Monday, September 21, 2009
By James Walker ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Willis McGahee gave the Ravens' offense a jolt against the Chargers.
Here are seven observations from Week 2 in the AFC North:
In a 31-26 win over the San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron did a great job sticking to his plan of going with the hot tailback. This week it was backup Willis McGahee, who had nearly twice as many carries (15) as last week’s leading rusher Ray Rice (eight). Cameron said in training camp that he aims to get everyone involved, but the amount of work will vary week-to-week depending on the game plan. Cameron knows San Diego’s personnel well because he used to coach there, and he saw something in the Chargers that McGahee (79 yards rushing, two touchdowns) could exploit.
The bad news for Baltimore’s defense is it gave up 474 yards of offense. The good news is the Ravens were tremendous in the red zone, holding the Chargers to four field goals and one huge fourth-down stop in five trips. Part of the success is the Ravens were stout against the run. They held San Diego to 2.5 yards per carry on the ground. So once the Chargers got into close quarters in the red zone, they actually became easier for Baltimore to defend. Most of the Chargers’ offensive success came by big passing plays from quarterback Philip Rivers.
Several players in the locker room of the Cincinnati Bengals told me Sunday they were shocked by the Green Bay Packers’ tactical error to leave defensive end Antwan Odom in one-on-one matchups. Odom struggled last season, so it’s no surprise that Green Bay’s game plan entering the game was to single block Odom. But it was apparent early that Odom was getting sack happy when he beat Green Bay starter Chad Clifton. Then when Clifton went down with an ankle injury Odom really took over the game. But the Packers never adjusted the game plan to double Odom, which led to a career-high five sacks.
For those wondering how Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco’s Lambeau leap went down, here is the full story. Before the game Ochocinco surveyed fans behind the end zone to see what group would let him jump into the stands without incident. Green Bay fans turned Ochocinco down time several times before he noticed a small smattering of Bengals fans sitting in the corner. Of course, that group told Ochocinco he should jump into their section if he scored and Ochocinco agreed.
Ever since the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, it’s pretty clear that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is looking a lot more to receiver Santonio Holmes. The Super Bowl MVP was targeted an amazing 14 times in Sunday’s 17-14 loss to the Chicago Bears. Holmes had some missed opportunities and only came away with five receptions in this game. He also missed a chance to make a key fourth-quarter touchdown catch that could have change the course of the game.
Although Pittsburgh’s defense isn’t allowing many points, one thing that’s stood out is its two sacks in two games. That is very un-Steeler like. Linebacker James Farrior and defensive end Aaron Smith are the only Pittsburgh players with sacks so far. Sack specialists James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley have been shutout and only combined for one quarterback hit against Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
Although players have taken a lot of the blame for the Cleveland Browns’ early-season failures, it’s probably time to take a closer look at the coaching. For two straight weeks, the Browns haven’t made the proper adjustments at intermission and it cost them. Cleveland has been outscored 41-7 in the second half by the Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings combined. You also have to wonder if conditioning is a factor.