NFL Nation: 2012 Week 2 Wrap-ups

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.

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.

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.

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.

Wrap-up: Dolphins 35, Raiders 13

September, 16, 2012
Thoughts after the Miami Dolphins' 35-13 victory over Oakland at Sun Life Stadium:

What it means: The new regime in Oakland is off to a rocky start. The Raiders are 0-2 and have not looked good. This is not an overly talented Miami team that just throttled Oakland, but Oakland’s start is predictable, though. The Raiders are not that deep and it shows.

Early wakeup call: The Raiders have to figure out a way to play in games that start at 10 a.m. PT. They have four more this season, which happens to be the most early starts in team history. Playing early games on the East Coast has been a problem for the Raiders.

There’s goes the defense: The Raiders’ defense was strong when it needed to be last week. But, Sunday, it wilted against a Miami offense that struggled last week in Houston. The Dolphins racked up 452 yards of offense, 263 coming on the ground. Oakland was stout against the run last week. But it was a major problem Sunday.

Rap on Knapp: The Oakland offense -- which was just 1-of-12 on third down Sunday -- wasn’t good for the second straight week. I know heat is going to be on new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, who is in his second go-around in this role. Knapp has brought a West Coast offense and a zone-blocking scheme, and it has not been impressive so far. The big worry is about running back Darren McFadden. He was better in a power-blocking scheme after Knapp was fired following McFadden’s rookie season in 2008. So far this season, McFadden has been a non-factor in the run game. He has 54 yards on 26 carries.

What’s next: It doesn’t get easier. The Raiders host Pittsburgh next week.

Wrap-up: Colts 23, Vikings 20

September, 16, 2012
Wrapping up Sunday's events at Lucas Oil Stadium:

What it means: The Vikings fell to 1-1 after Adam Vinatieri's 53-yard field goal with 12 seconds left wiped out a fourth-quarter comeback from an otherwise lackluster showing. As a franchise, the Vikings still have not won in Indianapolis and are now 0-11 there all-time.

What I liked: For the second consecutive week, quarterback Christian Ponder revived the Vikings' chances with an aggressive fourth quarter. Sunday, he threw two touchdown passes in less than five minutes of the fourth quarter to erase a 20-6 deficit. Granted, his seven-yard scoring pass to Stephen Burton was tipped twice before caught. But through two games, Ponder has demonstrated encouraging efficiency in pressure situations.

What I didn't like, Part I: The Vikings' defense didn't give up a ton of yardage to the Colts (278), but rare was the stop in important situations. Quarterback Andrew Luck completed his first two passes of the Colts' final drive for 20 yards apiece to get in position for Vinatieri's field goal. Overall, Luck completed 20 of 31 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns.

What I didn't like, Part II: Ponder completed 77.1 percent of his passes, largely because the Vikings' offense was excessively short-range for most of the game. Receiver Percy Harvin, who caught 12 passes for 104 yards, was worked so hard he cramped up several times in the fourth quarter. Tight end Kyle Rudolph wasn't a factor until late in the game, and it's clear the Vikings lack a downfield threat from both a personnel and philosophical perspective right now.

What I didn't like, Part III: Everson Griffen's 22-yard sack of Luck in the fourth quarter was a rare instance of someone making a play. For the most part, the Vikings defense and special teams made it more difficult on themselves. Safety Andrew Sendejo extended a drive with a late hit on punter Pat McAfee, and defensive end Jared Allen extended the same possession a few moments later by hitting Luck after he had taken several steps out of bounds. Finally, Griffen essentially put the Colts in field goal range with a false-start penalty with 18 seconds remaining. Without those five yards, Vinatieri is looking at a 58-yard attempt.

What's next: The Vikings return to the Metrodome next Sunday to host the San Francisco 49ers.

Wrap-up: Cardinals 20, Patriots 18

September, 16, 2012
Thoughts after the Arizona Cardinals' 20-18 victory over New England at Gillette Stadium:

What it means: Coach Ken Whisenhunt was right when he flatly rejected comparisons between this team and the 2010 version that finished with a 5-11 record amid question marks at quarterback. Beating the Patriots in New England one week after defeating Seattle showed the Cardinals are much better than widely anticipated. It’s looking like a dominant defense will keep the Cardinals competitive despite deficiencies at offensive tackle and unanswered questions at quarterback. This was a signature victory for Arizona in the post-Kurt Warner era. The Cardinals now have a new identity -- on defense.

Off the hook: The field goal Stephen Gostkowski missed in the final seconds spared Cardinals running back Ryan Williams from a horrible fate. Williams would have had a hard time living down the fumble he lost while the Cardinals were protecting a 20-18 lead in the late going. This was his second lost fumble in as many weeks and would have gone down as one of the more notorious blunders in the team's Arizona history.

Milestone victory: The Patriots had won all 10 previous home openers at Gillette Stadium. They entered this game with a 35-1 record in their last 36 regular-season home games with Tom Brady at quarterback. Those streaks died and there wasn't much fluke to the outcome, even in light of the wild finish. Arizona's defense controlled the game.

Toughing it out: Cornerback Patrick Peterson, added to the Cardinals’ injury report (groin) Friday, started and appeared to play his usual reps. Peterson picked off Brady and helped limit the Patriots’ offense. He’s been reliable to this point in his career, even when injured. He played through an Achilles issue last season. His interception off Brady was only the third against New England’s quarterback since Week 13 last season, a string of 240 dropbacks. Arizona generally had terrific coverage when the pass rush did not get to Brady. Other times, the pass rush found its target, throwing off the Patriots' offensive rhythm.

Putting it away: Before his fumble, Williams had seemed to all but put away the game with a run up the middle for a first down when the Cardinals needed to run out the clock. Beanie Wells had left the game with an injury at that point. Arizona couldn’t risk giving the ball back to Brady with enough time to mount a drive to the winning field goal. Williams' first-down run was important, even though it was ultimately overshadowed.

Defensive stars shine: Beyond the tone-setting pick from Peterson, the Cardinals got dominant play from defensive end Calais Campbell, a constant force behind the line of scrimmage. Linebacker Daryl Washington also impressed. Campbell sacked Brady during the Patriots' final drive after teammate Sam Acho got pressure initially. Washington nearly picked off a pass for Rob Gronkowski. Arizona got sacks from Acho and even Quentin Groves, who hadn't had one since 2008, his rookie season. Groves also blocked a punt deep in Patriots territory, setting up a Cardinals touchdown.

Clutch two-point stop: The Patriots needed a two-point conversion to tie the game at 20. Safety Kerry Rhodes broke up Brady's pass for Gronkowski, a fitting play given how well the Cardinals' defense played overall. This felt like a game Arizona deserved to win based on how its defense played. Rhodes' pass defensed made it hold up.

Kolb's contributions: Kevin Kolb started at quarterback for the injured John Skelton and did enough -- just enough -- for his team to win a defensive battle. Kolb found Andre Roberts for a touchdown, the second connection between the two in as many weeks. Kolb also scored on a keeper. New England did a good job taking away Larry Fitzgerald. Kolb needed to find other receivers and he did so -- again, not all that well, but well enough given how the game was playing out.

What’s next: The Cardinals return home to face the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3 at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Wrap-up: Bill 35, Chiefs 17

September, 16, 2012

Here are some thoughts on the Buffalo Bills' 35-17 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs:

What it means: The Kansas City Chiefs are 0-2 after a 35-17 loss and they look terrible. For the season straight season, the Chiefs were hammered by the Buffalo Bills. It’s the same Buffalo team that looked awful against the New York Jets last week. This game was never close as the Bills led 21-0 at half and 35-3 at the start of the fourth quarter.

New coach, same old story: The Chiefs staggered early last season under former head coach Todd Haley. One of the reasons for the slow start was because Haley didn’t work the team hard in training camp after the lockout. His replacement Romeo Crennel (who was 2-1 as the interim coach last season) had a productive training camp but the early-season struggles continue.

Where’s the defense? Kansas City has allowed 75 points in two games. There have been injuries on the defense, but a better effort is must. This is inexcusable, especially for a Crennel-coached team.

It is panic time? Not yet. The Chiefs were 0-3 last season and almost won the division. But there is no doubt, this team has some soul searching to do.

What’s next: The Chiefs will wobble into New Orleans to play the Saints on Sunday.

Wrap-up: Bills 35, Chiefs 17

September, 16, 2012

Here are some thoughts on the Buffalo Bills' 35-17 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs:

What it means: It means the Bills won a key game to get to .500. There are high expectations for this Buffalo team, which could not afford to fall to 0-2. The Bills took care of business against a Chiefs team they matchup very well against. Buffalo jumped out to a 35-3 lead and cruised the rest of the way.

What I liked: C.J. Spiller finished Week 1 as the NFL’s leading rusher. He continued his hot streak with another stellar outing against Kansas City. Spiller rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught three passes for 47 yards. Spiller is a dynamic weapon getting his opportunity to start now that Fred Jackson is out with a knee injury. But Spiller is making a strong case to be the permanent starter. The 2010 first-round draft pick produced the third multi-touchdown game of his career.

What I didn’t like: There wasn't much not to like in this game from Buffalo’s perspective. The Bills pounded the Chiefs for the second straight meeting. Perhaps the two touchdowns Buffalo allowed in garbage time weren't ideal. But that’s being nitpicky. It was a good, all-around performance by the Bills.

What’s next: The Bills have a chance to win two in a row next week when they travel to play the Cleveland Browns (0-2). Buffalo cannot have a letdown against a bad team like Cleveland. The Bills have to win these kind of road games to pad their record and stay in the postseason hunt.

Packers put the Bears in their place

September, 14, 2012
Matt ForteBenny Sieu/US PresswireThe Packers defense forced four turnovers, had seven sacks and limited Chicago to 168 total yards.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Yes, the Green Bay Packers were miffed in the days and hours leading up to Thursday night's divisional showdown with the Chicago Bears. No, it had little to do with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler's challenge to their defensive backs. The issue was much larger than that, and it goes all the way back to March 13 -- the day the Bears made their surprise trade for receiver Brandon Marshall.

"We thought it was kind of funny," cornerback Charles Woodson said, "that all of a sudden they were the team to beat because they got a couple new guys."

So it was with great delight that Woodson and his defensive teammates tore up the Bears' offense in a 23-10 victory at Lambeau Field. It wasn't because Cutler had wished them "good luck" this week if they tried to play press coverage against Marshall and rookie Alshon Jeffery. It was the larger notion that Marshall's arrival had elevated the Bears to a level where they would challenge the Packers' supremacy in this division.

As a result, this game had an edge rarely seen in what is normally a friendly rivalry. The Packers got under Cutler's skin early, sacking him on the Bears' first play from scrimmage and ultimately forcing him into one of the worst games of his career. They sacked Cutler seven times, including 3.5 by linebacker Clay Matthews, and intercepted him four times. Cornerback Tramon Williams grabbed two of those interceptions, but even more notably, he blanketed Marshall for almost the entire game.

The Packers left the Bears' hype in ruins, limiting them to 168 total yards and 11 first downs in 57 plays. Woodson, for one, appeared quite satisfied afterward to have challenged the Bears' narrative.

"Their offense didn't look any different to me," he said. "We know those guys. We've played them a lot. They didn't look much different. They just have some new players."

The primary newcomer, Marshall, didn't see a single pass thrown his way until Williams slipped in coverage with 8 minutes, 59 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Wide open for a touchdown, Marshall dropped the ball in the end zone.

Williams said Cutler's words this week didn't get him "out of whack" but made clear that "guys wanted to come out and put on a good performance, and we did that."

[+] EnlargeGreen Bay's Tramon Williams
Jeff Hanisch/US PRESSWIREGreen Bay cornerback Tramon Williams grabs one of his two interceptions.
Said Woodson: "Tramon is a tremendous player, and he helped us dominate today."

Indeed, Bears coach Lovie Smith said there were plays called throughout the game for Marshall "that we couldn't get off."

This was as complete of a defensive game as I've seen the Packers play in some time, even dating back to the elite level they played during portions of their 2010 Super Bowl season. They limited tailbacks Matt Forte and Michael Bush to 85 yards on 21 carries, putting the Bears' offensive line in the unenviable position of pass-blocking against rushers highly motivated to reach Cutler. As a result, the Packers' blitz was highly effective. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers sent an extra rusher on 13 of Cutler's 35 dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They sacked him on four of those blitzes and recorded interceptions on two others.

Most importantly, I thought, the Packers' defense got after it in a way that permeated the entire game. Cutler was hit a total of 12 times, frustrating him to the point that he was screaming at his offensive linemen and even kicked Woodson after a third-quarter blitz. Bears left tackle Gabe Carimi was penalized 15 yards in the second quarter after retaliating to a shove from Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk, and Bears players protested loudly when Packers cover man Rob Francois roughly shoved returner Devin Hester out of bounds.

You could see the tension on both sides of the ball, and even Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers gestured angrily and screamed at receiver James Jones after a fourth-quarter interception put the Bears in position for their only touchdown. (Rodgers said afterward he and James were "not on the same page" on the play call.) The Packers' best offensive player Thursday night might have been tailback Cedric Benson, who helped set the physical tone by grinding out 81 tough rushing yards.

"There was definitely words out there," Packers cornerback Sam Shields said. "You could tell Cutler was getting frustrated. We know what Cutler does. We were just out there as a defense trying to take advantage."

Matthews, meanwhile, now has six sacks in two games this season after abusing Bears left tackle J'Marcus Webb all night. Matthews said he hopes the performance "becomes our theme for this defense and this team."

Yes, the Packers revealed Thursday night how amused they were by the Bears' new status as media darlings. But were you expecting their defense to be the group that realigned our thoughts on that? I'm not sure I was. So it goes. That's, as they say, why they play the games.




Sunday, 2/2