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NFL Quick-Hits: 10 Observations from Week 2

Image source: Indianapolis Colts Facebook page

1. Schiano’s tactics weren’t dirty – just unnecessary.
When Eli Manning and the Giants got into the “Victory” formation following their thrilling come-from-behind victory against the Bucs on Sunday, Tampa Bay’s defenders fired off the ball and sent Manning backwards to the ground. The “Victory” formation is usually a causal affair. Players get down into their stances but only because it’s a formality. After the quarterback drops to a knee, players will pat each other on the helmet or shake hands because the game is over at that point. So it was rather lame for Greg Schiano to say following the game, “we fight until they tell us the game is over,” because the game is metaphorically over at that point. The play wasn’t dirty but it was highly unnecessary. The odds of a player getting hurt in that situation are much higher than a quarterback fumbling the ball, your team recovering, and marching into scoring position so you can either tie or win the game. So is there a lot to be gained by doing it? Schiano is trying to clean up the mess that Raheem Morris left for him in Tampa, which includes making his players tougher. But this isn’t the way to do it and it wasn’t very smart to tick off a head coach that has as much stature as Tom Coughlin. If he and the Bucs were pissed about the loss, then they shouldn’t have squandered a game that was well in hand until the fourth quarter. (Furthermore, what’s most disappointing about the situation is that everyone is now talking about that play as opposed to yet another incredible fourth quarter comeback engineered by Manning.)

2. Make no mistake, the Patriots’ loss was stunning.
Let’s really put the Patriots’ 20-18 loss into perspective. They were a 13.5-point home favorite against a team with the worst offensive line in football and arguably the worst quarterback situation as well. The Cardinals won despite gaining only 16 first downs, running just 61 plays and throwing for only 140 yards. Kevin Kolb’s average yard per pass went just 5.2 yards and Beanie Wells rushed for just 3.1 yards per carry. Arizona also lost the turnover and time of possession battles, so talk about one of the weirdest games in the past 10 years – this was it. That said, let’s give credit were credit is due. I wrote several times this offseason about how Arizona’s defense was likely to come together this year under Ray Horton. The Cardinal defenders were often confused and out of place last season, but the players are more confident in Horton’s second year. It’s the same system that the Steelers run in Pittsburgh so it’s predicated on every player understanding their role, executing their job, and trusting that the man next to them will do the same. The players have bought into the approach and we seen the results thus far. (Through two games the Cardinals have held opponents to 17.0 points per game, which ranks fifth in the league.) I don’t expect the Cardinals to keep winning, especially the way they did Sunday in Foxboro. But I do expect the defense to continue to play well under Horton, who will be a head coaching candidate again next offseason.

3. Frustrations are already boiling over in Tennessee.
Following the Titans’ ugly 38-10 loss to the Chargers in which Tennessee rushed for just 38 yards as a team, Chris Johnson sounded off about his teammates. Said Johnson, “People need to step up and do their job. They don’t need to let people beat them. It don’t matter who the opposing defense is, you can’t let your buy beat you.” Johnson’s right: The Titans offensive line has been brutal. It was brutal last year from a run blocking standpoint and it’s been brutal through the first two weeks of the season this year. But I can count on one finger how many times Johnson has hit the whole hard this year. He’s making too many cutbacks trying to hit a home run on every play instead of trusting his instincts and using his vision to find creases in the defense. Does his offensive line need to perform better? Certainly. But right now Johnson is as much of the problem as he is the solution so instead of calling his teammates out publicly, he needs to figure out what can be done internally to better the situation because we’re only two games into a very long season.

4. Alex Smith finally looks comfortable.
For the first time in his career Alex Smith is running the same offense with the same playbook with the same offensive coordinator as he did the year prior. And what do you know? He’s been successful. It’s too early to make bold statements about the positioning of any team, but the 49ers might just be the best squad in football. They beat the Packers in Lambeau, then returned home on Sunday night and suffocated the Lions for four quarters. Detroit had to scratch, claw, and fight for every single yard that they earned, which is the way San Francisco’s defense wants it. On the other side of the ball, Smith once again took what the defense gave him, didn’t turn the ball over and threw two more touchdown passes to give him a total of four on the season. It’s hard to make statements in only two weeks but the Niners have sent a message that last year wasn’t a fluke. If Smith is their weak link, they’re in good shape so far.

5. Maybe it was just rust for Vick.
One week after playing like a rookie in Cleveland, Michael Vick completed 23-of-32 passes for 371 yards with one touchdown and added 10 carries for 34 yards and another score the Eagles’ 24-23 come-from-behind win against the Ravens on Sunday. It was vintage Vick, as he threw two costly interceptions and fumbled on an exchange with LeSean McCoy, but he also elevated his team to victory. That’s two last-second touchdown drives that Vick has engineered in as many weeks and while he deserves criticism for the turnovers, he deserves praise for pulling victory out of the jaws of defeat in back-to-back weeks. Still, questions remain about his health. He took two big shots by Baltimore defenders early in the game and he stayed down on his knee for a couple of moments after taking the first hit. How long before we see Nick Foles have to enter a game that Vick leaves due to an injury?

6. The rookie quarterbacks were much improved.
Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson picked up their first NFL wins, RGIII once again dazzled despite losing in St. Louis, and Brandon Weeden actually resembled a professional quarterback in a road loss to Cincinnati. All in all, it was a great day for rookie quarterbacks around the league. What Luck did in Indianapolis was particiluarly noteworthy. With the Colts and Vikings tied 20-20 with just 31 seconds remaining in the game, Luck took Indy 44 yards in four plays, setting Adam Vinatieri up for a game-winning 53-yard field goal. He certainly wasn’t perfect on the day, missing open receivers and taking a huge 22-yard sack on a crucial fourth down in the fourth quarter, but he remains well ahead of where he should be for a rookie signal caller. Wilson got a lot of help from his defense and special teams but both his and Tannehill’s athleticism were on display yesterday. Weeden also deserves praise for taking better care of the ball this week than in the Browns’ opening-season loss to the Eagles and credit him for taking what Cincinnati’s defense gave him. (The middle of the field was wide open throughout the day and Weeden just kept firing balls in between the linebackers and safeties.)

7. Morgan is fortunate to still be on Shanahan’s roster.
The Redskins were an enormous gift by Rams’ rookie Daryl Richardson, who fumbled with just under three minutes remaining in the game. Washington took over at its own 37-yard-line needing at least a field goal to tie the game and send it to overtime. But on a third-and-eight play in St. Louis territory, Redskins’ wideout Josh Morgan caught a pass from Robert Griffin III and after being shoved by Cortland Finnegan, Morgan chucked the ball at the Rams’ corner and was flagged for a 15-yard personal foul. So instead of being well within Billy Cundiff’s range to tie the game, the play moved the Redskins out of field goal range and they eventually lost the game, 31-28. Part of you feels for Morgan because Finnegan started the fire by shoving the Washington receiver. But Morgan simply has to be better than that. With the game on the line, he has to keep his cool. A team never wins or losses on just one play but in a situation like that, it’s hard not to forget everything else that happened prior to that situation. That’s a play that Morgan and the Redskins may not forget the rest of the year.

8. Bush reminds us of how exciting a player he is.
The Saints did what they had to do two years ago when they traded Reggie Bush to Miami. They knew they were overpaying him and they found his replacement in Darren Sproles very easily on the open market. But while he became a forgot man in NFL circles, Bush has quietly turned into a reliable playmaker for the Dolphins. He totaled 109 yards in Week 1 against one of the best defenses in the league (Houston), and then for an encore performance he rushed 26 times for 172 yards and two touchdowns in Miami’s 35-13 win over the Raiders on Sunday. The 23-yard touchdown run that he had in which he broke several tackles and refused to go down was reminiscent of his days at USC. He’s an exciting player again and doesn’t get enough credit for playing with raw emotion and passion. He continues to be the featured player in Mike Sherman’s West Coast offense and it’s a role that certainly suits him.

9. Bad day for injuries around the league.
The Giants’ offensive line isn’t very good and the depth behind the starters is thin. Thus, losing left tackle David Diehl (knee) for any amount of time is troublesome. Even worse, running back Ahmad Bradshaw underwent an X-ray for a neck injury and at this point, his status remains unclear…The Eagles lost center Jason Kelce, left tackle King Dunlap and receiver Jeremy Maclin in their win over the Ravens. Kelce is done for the season and keep in mind this is a team that already lost Jason Peters to a season-ending injury before the season even started…Adding insult to injury, the Patriots could be without tight end Aaron Hernandez for awhile after he suffered a high ankle sprain in the team’s embarrassing 20-18 loss to the Cardinals…People in St. Louis thought running back Steven Jackson was benched right before halftime for spiking the ball following what he believed to be a touchdown, and then cost the Rams an opportunity for a touchdown as they were pushed back 15 yards. But it was worse – Jackson suffered a groin injury on the play and never returned. The Rams also lost Rodger Saffold again, this time to a knee injury…Blaine Gabbert had to be replaced by Chad Henne after he injured his toe and hamstring…Despite not being listed on the Seahawks’ postgame injury report, receiver Sidney Rice, who hasn’t looked right all season, left the game early for an unknown reason…Just a bad day for injuries in the NFL.

10. It’s going to be a great one in Atlanta.
The NFL couldn’t have asked for a better Monday night matchup than the one it’ll get tonight when the Falcons host the Broncos. Peyton Manning was sharp in Denver’s win last Sunday night against the Steelers and it’ll be interesting to see how he attacks an Atlanta secondary that lost its top corner in Brent Grimes (Achilles) for the season. On the other side, Matt Ryan is now at the helm of an offense that can actually outscore opponents through the air instead of trying to grind out wins on the ground. As Michael Turner’s play continues to decline, Julio Jones’ career is just taking off. The Broncos love to get after the passer so Ryan will need to continue to get the ball out of his hands quickly as he did in Week 1 and throughout the preseason. There’s also added incentive for both teams after what happened on Sunday. The Chargers are 2-0 after beating the Titans so if the Broncos don’t want to lose any ground in the AFC West, they need a victory tonight. And with the Saints sitting at 0-2 two weeks in, the Falcons could take sole possession of the NFC South, which is huge considering how good that division is top to bottom. It’s going to be fun tonight.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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What a difference a week makes for Colts, who crush sloppy Giants

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (18) greets his brother, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning after their NFL football game in Indianapolis September 19, 2010.  REUTERS/Brent Smith (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

One of the most maddening aspects of the NFL is how teams can play like pure, unfiltered garbage one week and the next resemble a completely different unit.

We knew the Colts weren’t going to play as poorly as they did last Sunday all season. But this was a team that gave up 257 rushing yards a week ago in a lopsided 34-24 loss to Houston and also looked out of sync offensively. And with the Giants coming to town on Sunday night, Indy had cause for concern that its weaknesses would once again be exposed.

But in their 38-14 thrashing of the Giants in Week 2, the Colts resembled the team that played in the Super Bowl seven months ago. They were balanced offensively, they forced three turnovers and they ran the ball with conviction. Their run defense was still a bit of an issue (New York gained 120 yards on the ground), but Indy built such a big lead that the Giants had to scrap the run by halftime.

Speaking of the Giants, Tom Coughlin has to be concerned that his team has now turned the ball over seven times in two games. David Diehl and Kareem McKenzie didn’t do Eli Manning (13-of-24, 161 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) any favors, as they allowed Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney VIP access into New York’s pocket on damn near every play. Eli also lost a fumble right before halftime that led to a Colts’ touchdown and while he did throw for two scores, he spent most of the night looking completely befuddled on the sidelines.

Of course, he still had a better evening than Brandon Jacobs, who continues to watch his role in the Giants’ offense diminish and who somehow threw his helmet into the stands at one point during the game. According to ESPN sideline report Andrea Kramer, Jacobs was trying to throw his helmet either on the ground or into the Giants’ bench, yet somehow it wound up landing five rows into the stands. So either Jacobs intended to throw it that far or his helmet was made at NASA and can literally fly on its own.

The G-Men might be 1-1 on the new year, but it’s already time for Coughlin to tighten the reins. Dumb mistakes are killing this team and with the Cowboys off to a brutal start, they can’t be shooting themselves in the foot right now. Losing to the Colts is nothing to be ashamed of, but the Giants were never in it from the start. With a pissed off Titans team coming to town next week, New York better get their affairs in order quickly.

This is why people are high on the Jets

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) celebrates with Jets' Jerricho Cotchery (89) after they connected on a touchdown pass against the New England Patriots during the third quarter of their NFL football game in East Rutherford, New Jersey, September 19, 2010.   REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Outside of maybe the Cowboys, there wasn’t a potential 2010 playoff contender that looked worse than the Jets in Week 1.

They couldn’t run the ball, they couldn’t capitalize on turnovers, Mark Sanchez thought the checkdown was an actual play in the Jets’ offensive playbook…

The Jets were bad. And when an over-hyped team plays bad, they’re going to hear about how overrated they are for the rest of the week, which the J-E-T-S certainly did.

But in typical Rex Ryan fashion, the Jets just gave everyone the middle finger after taking it to the Patriots 28-14 on Sunday. Only in today’s NFL can a player like Sanchez look so hopeless one night and then six days later outplay a three-time Super Bowl winner. After looking pitiful on Monday night, Sanchez finished 21-of-30 for 220 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions today, while Tom Brady threw for 248 yards on 20-of-36 passing with two touchdowns but two picks.

Sanchez’s QB Rating after the game was 124.3.

Brady’s? Seventy-two point five.

Yeah, that’s about right.

Sanchez was helped by the fact that the Jets rushed for 136 yards and the defense forced three turnovers. Brady and the Pats were just 1-for-3 inside the red-zone and held the ball for roughly five minutes less than the Jets.

If there was ever a statement game early in the season, this was it for the Jets. They’re still 1-1 and they still have a long way to go before they can even think about reaching the lofty expectations that Ryan set for them, but this was a huge win today. No doubt about it.

Hey look – a playmaking wideout in Denver who has never been arrested

Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (L) celebrates scoring a touchdown over the Seattle Seahawks with teammate Jabar Gaffney in their NFL football game in Denver September 19, 2010. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

When the Broncos finally gave up on troubled star Brandon Marshall and traded him to the Dolphins in the offseason, they deemed first round pick Demaryius Thomas the answer to their massive need for an offensive playmaker.

When Thomas struggled with a foot injury for much of the preseason and missed Denver’s loss last week in Jacksonville, it was easy to question whether or not he would make an impact his rookie year.

But apparently he will.

The former Georgia Tech product caught eight passes for 97 yards and a touchdown in the Broncos’ 31-14 rout of the Seahawks on Sunday. He was targeted nine times, so the fact that he caught eight of the passes thrown his way shows that the rookie can make plays in Josh McDaniels’ offense.

Of course, you can’t talk about a rookie that hauled in eight passes for 97 yards without talking about the man who was pitching him the rock. Kyle Orton finished 25-of-35 for 307 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions, proving once again that he’s more comfortable in his second year under McDaniels. Denver’s running game once again couldn’t get going, but with the way Orton threw the ball Knowshon Moreno and company weren’t needed.

As for the Seahawks, their 31-6 victory over the 49ers smells flukish in light of how they played today. Not that winning at home and losing on the road is anything new for Seattle.

Ochocinco does Lambeau leap as Bengals upset Packers

The Bengals’ 31-24 win over the Packers on Sunday is proof that nobody knows what the hell is going on in the NFL. You may have called this upset, but I guarantee you that there was a game on the schedule this week that made you scratch your head.

Cincinnati scored seven points last week. Green Bay’s defense harassed Jay Cutler for four quarters last Sunday night and made him look like a rookie. So it makes sense that this week that the Bengals would roll into Lambeau Field and put 31 points up on the scoreboard.


Where to begin? Let’s start with the disastrous play of Green Bay’s offensive line. Left tackle Chad Clifton was carted off the field in the first half and the Packers had to bring center Scott Wells into the game. They also slid Jason Spitz to left guard and Daryn Colledge to left tackle, and the changes resulted in Cincinnati racking up six sacks, including five by defensive end Anthony Odom.

Aaron Rodgers did a good job of adjusting to the pressure and scrambling out of the pocket. But he was always on the run, could never set his feet and his receivers didn’t help him by dropping multiple passes throughout the game. (How does Greg Jennings go an entire game without a catch?) If this team doesn’t get their issues resolved on the offensive line, Rodgers doesn’t stand a chance.

Of course, Green Bay’s defense doesn’t get off the hook here. Cedric Benson racked up 141 yards on 29 carries, which set up Carson Palmer and the passing game to make some plays. Outside of a Charles Woodson 37-yard interception return for a touchdown, there’s not much good that came out of this game for Dom Capers’ defense, which had played so well against Chicago the week before.

Somehow, the Packers still had a chance to tie the game with seconds remaining, but a false start penalty (which resulted in a 10-second run off) ended Green Bay’s comeback bid.

As for the Bengals, if they can generate that kind of pressure every week, they’d be in good shape. But I don’t think Odom is going to rack up five sacks every game, so keeping the expectations low for this team would be wise. Still, this was an impressive upset for a team that was devastated at home last week on Brandon Stokley’s fluke last-second touchdown.

The quality isn’t great, but here’s video of Chad Ochocinco doing the “Lambeau Leap” after scoring a touchdown late in the third quarter:

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