NFL Nation: 2013 Week 2 Upon Further Review AFC

Upon Further Review: Steelers Week 2

September, 17, 2013
9/17/13
3:15
PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- An examination of four hot issues from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 20-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

[+] EnlargeFelix Jones
AP Photo/Tom UhlmanSteelers RB Felix Jones earned praise from coach Mike Tomlin after Monday night's game.
Stuck in neutral: The Steelers’ running game is a mess, and coach Mike Tomlin said no one is above blame for the team's 75 rushing yards in two games and its paltry 2.4 yards per carry average. The offensive line has to win more one-on-one battles, and the running backs have to take better advantage of the creases they do get. Tomlin did not say who will start Sunday at running back against the Chicago Bears, but he strongly indicated that Felix Jones will get the nod. Jones rushed for only 37 yards on 10 carries at Cincinnati, but Tomlin liked the decisions the sixth-year veteran made while running against one of the better front sevens in the NFL. “I was encouraged by some of the things Felix Jones was able to do,” Tomlin said, “and will be able to do moving forward.”

Biding their time: Running back Jonathan Dwyer received just one carry against the Bengals, a team he gashed for 122 rushing yards in the AFC North rivals’ first meeting last season. Rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton also played sparingly on Monday night, and the third-round draft pick is still in search of his first NFL catch. Tomlin said the limited roles had little to do with Dwyer and Wheaton and could be mostly attributed to the Steelers running 55 plays compared to 79 for the Bengals. More than 20 of those plays came when the Steelers ran their no-huddle offense, which doesn’t allow them to substitute. As a result there were very few opportunities left for reserves such as Dwyer and Wheaton. “We’re just not getting enough snaps,” Tomlin said.

Staying within yourself: Free safety Ryan Clark did not sugarcoat the Steelers’ first 0-2 start under Tomlin. On the contrary, Clark said the Steelers won’t win a game this season if they don’t get better. What troubled Clark after the Steelers gave up more than 400 yards of total offense against the Bengals and did not register a sack or force a turnover is that the defense got away from the disciplined approach that has been vital to its success. The concern moving forward is that the offense’s struggles will put even more pressure on the defense and that some players will take it upon themselves to try and make something happen. “Once you start doing that then you get out of position, you leave a gap and they get four yards on first down,” Clark said. “For us it’s about doing what we’re taught no matter the score. We can’t scoreboard watch.” Said Tomlin, “We’re capable of fixing these things. We can’t overreact.”

Not all was bad: Special-teams play, shaky during the preseason, was an unequivocal bright spot for the Steelers in their loss at Cincinnati. Jones and Antonio Brown turned in long kickoff and punt returns, respectively. The Steelers' kick coverage teams, meanwhile, bottled up Brandon Tate and Adam Jones, allowing a total of 44 return yards. Rookie outside linebacker Jarvis Jones has been a beast on special teams. He and the rest of the Steelers' special-teamers will be tested Sunday night. Chicago’s Devin Hester is one of the best kick returners in NFL history.

Upon Further Review: Texans Week 2

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
3:09
PM ET
A review of four hot issues from the Houston Texans' 30-24 overtime win over the Tennessee Titans:

Offensive inconsistency: Texans quarterback Matt Schaub started well this week, but threw two interceptions that directly or indirectly contributed to 10 Titans points. One was a pick-six by cornerback Alterraun Verner late in the fourth quarter that gave the Titans an eight-point lead, and the other interception led to a Tennessee field goal drive. The Titans can cover -- Verner is Pro Football Focus' top-rated cornerback. Schaub took blame for the pick-six and rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins called it a miscommunication. The quarterback made some impressive throws; his 12-yard touchdown pass to Owen Daniels was perfectly placed. But offensive consistency will help the Texans avoid having to dig themselves out of significant deficits.

[+] EnlargeKareem Jackson
George Bridges/MCT via Getty ImagesKareem Jackson's hit on Kendall Wright drew a flag and put the Titans in position to score.
Punting pretty: Shane Lechler's new teammates spend a lot of time marveling at his precision. Lechler punted seven times, and five of them were downed inside the 20 -- three inside the 10. "I’ve never gotten excited, gotten up off the bench to watch a punter before, but I love watching him punt," J.J. Watt said. "There’s a reason the guy’s the best in the game. It’s so precise and he knows what he’s doing. It’s like poetry. It’s beautiful. He’s pinning it down there and we don’t even have to have people touch it. It just stops at the 1-yard line. That’s insane."

Head shots: One shot that got talked about in the Texans' locker room was Titans safety Bernard Pollard's hit on Andre Johnson that knocked Johnson out of the game. Pollard was not flagged for it, but at least one Texans player said he thought there should have been a flag on the play. Another was Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson's hit on Titans receiver Kendall Wright. Wright didn't publicly object to Jackson's hit, which drew an unnecessary roughness penalty. "I play receiver, I'm supposed to take those hits," Wright said. Jackson had this to say: "It was a bang-bang play. Who knows: They may not throw the flag, he may fumble. I gotta just keep playing as a defensive player. Some of the rules are against us but I've got to keep playing. ... He's on offense. We're supposed to target him somewhere, aren't we? It's football. I don't know what they want me to do." Jackson's penalty took the Titans down to the Texans' 10-yard line and immediately preceded a 10-yard touchdown pass from Jake Locker to Delanie Walker.

Backfield remains competitive: The distribution among the Texans' running backs in this game was similar to Week 1. Arian Foster rushed 19 times and Ben Tate had nine carries. One of Tate's nine carries was a 60-yarder on his first attempt of the game. Tate had 33 yards on the rest of his eight carries for 93 total yards. "You all want me to tell you how I wanted it to be more even?" Kubiak said, unprompted, during his news conference. Foster's biggest single play was for 16 yards, but his most important contribution to the game was crucial for the Texans. After scoring on a 1-yard run with 1:53 left in regulation, Foster converted the two-point conversion that tied the game on a play that Kubiak called "all man."

Upon Further Review: Ravens Week 2

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
1:25
PM ET
An examination of four hot issues from the Baltimore Ravens' 14-6 win over the Cleveland Browns:

[+] EnlargeBrandon Weeden
Brad Mills/USA TODAY SportsTerrell Suggs and the Ravens had Browns QB Brandon Weeden trying to escape pressure for much of Sunday's game.
What a rush: This is what the Ravens had envisioned from their pass rush: 12 quarterback hits and five sacks. Not surprisingly, Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil led the charge, combining for two sacks and six quarterback hits. Haloti Ngata (two quarterback hits) and Arthur Jones (one sack) also contributed, getting through up the middle. The Ravens' sacks were momentum-changers. Three of the sacks ended drives, and Jones' sack came immediately after running back Ray Rice fumbled. Baltimore's eight sacks this season are tied for fifth-most in the NFL.

Struggling going deep: Joe Flacco was 0-for-5 on passes thrown more than 20 yards downfield against the Browns and is 2-for-13 on such throws this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The strong-armed starting quarterback excelled in this area during last season's playoffs, completing 13-of-26 passes of such length with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. While Flacco hasn't been accurate on his deep throws this year, there are other reasons why he hasn't connected downfield more often. The Ravens haven't had one of their top deep threats, Jacoby Jones, who has been sidelined the past six quarters because of a knee injury. And, without an established No. 2 target, receiver Torrey Smith is drawing either the other team's top cornerback or double coverage.

Tight end problems: Through two games, the Ravens can't get the ball in the hands of their tight ends and can't keep it away from the other teams' tight ends. Denver's Julius Thomas and Cleveland's Jordan Cameron have combined for 10 catches for 256 yards and two touchdowns. Dating back to last season's AFC Championship Game, the Ravens have allowed a tight end to record at least 83 yards receiving in four straight games. There has been no such success for the Ravens this year. Against the Browns, Baltimore's tight ends totaled two catches for 26 yards. Ed Dickson dropped Flacco's first pass of the game and wasn't targeted again. It marked the fourth time in Dickson's past 16 games (including playoffs) that he was held without a catch.

Kicking surprise: No one expected Billy Cundiff to be the best kicker on the field Sunday. That's what happened when Ravens kicker Justin Tucker missed wide right on field goals from 50 and 44 yards. Tucker was the second-most accurate rookie kicker in NFL history last season, when he missed only three times on 33 kicks. "I'm not really worried," Tucker said after the game. "The fact of the matter is that I missed two, and I missed two in a row, and that’s uncharacteristic." Tucker had made 11 straight at M&T Bank Stadium before missing his two attempts Sunday.

Upon Further Review: Browns Week 2

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
12:30
PM ET
An examination of four hot issues from the Cleveland Browns' 14-6 loss at the Baltimore Ravens:

[+] EnlargeBrandon Weeden
Doug Kapustin/MCT via Getty ImagesBrandon Weeden struggled Sunday before leaving the game in the fourth quarter.
Another starting quarterback? Brandon Weeden left in the fourth quarter with an injured thumb on his throwing hand and didn't return. Wearing a brace on his hand, Weeden told reporters after the game he wasn't sure whether he could play Sunday at the Minnesota Vikings. If he can't, Jason Campbell would become the 19th starting quarterback for the Browns since they returned to the NFL in 1999. Here's the list of Browns quarterbacks who have made at least one start: Tim Couch, Ty Detmer, Doug Pederson, Spergon Wynn, Kelly Holcomb, Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Ken Dorsey, Bruce Gradkowski, Jake Delhomme, Colt McCoy, Seneca Wallace, Thad Lewis and Weeden.

Failing on third downs: The Browns' defense has improved in most areas except one -- getting offenses off the field. The Ravens converted 8 of 16 third downs on Sunday, including 7-of-11 (63 percent) in the second half. This is becoming a disturbing trend for Cleveland. For the season, the Browns have allowed teams to make first downs on half of their third-down chances. Cornerback Joe Haden gave up his share of completions to Torrey Smith on Sunday, but he's not the biggest problem. The Ravens picked on Chris Owens and Buster Skrine after halftime. Last season, the Browns ranked 16th in third-down defense.

No big plays: The Browns struck downfield with a 53-yard pass to tight end Jordan Cameron on their first offensive play. They didn't complete one past 22 yards on their final 32 passes. This was against a Ravens secondary that gave up nine passes of 23 yards or longer in the season opener. It was a tough day overall for Weeden, whose 26.7 Total QBR gave him his 10th QBR below 30.0 since the start of last season, the most in the league. His QBR of 20.3 this season is third worst in the NFL.

Running in circles: The big storyline last week was getting running back Trent Richardson more involved in the offense. Now, the focus has to be on making him more efficient. The Browns gave the ball to Richardson 18 times, five more than last week, but the results were the same. He averaged 3.2 yards per carry and didn't break a run longer than 9 yards against the Ravens. For the season, Richardson ranks 22nd in the NFL in rushing. Among the top 25 rushers, his 3.4 yards per carry is tied for fourth worst.

Upon Further Review: Titans Week 2

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
12:06
PM ET
An examination of four hot issues from the Tennessee Titans' 30-24 loss to the Houston Texans:

Receiver development: As David Climer of The Tennessean pointed out in the press box Sunday night, there is a stark difference between what the Texans can get out of first-round receivers and what the Titans can.

[+] EnlargeDeAndre Hopkins
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsSunday's game showed that the Titans aren't quite at Houston's level yet.
Sure, Andre Johnson may qualify as an all-time great when he’s done. But DeAndre Hopkins was a monster in just his second game and won it for Houston. The Titans said in their view it was Justin Hunter, the wideout they traded up to draft in the second round, who was the best receiver in the draft, not Hopkins.

But Hunter sat out Week 1 and wasn’t on the field much in Week 2, while Hopkins caught 13 passes for 117 yards and the winning TD. Receivers the Titans have drafted in the first round -- not as high as Johnson was drafted, but higher than Hopkins was -- didn’t do a ton. Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright combined for 11 catches for 82 yards and a score, with a long of just 14 yards. Wright is good. Right now is there a team that wouldn’t take Hopkins if given a choice?

And how come the Titans never get immediate impact from a new receiver?

Finisher mentality: The Texans have won the division twice in a row. While they’d like to finish a game like Sunday’s sooner rather than waiting for a late comeback to tie it and for overtime to win it, they have a finisher’s mentality because they’ve been there and done that when it comes to taking control.

The Titans are looking to create that. Sunday sure looked like they’ve closed the gap on the Texans. Jumping to a place where you make the big plays -- not the team you are chasing -- can be quite difficult.

And it hasn’t happened yet. The rematch is the regular-season finale, Dec. 29 in Nashville.

Penalties: Coach Mike Munchak talks a lot about discipline, but his Titans didn’t display a great deal of it with nine penalties for 70 yards.

Britt and Chris Johnson have to know they can’t join Wright’s touchdown dance celebration without getting flagged. What’s worse: If they didn’t know it was a penalty, or if they know it’s a penalty and can’t restrain themselves from doing it anyway?

I’ve re-watched Rob Turner’s peel back block on J.J. Watt and I understand the Texans’ outrage. Turner tried to apologize, but when the reigning defensive player of the year feels like his legs and his season are being put recklessly at risk, that’s not good. Turner can throw a block there without going low.

Watt 1, Warmack 0: It’s unlikely that a highly drafted rookie guard in just his second game is going to fare especially well against the reigning defensive player of the year.

Chance Warmack was victimized by Watt on two first-half sacks and got a lot of help as the Titans fared better against the defensive lineman as the game went on.

Warmack is probably going to be a very good player. At this stage of his development he’s not a guy who can handle Watt -- which is hardly an embarrassment considering few veterans can, either.

Upon Further Review: Raiders Week 2

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
12:00
PM ET
An examination of four hot issues from the Oakland Raiders19-9 victory Sunday over Jacksonville:

[+] EnlargeTyvon Branch
AP Photo/Ben MargotRaiders coach Dennis Allen called safety Tyvon Branch's ankle injury "significant."
A quick start: True, the Raiders were set up with the good fortune of fantastic field position to start the game after Phillip Adams returned a punt 30 yards to the Jacksonville 38-yard line. But Oakland’s offense did what it was supposed to do –- cash in. Going 38 yards in five plays, taking 2 minutes, 45 seconds off the clock, the Raiders scored a touchdown –- Marcel Reece ran it in from 11 yards out -– on their first offensive series for the first time since the final game of the 2011 season, or, to put it another way, for the first time with Dennis Allen as coach and Reggie McKenzie as general manager. Early scoring sets the tone, of course, but it's especially true for a rebuilding team.

Branch’s ankle: Allen called strong safety Tyvon Branch’s ankle injury “significant,” and the last time he referred to an injury as such, the Raiders lost offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom for the year with a foot issue. This is not to suggest Branch is done, but if he is out for a significant amount of time, it’s a blow for a retooled defense that has nine new starters. Brandian Ross and Usama Young performed admirably in Branch’s absence, but with all due respect to Charles Woodson, the younger and faster Branch is the one who makes the secondary go. If Branch is out, does Woodson move to strong safety with Young starting at free?

Pryor’s arm: There’s no question that Terrelle Pryor’s passing is the part of his game that needs the most polishing. But Sunday he turned into a game manager, so to speak. Sure, he completed just 15 of 24 passes for a relatively meager 126 yards while taking three sacks. But Pryor did not throw an interception a week after being picked off twice in the red zone. “There weren’t a lot of opportunities for throwing the ball today,” Pryor said. “We were running the ball well so, as a quarterback, I didn’t have a lot of opportunities. But at the end of the day, we got a win.”

Of "explosive" plays II: And now for our weekly tracking of “explosive” plays, defined by Allen as a play that gains at least 16 yards through the air or 12 yards on the ground. The Raiders had eight such plays against the Jaguars (six runs and two passes) while Jacksonville had seven (all passes). In two games, the Raiders have 17 explosive plays (nine runs, eight passes), though none have ended in a touchdown. Oakland’s opponents, meanwhile, have 15 explosive plays (three runs and 12 passes), with a touchdown each way.

Upon Further Review: Chargers Week 2

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
12:00
PM ET
An examination of four hot issues from the Chargers' 33-30 win at the Philadelphia Eagles:

[+] EnlargePhilip Rivers
Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportsSan Diego's Philip Rivers has been among the NFL's elite quarterbacks this season.
Beating the odds: This was an impressive win for the Chargers. Many things were stacked against them heading into this game. They traveled across the country on a short week to start a game at 10 a.m. PT. Their 31-28 season-opening loss to Houston (the Texans scored the game’s final 24 points) ended at about 10:30 p.m. PT Monday night. And, it was a short turnaround to deal with Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense. But the Chargers came out energized and were the better team. This was a well-deserved win for San Diego.

The quarterback: For the second straight week, San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers looked good under new coach Mike McCoy. Rivers completed 36 of 47 passes for 419 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He now has seven touchdown passes and one interception in two games. He looks refreshed and confident. It is also getting good protection. Kudos to a maligned offensive line. It has played well in the first two games.

Overcoming mistakes: The Chargers finally sealed the win over the Eagles with a field goal in the final seconds. It could have been much easier. Tight end Antonio Gates lost a fumble at the goal line, and running back Ryan Mathews also lost a fumble in the red zone. The Chargers have been their own worst enemy for a few seasons. McCoy is trying to change the culture, but this game shows the remnants are still there. But it's impressive the Chargers found a way to win despite their self-destructive ways.

The receivers: Eddie Royal came up big for the Chargers. He had three touchdown catches and has five in two games. He was expected to be a back-of-the-rotation receiver, but injuries have given him an opportunity. He played under McCoy in Denver, and McCoy clearly has confidence in him. He made a lot of big plays Sunday. The Chargers needed him after No. 1 receiver Malcom Floyd left the game with a neck injury that required a hospital visit. Royal is clearly a spark plug in McCoy’s offense, and Rivers trusts him.

Upon Further Review: Dolphins Week 2

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
12:00
PM ET
An examination of four hot issues from the Miami Dolphins' 24-20 win over the Indianapolis Colts:

Dolphins in the spotlight: The Dolphins are one of just eight undefeated NFL teams after two weeks. The Dolphins entered the season under the radar, but a 2-0 start should put them more in the spotlight. Miami is playing well on both sides of the ball the past two weeks in wins over the Cleveland Browns and Colts. It’s challenging to win back-to-back games in the NFL, but it’s even harder to win two straight on the road. The games get even tougher for Miami. The Dolphins will host the Atlanta Falcons (1-1) in their home opener at Sun Life Stadium. Atlanta is considered by many to be a Super Bowl contender.

[+] EnlargeMiami's Mike Wallace
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsMike Wallace caught nine passes for 115 yards and a touchdown against the Colts.
Mike Wallace factor: After Wallace got just five targets and one catch in Week 1, the Dolphins coaching staff made it a point to get Wallace the football in Indianapolis. Wallace caught nine passes for 115 yards and a touchdown. He was targeted 11 times. Miami found better ways to get Wallace the football with short and intermediate passes. It will be up to the Dolphins to do that more consistently. The Dolphins offense is at its most explosive when Wallace has it going. He opens things up for other players such as Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson and tight end Charles Clay.

Running game improves: Miami’s running game didn’t explode, but there was enough progress to build on after the Dolphins rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. Miami starting tailback Lamar Miller had a solid day with 69 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Most importantly, Miller averaged 4.9 yards per rush to keep Indianapolis’ defense honest. The Dolphins made a nice adjustment to use their physicality and plow straight ahead against Indianapolis. That played more to the strengths of Miami’s offensive line. The Dolphins rushed for an abysmal 20 yards on 23 carries in Week 1 against Cleveland.

Thursday boost: Is it a myth or reality? After winning two games in a row on the road, the Dolphins will stick to their schedule of taking Thursday off this week. Miami’s players and coaches are crediting their new schedule as a reason the team is finishing strong in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins have been the fresher team late against both Cleveland and Indianapolis. Miami will most likely stay with this schedule as long as the team continues to win.

Upon Further Review: Broncos Week 2

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
12:00
PM ET
An examination of four hot issues from the Denver Broncos' 41-23 win over the New York Giants:

Bigger still better sometimes: It is certainly an odd quirk, and frankly not always logical at first blush, but a team built decidedly to be a three-wide affair on offense has now needed to go to two tight ends in each of its first two games to reset things when they have the ball. In the opener the Broncos waited 20 plays before they tried a two-tight end look, and on Sunday they didn’t do it until their first possession of the second half after they had run 40 snaps of three-wide in the first half. The result was slightly more pop in the run game and three consecutive touchdown drives to open the second half after they sprinkled it in. As quarterback Peyton Manning said, “It’s just one guy for another," but it keeps making a difference. And as Joel Dreessen gets closer to a return to the lineup after two offseason arthroscopic knee surgeries, it's something they will likely consider a little more from time to time, even as they quickly move back into a three-wide look when they feel they have a better flow.

[+] EnlargeMontee Ball
Elsa/Getty ImagesMontee Ball needs to protect the ball better if he hopes to get more touches.
Code yellow: Yes, referee Gene Steratore’s crew called a tight game in the secondary -- the Broncos had eight penalties called on defensive backs alone -- but Denver still has to be a more disciplined lot all around. A 132-yard penalty total is not always going to be camouflaged by an 18-point win. The taunting penalty on defensive tackle Terrance Knighton in the third quarter is part of a league push to dial down the post-play stuff. And like it or not -- and Broncos coach John Fox certainly made it clear during the game that he didn't agree with more than a few of the flags -- the Broncos have to adjust.

Confidence game: Running backs coach Eric Studesville will have some work to do with the Broncos' young backs to keep them engaged. Ronnie Hillman got just one carry against the Giants, likely a tough total to swallow for the guy who was the starter all through the offseason, and rookie Montee Ball is averaging just 2 yards a carry and lost a fumble against the Giants. The Broncos are going to need both of those players to produce when called upon, and they've had a bumpy ride in the early going.

Clady’s injury a question: A lot of what the Broncos want to do in the offensive front, especially in pass protection, is based on Ryan Clady being at left tackle. The Broncos have not shown the same pop on offense when he isn’t there. He suffered a left foot injury Sunday and was limping after the game. It will bear watching through the week, because the Broncos have a more difficult time opening up the formation when he's not in there.

Upon Further Review: Colts Week 2

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
11:50
AM ET
A review of five hot issues from the Indianapolis Colts' 24-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins:

Problems going deep for Luck: Colts quarterback Andrew Luck's best deep completion came when he connected with receiver T.Y. Hilton for a 47-yard gain along the right sideline in the second quarter. But that was about it for Luck when it came to throwing the ball 10 yards or more downfield. He was 7-of-20 on passes of at least 10 yards Sunday. He was only 1-of-4 for 18 yards when it came to attempting a pass to Reggie Wayne for more than 10 yards. One of those attempts was intercepted by Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes in the end zone in the fourth quarter. Wayne, who stuck up for his quarterback, said he needs to do a better job of being a defender in those situations.

[+] EnlargeLaRon Landry
AJ Mast/AP PhotoSafety LaRon Landry has shown brilliant flashes of speed in both of the Colts' games this season.
Bradshaw wasn’t bad: The stat sheet reads as though Colts running back Ahmad Bradshaw had an average game based off his total yards. He ran for 65 yards on 15 attempts. What you had to like about Bradshaw, though, is that he ran hard and with a purpose. He didn’t spend time dancing around trying to find holes; he was always looking to go forward. The loss of Vick Ballard will hurt the Colts this season (just recall Donald Brown’s attempt to “block” on fourth down Sunday), but Bradshaw is healthy and ready to handle the bulk of the carries in the backfield.

No power when the opportunity presented itself: Since the start of training camp, the Colts have been emphasizing the word “power” when talking about their running game. There was a perfect opportunity to put that on display on their opening drive Sunday. The Colts had a second-and-1 from Miami’s 34 when they used a shotgun formation and Luck tried to hit Darrius Heyward-Bey in the end zone. Luck had to avoid the rush and missed Heyward-Bey on another attempt on third down. The Colts could have redeemed themselves by giving the ball to Bradshaw on fourth down, but coach Chuck Pagano pulled the safe card out and had kicker Adam Vinatieri attempt a 52-yard field goal. The kick was no good, hitting off the left upright.

Landry has strength and speed: Colts safety LaRon Landry is 2-for-2 in catching a player from behind and saving a touchdown. He did it against Oakland when he caught tight end Jeron Mastrud on his 41-yard catch on the Raiders’ final drive of the game. Then Landry was at it again Sunday when he caught Charles Clay on a 67-yard catch from Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Landry was forced to chase Clay down from behind because Antoine Bethea gambled and went for the interception. Landry has led or tied the team in tackles in the first two games. He deserves credit for the tackles, but it’s not a good sign when your safety is leading the team in that category.

Why was Brown in the game? The most embarrassing play of the game was on the Colts’ final offensive snap when Brown tried to block the blitzing Philip Wheeler. Wheeler threw Brown to the side like a bag of potatoes and sacked Luck. Pagano was asked whether Ballard would have been in the game on that play if healthy. “He was our third-down back before he got injured,” the coach said. Pagano was asked a follow-up question about it. And again, he said, “he was our third-down back before he got injured.” It was like Pagano knew Brown shouldn’t have been in the game, but he didn’t want to throw the running back under the bus. It won’t be shocking news when Bradshaw is in the next time the Colts are put in that position. All Pagano and his staff have to do is look at the final offensive snap Sunday if they need a reminder.

Upon Further Review: Chiefs Week 2

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
11:45
AM ET
KANSAS CITY -- An examination of four hot issues from the Kansas City Chiefs' 17-16 win against the Dallas Cowboys:

[+] EnlargeAlex Smith
AP Photo/James D. SmithQuarterback Alex Smith's ability to escape the rush has paid dividends for the Chiefs.
A running quarterback: Alex Smith threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns, but his running ability was as much of a factor. Smith led the Chiefs with 57 rushing yards, 40 of them coming on the game-opening touchdown drive. Smith doesn’t just have the ability to escape trouble and run for yardage, though that’s no small part of his game. It’s also his ability to gain yardage on option plays. The Chiefs resorted to some option Sunday, in large part because the Cowboys were loading the line of scrimmage in wait for running back Jamaal Charles. With Charles ineffective for much of the game, Smith’s running ability allowed the Chiefs to gain some yardage on the ground and take some pressure off their passing game.

A punting weapon: The last six times the Cowboys took possession of the ball after a Chiefs punt, they started on their 5, 10, 10, 16, 20 and 4, respectively. That’s in large part because of the work of punter Dustin Colquitt, who -- after making his first Pro Bowl appearance last season after dropping 45 punts inside the 20 -- is off to another strong start. The Chiefs were able to keep the field tilted in their favor for much of Sunday’s game, a major factor in the outcome.

Not special in the kicking game: The Chiefs were spectacular on special teams in the preseason, but other than Colquitt they again had problems against the Cowboys. Ryan Succop had a field goal attempt blocked, making it two straight weeks an opponent has gotten a piece of a Chiefs kick. The return game was unable to provide much-needed favorable field position for an offense struggling to score points. The worst error came late in the game, when noted fumbler Knile Davis was sent out to handle a most important kickoff. Sure enough, Davis fumbled, though he was able to jump on the ball before any of the Cowboys could.

Re-establishing Arrowhead Stadium as home-field advantage: Once one of the most feared road venues in the league, Arrowhead hasn’t been a difficult place for visitors to play the past couple of seasons. The Chiefs were 4-12 at home since the start of the 2011 season. But the place was as loud against Dallas as it’s been in some time, and the crowd was no small factor as the Chiefs were able to hold off the Cowboys in the fourth quarter. Perhaps that’s the first step toward restoring Arrowhead as one of the NFL’s premier stadiums for home-field advantage.

Upon Further Review: Jaguars Week 2

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
11:00
AM ET
An examination of four hot issues from the Jacksonville Jaguars' 19-9 loss to the Oakland Raiders:

Defensive pressure: This isn’t about the team’s pass rush. It’s about the pressure the defense is under to keep the team in games. Until the offense gets healthy and receiver Justin Blackmon returns, the Jaguars are going to struggle to move the ball with any consistency. That means the defense has no margin for error. The unit can’t commit penalties that result in first downs. It can’t blow a coverage and give up a big play down the field. It has to play nearly flawless football, which is tough for even elite defenses. The Jaguars were unable to do that against the Raiders, mainly in the running game. Darren McFadden rushed for 129 yards, and three players had runs of at least 27 yards. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor was able to get loose a few times, and his biggest gain of 27 yards came when defensive end Jason Babin got caught inside. This is an unfair burden for the defense to carry every week, and there’s no guarantee it won’t have to do it even when the offense is at full strength.

[+] EnlargeMaurice Jones-Drew
AP Photo/Ben MargotRunning back Maurice Jones-Drew is off to a slow start for the Jaguars this season.
Concern about MJD: Maurice Jones-Drew suffered a left ankle sprain in the second quarter and did not return to the game. But he didn’t look great before his injury. Some of it was due to the Raiders keying on stopping the run, but Jones-Drew doesn’t look like the same player who led the league in rushing in 2011. He is coming off a foot injury that cost him the final 10 games of the 2012 season, but he has said he’s completely healthy. He just doesn’t seem to have the same burst. Jones-Drew has rushed for only 72 yards on 25 carries, and his 2.9 yards per carry is well below his career average of 4.6. The offensive line hasn’t played great, especially up the middle, so that’s a factor as well.

No Ace in the hole: The Jaguars drafted Ace Sanders to be the team’s punt returner, but he hasn’t fielded one in the first two regular-season games. Instead, it has been cornerback Will Blackmon. The reasoning for the first week was that Sanders was playing so much on offense that they didn’t want to burden him with return duties. But Blackmon started against the Raiders in place of Dwayne Gratz (high ankle sprain) and still went back to return all four of the Raiders’ punts. Sanders finally made an impact on offense (five catches for 64 yards, including a 30-yard reception) but the team obviously feels better with the experienced Blackmon as the returner.

Uneasy Joeckel: No. 2 overall draft pick Luke Joeckel had trouble for the second consecutive week. He committed two false-start penalties on the Jaguars’ lone touchdown drive in the fourth, and just doesn’t look comfortable. Twice he appeared to miss assignments on blitzes. It’s not easy playing tackle in the NFL, but the expectations are high for the player many thought would be the No. 1 overall pick.

Upon Further Review: Patriots Week 2

September, 13, 2013
9/13/13
2:45
PM ET
A review of four hot issues from the New England Patriots' 13-10 win over the New York Jets:

Struggles in the passing game: Growing pains were expected with so many new faces, but perhaps not to this level. Quarterback Tom Brady's frustration boiled over at times on the sideline Thursday, but after reviewing the game, my take probably doesn't align with public perception. While it was ugly, there were some positives from the young receivers, and my feeling is that the miscues are mostly correctable. The young receivers are learning on the job, and the curve is steep. Fortunately for the Patriots, they've opened the season against two weaker opponents in the Bills and Jets.

[+] EnlargeTom Brady
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesTom Brady's frustration with his receivers was evident on several occasions Thursday night against the Jets.
Brady's patience: Leading into the season opener against the Bills, Brady talked about how this was a year in which more patience was required from him. But he lost it Thursday night, and it happened early, before things really started unraveling for the offense. He was tough on his young receivers and also had to be frustrated with himself at times because he missed some throws that he usually makes, such as the Julian Edelman overthrow on the opening drive. Brady acknowledged after the game that he can do a better job with his body language.

Defense rising to the challenge: Since the Patriots' record-setting 2007 season, some have asked the question, "Could the defense carry the team if the offense has an off day?" Through two games this year, the answer has been a decisive yes. The unit created four turnovers -- three in the fourth quarter -- and bailed out the struggling offense. The secondary is playing better than we've seen in recent years, although one question that lingers is how much that is a result of playing weaker opponents.

Injuries to key players: Receiver Danny Amendola (groin) didn't play, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he's out Sept. 22 against the Buccaneers. Meanwhile, tight end Rob Gronkowski is making progress in his recovery, and we've now hit the sweet spot of when he was projected to make his return. The return of Gronkowski to game action is now on the radar over the next week or so.

Upon Further Review: Jets Week 2

September, 13, 2013
9/13/13
12:58
PM ET
An examination of five hot issues from the New York Jets' 13-10 loss to the New England Patriots:

1. Geno, meet adversity: Bill Parcells used to say the true test of a quarterback’s mettle comes after he has a bad game, when he steps into the huddle in practice and has to look his teammates in the eyes. Do they see confidence, or do they sense self-doubt? That will be Geno Smith’s world next week. He said all the right things after his three-interception performance, but now he has to move past it and re-establish himself as the leader of the offense. This was a tough one for the rookie. The game was there for the taking, but he made a bad decision and two bad throws in the fourth quarter. The most troubling part? He struggled against a four-man rush, completing only 9 of 24 passes with three interceptions. The Patriots showed you can rattle an inexperienced quarterback without having to blitz him.

[+] EnlargeStephen Hill and the Jets receivers had a tough time hanging on to the ball Thursday night.
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger via USA TODAY SportsStephen Hill and the Jets receivers had a tough time holding on to the ball Thursday night.
2. Catch the damn ball: This has been an issue since June minicamp, when the wide receivers left more droppings on the field than a family of geese. There were six dropped passes Thursday night, including three by Clyde Gates, who failed to bring in a low but catchable ball in the end zone. Clearly, coach Rex Ryan was exasperated. Gates was thrust into a bigger role because of the injury to Jeremy Kerley, and he responded with only two catches on eight targets. The bigger concern is Stephen Hill, who had a fumble and a drop. When they weren’t dropping balls, the receivers struggled to get open against the Patriots’ press coverage. The lack of a big-time threat on the outside has a trickle-down effect on the entire offense.

3. Overly aggressive play calling: Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg showed a lot of confidence in Smith, maybe too much confidence, especially in the fourth quarter. Not only did he call 10 pass plays, giving an effective Chris Ivory only one rushing attempt, but Mornhinweg raised questions with the type of throws he called. Smith attempted six passes of at least 10 yards, completing only one, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They might have been better served with safer passes, maybe a slip screen or two, instead of downfield shots.

4. Dee for disaster: Other than quarterback, the toughest position for a rookie is cornerback. You’re bound to experience growing pains against the NFL’s big-time receivers. But here’s the deal with Dee Milliner: Calvin Johnson wasn’t on the field. Neither was Larry Fitzgerald. Milliner struggled to cover Kenbrell Thompkins and a cast of no-name receivers, and that’s alarming. It didn’t take long for Ryan to say, “Enough is enough,” benching Milliner at halftime. Milliner wasn’t a third-round pick; he was the No. 9 overall pick in the draft. No one expects him to be Darrelle Revis, the man he’s trying to replace, but he should be better than this. What irked Ryan was that Milliner made mental errors -- or as Milliner called them, “simple mistakes.”

5. Mo bad news: Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle) didn’t appear to be seriously hurt, but it would be a blow to the defense if he misses even one game. He’s the Jets' best defensive player, and they’re thin on the defensive line. They would be in trouble against the Buffalo Bills next week, especially if Quinton Coples (ankle) misses another game.

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