NFL Nation: 2012 Week 2 coverage

Wrap-up: Falcons 27, Broncos 21

September, 18, 2012

A look at a sloppy 27-21 loss for the Denver Broncos on Monday night in Atlanta:

What it means: The Broncos showed they might be further along on defense than on offense in a loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Denver did overcome four early turnovers and made this a close game. But it showed it was too out of sync to win as Denver fell to 1-1.

Manning’s night: It was a weird second game as a Denver Bronco for Peyton Manning. He killed his team with three interceptions in the first quarter, but settled down and put the Broncos back into the game. In the end, it wasn’t a poor outing overall for Manning. But he had happy feet and looked uncomfortable and he was forcing the ball in the first quarter. After a near flawless game against Pittsburgh last week, Manning showed Monday night he will have his growing pains as he adjusts to a new team.

Gonzalez stays a Bronco killer: Former Kansas City tight end Tony Gonzalez had a big game for the Falcons, finishing with seven catches for 70 yards and a touchdown. In his first game against Denver as a Falcon, Gonzalez, once again, showed he is a pain.

McGahee shines: A lot of folks thought Denver running back Willis McGahee was a better fit for a Tim Tebow-run offense than a Manning-run offense. He looked like he fits just fine with Manning on Monday night. McGahee had 22 carries for 113 yards and two touchdowns.

Denver defense plays tough: The Broncos' defense was put in a lot of tough situations after Denver committed four turnovers in the first quarter. But the defense played stout and it improved throughout the game. The team should be encouraged by this effort.

Officiating was out of control: The locked out referees have to enjoy this performance by the replacement officials in this game. The replacements had a miserable night on a national stage. The first quarter lasted an hour and there were times the game was out of control. More performances like this, and the world will be screaming for the “real” referees to come back.

What’s next: The Broncos host Houston on Sunday in a key early-season AFC game.

Rapid Reaction: Falcons 27, Broncos 21

September, 18, 2012

ATLANTA -- Thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons' 27-21 victory against the Denver Broncos at the Georgia Dome on Monday night:

What it means: It wasn’t the offensive shootout that many expected and it was far from the best game you’ll ever see. But the bottom line is the Falcons are 2-0 and in sole possession of first place in the NFC South. They already have a two-game lead on the New Orleans Saints, who were supposed to be their main competition in the division.

What I liked: Atlanta’s defense. The Falcons intercepted Peyton Manning three times in the first quarter. Aside from a touchdown drive at the end of the first half, Manning and the Broncos never really got into an offensive rhythm. This defense isn’t perfect, but new coordinator Mike Nolan definitely has brought a more aggressive attitude.

What I didn’t like: The officiating. It wasn’t like the replacement officials totally were wrong on a bunch of calls. It’s just that they didn’t seem to have control of the game (and there were a couple times when their math seemed to be a little off when marking off penalties). There were a lot of flags thrown, a lot of back and forth with coaches and a lot of replays. The first half took almost two hours and the game didn’t end until after midnight ET. The NFL is very conscious of its television audience. This was not a pretty game and, undoubtedly, a lot of viewers went to bed before it was over. If anything, this game might help prompt the league to resolve the labor situation with the regular officials.

What else I didn't like: The way Atlanta coach Mike Smith and/or offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter got so conservative with the play calling. The Falcons had a chance to blow the Broncos out early. Instead, they let them hang in way too late. It didn't result in disaster this time, but it's extremely dangerous to go conservative when you're playing against someone like Manning.

Game of his life: I thought Atlanta safety William Moore played as well as I’ve ever seen him play. He intercepted Manning on the first drive and returned the ball to the Denver 1-yard line, where the Falcons were able to punch it in for a quick touchdown. Moore also broke up another potential touchdown pass with a big hit on a receiver in the end zone and had good coverage all night. Moore also came up with a crucial sack midway through the fourth quarter.

Milestone time: The touchdown pass to Roddy White with 7:08 left in Matt Ryan's career.

Milestone-ending time: Atlanta receiver Julio Jones had the longest active streak in the league with at least one touchdown reception in his past five games. That streak is over. Jones didn’t catch a touchdown Monday and also had several drops. White picked up the slack and carried Atlanta’s receiving game. White topped the 100-yard mark in receiving for the 29th time in his career.

What’s next: The Falcons have a short week and a long road trip. They play at San Diego on Sunday afternoon. They’ll practice Friday at their facility before making the flight Friday afternoon.

Rapid Reaction: 49ers 27, Lions 19

September, 16, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO -- Some thoughts on Sunday night's events at Candlestick Park:

What it means: The Detroit Lions fell to 1-1, matching the record of every other NFC North team. It's hard to conjure much criticism toward the Lions on this night, however. They were overwhelmed by a better and more powerful opponent playing its home opener, a result that seemed predictable since the day the NFL released its schedule. It's not as if the Lions botched a bunch of opportunities to win this game. The 49ers might be the best team in football.

For those asking: Lions coach Jim Schwartz and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh shook hands without incident both before and after the game. Finis.

Mixing in the run: The Lions kept it close in large part because of an uncharacteristic commitment to the running game. Before they got into catchup mode in the fourth quarter, the Lions ran on 22 of their first 40 plays. Quarterback Matthew Stafford had 89 yards passing through three quarters. I don't blame the Lions for their approach; the 49ers defense is too good to be allowed to defend only half the field. Unfortunately for the Lions, they couldn't convert their possessions into touchdowns. Unofficially, they didn't throw a single pass into the end zone. As it turned out, place-kicker Jason Hanson accounted for most of their scoring with four field goals in five attempts.

Turning point I: The Lions forced the 49ers' first turnover in seven regular season games during the first quarter, a fumble by kick returner Kendall Hunter. But they weren't able to fully capitalize on it, gaining only two offensive yards, and settled for Hanson's 41-yard field goal. A touchdown would have given them a 10-7 lead and perhaps changed the complexion of the game.

Turning point II: After the Lions made it a one-score game at 20-12 on Hanson's fourth field goal, 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree converted three consecutive third-down receptions. The 49ers then sealed the game on Vernon Davis' 23-yard touchdown reception with three minutes, four seconds remaining.

Official confusion: Here's one I don't remember seeing before. Schwartz had to challenge a play to prove Stafford was sacked. Midway through the fourth quarter, referee Matt Nicks did not blow this whistle when Stafford's right knee hit the ground at the 49ers' 30-yard line after a hit by Aldon Smith. Stafford popped up and lost another six yards before getting tackled again. Nicks gave the Lions their six yards back after the review, and the decision left the Lions in position to end the possession with Hanson's 48-yard field goal. Nicks' crew also missed clear head shots on both quarterbacks, Stafford and the 49ers' Alex Smith, after scrambles. The blow Smith absorbed from Lions safety John Wendling left the bridge of his nose bleeding.

What's next: The Lions will play at the Tennessee Titans next Sunday.

Rapid Reaction: 49ers 27, Lions 19

September, 16, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO -- Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 27-19 victory over the Detroit Lions at Candlestick Park on Sunday night:

What it means: The 49ers are 2-0 and own victories over potential rivals in the NFC playoff seeding race. They are the only NFC playoff team from last season with a 2-0 record to open 2012 (Atlanta has a chance to join the 49ers with a victory over Denver on Monday night). The 49ers again proved their ability to beat a playoff team without functioning well consistently. They did it at Detroit last season and at home against the Lions in this game. Strength on defense (for most of the game) and in the running game provided the 49ers with a capable insurance policy. Alex Smith and the offense showed up in the clutch, continuing a trend from last season.

What I liked: The fast start on offense. The 49ers caught the Lions off guard, it appeared, on their second offensive play when they flipped the ball to Mario Manningham for a 29-yard gain on an end-around. That sparked the 49ers' offense and led to a 21-yard scoring pass from Alex Smith to Vernon Davis. San Francisco couldn't have started any better offensively. Last year, the 49ers opened their game at Detroit in an empty set, inviting pressure and conceding a sack/fumble. They opened in an empty set this time, as well, but the Lions didn't get any pressure.

San Francisco went after safety John Wendling, who was subbing for the injured Louis Delmas, on the touchdown to Davis. That was smart and it worked beautifully. Davis was wide open and running toward the end zone uncontested.

Frank Gore's fresh legs stood out. His quickness and power gave the Lions problems. The way San Francisco blocks down the field, including at the receiver position, makes Gore even more dangerous. Gore returned the favor with an effective block to help spring Michael Crabtree for a first down on a third-and-long when the 49ers were trying to run time off the clock with a 20-12 lead. Crabtree converted a third-and-9 later in the drive.

The 49ers put together a 13-play, 79-yard touchdown drive -- Smith to Davis, again -- to put away the game in the fourth quarter. That drive atoned for some of the sloppiness that crept into the 49ers' game for stretches. The 49ers are a good team in the clutch. They showed it again.

What I didn’t like: Hunter lost a fumble during a first-quarter kickoff return, setting up the Lions for a 33-yard field goal. The 49ers had gone nine full regular-season games without losing a fumble. They had gone 26 regular-season quarters without suffering a turnover of any kind. Their last one had been against Baltimore on Thanksgiving.

The 49ers suffered a couple of third-down miscues. That included an aborted play after a snap from center Jonathan Goodwin flew past Smith. Another time, Crabtree could not handle a hard, low pass -- not a blatant drop, but a play unbecoming of the player with the best hands Jim Harbaugh has seen. That type of play has been the exception for Crabtree, who continues to play well overall.

The replacement officials struggled. They initially missed Aldon Smith's sack on Matthew Stafford, allowing Ahmad Brooks to get a second shot at the Lions' quarterback. Lions coach Jim Schwartz issued a replay challenge to save his team yardage, setting up a field goal try. No coach should have to challenge a sack against his own quarterback at a time when the NFL is emphasizing player safety. That was one of at least two plays when officials appeared out of position and unable to maintain vision of a play. Another time, officials missed potential pass interference.

Bruce Miller, Delanie Walker and Manningham dropped passes during an ugly drive early in the fourth quarter. Manningham's wasn't a drop in the purest sense. He appeared to short-arm a ball over the middle.

The 49ers' defense, so strong most of the time, seemed to relent late in the game. The Lions drove for a touchdown with 1:29 remaining to pull within 27-19. The Lions gained big chunks of yardage during the drive.

West milestone: All four NFC West teams won Sunday. That's the second time Seattle, San Francisco, St. Louis and Arizona have won in the same week since the NFL realigned into eight four-team divisions in 2002. All four won in Week 10 last season.

Northern dominance: 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh now has a 3-0 record against NFC North teams. He can make it 4-0 with a victory over Minnesota next week.

QB streak: Smith extended his franchise-record streak of pass attempts without an interception. He also entered Week 2 with the NFL's highest completion percentage. Smith played well enough to complete a high percentage in this game, but he needed more help from his receivers in this game. In addition to the drops listed above, Hunter also let one go through his grasp.

Limited role for Moss: Randy Moss drew an interference penalty in the end zone to set up one 49ers touchdown. He played sparingly, however. The 49ers didn't really need him. Perhaps they're saving him. Age is a factor for Moss. The 49ers want to keep him fresh.

What's next: The 49ers visit Minnesota in Week 3.

Wrap-up: Chargers 38, Titans 10

September, 16, 2012

Thoughts on the Titans' 38-10 loss to the Chargers in San Diego:

What it meant: The Titans are 0-2, two games off Houston’s pace in the AFC South, and they did little to solve their major issues from the opener. They didn’t run it well (10 carries for 38 yards) and while they got four sacks and a pick, they still didn’t get the basic plays they needed on defense. San Diego converted on 59 percent of third downs, had the ball for 43:39, gained 416 total net yards and earned 27 first downs. Tennessee gave up five touchdowns to Dante Rosario and Jackie Battle -- backups to guys who didn’t play.

What I didn’t like: Free safety Robert Johnson lined up a mile deep and the Titans are likely to tell us about how they didn’t surrender any plays longer than 31 yards. The determination to minimize big plays hasn't prevented two giant losses, so I am not sure how playing a safety so deep is helping them. ... Jake Locker missed throws all over the place -- with one overthrow of a wide-open Taylor Thompson deep being especially painful. … Tight ends continue to shred Tennessee. Antonio Gates didn’t even play, and yet three tight ends combined to make eight catches for 108 yards. Rosario had three touchdowns.

Continuing to fade: Something is broken with running back Chris Johnson and the run-blocking. Mike Munchak absolutely has to stray from convention and do something to shake things up and get it fixed. How can a coach who did so much to help create so many successful running teams while he was in charge of the offensive line be overseeing this mess? Johnson rebounded from his performance against New England (11 carries for 4 yards)with eight carries for 17 yards. At this rate of improvement, when will he get good again?

What’s next: Tennessee hosts the Detroit Lions in a matchup of two head coaches in Munchak and Jim Schwartz who came up under Jeff Fisher with the Titans.

Wrap-up: Rams 31, Redskins 28

September, 16, 2012

A few thoughts on the Washington Redskins' disappointing Week 2, 31-28, loss to the Rams in St. Louis:

What it means: Well, Robert Griffin III isn't going to go undefeated for the season or his career. I know some wondered about this after last week's victory in New Orleans, but we kept saying there would be bumps in the road, and this was a bump. St. Louis may be better this year than it was last year, but it's still the kind of team you need to beat if you want to be a surprise contender in the NFC this year. Griffin made some breathtaking plays, and the 82 rushing yards on top of 206 passing yards must have made a lot of fantasy football players happy. But he also had some plays on which he looked like a rookie. All totally understandable, and pretty much what to expect as the year goes along. A lot of excitement and some areas that need work. It also bears mentioning that his best wide receiver, Pierre Garcon, missed the game with a foot injury.

Goat of the week: Wide receiver Josh Morgan, are you kidding me? The Redskins got a late turnover and were moving the ball, looking as though they might at least get a shot at a field goal to send the game into overtime. Morgan caught a pass at the Rams' 29-yard line, which would have set up Billy Cundiff for a 47-yard try. No gimme, but certainly within Cundiff's range. However, Morgan got mad and flipped the ball at a Rams defender and was (correctly) flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The result was a 15-yard penalty, and Cundiff's game-tying try from 62 yards fell well short, as you would expect. There were other things that cost the Redskins this game, but Morgan ended any chance at a miracle, final-seconds comeback. Terribly stupid play.

He's the man: Rookie Alfred Morris was once again the only Redskins running back of note, collecting 89 rushing yards on 16 carries. Griffin carried the ball 11 times, but no other Redskin got more than one carry. Roy Helu got none, and was only targeted once in the passing game. Morris is the Redskins' running back right now. Not sure how long it'll last, but he's not doing anything to prod a change.

Pressure up front: I expected the Redskins to get some pressure from the defensive line as well as the outside linebackers, and it appears from what I was able to see that Stephen Bowen had a big game. The box score credits him with a sack, a tackle-for-loss, a pass defended and two quarterback hits. Active.

Be careful: I loved watching Griffin run the ball on those designed runs and broken plays, of which there were several in a row on one early fourth-quarter possession. But man, he's taking some shots. Breathtaking runner, and you don't want to take that out of his game, but they need to find ways to protect him from the hits. They have to be cringing every time he takes one, considering what's invested in him.

Young at heart: I see you, London Fletcher.

What's next: Griffin will make his home debut Sunday at 1 p.m. ET against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals are 1-1 after beating the Browns at home Sunday afternoon.

Rapid Reaction: Steelers 27, Jets 10

September, 16, 2012

PITTSBURGH -- The Jets flipped the script from the 2010 AFC Championship Game. This time, it was a good start and a lousy finish, adding to up another loss to the Steelers, 27-10, at Heinz Field.

What it means: The Jets dropped to 1-1, falling into a four-way tie in the AFC East. The outmanned Jets, minus three starters, were outplayed in all three phases by a hungrier team. And, by the way, the Steelers didn't have two of their best players, S Troy Polamalu and LB James Harrison. They found a way, the Jets didn't.

Deep freeze: The Jets opened as if they were still playing the Bills -- a 90-yard touchdown drive on their first possession -- but they disappeared on offense. QB Mark Sanchez was 4-for-5 for 80 yards and a touchdown on the opening drive, but he completed only six of his next 22 passes for 58 yards for the rest of the game.

What happened? Santonio Holmes, who scored on a 14-yard reception, dropped two passes. Rookie Stephen Hill, unable to beat the Steelers' aggressive press coverage, couldn't get open -- no receptions. Injured TE Dustin Keller was missed badly. The running game was non-existent. The pass protection broke down. Shall we go on?

Sanchez, too, struggled. To rebound from a performance like this, the offense has to do a much better job of handling pressure, from the receivers to the quarterback. The wide receivers had no catches after the first quarter.

The Invisible Tebow: Surprisingly, the Jets used Tim Tebow for only three plays on offense. It made no sense, especially with the running game struggling. Tebow would've been the ideal change of pace -- he torched the Steelers last year in the playoffs -- but he was kept in moth balls until the third quarter. Finally, he got in for three plays, ripping off a 22-yard run on the first play. So what happened? He was sent back to the bench.

The Revis factor: Did the Jets miss Darrelle Revis (concussion), or what? Without the NFL's top corner, the Jets played more zone than usual, hoping to minimize big plays and trying to protect the vulnerable areas in the secondary. It worked -- for a while. Ben Roethlisberger is too good, too smart to keep down. The Steelers went to a quick-passing game and Big Ben found his rhythm, completing passes to 10 different receivers. More often than not, he found the best matchup.

The Jets didn't get much pressure on Roethlisberger (24-for-31, 275 yards, two TDs) with a conventional rush and, when they got close with a blitz, he found a way to brush off the rushers and located the open man. His biggest play came against the Jets' most accomplished cornerback, Antonio Cromartie, who got burned on a 37-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. He misplayed the ball in the air, letting WR Mike Wallace establish position in the end zone.

LaRon is LaBad: After an impact performance in the opener, S LaRon Landry received effusive praise from fans, media and his own coach. Rex Ryan compared him to Hall of Famer Night Train Lane. Well, Landry crashed to reality. He committed two 15-yard penalties (a late hit and a horse-collar tackle) and he missed a would-be sack of Roethlisberger, one play before Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass. Landry received a humble pie in the face. Leading into the game, he said the Jets have better defensive personnel than the Steelers. It sure didn't appear that way. Fellow S Yeremiah Bell also had a critical penalty.

Heroes to goats: Jeremy Kerley was among the stars in Week 1. Not this week. Kerley, who scored on a punt return in the opener, muffed a third-quarter punt, costing the Jets a valuable possession. It was the only turnover of the game.

What's ahead: The Jets hit the road again, facing the Dolphins (1-1) in a game that features the return of former Miami coach Tony Sparano.

Wrap-up: Rams 31, Redskins 28

September, 16, 2012
Thoughts after the St. Louis Rams' 31-28 victory over the Washington Redskins at the Edward Jones Dome:

What it means: The Rams improved to 1-1 while serving notice, again, that they'll be more competitive and resilient under first-year head coach Jeff Fisher. Not only that, they'll win on occasion. Quarterback Sam Bradford matched and probably outplayed Robert Griffin III, his heralded rookie counterpart, while the Rams' franchise running back, Steven Jackson, mysteriously watched most of the game from the sideline. This is Fisher's team, but the offense belonged to Bradford on this day. Perhaps that will continue.

What I liked: The Rams kept coming back. They turned a disastrous start and a 21-6 deficit into a 23-21 lead. They turned a 28-23 deficit into a 31-23 lead. They shrugged off two crushing plays (a Redskins fumble return and Bradford's interception in the end zone). They shrugged off additional issues to the offensive line, even after their backup left tackle, Wayne Hunter, left with an injury.

Bradford tossed more than two scoring passes in a game for the second time in his career. Danny Amendola caught 12 passes in the first half. Rookie Daryl Richardson added a welcome speed dynamic at running back with a 53-yard burst around the right side (although he lost a fumble late). The offense functioned at a much higher level than anticipated given issues on the offensive line and the Redskins' strength in the front seven.

Bradford completed 26 of 35 passes for 310 yards with three touchdowns, one interception and a 117.6 passer rating. He pumped his fist and hugged teammate Chris Long on the field after kneeling to run out the clock on the Rams' first victory under Fisher. This team has suffered for so long. Players knew they were making strides under Fisher, and now they have some proof.

What I didn't like: Officials lost control of the game early and appeared to botch a ruling when they determined Jackson had fumbled short of the goal line. Replays showed Jackson's elbow was down before the ball came out. Jackson apparently thought he scored. He spiked the football. Officials flagged him for unsportsmanlike conduct. The penalty moved back the Rams, who settled for a field goal. Jackson watched the rest of the game from the sideline even though he was apparently healthy. Was Fisher making a statement that no player is above the team? He'll have to explain, but it had to be tough for Rams fans to see Jackson rendered irrelevant on such a joyous day for the team.

Amendola lost a fumble on the Rams' first offensive play, leading to Josh Wilson's 30-yard touchdown return for the Redskins only seconds into the game. That's no way to begin any game, let alone the first home game of the Fisher era.

What's next: The Rams visit Chicago in Week 3.

Thoughts from the San Diego Chargers' thorough 38-10 victory over the Tennessee Titans.

What it means: The Chargers are 2-0 and are in first place in the AFC West. Kansas City and Oakland looked awful and both fell to 0-2; the Chargers shined and showed they are a team to watch in the AFC.

A complete win: The Chargers dominated the Titans in every phase of the game. The Chargers have to be feeling very good about themselves. They are getting it done without four key offensive players and their defense looks much improved. The Chargers have made few mistakes so far this season.

Rosario shines: With tight end Antonio Gates out with a rib injury, backup Dante Rosario caught three touchdown passes from Philip Rivers. It was the first time Rosario has caught a touchdown since 2009. It was the Chargers’ first three-touchdown game from a tight end since Gates did it in 2005.

Battle is tough: Running back Jackie Battle had 69 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. He looks like he will be a solid backup when starter Ryan Mathews returns from a broken clavicle. Barring a setback, Mathews will likely play next week.

Red zone woes are over: Last week, the Chargers were 1-of-5 in the red zone. This week, the Chargers were much better. They scored five touchdowns in six trips into the red zone. Seeing such instant improvement is a strong sign for this team.

What’s next: The Chargers are the next stop on the Falcons’ AFC West tour. Atlanta won at Kansas City and hosts Denver on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football." The host Chargers hope to catch the Falcons tired after they travel across the country on a short week.

SEATTLE -- The Dallas Cowboys want to be taken seriously in the NFL. They don't want to be known as a team with all the hype that doesn't have substance.

The Cowboys didn't respond well Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. After a 27-7 defeat at Century Link Field, one thing is clear: The Cowboys are not ready for the big stage.

There were five drops, two turnovers and two costly penalties that hurt the Cowboys. It wasn't a terrible performance, but the Cowboys came up small after such a statement victory 11 days ago over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

What it means: The Cowboys failed to take any momentum with them following the season-opening victory against the Giants. It was an opportunity for the Cowboys to maintain a one-game lead over the Giants and remain tied with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East. Now just two weeks into the season, the Cowboys raised questions about their ability to become an elite team.

Defense doesn't respond: Yes, it was hard to stop the Seattle running game, but this was bad. The Cowboys failed to pressure rookie quarterback Russell Wilson on a consistent basis and didn't stop the run overall. Marshawn Lynch rushed 26 times for 122 yards and one touchdown. Wilson completed 15 of 20 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. Golden Tate laid a hit on Sean Lee, knocking him briefly from the game, and DeMarcus Ware was also hit hard on a run play. There was no response from the defense, but it's not totally to blame for this one. It did allow just six first-half points, but it's a 60 minute game. Despite losing several players to injuries, the D didn't play well in the second half.

Offense struggles: It's not Tony Romo's fault that tight end Jason Witten dropped three passes or Dez Bryant did two, but overall the run game didn't get going. DeMarco Murray rushed for just 44 yards. The protection was there at times for Romo, but he just couldn't get to his prime receiving threats in Miles Austin, Bryant and Witten. Romo did overthrow a wide-open Bryant and had miscommunication with other receivers. He had a loud discussion with receiver Kevin Ogletree after one series in which receivers coach Jimmy Robinson stepped in.

Time to move on from Felix: We're not saying cut the backup running back, but Felix Jones' fumble on the opening kickoff and his questionable decisions on kick returns, leaving 5 and 8 yards deep, didn't look good. The Cowboys have to find a playmaker on this unit. Jones returned five kicks for a 21.8 average and didn't make an impact.

Injuries: Gerald Sensabaugh (calf), Alex Albright (stinger), Kenyon Coleman (unknown), Barry Church (quad), Lee (checked for concussion) and Marcus Spears (leg) suffered injuries. Lee and Spears returned.

What's next?: The Cowboys will have their home opener next Sunday at Cowboys Stadium against Tampa Bay. The health of several key players will have to be evaluated.

Wrap-up: Seahawks 27, Cowboys 7

September, 16, 2012

Thoughts after the Seattle Seahawks' 27-7 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at CenturyLink Field:

What it means: The Seahawks improved to 1-1 while looking like the team they thought they would be this season. They played tough defense and forced an early turnover. They unleashed a physical ground game featuring Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin. They make a game-changing play on special teams by returning a blocked punt for a touchdown. And at quarterback, an efficient Russell Wilson used the play-action game to find his tight end (Anthony McCoy, not Zach Miller or the released Kellen Winslow) for a touchdown.

What I liked: Malcolm Smith's blocked punt and Jeron Johnson's return bought needed breathing room for Seattle after the Seahawks drove to a field goal on their opening drive. Those are the types of plays that get a home crowd going. They can make the difference for teams with strong defenses. Seattle contained DeMarco Murray (3.7 yards per carry, long run of nine yards) and Tony Romo. Romo had gone 3-2 in his last five road starts, tossing 12 touchdown passes with only two interceptions during those games. Seattle picked him off early and prevented him from getting comfortable.

Seattle's offensive line did a much better job against the Cowboys than against Arizona in the opener even though left tackle Russell Okung rested a knee injury. Wilson, who completed 15 of 20 passes and finished with a 112.7 NFL passer rating, showed he could find receivers with accurate passes when given time to throw. That is what Seattle needed to see. Lynch topped 100 yards rushing as Seattle wore down the Cowboys in the second half. Again, this game went to the Seattle blueprint.

What I didn't like: Wilson missed high early in the game, an issue lingering from Week 1. He became sharper as the game progressed. Receiver Sidney Rice left the game after taking a hard hit. Durability has been a problem for Rice. He takes too many big hits and tends to fall awkwardly. It's looking like he'll be on the injury report more often than not. Officiating was shaky at best. Seattle fans complained about the Cowboys getting away with holding. I thought officials erred most egregiously when they penalized the Cowboys for barely pushing Wilson out of bounds moments after Seattle's Golden Tate delivered a helmet-first blindside block to a helpless defender.

What's next: The Seahawks face the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on "Monday Night Football" in Week 3.

Wrap-up: Colts 23, Vikings 20

September, 16, 2012
Thoughts on the Colts' 23-20 last second win over the Minnesota Vikings at Lucas Oil Stadium:

What it meant: A first win for head coach Chuck Pagano and quarterback Andrew Luck and a lot of others in the revamped organization. The Colts may wind up being one of the NFL’s lesser teams this season, but they proved capable of beating another team that falls into the same category.

What I liked: Luck is just fantastic on the move, whether it’s a relatively small step up or slide over or a big rollout or run away from pursuit. Obviously he cannot lose 22 yards trying to run out of a late sack and has to surrender at times. But his skills on the move remain underrated. … Four sacks from the defense which held running back Adrian Peterson to 3.8 yards a carry on 16 chances were great defensive developments. … Adam Vinatieri was clutch with the 53-yard game winning field goal with eight second left.

A couple of finds: Receiver Donnie Avery will need chances to provide more evidence. But a veteran who the Titans couldn’t get anything out of last season had a very productive day with nine catches on 10 targets for 111 yards. On defense, Jerrell Freeman proved a good replacement for Pat Angerer (foot). Freeman had a team-high 13 tackles with a sack and a forced fumble.

What I didn’t like: The defense did some good things, certainly. But it can’t allow a nine-play, 47-yard, 2:19 drive for a game-tying touchdown with 31 seconds left in the game. … The rushing offense has to find a way to get more than 2.8 yards a carry, a number that drops to 2.4 if you take Luck’s running out of it.

What’s next: The Colts host the 0-2 Jaguars. Jacksonville lost at Minnesota in overtime in Week 1 and the Colts are coming off a home win over the Vikings.

Wrap up: Eagles 24, Ravens 23

September, 16, 2012

Thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 24-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

What it means: For the third straight season, the Ravens fell to 1-1 after failing to follow up a strong performance in the season opener. Baltimore, which never trailed in the second half, couldn't stop Michael Vick on a third-and-goal, 1-yard sneak that put the Eagles ahead with 1:55 remaining. On their final drive, the Ravens never crossed midfield as Joe Flacco went 2 of 6, including an incompletion to Ray Rice on fourth down. It closed out a game filled with fights, turnovers and Eagles injuries.

Flacco falters: Flacco had a strong six quarters to begin the season, but he struggled mightily in the second half. He was 8 of 25 for 140 yards after halftime. It started with his first drive in the third quarter, when he was intercepted throwing into triple coverage. Flacco's best throw, a touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones, was negated by a questionable offensive pass interference penalty.

Tucker's strong leg: Justin Tucker delivered three long kicks: 56, 51 and 48 yards. His 56-yarder before halftime was four yards longer than his career best in college. Last season, then-Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff was 1 of 6 on kicks beyond 50 yards.

Slipping at goal line: The Ravens came up with three turnovers in the red zone, including an interception by Bernard Pollard (who was later injured and didn't return) in the end zone and a forced fumble by Lardarius Webb. But Baltimore couldn't make critical stops at the goal line. Two of the Eagles' touchdowns came from 1 yard out, including Vick's game-winner.

What's next: The Ravens play their second prime-time game when they play host to the New England Patriots on Sunday night. It's a rematch of last season's AFC championship game. But wide receiver Lee Evans and Cundiff are no longer on the Ravens. The Patriots were upset at home by the Arizona Cardinals, 20-18, on Sunday.

Wrap-up: Giants 41, Buccaneers 34

September, 16, 2012
Thoughts on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 41-34 loss to the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

What it means: I’m not a big believer in moral victories, but what the Bucs did Sunday came about as close to that as possible. They went on the road and took the defending Super Bowl champions right down to the wire. They blew a big lead, but showed plenty of character by rallying to tie the game late on a touchdown pass from Josh Freeman to Mike Williams. I look at the Bucs and see a team that definitely is way better than last season. But this one showed they haven’t turned the corner yet. They’re a .500 team right now.

What I liked: A defense that intercepted Eli Manning three times (Mason Foster, Brandon McDonald and Eric Wright each had a pick) in the first half.

What I didn’t like: A defense that, when all was said and done, allowed Manning to throw for 510 yards and three touchdowns. You can win a lot of games when you're scoring 34 points, but not too many when your defense is giving up 41 points.

Free agents paying off: So far, it looks like Tampa Bay’s decision to spend big money in free agency was a wise one. Wright had the big interception and the Bucs finally have given Freeman a true No. 1 wide receiver. Vincent Jackson had five catches for 128 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown.

What’s next: The Bucs travel to Dallas next Sunday to play the Cowboys.

Wrap-up: Bengals 34, Browns 27

September, 16, 2012

Thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals' 34-27 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

What it means: The Bengals (1-1) rebounded from a disappointing season-opening loss to win their fourth straight in the Battle of Ohio. Unlike last year, the Bengals didn't need to come back in the fourth quarter. Cincinnati took the lead on Adam Jones' 81-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter and held off a rare solid effort by the Cleveland offense. This was the 11th straight loss in the AFC North for the Browns (0-2).

Bengals receivers step up: The stat sheet will say Andy Dalton threw three touchdown passes. Take a closer look and you'll see how much Cincinnati's receivers delivered on those scores. There was a 10-yarder to A.J. Green, who ran through Dimitri Patterson's tackle; a 44-yarder to Brandon Tate, who got behind safety Eric Hagg; and a 50-yarder to Andrew Hawkins, who weaved through the Browns' defense after a short pass.

Impressed yet, Rey Maualuga? Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson played inspired with 109 yards rushing, 36 yards receiving and two touchdowns. This came after Maualuga described Richardson's debut last week as "nothing spectacular." His 23-yard touchdown catch-and-run, which featured several broken tackles, pulled the Browns to within 24-17 in the third quarter. Richardson became the first Browns rookie since Lee Suggs in the 2003 finale against the Bengals to go over 100 yards in a game.

Dalton shows toughness: Despite getting sacked six times, Dalton completed 24 of 31 passes for 318 yards. It marked the third 300-yard passing game of Dalton's career. The efforts by Dalton and Richardson overshadowed Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, who was 26-of-37 for 322 yards and two touchdowns.

What's next: The Browns return home to play the Buffalo Bills. The Bengals go back to the mid-Atlantic area for the second time in three weeks with a trip to the Washington Redskins.