NFC South: 2011 Week 2 Wrap-ups

Wrap-up: Saints 30, Bears 13

September, 18, 2011
Thoughts on the New Orleans Saints’ victory against the Chicago Bears at the Superdome.

What it means: The Saints are 1-1 after facing two NFC North powerhouses. That’s not a bad spot to be in, because the schedule appears to get easier going forward. No matter what happens with Atlanta’s game Sunday night, the Saints will at least be tied for first place in the division.

What I liked: Drew Brees and Sean Payton usually do a nice job of spreading the ball around among their receivers, tight ends and running backs. With No. 1 receiver Marques Colston out with an injury, that didn’t change anything. The Saints simply got guys like tight end Jimmy Graham and Adrian Arrington more involved and the offense didn’t miss a beat.

What else I liked: The defense got some redemption after a horrible performance in the opener against Green Bay. The Saints were very aggressive against the Bears. They didn’t completely shut them down, but they stopped some drives by a good offense. That’s all you have to do when you have Brees and the New Orleans offense.

Unsung hero: Defensive end Turk McBride might have made the play of the game when he had a sack and forced fumble midway through the third quarter. At that point, the Saints had a 16-13 lead, but Jonathan Vilma recovered the fumble and Brees and the offense quickly punched the ball in for a touchdown and took control of the game.

Upgrade of the year: Running back Darren Sproles is what Reggie Bush always was supposed to be. Sproles can do a little bit of everything and he does it all very well.

Good news on the horizon: Defensive end Will Smith was suspended for the first two games. He’s eligible to return in Week 3.

What’s next: The Saints host the Houston Texans next Sunday.

Wrap-up: Packers 30, Panthers 23

September, 18, 2011

Thoughts on the Carolina Panthers’ loss to the Green Bay Packers at Bank of America Stadium.

What it means: The Panthers might be 0-2, but they now have two moral victories. They led the defending Super Bowl champions for much of the first half and stayed with them for most of the second half. Yes, moral victories don’t count. But you can see this is a completely different team than it was last season when the Panthers went 2-14.

What I liked: I had no idea that rookie quarterback Cam Newton was going to be this good this soon. In fact, I don’t think even the Panthers expected him to have this much of an impact this fast. But Newton is verifying the logic the Panthers used in drafting him. They knew they needed a big-time quarterback to once again become competitive. They’ve got their big-time quarterback.

What I didn’t like: As well as Newton is playing, I’m stunned the Panthers aren’t running the ball more. The plan coming into the season was to not ask Newton to carry the offense. The plan was to run the ball a lot and hope that Newton could make a few big plays a game with his arm and legs. He’s doing way more than that. But it’s coming at the expense of the running game. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to not use DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart a little more.

What’s next: The Panthers host Jacksonville next Sunday.

Wrap-up: Buccaneers 24, Vikings 20

September, 18, 2011
Thoughts on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' victory against the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome:

What it means: The Bucs were on their way to seeing their season slip away when their offense failed to show up in the first half. The Bucs were down 17-0 at halftime and had only three first downs in the first two quarters. Then, the second half started and Josh Freeman and the offense suddenly started clicking. When’s the last time the Bucs had a quarterback who could fall that far behind and bring them back? They never have.

What I liked: Coach Raheem Morris, who must have given one heck of a halftime speech, and offensive coordinator Greg Olson didn’t give up on the running game after falling behind, like they did in the opener. They kept using LeGarrette Blount and he ended up scoring two second-half touchdowns.

What else I liked: The defensive performance in the second half was pretty remarkable. The defense spent way too much time on the field in the first half. When that happens against Adrian Peterson, it’s usually a formula for disaster. But this young defense stepped up and held the Vikings to a field goal in the second half. Of course, it helped a bit that the offense was doing its job in the second half.

Wide receivers step up: The Bucs have been searching for a No. 2 receiver to complement Mike Williams. It looks like they’re making some progress in this area. Arrelious Benn, who is coming off a serious knee injury, had a touchdown catch and Dezmon Briscoe had four catches for 42 yards.

What’s next: The Bucs host the Falcons next Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.