NFL Nation: 2011 Week 2 Wrap-ups

Wrap-up: Falcons 35, Eagles 31

September, 19, 2011

Some thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles' painful 35-31 loss to the Falcons in Atlanta:

What it means: The outcome likely means little, as the Falcons are one of the top teams in the NFC and Atlanta is a nearly impossible place to win. The most significant aspect of this game for the Eagles was the concussion that knocked out quarterback Michael Vick. If he's to miss any significant amount of time, the Eagles' expectations for this season will need to be re-calibrated. Whether it's Vince Young or Mike Kafka who steps in to replace him, he'll still have that wide array of offensive weapons at his disposal. But neither brings the game-changing ability we saw from Vick, who led the Eagles back into the lead with stunning speed after he gave that lead away with turnovers on either side of halftime.

Cruel game: Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin had an all-time game, catching 13 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns. And yet, it was his drop of a Kafka pass on fourth down in the final two minutes that likely will stick with him, as a catch there would have extended the game and given the Eagles a chance to win it. The silver lining for Eagles fans is that any and all of last week's doubts about Maclin's health and ability to be a factor in the passing game should now be erased.

Run defense a mixed bag: Atlanta's Michael Turner broke off a couple of nice runs early, but the Eagles' run defense really stiffened up thereafter ... until that last Atlanta scoring drive, on which Turner had the backbreaking 61-yard run that set up his touchdown. The Eagles' defensive linemen -- in particular the outstanding Cullen Jenkins -- look as though they can play the run on their way to the passer, even as they rely on aggressive pressure up the middle. But when they miss -- when they fail to stop the running back before or at the line of scrimmage -- it falls to the linebackers to make the stop, and that's not the Eagles' strength. Rookie middle linebacker Casey Matthews remains a work in progress and has little or no chance one-on-one against a back as powerful as Turner. Fortunately for Matthews, the league has only a handful of those.

Sloppy with the ball: Whenever Vick comes back, whether it's next week, the week after or a month from now, he'll have to be more responsible with the ball. Three fumbles (two lost) and an interception in less than three quarters of a game is just unacceptable, and it cost the Eagles on the scoreboard to which Vick was pointing as he walked off the field. His talent is unquestioned. The thing we're trying to find out about Vick this season is how serious he's going to be about his responsibilities as a quarterback and a leader. He was simply too loose in key spots Sunday night, and that had little to do with the protection he got.

What's next: The Eagles will try to extend their winning streak against the division-rival Giants to seven in their home opener Sunday in Philadelphia.

Wrap-up: Broncos 24, Bengals 22

September, 18, 2011
Thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals' 24-22 loss at the Denver Broncos:

What it means: The Bengals missed an opportunity to take a one-game lead on the whole division because they couldn't complete the dramatic comeback against the banged-up Broncos. It would have been a strong start for a team that many predicted to finish at the bottom of the AFC North this season. This marked Cincinnati's ninth straight loss in Denver.

Dalton watch: Andy Dalton continued to show promise in his second NFL start as he tried to rally the Bengals from a 14-point deficit in the second half. The rookie second-round pick came in with an injured right wrist, but he continually took advantage of the short-handed secondary. Dalton finished with 332 yards passing and two touchdowns.

Thumbs up: Wide receiver A.J. Green is validating the Bengals' decision to use the fourth overall pick on him. He caught nearly everything thrown his way, making 10 receptions for 124 yards. His 5-yard touchdown grab showed great concentration and athleticism as he dragged his foot while falling out of bounds.

Thumbs down: The Bengals flopped on third down, failing to convert 10 of 11 chances. Cincinnati's secondary had trouble keeping up with Denver wide receiver Eric Decker, who scored two touchdowns. His final one was embarrassing because two Bengals defenders collided, which allowed Decker to walk into the end zone untouched.

Injury update: After the game, wide receiver Jordan Shipley walked on crutches while wearing a brace on his left knee.

What's next: The Bengals play their home opener next Sunday when they host the San Francisco 49ers.

Wrap-up: Browns 27, Colts 19

September, 18, 2011
Thoughts on the Cleveland Browns' victory against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium:

What it means: The Browns avoided an 0-2 start for the first time since 2007. This also marked the first victory for head coach Pat Shurmur, who was presented the game ball in the locker room from Colt McCoy. This was a strong rebound game for Cleveland, even though it came against a Colts team struggling without Peyton Manning.

Thumbs up: Running back Peyton Hillis made up for losing a fumble by responding with a 24-yard touchdown run. The Browns attacked the Colts' traditionally weak run defense by handing the ball off to Hillis 27 times. The defense stepped up, especially in the red zone. Cleveland held the Colts to four field goals before giving up its only touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Thumbs down: It's difficult to find much fault in this performance. There was a questionable play call on the Browns' second possession, when Shurmur called for a play-action fake on third-and-2, which resulted in Dwight Freeney sacking McCoy.

McCoy on the move: The best part of McCoy's game today was his ability to throw on the run. His 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Evan Moore highlighted this point. This is huge because it will allow him to avoid sacks behind a sometimes inconsistent offensive line. McCoy also didn't turn the ball over.

Spark from Cribbs: It's no secret that the Browns are more dangerous when Josh Cribbs has the ball in his hands. His 52-yard kickoff return set up the Browns' first touchdown. His 43-yard punt return led to Cleveland's fourth-quarter touchdown.

What's next: The Browns go home to face the Miami Dolphins next Sunday.

Wrap-up: Lions 48, Chiefs 3

September, 18, 2011
A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 48-3 romp over the Kansas City Chiefs:

What it means: The Lions are 2-0 for the first time since 2007 and have won six consecutive regular season games, dating back to last season, for the first time since 1995. Say what you want about the Kansas City Chiefs, who have been outscored by 79 points in two games and lost running back Jamaal Charles in this game to a serious knee injury. But the Lions' 48-3 dismantling gave them the largest margin of victory in the regular-season history of the franchise. Lions Fever is catching!

Good for Schwartz: Lions coach Jim Schwartz benched right tackle Gosder Cherilus in favor of backup Corey Hilliard, adding some teeth to his Week 1 rebuke of a key Cherilus penalty. I'm not sure if that's a permanent move or whether it served merely to clarify how serious Schwartz is about cleaning up what he called "stupid" football. But it worked. The Lions weren't perfect, but they committed only one turnover and were penalized four times. The offense didn't appear to struggle with a backup right tackle in the game, piling up 411 total yards.

StaffordWatch: Quarterback Matthew Stafford has been one of the most impressive quarterbacks in the NFL through two weeks. He's the first Lions quarterback since Gary Danielson in 1984 to post passer ratings of at least 100 yards in each of a season's first two weeks, and it's amazing how comfortable he appears in the Lions offense. Schwartz said after the game that Stafford "knows where to go" with the football, and that's something that only comes with consistent practice in the same scheme. So far this season, Stafford is completing 65.3 percent of his throws. He has seven touchdown passes and a passer rating of 112.0.

Pass defense: The Lions pummeled Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, sacking him twice, hitting him on three other occasions and intercepting him three times. Three of their four starting defensive backs -- safety Amari Spievey, cornerback Chris Houston and cornerback Eric Wright -- each had an interception. This game was a defensive player's dream. It was 14-3 midway through the second quarter and 20-3 at halftime. The Lions just pinned their proverbial ears back and sold out against the pass.

What's next: The Lions will open their NFC North schedule by traveling to play the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome, where they haven't won since 1997. Hmmmmmmm ...

Wrap-up: Titans 26, Ravens 13

September, 18, 2011
Thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 26-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans at LP Field:

What it means: The Ravens did what they previously called "foolishness" -- they suffered a letdown. After celebrating perhaps the biggest regular-season win of the John Harbaugh era -- the 35-7 triumph over the Pittsburgh Steelers -- the Ravens followed it up with one of the most deflating losses during that period. It was out of character for the Ravens to play so flat. This marks the Ravens' second loss to a team with a losing record in Harbaugh's three-plus seasons as head coach.

Thumbs up: There's not much to be happy with after failing to keep up the momentum from last week. Baltimore shut down Titans running back Chris Johnson, limiting him to 53 yards on 24 carries. The problem was everyone else made plays to beat the Ravens, especially wide receiver Kenny Britt.

Thumbs down: Where to begin? The Ravens' defense didn't record a sack or a turnover. This is inexcusable when playing a rebuilding team like Tennessee. The Ravens' offensive line got whipped, which explains the lack of production for quarterback Joe Flacco (15-for-32 for 197 yards) and running back Ray Rice (43 yards rushing).

Secondary struggles: A beat-up secondary couldn't handle Britt, who lit up Baltimore for 135 yards and one touchdown. The Titans seemed to target Cary Williams, although Domonique Foxworth gave up the touchdown to Britt. This is going to happen when Baltimore fails to put pressure on the quarterback. It's even more of a challenge when first-round pick Jimmy Smith (ankle) and veteran Chris Carr (hamstring) are inactive. Lardarius Webb also missed some time during the game with an injury.

Injury report: Left guard Ben Grubbs (toe) missed his first NFL game and was surprisingly replaced by Mark LeVoir and not Andre Gurode. Wide receiver-kickoff returner David Reed injured his shoulder in the fourth quarter and didn't return. Nose tackle Terrence Cody left with a concussion. The Ravens also limited the playing time of wide receiver Lee Evans, who is nursing an ankle injury.

What's next: The Ravens (1-1) stay on the road when they visit the St. Louis Rams next Sunday.

Wrap-up: Cowboys 27, 49ers 24 (OT)

September, 18, 2011
Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 27-24 overtime defeat to the Dallas Cowboys at Candlestick Park in Week 2:

What it means: The 49ers joined the NFC West-rival Arizona Cardinals in blowing an opportunity to take an early lead in the division with a 2-0 record. This defeat will hurt because the 49ers were leading through much of the game. Their long-running problems in pass defense are back in the spotlight after San Francisco made Miles Austin and even Jesse Holley appear unstoppable. In the bigger picture, the 49ers picked up where they left off in 2010, losing another close game. The team went 1-4 in games decided by three or fewer points last season.

What I liked: Quarterback Alex Smith found Delanie Walker and Kyle Williams for touchdowns, showing the 49ers can spread around the ball. The run defense was strong for a second week in a row. Ray McDonald had another sack. Patrick Willis and Justin Smith forced fumbles. Tramaine Brock and Donte Whitner picked off passes. The 49ers' defense roughed up Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, knocking him from the game briefly.

What I didn't like: Smith took a sack in overtime to kill the 49ers' opening drive of the period. Cowboys outside linebacker Demarcus Ware appeared to catch the 49ers off-guard by dropping into coverage, preventing Smith from throwing a quick outlet pass against pressure. The sack set up third-and-11, and the 49ers would have to punt. Smith tossed an interception earlier in the game. Frank Gore struggled gaining much on the ground for a second week in a row. The 49ers' pass defense, largely untested in Week 1 until Seattle struck for two second-half touchdown passes, too often had no answer for Austin and Jason Witten. Austin caught three scoring passes. Both players went over 100 yards for the game. The 49ers sought to improve their pass defense this season. Allowing Holley's 77-yard reception to set up the decisive field goal in overtime was a killer.

What's next: The 49ers visit Manny Lawson, Taylor Mays and Nate Clements and the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3.

Wrap-up: Broncos 24, Bengals 22

September, 18, 2011
A look at the Broncos' 24-22 win over the Bengals.

What it means: There’s a three-way tie for first place in the AFC West. The Denver Broncos were the only team in the division to win in Week 2. Now, Denver, Oakland and San Diego are tied for place at 1-1. The Broncos will take it.

Tomorrow’s talker: Tim Tebow hits the field -- as a receiver. Denver entered the game thin at the position with Brandon Lloyd and Demaryius Thomas out. When Eddie Royal went out with a groin injury, the reserve quarterback went in as a slot receiver. It was an emergency, but the home folks got to see their man.

Trending: Denver second-year receiver Eric Decker is becoming a playmaker. He scored two touchdowns ended up with five catches for 113 yards. He had a punt return for a score last week. The 2010 third-round pick is becoming a valuable player.

What’s next: The Broncos play at Tennessee next week. If they can get some of their defensive players back, the Broncos could compete in that game.

Wrap-up: Packers 30, Panthers 23

September, 18, 2011
A few thoughts on the Green Bay Packers' second victory of the season:

What it means: The Packers never trailed by more than a touchdown during their run to Super Bowl XLV last season. Sunday, they fell behind 13-0 in the second quarter before getting their feet underneath them. Regardless of the quality of opponent, erasing a 13-point deficit on the road is a sign of a strong team. As Week 2 closes, the Packers are 2-0 and tied with the Detroit Lions for the top spot in a very early NFC North division race.

Injury update: The Packers reported that safety Nick Collins had "normal feeling and complete movement" in his extremities Sunday night following a scary moment in the fourth quarter. Collins left the field on a medical gurney after a collision with Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart. He'll remain hospitalized in North Carolina as a precaution and re-evaluated upon returning to Green Bay. The injury at least temporarily left the Packers without half of their Week 1 secondary. Cornerback Tramon Williams was inactive because of a bruised shoulder injury.

Pass defense: Say what you will about game situations and play-calling, but there is no getting around this fact: The Packers have given up more than 400 passing yards to each of their first two opponents. Sunday, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton totaled 432 yards. But you can erase big yardage totals by making enough plays, and the Packers forced four turnovers and had four sacks. Linebacker Clay Matthews stopped Newton on a fourth-down run late in the fourth quarter as well. Meanwhile, cornerback Charles Woodson had two of the interceptions and also recovered a fumble.

Spreading the ball: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers finished with 308 yards on only 19 completions, throwing long touchdown passes of 84 yards (Jordy Nelson) and 49 yards (Greg Jennings). Nine different players caught at least one pass, but tight end Jermichael Finley was the only pass-catcher with more than three catches.

What's next: The Packers will open their NFC North schedule next Sunday with their annual game at Soldier Field against the Chicago Bears.

Wrap-up: Jets 32, Jaguars 3

September, 18, 2011
Thoughts on the Jaguars’ loss to the Jets at MetLife Stadium:

What it means: The Jaguars came off a Week 1 win against the Titans and produced a complete dud on the road against the Jets. There’s going to be a lot of talk about whether the Jaguars should stick with the change to Blaine Gabbert they made after Luke McCown managed only 59 passing yards to go with four interceptions and a 1.8 passer rating. He was making hopeful throws that had the Jets simply salivating.

Ugly numbers: Antonio Cromartie brought a kickoff return back 46 yards … The Jaguars converted just three of 12 third downs … Jacksonville averaged 3.4 yards per pass play, while the Jets averaged 7.3 … In the first three quarters, the Jaguars had no drive of more than six plays or 32 yards.

Early turning point: Down 9-0 in the first quarter, the Jaguars got the ball at their own 49-yard line after a William Middleton interception. It was a spot where even a field goal drive might have made a difference. But they went three-and-out and punted the ball back to the Jets.

A small source of encouragement: The game was over when he came in, but Gabbert hit on five of six passes for 52 yards, took one sack and posted a passer rating of 102.8. Jack Del Rio said the team will discuss what to do at quarterback going forward in the coming days.

What’s next: A game at Carolina in Week 3 initially looked to be a good trip for the Jaguars to draw. But even though the Panthers are 0-2, they stood toe-to-toe with the champion Packers on Sunday.

Wrap-up: Browns 27, Colts 19

September, 18, 2011
Thoughts on the Colts’ 27-19 loss to the Browns at Lucas Oil Stadium:

What it means: The Colts are 0-2 and struggling. While things were better with Kerry Collins than in the opener, he couldn’t get the Colts into the end zone until the very end when it was too late. He finished 19-of-38 for 191 yards with a touchdown, a pick, a lost fumble and a 62.5 passer rating.

Disappointing: The Colts took drives into the red zone early in the second quarter and early in the third quarter. In six plays in side the Browns' 20-yard line, they moved the ball a total of four yards before settling for field goals. Meanwhile Cleveland scored touchdowns on its first two forays into the red zone.

Better, but… The Colts ran for 109 yards and a 4.2 yard average and held the Browns to 106 yards and a 3.1 yard average. But Peyton Hillis ran for two scores, one through a weak-effort arm tackle by Melvin Bullitt, and that was a huge difference in the game.

Reason for concern: The Colts pass rush should be able to bother an inexperienced quarterback like Colt McCoy, but he hit on 22-of-32 throws for 211 yards and a TD while he was sacked just once and hit just four times. He produced a passer rating of 97.3.

What’s next: The Colts host the Steelers for Sunday Night Football, and a national TV audience will get to see what they look like without Peyton Manning.

Wrap-up: Bills 38, Raiders 35

September, 18, 2011

Thoughts on the Raiders' 38-35 loss to the Bills:

What it means: Well, this won’t mean much to the Raider Nation, but we have an early candidate for game of the year. Wow, what a game. What matters most in Oakland is that the Raiders blew a big lead. Oakland, which did not look tired from all of its travel on a short week, jumped out to a 21-3 lead at halftime. In the end, it was wild, three-point loss. Oakland is now 1-1.

Tomorrow’s talker: The Oakland defense betrayed it. Buffalo scored five touchdowns in the second half. Buffalo had 481 yards of offense (including a whopping 217 on the ground) and 34 first downs. Oakland has good pieces on defense, but has to find a way to start making more plays on defense. Having good players and playing poor defensively doesn’t fly.

Trending: The Raiders are still committing way too many penalties. It was flagged eight times for 85 yards. It has now been flagged 23 times for 236 yards in two games. Oakland coach Hue Jackson had officials at practice last week to help clean up the mess. Still, Oakland made critical penalties that contributed to the loss.

Passing game soaring: Who says Jason Campbell is just a game manager? He threw for 323 yards despite having several weapons out hurt. Rookie Denarius Moore looked like he did in the preseason as he had five catches for 146 yards and 25 yards on a reverse run. So, with that top-notch running game, Oakland has some things to work with on offense.

What’s next: The Raiders host the New York Jets in their home opener next Sunday. They then host New England. The schedule definitely toughens after this bitter loss.

Wrap-up: Bills 38, Raiders 35

September, 18, 2011
Let's take a look at the Buffalo Bills' come from behind, 38-35, victory over the Oakland Raiders.

What it means: The Bills showed tremendous heart by overcoming a 21-3 halftime deficit to win at home. Buffalo also needed a late, 6-yard touchdown catch by receiver David Nelson to win the game on its final drive. Buffalo is one of the NFL's biggest surprises. The Bills improved to 2-0 and remain tied for first place in a deep and competitive AFC East division.

High-scoring Bills: Buffalo's offense is fun to watch. The aggressive Bills have scored 79 points the past two weeks. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick started slow this week but had a solid second half. He finished with 264 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Fitzpatrick also stayed poised on the final, game-winning drive for Buffalo.

Jackson runs wild: Fred Jackson said before the season that he deserves to be viewed as a No. 1 running back. Now, he's running like it. Jackson was the star of Buffalo's offense with 117 rushing yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries. Oakland's run defense had no answer for Jackson, who took advantage of his limited touches. His biggest play was a 43-yard touchdown run in the third quarter during Buffalo's second-half comeback.

What's next: The upstart Bills overcame a very tough game against Oakland. But Buffalo has its toughest test to date next week against the AFC East rival New England Patriots. The Bills will be playing their second straight game at home. They made a strong statement by improving to 2-0. But the Bills have a chance to make an even bigger statement against the Patriots next week.

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: 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: 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.