Week 2: Review | Judgements
It was Get-Even Sunday in the NFL this week.
What that means is the NFL formula worked: Most of the 0-1 teams found a way to get to 1-1. Of the 16 teams that went into Sunday without a victory, nine won for the first time.
Dante Hall and the Chiefs haven't made their own breaks through their first two games. (AP)
Isn't this what we expect? The NFL is so even right now that nearly every team -- all right, except the Cardinals -- has a chance to make the playoffs.
Of the eight unbeaten teams, four aren't surprises. Those four are the Patriots, Seahawks, Vikings and Eagles. The other four are the Falcons, Lions, Jaguars and Jets. Those four are teams many pegged for improvement but sitting 2-0 at this point is a bit of a surprise (though the Jets' schedule has helped them).
As for the winless teams, the Kansas City Chiefs are the biggest surprise. They are 0-2, their defense still can't stop anybody and the offense suddenly isn't as explosive. Maybe that side of the ball is pressing too much now knowing the defense is the best rug defense in the league: everyone runs all over it.
We all thought Gunther Cunningham would turn the defense around when he took over as coordinator, but there's one very important lesson most of us forgot: That is, you can't make chicken salad out of chicken dung.
Cunningham has the same group of players Greg Robinson had last year, with one exception and that exception (middle linebacker Monty Beisel) led the team in tackles against Carolina and is playing only because of injury.
The blame for the Chiefs' defensive woes goes higher, right up to general manager Carl Peterson. He is the one who gave safeties Jerome Woods and Greg Wesley big contract extensions after last season, even though they spent the year missing tackles. That money could have been used to find a pass rusher or some other help up front.
Kansas City, like Carolina, had a chance to get even Sunday, but they didn't join the club, with Carolina instead getting in.
Now the Chiefs have to hear all that talk about how only two teams -- the 1993 Dallas Cowboys and 2001 New England Patriots -- started 0-2 and came back to win a Super Bowl.
That's how important Get-Even day is in the NFL. Recap: Panthers 28, Chiefs 17
- So much for the mutiny in the Giants' locker room. All that talk about how the players hate coach Tom Coughlin and his laundry list of rules didn't seem to matter to the Giants once they took the field against the Redskins. They dominated the 'Skins, and then gave Coughlin the game ball. Coughlin is terrific at getting a team to bounce back after tough losses. That's a tribute to his coaching and to the discipline that the players complain about. He'll get that thing turned around in New York. You wait and see. Recap: Giants 20, Redskins 14
- In the we-hate-to-say-we-told-you-so department, we told you about DeShaun Foster. Stephen Davis might not get his job back. Foster gives the Panthers the pop in the backfield that Davis doesn't. Davis will be out for a month with a knee injury, but when he returns, Foster might have taken the job. Foster ran for 174 yards against Kansas City in the Panthers' key road victory, 71 on one play. He gives them more wiggle and speed than Davis, which they need.
- The Teflon Coach blew it for the Broncos against the Jaguars. Mike Shanahan should have been smart enough to either kick a field goal on third down in the final minute or just have his quarterback sneak for a couple of yards, avoiding a handoff. Instead, on third down from the Jaguars' 23 with 37 seconds left, he had Jake Plummer hand off to Quentin Griffin, who lost the ball and saw it recovered by the Jaguars to preserve a 7-6 victory. Shanahan's smarter than that. Would two or three yards more have made that much of a difference? Not with Jason Elam, one of the game's better kickers. "We had plenty of time to hand the ball off and get a few yards," Shanahan said. "It's a play we run all the time." That genius badge, which once shined so bright, has dulled some. Recap: Jaguars 7, Broncos 6
- The Colts offense is even better than last year, if you can believe that. That should be scary to the rest of the league. In two games, against two good teams, the Colts have rolled up 819 yards. A big difference from last year is how much better Edgerrin James looks running the ball. We heard all offseason about how much better he looked a year removed from knee surgery, and those reports are true. Having a healthy James, plus Brandon Stokley and Dallas Clark, makes this a tougher team to defend than in 2003. The Colts got shafted by the schedule-maker in terms of their opening four weeks, but if they can get through the first four weeks at 2-2 or 3-1, they should be thrilled. Opening on the road against New England and Tennessee, then playing Green Bay at home before going to Jacksonville makes for a tough start. Recap: Colts 31, Titans 17
- When did Tim Couch sneak into Jeff Garcia's uniform? The Browns fans ran Couch out of town for having games like the one Garcia had against Dallas. He was picked off three times as the Browns went to 1-1. Garcia is ordinary, folks. He's not a franchise quarterback. Garcia was 8-for-27 for 71 yards and three interceptions against the Cowboys. That's a passer rating of zero. Zippo. Nothing. That's bad, in case you're wondering. Recap: Cowboys 19, Browns 12
- Remember all that talk about how Brandon Lloyd would make the 49ers forget Terrell Owens? Uh, he had one catch for 7 yards against the Saints. Those aren't exactly Owens-like numbers. Recap: Saints 30, 49ers 27
- The Jaguars have to set Byron Leftwich free. They've scored 20 points in their two victories, plus they are 3-for-23 on third down. That's not good enough. But a big reason why it's this way is they have played it way too conservatively. They used the seventh overall pick to draft Leftwich in 2003, so there's no need to protect him. They can't keep winning games the way they have. That style will get you only so far. The offensive players aren't happy about the way the came is being called, but how can they complain when they're 2-0? At some point, the training wheels have to come off. Set Byron free. Find out if he can play in a more wide-open system. Restricting him is hurting him.
- Lavar Arrington-overrated stat of the week: Arrington, six tackles. Two other Redskins linebackers: Marcus Washington, 12 tackles, Antonio Pierce, 9.
- If Jon Gruden hasn't made up his mind yet, it's time to make Chris Simms the full-time starter at quarterback. Simms came on in relief of the benched Brad Johnson against Seattle and showed some good things. He finished with a terrible play, throwing an interception as he fell to the ground, but he is this team's best chance to win. Gruden has been trying to replace Johnson since the end of last season, and Simms is that guy. Tampa Bay isn't going anywhere, so why not go to Simms. Build this thing for the long run. Recap: Seahawks 10, Buccanears 6
- The Browns have lost rookie tight end Kellen Winslow for at least six to eight weeks with a broken leg. That can't be blamed on anybody most of the time. But what was Winslow doing on the kickoff team trying to recover an onsides kick in the final seconds? That's as violent a play as there is, and the future pass-catching star shouldn't be on that unit trying to recover a kick in the final 10 seconds, when the reality is there is no chance to win the game. Nice move, coach.
- Put Dan Marino in his prime, Ricky Williams pre-weed and Paul Warfield in his glory on the Dolphins' offense right now and they still struggle to move the ball. The offensive line is awful. These are tough times in Miami, which means Dave Wannstedt might want to get that resume back onto the printer. Rick Spielman, too. Recap: Bengals 16, Dolphins 13
- Two years ago, if somebody walked up to you and said Ronald Curry would lead the Raiders in receiving and Jerry Rice wouldn't catch a pass, you would have thought them crazy. Yet, here it was, Curry catching five passes for 89 yards against the Bills, while Rice didn't catch one. The last time Rice didn't catch a pass was Dec. 1, 1985, at Washington. That means he had caught a pass in every game he had played until Sunday for the past 20 years. Amazing. What was surprising about the streak ending was how Rice handled it. He showed his butt by yelling in frustration and pacing the sidelines late in the game when it became clear he would not catch a pass. He also kicked a pylon. "Oh yeah, I was working on my kicking, just in case (Sebastian Janikowski) had a little trouble," Rice said of booting the 30-yard marker. "I'm a competitor. You get a little frustrated at times and I apologize for that. Otherwise, I just enjoy the game and I love being a part of it, and I want to contribute to the team. It didn't happen today." Rice will get a pass on this behavior, but let's put it this way, Rice was like most other receivers during his career, which means selfish and concerned about what's good for him. If Terrell Owens had done the same thing, he would have been ripped. Randy Moss, too. Recap: Raiders 13, Bills 10
- Does anybody still think that was a good move by the Bills to draft Willis McGahee in the first round of the 2003 draft? McGahee had two carries for minus-3 yards against the Raiders, playing behind Travis Henry. That pick should have been used on the offensive line -- based on the seven sacks the Raiders had against the Bills.
- The Ravens dominated the Steelers, but at some point Kyle Boller has to be given a chance to throw the ball. He was 10-of-18 for 98 yards. Coaches can't keep protecting these young quarterbacks. At some point, they have to turn them loose -- or your team will go only so far. Winning Super Bowls with the Trent Dilfers of the world are aberrations. Recap: Ravens 30, Steelers 13
- Just out of curiosity, does anyone think the Titans did the wrong thing by letting Eddie George go and giving the job to Chris Brown? Against the Colts, Brown ran for 152 yards on 26 carries for a 5.8 average. That's nearly double what George gave the Titans last year. The one thing Brown has to do is run tougher in short-yardage situation, but that will come. He was stuffed on two short-yardage runs against the Colts. George had his usual 3.2 per-carry average for the Cowboys on Sunday.
- That was a heck of a game Michael Vick had running the single wing for the Falcons against the Rams. OK, so it's not quite that bad. But Vick ran for 109 yards on 12 carries, which shows how explosive he is, but it also is a dangerous thing for the Falcons. He has to stay in the pocket more. Eventually he'll learn, but for now, he's letting his instincts take over. Vick now has three 100-yard games in his short career, one off the record for quarterbacks. Recap: Falcons 34, Rams 17
- Tommy Maddox, thanks for your time. When Maddox went out with an elbow injury against the Ravens, rookie Ben Roethlisberger came in and had a nice day, throwing for 176 yards and two touchdowns. Granted, it came in garbage time, but it's a nice start. With Maddox out for at least another week, Roethlisberger gets another shot this week. If he plays well, does he keep the job?
- The Saints expect running back Deuce McAllister will be out for three-to-four weeks after spraining his ankle in Sunday's victory over San Francisco. Aaron Stecker will play in his place. Stecker took over Sunday, but he dinged up a leg in the second quarter. Since the Saints had only two active runners, Stecker was forced to stay in the game. The team released Ki-Jana Carter before the game, but he will be re-signed Monday and could see action next week against the Rams. Without McAllister, the Saints were forced to open things up and throw it around, and quarterback Aaron Brooks responded with a big day that impressed the Saints coaches. Brooks completed 25 of 34 passes for 279 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner to Donte' Stallworth with 1:01 left in the game. This team will be in Brooks' hands the next few weeks with McAllister out, which could lead to a lot of up-tempo. If he can handle that load and come through it with a few big games, he might finally get the city of New Orleans off his back.
- The Saints secondary struggled for the second consecutive week, particularly cornerback Fred Thomas. He is coming off a good year, but he has been bad in both of the first two games. That's why the Saints are still in discussions with the Packers in an attempt to trade for Mike McKenzie. The Packers have been insisting on a first-round pick as compensation, but the Saints have been willing to part with a second. Now the Packers might move on that if the Saints throw in a player or a mid-round pick. The Saints would then work out a long-term deal with McKenzie. If the Saints are smart, they'll make the deal. They need McKenzie.
- Deion Sanders' line of the week: Zero, zero, zero. Sanders did not show up on the stat sheet, aside from a 23-yard punt return. He did play only two quarters as he left late in the second with a hamstring injury, which you expect from 37-year-old players. So far, Sanders has no tackles and no passes defensed in two games, making him a quiet acquisition. Call him Mime Time.
- We were all wrong about the Texans. They won't be better. There's no way they can lose two games to open the season against the Chargers and the Lions and be improved. That's a major disappointment for a team that seemed so excited about their third season of existence. Even though David Carr had a big game, throwing for 313 yards and two scores as the offense rolled up 386 yards, the Texans turned the ball over three times against the Lions, giving them seven in two games. That won't win many games. Part of the problem is an offensive line that still struggles to protect the quarterback. The Lions had five sacks, 2 1/2 from end James Hall. Carr has been hammered in his three years with the team, and the Texans need to get better up front or he might not make to 10 years. Recap: Lions 28, Texans 16
- Texans note II: How good would running back Domanick Davis be if he actually could hold on to the ball? He has fumbled twice in each of the team's games, giving him four on the year. One is too many. Davis puts up big numbers, but those mean little if you give up the football.
Player of the Week: We'll go with Foster. That's a big-time effort in a big-time victory.
Flop of the Week: Garcia. If he plays that way, the Browns might actually wish they had Couch back.
Disappointment of the Week: And we thought the Chiefs would be better on defense this year. Their run defense is terrible and seems to be getting worse. At 0-2, they're in a big hole.