When you make Jameis Winston your starting quarterback, you sign up for the whole Winston experience and that's exactly what New Orleans has gotten over the first two weeks of the season. You get the highs, which the Saints got in Week 1 when Winston wowed everyone with five touchdown passes in a dominating 38-3 win over the Packers. And of course, you get the lows, which Winston provided on Sunday during the Saints' 26-7 blowout loss in Carolina.
After looking unstoppable last week, the Saints were lucky to score a single point against the Panthers. Winston was under constant pressure the entire game and when he's under pressure, he's prone to making bad decisions, which is exactly what happened multiple times against the Panthers, including the interception you see below, which came with just 23 seconds left in the first half.
Including that pick, Winston ended up going 11-for-22 for 111 yards with zero touchdown passes and two interceptions. Although Winston was bad in this game, it wasn't completely his fault that the Saints had offensive troubles. A big reason he struggled is because the Panthers simply overwhelmed the Saints offensive line.
There were multiple pass plays like the one below where Winston simply didn't have enough time to get a pass off.
That was one of four sacks that Winston took in the game. If the pass game isn't working, sometimes you'll see the run game pick up the slack, but that wasn't definitely the case for the Saints. Alvin Kamara was limited to just 5 yards on eight carries on a day where the Saints finished with just 48 yards rushing.
Overall, the Saints totaled just 128 yards of offense, which was their lowest total since 2001. They might not have missed Drew Brees last week, but they definitely missed him this week. Brees has the ability to think quickly on his feet and he was usually able to get the ball off no matter how much pressure he was facing. On the other hand, that's something Winston struggles with.
We don't know if last week's team or this week's team is the real Saints team for 2021, but New Orleans better hope that the Jameis who showed up today isn't here to stay.
Carolina 26-7 over New Orleans
|The Saints must have left their offense in Jacksonville because it was a no-show on Sunday. One week after putting up 38 points, the Saints got embarrassed. The offense only managed 128 total yards, which was the team's lowest total ever under Sean Payton and their lowest total overall since 2001. |
|No one was really impressed by the Panthers' 19-14 win over the Jets last week, but people might start paying attention after this win. The Panthers defense absolutely suffocated a Saints offense that put up 38 points last week. The Panthers had Winston running for his life for nearly the entire game. The pressure on Winston led to four sacks and two interceptions for Carolina. Offensively, the addition of Sam Darnold continues to look like one of the smartest moves of the offseason. Darnold threw for 305 yards and two TDs in the blowout win. The Panthers have arguably been the biggest surprise through the first two weeks of the season. |
Green Bay 35-17 over Detroit
|The Lions had the Packers on the ropes in the first half, but then they completely fell apart in third quarter. Jared Goff diced up the Packers defense with 137 yards and two TDs to help propel the Lions to a 17-14 halftime lead (Seriously, the Lions led at halftime), but then Detroit imploded. On their first possession of the second half, they failed on fourth-and-1 from the Packers 25. One possession later, Goff fumbled away a snap. Both those errors led to Packers touchdowns and after that, the route was on. The Lions defense had no answers for a Packers offense that was perfect in the red zone (4-for-4) and nearly perfect on third down (5 of 7).|
|After pulling a disappearing act in Week 1, the Packers offense reemerged with a vengeance on Monday night. Aaron Rodgers basically had his way with the Lions defense for four quarters. The Packers QB threw for 255 yards and four touchdowns as the Packers scored on five of their first six possessions (Rodgers also completed 81.5% of his passes). The real offensive story for the Packers though was Aaron Jones, who totaled 115 yards and four touchdowns (three receiving, one rush). Defensively, the Packers struggled to stop the Lions for the better part of three quarters, but the unit did come up with several big plays in the second half including a fumble recovery, an interception and a fourth-down stop.|
Chicago 20-17 over Cincinnati
|The Bengals offense was a total disaster in Chicago and most of that was because Joe Burrow had a total meltdown midway through the fourth quarter. The Bengals QB threw an interception on three CONSECUTIVE passes in the quarter, including a pick six that basically iced the win for the Bears. The Bengals offensive line definitely didn't do Burrow any favors. The unit got steamrolled by a Bears defense that racked up four sacks. The one bright spot for the Bengals in this game was a defense that surrendered just 206 yards, marking the first time since 2013 that Cincy has lost when giving up under 210 yards. Although the Bengals made this game close with two touchdowns in the final 4:40, they weren't able to overcome all of the errors made earlier in the game.|
|On a day where both offenses finished with under 250 yards, it was the Bears defense that ended up being the star of the show. The Bears spent four quarters terrorizing Burrow, who was sacked four times by four different players, including Khalil Mack. In a game where the defense made dozens of big plays, their biggest one came with 10:55 left in the fourth quarter when Roquan Smith picked off Burrow and returned it 53 yards for a TD that put the Bears up 17-3. It's a good thing the Bears defense played so well because their offense sputtered after Andy Dalton left the game with an injury. In his first extensive action, Justin Fields finished just 6 of 13 for 60 yards and an ugly fourth-quarter interception that almost cost Chicago the game.|
L.A. Rams 27-24 over Indianapolis
|This game was basically the "Cooper Kupp Show" for Los Angeles. Matthew Stafford went to Kupp early and often in a game where the receiver finished with nine catches for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Kupp came up clutch with two catches for 54 yards and a touchdown on a fourth-quarter drive that ended with a TD that gave L.A. the lead. Although the defense struggled some to slow down the Colts, they did come up with several big plays and no play was bigger than the goal-line stand the Rams had on Indy's opening possession. The Rams kept Indy out of the end zone on four straight plays from the 1-yard line.|
|The Colts lost this game because their red-zone offense was a total disaster and things got especially ugly in the first half. During the game's first two quarters, the Colts got inside of the Rams' 3-yard line two different times, but came away with ZERO points. The first drive ended after the Colts got stuffed on four straight plays from the 1-yard line and the second drive ended because Carson Wentz got picked off on a shovel pass. Despite those errors, the Colts STILL had a chance to win late in the fourth quarter, but with Wentz on the sideline due to an injury, it was Jacob Eason who threw things away with a late interception. The loss overshadowed an impressive performance from Michael Pittman, who caught eight passes for 123 yards.|
Denver 23-13 over Jacksonville
|After just two games, it looks like Teddy Bridgewater might have already found his favorite receiver: Courtland Sutton. The Broncos offense struggled early, but Sutton helped break them out of a funk with a performance that included nine catches for 159 yards. The Broncos took the lead with just under two minutes to play in the first half and after that, they let their defense do the rest. The defense did a good job of confusing Trevor Lawrence, who threw two interceptions, which Denver was able to turn into two field goals.|
|Urban Meyer's honeymoon period might already be over in Jacksonville. For the second straight week, the offense struggled to move the ball (189 total yards) and for the second straight week, that meant a double-digit loss. Despite the offensive problems, the Jags actually kept this game close and they might have been in it at the end if Josh Lambo hadn't missed two field goals in the game.|
Cleveland 31-21 over Houston
|It's hard to grade the Texans here, because they actually looked unstoppable until Tyrod Taylor was forced to leave the game with a injury. Before leaving, Taylor went 10 of 11 for 125 yards and two touchdowns (one pass, one rush) to help propel Houston to a 14-7 lead. After Taylor left the game, rookie quarterback Davis Mills went in and played somewhat respectably, but he was overmatched against the Browns defense. Not only did Mills complete under 50% of his passes (8 of 18), but he also threw an interception.|
|The Browns offense made multiple errors in this game with a fumble and interception, but let's ignore those, because that was about the only thing they did wrong in a game where they were able to move the ball at will. Except for his pick, Baker Mayfield was nearly perfect, going 19 of 21 for 213 yards and a TD. Mayfield was good, but the Browns' rushing attack was arguably better. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 146 yards on just 24 carries, which averaged out to an absurd 6.1 yards per carry. There were a few concerns for this game from a Browns perspective: They couldn't stop Taylor and they couldn't stop the Texans on third down (Houston converted 7 of 13).|
San Francisco 17-11 over Philadelphia
|A slow start for San Francisco was concerning for Kyle Shanahan's bunch, running nine plays for 14 yards in the first quarter. San Francisco's defense and special teams kept the 49ers in it, blocking a Jake Elliott field goal and holding the Eagles offense to just three points despite Philadelphia controlling the time of possession early in the game. The 49ers defense stopped the Eagles on 4th-and-goal and Jimmy Garoppolo followed, going 7 of 7 for 77 yards on a 12-play, 97-yard drive that gave San Francisco the lead for good. The 49ers only allowed one touchdown in the game and took away the deep ball from the Eagles with Josh Norman and Deommodore Lenoir starting at cornerback. San Francisco used the zone-run to control the clock in the second half and made sure Philadelphia didn't get the ball back after Hurts' touchdown with 4:11 to play. Give credit to the 49ers for a tough road victory. |
|Miscues hurt Philadelphia in this one, all in a first half the Eagles controlled. Jake Elliott had a field goal blocked in the first half and the Eagles failed to take advantage of a Jalen Hurts 91-yard pass to Quez Watkins, which was the longest pass play for the Eagles since Michael Vick threw a 91-yard touchdown to DeSean Jackson against the Dallas Cowboys in 2010. Hurts completed under 50% of his passes and threw for 190 yards, nearly half coming on one play. Nick Sirianni tried to run the "Philly Special" on fourth-and-goal with the Eagles up 3-0 and failed, and the Eagles took too many deep pass attempts in the game -- not factoring in the tight ends until the second half. The defense played well in the first half, but the loss of Brandon Graham (Achilles) hurt the pass rush. Late penalties and an inability to get off the field prevented a comeback attempt, even though Philadelphia scored on a Hurts touchdown late and had the opportunity to get the ball back in the final minutes. This loss was a learning experience for the Eagles, playing one of the top teams in the NFC.|
49ers-Eagles grades by Jeff Kerr (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
New England 25-6 over N.Y. Jets
|Unlike last week, the Patriots didn't shoot themselves in the foot. Instead, they were opportunistic and took advantage of the four interceptions off the arm of Zach Wilson. New England scored 16 of its 25 points off turnovers and was able to apply pressure on Wilson for the bulk of the afternoon. Offensively, Mac Jones continued to work efficiently and completed passes to seven different Patriots. The backfield was also strong behind James White and Damien Harris, who both were able to find the end zone.|
|If we were just grading this off Wilson's performance, New York would clearly get an F. That said, the club was able to make a few plays defensively and did run the ball effectively (152 total yards on 4.9 yards per carry). The Jets also had an edge over the Patriots in time of possession, total yards of offense, and first downs, which they should get some credit for. That said, when you throw four interceptions on the day, you're most likely going to come out on the losing end every single time.|
Patriots-Jets grades by Tyler Sullivan (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Las Vegas 26-17 over Pittsburgh
|Las Vegas' defense had a stellar day. Solomon Thomas had two sacks on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was hit numerous other times throughout the course of the game. They held the Steelers' offense to just 17 first downs, 292 total yards and just 5 of 13 third-down efficiency. The unit set up the game's first points on Trayvon Mullen's interception on a deep pass intended for Diontae Johnson. The Raiders enjoyed another stellar performance from Derek Carr, whose 817 passing yards over the past two games is a franchise record. With Josh Jacobs out, Carr moved the ball by spreading it around to his playmakers, as eight different Raiders caught passes. Las Vegas responded to three Steelers scores with scores of their own. Carlson's third field goal of the first half came after JuJu Smith-Schuster scored on a 3-yard run. Carr's touchdown pass to Henry Ruggs III with 9:35 left came moments after Roethlisberger connected with Najee Harris on a 25-yard touchdown pass. Following Chris Boswell's 56-yard field goal (the longest in Heinz Field history), Daniel Carlson essentially ended the game with his fourth field goal of the afternoon.|
|Pittsburgh's defense was unable to overcome the losses of Tyson Alualu, T.J. Watt, Joe Haden and Devin Bush. Carr attacked backup cornerback James Pierre and inside linebacker Joe Schobert throughout the game. Pittsburgh's defense failed to come up with a splash play while permitting six scoring drives. The Steelers offense had just one trip inside 20-yard line. They struggled to run the ball for the second time in as many weeks, with Harris gaining 38 of the team's 39 yards on the ground.|
Raiders-Steelers grades by Bryan DeArdo (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Buffalo 35-0 over Miami
|The Bills weren't exceptionally crisp offensively but scored 35 points on the road. That's telling. The ground game got rumbling -- 143 yards on 30 carries -- and Josh Allen, who wasn't perfect, made some big-time throws when needed. Buffalo's defense was stingy all afternoon in the blistering heat. Jacoby Brissett didn't even have 170 yards passing on his 40 attempts, and the Bills allowed just 3.6 yards per carry in a dominant effort. Even in Tua Tagovailoa's two drives before his injury, Miami had just 24 yards on offense.|
|Miami needs to burn the game film from this one. Outside of a few takeaways and some stellar pass breakups for Xavien Howard and Byron Jones, the Dolphins could never quite figure out Buffalo's offense. When the Dolphins had the ball, they repeatedly shot themselves in the foot with penalties, drops, and severely shaky offensive line play. Averaging 3.1 yards per play is not going to cut it in the modern-day NFL. The Dolphins did have to play most of this game without Tagovailoa, who got injured in the first quarter. |
Bills-Dolphins grades by Chris Trapasso (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Arizona 34-33 over Minnesota
|The Vikings have a long history of watching their kickers choke on pressure field goals, and that history continued Sunday when Greg Joseph missed a 37-yarder as time expired. Joseph actually missed two kicks in the game with the first one coming on an extra point. The Vikings offense certainly played well enough to win -- Kirk Cousins threw three TD passes and Dalvin Cook rushed for 131 yards -- but Joseph's meltdown ended up costing Minnesota the game. Defensively, the Vikings came up with some big plays, including a pick-six, but ultimately, the team had no answer for Murray, who single-handedly totaled 431 yards and four touchdowns.|
|Kyler Murray might be the most electrifying player in the NFL this year. One week after totaling five touchdowns, the Cardinals QB almost topped himself with four more TDs (three passing, one rushing). Murray, who threw for 400 yards, did make a pair of major mistakes by throwing two interceptions, including one that was returned for a TD. Fortunately for the Cards QB, though, Arizona was able to survive the turnovers thanks to a big game from Matt Prater, who hit two field goals, including a 62-yarder just before halftime. Murray also got some unexpected help from rookie Rondale Moore (seven catches for 114 yards, one TD), who is looking like he could be a weapon in this offense going forward.|
Tampa Bay 48-25 over Atlanta
|The Falcons looked like a disaster last week, and things didn't get much better against the Buccaneers in Week 2. The biggest problem for the offense is that Matt Ryan never seems to have enough time to throw. The Falcons QB had defenders in his face for most of the game, and that translated to several ugly throws, including two pick-sixes. (He threw three interceptions overall.) The Falcons have no rushing attack, so Ryan has no help on offense. Defensively, the Falcons did make a few big plays, including a forced fumble and a fourth-down stop, but overall, the defense was just no match for Tom Brady.|
|Five years after Super Bowl LI, Tom Brady is still terrorizing the Falcons. The Buccaneers jumped out to an early 28-10 lead in this game, and it was mostly thanks to Brady, who threw five TD passes, two of which went to his old pal Rob Gronkowski. NFL players are not supposed to get better after they turn 40, but somehow, Brady continues to do that. Despite Brady's performance, this game actually got interesting in the fourth quarter after the Falcons cut the lead to three (28-25). At that point, Tampa Bay's defense came alive with two pick-sixes by Mike Edwards over the final eight minutes of the game. The defense has definitely had a few issues through the first two weeks, but if Brady keeps playing the way he's playing, issues aren't going to matter.|
Tennessee 33-30 over Seattle (OT)
|Coming off of that Week 1 beatdown they suffered at the hands of the Cardinals, the Titans needed a big performance. They did just that with a 33-30 overtime win over the Seahawks. Derrick Henry rushed for 182 yards and scored three touchdowns in the second half to power the comeback. Then, replacement kicker Randy Bullock knocked in the game-winning 36-yard field goal in overtime.The Titans had to overcome a lot Sunday. Left tackle Taylor Lewan was a late scratch due to injury and then left guard Rodger Saffold and center Ben Jones got banged up in the middle of the game. Plus, the Titans' secondary struggled to contain Tyler Lockett, giving up a couple of huge plays. Still, Tennessee overcame all of that and proved they can still be one of the best teams in the NFL.|
|This was a gut-punch. Pete Carroll had never lost a home-opener before today. In fact, the Seahawks were 52-0 when leading by at least 15 points at home. Now they are 52-1. Russell Wilson had a huge day with 343 yards and two passing touchdowns. Lockett did his part too with 178 yards and a long touchdown. But, Seattle took a hit in the second half. While Henry went off, the Seahawks scored just six total points in the final two quarters. They had the game in the bag but didn't finish the job.|
Titans-Seahawks grades by Jordan Dajani (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Dallas 20-17 over L.A. Chargers
|It wasn't a pretty win by Dallas, but it was just that: a win. They needed to march into SoFi Stadium on Sunday and avoid the dreaded 0-2 start to the season and did, going blow-for-blow with a Chargers team that's equally as talented on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Mistakes were made, yes, and then more were made after that, but they seemed to continually find a way to negate whatever error they had made on the previous play and/or drive. And considering Greg Zuerlein had the confidence and composure to nail a 56-yard game-winner after an abysmal outing in Week 1 lands the Cowboys a high grade that could've been better but could've most certainly been much worse. It was a gritty road win they deserve credit for.|
|Much like the Cowboys, the Chargers were a mixed bag of blessings and curses, but the latter ended up being one too many in a close game that couldn't afford it. Many will point to the controversial call that awarded first-round pick Micah Parsons an 18-yard sack on Justin Herbert -- a play that forced the Chargers into a game-tying field goal versus a potential touchdown -- but they ended the game with 12 penalties for a combined 99 yards and Herbert, for all of his greatness in this contest, threw two interceptions; and one was to safety Damontae Kazee in the red zone when Los Angeles was threatening to score a touchdown. It's a brutal loss for the Chargers, who were only a play or two away from winning but must now instead dig deep to bounce back for Week 3.|
Cowboys-Chargers grades by Patrik Walker (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Baltimore 36-35 over Kansas City
|They started off great but couldn't capitalize on two Lamar Jackson interceptions, the first of which was a pick-six. Tyreek Hill was bottled up throughout the evening, the defense couldn't stop the run, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire put the ball on the ground at the worst possible time. The fumble by the running back capped a Kansas City collapse that saw the Chiefs turn the ball over on two of their final three possessions. |
|This grade was going to look a whole lot worse at one point, but if you secure an 11-point comeback victory against Patrick Mahomes, you get an "A" from me. Jackson overcame a horrendous start to score three touchdowns (two rushing and one passing) and capture his first career victory against his biggest rival. The Ravens were short-handed on both sides of the ball due to various injuries, but they still came away with the win thanks in part to a monstrous fourth-down call from John Harbaugh, who had his team go for it on fourth-and-1 on their own 43 to seal the game.|
Chiefs-Ravens grades by Jared Dubin (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
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