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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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2010 Big 12 College Football Preview: Oklahoma reclaims top spot

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 3:   Quarterback Landry Jones #12 of the Oklahoma Sooners hands the ball off to teammate runningback DeMarco Murray #7 in the first quarter against the Miami Hurricanes on October 3, 2009 at Landshark Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Here’s a quick and dirty look at how I see things playing out in the Big 12 this season:

#1 Oklahoma
In Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy, Trent Williams, Jermaine Gresham, Keenan Clayton, Brody Eldridge and Dominique Franks, there’s no doubt that the Sooners lost a ton of talent from last year. However, this season is all about two names: Landry Jones and DeMarco Murray. Jones filled in admirably when Bradford went down last season, throwing 26 touchdown passes and gaining valuable experience throughout the year. Murray’s health history is a major concern, but if he can stay upright he’s scary good. He’s more versatile than Adrian Peterson was in that he can catch the ball out of the backfield or beat teams as a rusher. He’s big, he’s fast and he can get north and south in a hurry. He’s also going to get a ton of opportunities to shine this year as both a runner and a pass-catcher and again, if he can stay healthy he has the ability to be one of the best backs in college football. Defensively, Bob Stoops’ team has good depth and while the loss of McCoy hurts, don’t forget that Jeremy Beal was fifth on the team in tackles last season and first in sacks with 11. The linebacker corps has a chance to be special thanks to redshirt freshman Tom Wort and sophomore Ronnell Lewis. I know many pundits still like Texas in the South, but with Landry, Murray and nine starters returning on offense, I think Oklahoma reclaims the conference this season.

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2008 Year-End Sports Review: What We Learned

At the end of the year, it’s always interesting to look back at all that has happened in the world of sports over the last 12 months. 2008 brought us a host of compelling sports stories, including the culmination of the Patriots’ (unsuccessful) quest for perfection, a Bejing Olympics that featured incredible accomplishments by the likes of Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and the Redeem Team, and, of course, Brett Favre’s unretirement, which managed to hold the sports news cycle hostage for a solid month or more.

As is our tradition, we’ve once again broken our Year End Sports Review into three sections. The first is “What We Learned,” a list that’s packed with a number of impressive feats. And when there are feats, inevitably there are also failures.

Don’t miss the other two parts: “What We Already Knew” and “What We Think Might Happen.”

The New England Patriots weren’t so perfect after all.

After rolling through the 2007 regular season unscathed, the Patriots entered the 2008 Super Bowl as overwhelming favorites to roll over the pesky, but seemingly inferior New York Giants. The Pats were just one win away from staking their claim as the best football team in NFL history. But thanks to a dominating Giants’ defensive line, an improbable catch by David Tyree, and a virtually mistake-free performance by Eli Manning, the unbeatable New England Patriots were beat. It’ll go down as one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history, and considering Tom Brady’s season-ending injury in 2008 cost the Pats a chance for redemption, it seems that many have forgotten how New England stood just one win away from perfection. – Anthony Stalter

Michael Phelps is part fish.

Eight gold medals in one Olympiad? No problem. Michael Phelps made the seemingly impossible look (relatively) easy en route to one of the most – if not the most – impressive Olympic performances ever. Phelps had to swim all four strokes, compete in both sprint and endurance races, and deal with the constant media attention and pressure that came along with his quest. Sure, NBC turned up the hype, but what Phelps accomplished is simply incredible. – John Paulsen

Usain Bolt is part cheetah.

First, Usain Bolt made Jamaica proud by setting a new world record (9.69) in the 100-meter sprint. Then, he broke the 12 year-old 200-meter world record with a time of 19.30 seconds. He showboated during the first race but cleaned up his act to win the second race in a professional manner. Some even say that Usain Bolt – not Michael Phelps – was the biggest story to come out of the Bejing Olympics. – JP

The Big 12 has the best quarterbacks in the nation.

The Big 12 housed some of the best quarterbacks in all of college football in 2008. Texas’s Colt McCoy, Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, Missouri’s Chase Daniel and Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell were all considered Heisman candidates at least at one point during the season, while McCoy and Bradford are still in the running. Amazingly, Bradford and McCoy aren’t done; both will return in 2008. And although they don’t receive as much attention as the top signal callers in the conference, Kansas’s Todd Reesing and Baylor’s Robert Griffin certainly turned heads this year as well. In fact, the highly versatile Griffin is only a freshman and could make the Bears a very dangerous team for years to come. – AS


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2008 Year-End Sports Review: What We Think Might Happen

It’s time to look ahead to 2009 and play a little Nostradamus.

Last year, we predicted that God would anoint the “Devil-free” Rays World Series Champions (ding!), that Brett Favre would play another year or two (ding! – sort of), that Isiah Thomas would be canned (ding!), and that Kobe would be playing for a new team by the trade deadline…

Granted, that last one didn’t come true, but how were we supposed to know that the Grizzlies would trade Pau Gasol to the Lakers for an unproven rookie and a bag of peanuts? Our occasional inaccuracy isn’t going to keep us from rolling out another set of predictions – some serious and some farcical – for 2009 and beyond, including President Obama’s plan for a college football playoff, Donovan McNabb’s new home and the baseball club most likely to be 2009’s version of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Read on, and in a year, we guarantee* you’ll be amazed.

*This is not an actual guarantee, mind you.

Don’t miss the other two parts of our 2008 Year-End Sports Review: “What We Learned” and “What We Already Knew.”

Michael Vick will play for the Oakland Raiders next season.

Once NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell allows suspended quarterback Michael Vick to re-enter the league, let’s be honest, there’s really only one team that will take a shot on the convict: the Oakland Raiders. Sure, the Raiders would have to possibly give up a draft pick because Vick will still technically be property of the Falcons, but with Matt Ryan on board, Atlanta would probably be willing to give Mikey up for a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos…snack size. With Vick on board, JaMarcus Russell could shift to tight end or full back or offensive tackle or something. Or, Vick could play wide receiver! Or running back! Think of the possibilities! The Oakland Raiders will be the most unstoppable team in the league! That is, of course, until Vick gets the itch for his old hobby. – Anthony Stalter

The Nationals and Pirates become the official AAAA teams of their respective divisions.

After finishing at or near the bottom of the division since the franchise’s move from Montreal, Major League Baseball executives analyze the entire Washington Nationals player system and conclude that they have no chance of fielding a competitive team in the near future. In the boldest decision of his tenure, Commissioner Bud Selig demotes the team’s Major League roster to AAAA status, a phrase long used by baseball personnel to describe players that are too good for the minors but not good enough for the majors. In an added twist, Selig designates that the team’s assets are fair game for all four remaining teams in the National League East, as a means of creating parity. In order to keep the number of teams even in each league, Selig also downgrades the Pittsburgh Pirates, losers of 94 or more games since 2005, to AAAA status as well. It will be six weeks into the regular season before an NL East team claims any of these former Pirates or Nationals. – David Medsker

Barack Obama will have a plan in place for a college football playoff by 2016.

He has already spoken out twice in favor of an eight-team playoff format for college football. Granted, there are more pressing concerns for the President-elect – the economy, the war in Iraq and a forward-thinking energy policy, just to name a few – but there’s no reason that Obama can’t appoint a “Playoff Czar” to get the conference presidents and the bowl organizers together to hash out a system that works for everyone. Are the bowls worried about losing money? Rotate the semifinals and the final amongst the four bowl cities. Are the conferences worried about losing money? They shouldn’t be – the ratings for an eight-team playoff would dwarf the ratings the current system is getting. And better ratings means more money. This is something that 85%-90% of the population can agree on, and that doesn’t happen often. Mark our words – President Obama will make it happen, especially if he gets a second term. – John Paulsen


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College Football Week 6 Primer

Time to check out the big games, top matchups and potential upsets as college football heads into Week 6.

Top 25 vs. Top 25:
Terrelle PryorNo. 14 Ohio State at No. 18 Wisconsin, 8:00 PM ET
This was supposed to be a matchup of the best two teams in the Big Ten, but after the Badgers were embarrassed last week in Ann Arbor, this game has lost a lot of it’s luster. Despite Michigan turning the ball over five times and spotting them a 19-0 lead, Wisconsin fell apart in the second half as the Wolverines pulled off a 27-25 upset. For the Buckeyes, they seem to be playing with a chip on their shoulder after losing to USC a few weeks back, especially freshman QB Terrelle Pryor, who is out to use this game as proof that he can play on a big stage. It’ll be interesting to see how the dazzlingly Pryor does in his first road start of his young collegiate career; OSU has not won back-to-back games vs. Wisconsin since 1995/1996. Oddsmakers have established the Buckeyes as 1.5-point favorites.

No. 13 Auburn at No. 19 Vanderbilt, 6:00 PM ET
Vandy is off to a surprising 4-0 start this season, but their record is a bit deceiving. The Commodores rank last in the SEC in total offense and defense, and have been out gained in 3 of their 4 games this season. But they sit undefeated largely due to their plus-nine turnover margin, which leads the nation. They’ll get their first real test of the season against Auburn, who crushed the Commodores 45-7 in their last trip to Vanderbilt Stadium in 2003. The Tigers also handed Vandy a 35-7 beat-down last year and are trying to build some momentum off of last week’s 14-12 win against Tennessee. Still, this is the first time Vanderbilt has been ranked since 1984, so the home crowd will noty doubt be psyched. And it’s not like Tommy Tummerville’s team has been that dominant this season. (See the Tigers’ 3-2 victory over Mississippi State as proof.) Vandy is a 4.5-point home underdog.

No. 23 Oregon at No. 9 USC, 8:00 PM ET
The Trojans try to bounce back from their humiliating 27-21 loss to Oregon State last week – a defeat that dropped them from the top spot in the rankings. When these two teams met last year in Eugene, the Ducks used an electrifying home crowd to knock off the Trojans 24-17 in USC QB Mark Sanchez’s first start. It would be wise for Oregon to borrow the blueprint left by the Beavers and attack the middle of the Trojans’ beat up defense on the ground. Head coach Pete Carroll is dying to use this game to show USC can still compete for a national title this season and will try to flatten the Ducks, but Oregon’s defense is good enough to keep them in the game. The Trojans are currently 17-point favorites.

Chase DanielUpset Watch: No. 4 Missouri at Nebraska, 9:00 PM ET
It’s hard to fathom that the Tigers would stumble this week in Lincoln coming off a bye week and with so much on the line. But Heisman Trophy candidate Chase Daniel has yet to see a decent defense outside of Illinois in the opener. And even though MIZZOU hammered the Huskers last year, Nebraska’s defense is a lot better than the unit that surrendered 41 points to Daniel and the Tigers last year. Missouri has better talent and the better overall team, but one thing to keep in mind is that the home team in this series has won the last six in a row. MIZZOU is an 11-point favorite.

Other notable games:
No. 1 Oklahoma at Baylor, 12:30 PM ET Saturday
The Sooners play their first game since being anointed the top ranked team in the nation. They get a decent opponent in the Bears, who have been a dramatically improved team with scrappy freshman Robert Griffin under center this year.

Kentucky at No. 2 Alabama, 3:30 PM ET Saturday
After crushing the Bulldogs in Athens last week, Nick Saban’s Tide can’t fall victims to the upset themselves this week against the unranked Wildcats.

No. 5 Texas at Colorado, 7:00 PM ET Saturday
Longhorns’ QB Colt McCoy will look to continue his bid to become this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, but he’ll face a decent Colorado team who is 3-0 at home this year.

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