Sunday, September 20, 2015

Week 2 NFL notes

After the Steelers 43-18 demolition of the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick rationalized the defeat by claiming that the 49ers had gone to the pass “too late.” On the surface, it seemed that he was correct, finishing the game 33 of 46 for 335 yards and two touchdowns. The problem with that assessment was that Kaepernick had thrown 29 of those passes by the time the Steelers entered the fourth quarter with a 29-3 lead. The 49ers’ defense continued to be sieve-like (Ben Roethlisberger finished 21-27 for 369 yards and three scores), while predictably the Steeler defense took its feet off the gas with the game all but won. It doesn’t matter if the numbers look good in the hindsight—it is what was done with them that matters.

Meanwhile, Jameis Winston led Tampa Bay to victory over New Orleans, finishing with a serviceable 14 of 21 passing for 207 yards and a touchdown.  It apparently helps to keep the work load light, as Marcus Mariota discovered last week; this week, however, Mariota threw 37 passes in a 28-14 loss to the Browns. Still, 257 yards, two touchdowns provided a still not shabby 96.3 passer rating—although it doesn’t take into account his two fumbles lost. Last year’s rookie story, Johnny Manziel, threw only 15 passes in the Browns’ win, but for 172 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers.

Elsewhere, the Cardinals crushed the Bears 48-23, but despite the lopsided final score it wasn’t entirely the fault of Jay Cutler. He was 8-8 for 120 yards and a touchdown until a pick-6 early in the second quarter after a hit that knocked him out of the game. Carson Palmer threw four touchdown passes, but it’s clear that he’s never been the same since his injury in that playoff game against Pittsburgh, reducing him to “management” level efficiency. Fortunately for him, the Cardinal defense is operating where it left off last season.

The Patriots defeated the Bills 40-32 but the game really wasn’t that close. Tyrod Taylor’s inexperience showed, looking befuddled early, completing 16-21 for just 94 yards as the Brady machine dinked and dunked to a 37-13 fourth quarter lead, until Taylor led an improbable late game comeback, catching the Patriots defense off-guard playing it too casually. Brady threw for 466 yards and 3 TDs, replacing the running game with short passes, the kind of game that led to victory in last year’s Super Bowl. If nothing else, it seems to disprove the theory that a team can’t win without an adequate running attack.

For the second week in a row, the Giants let a big lead slip away in the fourth quarter. Matt Ryan threw for 363 yards, 9-11 for 153 yards on two late touchdown drives as the Falcons overcame a 20-10 deficit to win 24-20.  In the Redskins’ 24-10 victory over St. Louis (who were coming off an overtime win over Seattle), neither Nick Foles nor Kirk Cousins impressed, but the Redskins third-round rookie pick Matt Jones gained 123 yard and scored 2 touchdowns after just 28 yards in his NFL debut.

The main story in the Cowboys 20-10 victory over Philadelphia is not what Fox commentator Troy Aikman said was the “disaster” that the Eagles’ season is becoming with Sam Bradford at quarterback, but that Tony Romo is out with an injured shoulder,  Replacing him is Brandon Weeden, at 31 in only his fourth season,  and he is no Kurt Warner. Fortunately for the Cowboys, former Cowboy DeMarco Murray was horrible for the second straight week. With the Eagles down just 6-0, on their first drive of the second half Murray lost 11 yards on two carries, leading to a blocked punt and a touchdown, giving the Cowboys a 13-0 lead. Murray finished with 13 carries for just 2 yards.

Unlike last week’s 52 pass attempt effort, Bradford was just 5-9 for 24 yards in the first half. After the Murray debacle, he threw three straight incomplete passes on the next possession. He was then intercepted at the goal line to abort one scoring drive, then fumbled the ball away at the Dallas 31 after a Cowboys turnover. The Cowboys were just begging to give game away, and Eagles adamantly refused to take it.

Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ offense bounced back from an awful game against Denver last week, except that their defense just watched, giving up a touchdown in the last seconds of the game in a 37-33 loss to Oakland. Derek Carr had a fine game with 351 yards—but he was aided by a holding call on the winning drive that negated an interception that would have clinched the game for Baltimore.

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