the league. Two weeks into the season, very little of that has come to fruition. They battled Green Bay hard in Week 1, but still lost 27-23. (That looked like a better loss before GB was held to 14 points by Minnesota.)
Week 2 was an unmitigated disaster. The Jags were routed 38-14 by San Diego, who were down Keenan Allen from the outset and then lost Danny Woodhead part way through the game. The Jags didn’t even get on the board until the 4th quarter when they already trailed by thirty-plus. Bortles is not progressing. Gus Bradley is not turning the defense around. He’s not long for this coaching world.
The New News
The Saints D Exists
Everyone thought the Saints/Giants game was going to be a shootout. They combined for over 100 points last year. The few who thought we’d see a lower scoring affair were banking on the new-look New York defense to slow Drew Brees (which they did). No one was expecting the New Orleans defense to keep the G-Men out of the endzone. But that’s just what they did. The Giants got their only TD of the game on a blocked FG. Unfortunately for the Saints, they’d still go on to lose (16-13).
Don’t take this as a massive turning point for New Orleans. They still gave up 417 total yards – including 353 through the air – and needed three fumble recoveries to hold New York to 16 points. But the rush defense looked so much better than Week 1 (64 total yards, 2.0 YPC) and, even though generating turnovers isn’t a sustainable way to succeed on D, it was nice to see some fight from the unit.
No Romo, No Problem
Dallas won a game … without Tony Romo. ERMAGERD! Preseason wunderkind Dak Prescott threw for 292 yards and ran for a tuddy as the Boys topped Washington 27-23 on the road. The most encouraging things for Dallas: Prescott finally got on the same page with Dez Bryant (seven catches for 102 yards) and Zeke Elliott looked much better than Week 1. The rook put the ball on the ground late, but looked much also rumbled for 83 yards and a TD on 21 carries.
Take this with a grain of salt. Washington is not a good team. They were torched for 38 points – and a bundle of yards (147 rushing; 437 total) – by the Steelers in Week 1. But winning without Romo proved impossible for Dallas last year. This divisional road win will go a long way to keeping the team in the hunt until Romo is back.
Sam Bradford Can Ball
That’s overstating it a bit. But with just two weeks to learn an entirely new offense, the former no. 1 overall pick played an extremely clean game (22/31, 286 yards, two touchdowns, no picks) and led the Vikes to a 17-14 win over Green Bay. Obviously a ton of credit goes to the Minny D, which held Rodgers and the Pack to 263 yards. But Bradford came up huge as the running game sputtered and Adrian Peterson left with an injury.
Bradford did what every QB should do: he got the ball to his best players. Make that player, in the case of Minnesota. While the team, as a whole, is still lacking at receiver, Stefon Diggs is the real deal (nine catches, 182 yards, one TD), and Bradford leaned on him like you lean on alcohol to get through Thanksgiving dinner with your racist uncle.