Sunday Six: One week makes all the difference for four rookie quarterbacks

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Week 2 of the NFL season provides context for some conclusions reached after Week 1. For example, the Chicago Bears thought they were pretty good after beating the Colts in Week 1 but got that Week 2 reality check vs. the Packers. Here are six things that jumped out during Week 2:

1. Rookie QBs: What a difference a week makes. Last week the five starting rookie quarterbacks had predictably bad days -- aside from Robert Griffin III against the Saints. The other four all lost and their stats were nothing to write home about. But things sure did change in Week 2. In Week 1, Griffin, Luck, Tannehill, Wilson and Weeden combined for a 1-4 record while completing 92 of 176 passes (52 percent) for 1,158 yards with five TDs, 10 INTs and 13 sacks. In Week 2, RG3 came down to earth but the five rookies as a whole finished 3-2, completing 99 of 147 passes (67 percent) for 1,103 yards with seven TDs, one INT and eight sacks. That's significant growth from Week 1 to Week 2 and no one improved more than Brandon Weeden. Weeden is still the only winless rookie starter, but he threw for 322 yards and two touchdowns as a significant portion of Browns fans were calling for Colt McCoy.

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2. NFC West: For the past five to 10 years the NFC west has been thought of as one of the NFL's weakest divisions. Right now, the four teams (49ers, Rams, Cardinals, Seahawks) have six wins -- the most of any division. This past week the four teams swept their opponents and there were some very challenging games on the schedule. Arizona wins at New England, San Francisco beats the Lions, the Seahawks dominate the Cowboys and the Rams prevail against the Redskins. In Week 2, the mighty NFC West averaged 26 points and gave up only 18 per game. It may be time to stop thinking the NFC West isn't an elite division.

3. Points scored & 100-yard receivers: I had a long talk with Bill Cowher and Dan Marino on Sunday about all the points scored in Week 1 (which turned out to be a record) and why scoring would continue to rise. Both men agreed that the new camp practice schedules (every real practice was followed up by a walk-thru that hurts defenses more than offenses) would lead to more scoring until defenses did a better job with angles of pursuit and tackling. In Week 1, 12 teams scored 27 or more points in a game. In Week 2, 15 teams scored 27 or more points before Monday night. The ripple effect of the increased scoring is the increased pass-reception yardage. In Week 1, there were 10 receivers with 100-yard-plus receiving games -- impressive -- but it was topped in Week 2 with 13 such games going into Monday night.

4. Favorite Week 2 coordinators: Owners and GMs pay close attention to the coordinators who excel. They comprise the biggest pool of future head coaches. Each week, I'll spotlight coordinators getting the job done -- men who should be on the radar screen of those who certainly will be seeking a future head coach. Three coordinators managing helped get their teams to 2-0 and should be acknowledged for the efforts they put in. Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano (brother of Colts coach Chuck Pagano) has done great job -- yielding only 24 points in two games plying an aggressive style of 3-4 defense. Niners OC Greg Roman has built the offense around exotic personnel groups, spawning a terrific running game and the continued growth of QB Alex Smith. Arizona defensive coordinator Ray Horton took his unit into Foxborough and contained a powerful Patriots offense to go 2-0. When Tom Brady is sacked four times at home, and those mighty receivers only catch one TD pass it is time to recognize Coach Horton.

5. Teams at a crossroads: Everyone associated with an 0-2 team will say the right things about those teams. Things like: "It's still early in the schedule." ... Or: "The guys are still learning the system." ... Or: "We're dealing with some significant injuries." All of those may all be true but impatience grows quickly with teams like the Chiefs. I picked Kansas City to win this past week against the Buffalo Bills. Of course, that didn't happen and Chiefs fans are restless. The Bills entered Week 2 in the same boat, but got their expensive pass rushers going and to beat the Chiefs with five sacks and three forced turnovers. The offense and special teams generated 35 points. But there are five first-round draft picks along the K.C. defensive front seven and they didn't register a sack against Buffalo. It's starting to look like the Chiefs could be headed back to a 6-10 type season real soon if they don't turn things around.

The second 0-2 team facing the crossroads: the Saints. New Orleans has talent on offense and a QB who has great leadership skills. But we are witnessing what an NFL team can look like without its head coach. The Saints already have yielded 75 points, 922 yards and turned the ball over five times in two games. If New Orleans doesn't right the ship soon it will sink.

6. Super Bowl QBs respond: Four Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks lost in Week 1: Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees. But they went back to work to fix the problems. Late last week, I said that all four would get things turned around quickly and get their team back to winning. Three of the four delivered in a big way. Brees has his own struggles, which we just addressed. But the other three signal callers came through in short order. Manning overcame three interceptions to throw for three TDs and a record-breaking 510 yards. The four quarterbacks increased their completion percentage from 58 percent in Week 1 to 64 percent in Week 2. Passing yardage went up by 229 yards, and they reduced sacks by four. Losing in Week 1 wasn't all their fault, but like all great leaders they took the blame and carried (with the exception of Brees) their team to victory. There are a few quarterbacks around the NFL who have a long way to go to respond to adversity like these former Super Bowl quarterbacks did.


Pat Kirwan has been around the league since 1972, serving in a variety of roles. He was a scout for the Cardinals and Buccaneers, a coach for the Jets as well as the team's Director of Player Administration where he negotiated contracts and managed the team's salary cap. He is the author of Take Your Eye Off the Ball: How to Watch Football by Knowing Where to Look, and the host of Sirius NFL Radio's Moving the Chains.
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