The second Sunday of the 2019 NFL season is in the books so here are the different thoughts and opinions I have on various things I witnessed this past weekend. Some fans are happy about their favorite team's start (I know I am!) and some fans are pissed. Others are just confused. It's still early folks, we have a long season ahead of us.
Just remember I am a Dallas Cowboys fan and I'm extremely biased. Feel free to agree or disagree about anything mentioned here. All comments are welcome.
There is nothing better in the NFL than fierce divisional rivalries. I love them. They usually lead to tight, hard fought contests no matter what the records of each team happen to be.
The Cowboys visited the Skins on Sunday and the game started out that way. 0-0 after the 1st quarter as the Cowboys offensive came out sluggish. Two punts and a Dak pick on their first 3 possessions. The Skins drew first blood with an Adrian Peterson TD early in the 2nd quarter to take a 7-0 lead. It was their highwater mark of the afternoon as the score seemed to wake the Dallas offense up. They scored 4 TD's and a field goal on their next 5 possessions to cruise to a 31-21 victory over the Skins.
Around the league everybody likes to crap on Prescott, claiming he's not a good QB, he's riding Zeke's coattails, blah blah blah. I love him. Now that the Cowboys have given him some quality receivers to work with and new offensive coordinator with a little imagination he has stepped up his game. After a slow start he hit 18 consecutive passes, including 14 for 14 in the second half. He hit eight different receivers to put up a quality stat line: 26/30 269 yards 3 TDs 1 INT. He also rushed for 70 yards on 4 carries before taking a knee to end the game. He's a leader and a winner. C'mon Jerry pay the man!
Zeke was more involved with the game plan this week, but he was having a rather pedestrian game until he broke off a 27 yard run to ice the victory in the 4th quarter. He finished with 111 yards and a TD on 23 carries. Once he finally gets going this offense is going to be dangerous.
Strange day for the defense. They held Keenum to 221 yards passing and the Skins only rushed for 47 yards total. Yet they still managed to cough up 21 points. Weird.
I hate to say anything nice about a Redskin but Peterson's rushing TD was the 107th of his career, passing Jim Brown for 5th place all time. Congrats AP. In case you are unaware, the NFL's all-time leader in rushing TDs is Emmitt Smith with 164. Just saying.
0-2 Time to Panic!
The dreaded 0-2 start has been accomplished by eight teams so far, soon to be joined by the loser of the Jets/Browns game. Ok let's be honest, soon to be joined by the Jets. I mean c'mon, even the Browns can't lose to a Jets squad starting Trevor Siemian right? Then again they are the Browns. We'll see soon.
We all saw this coming for most of these teams but a couple of them seemed to be legitimate playoff contenders before the season began.
The Jacksonville Jaguars had high hopes after acquiring QB Nick Foles. Hopes that were crushed along with his shoulder in Week 1. Now the fate of the franchise rests on the shoulders of Rookie QB Gardner Minshew. (As if that last name wasn't bad enough his parents thought Gardner was an acceptable first name. Damn hippies.)
Minshew played fairly well in a road game against the Texans, better than Bortles usually played. If Fournette could have gained another inch on a 2 point conversion the Jags could have won instead of losing 13-12. The Jags have a light schedule and the AFC South is normally a mess so maybe they still have a shot. The defense will need to stay strong and Fournette will need find his mojo or the Jags will be doomed.
The Carolina Panthers were a contender last season before Cam Newton hurt his shoulder, then they went straight into the toilet. An offseason with shoulder surgery and rest was supposed to solve this issue. It apparently hasn't. Newton doesn't look healthy. His accuracy, which was never great, has gotten worse. Carolina rarely tries to throw deep because they know Cam can't do it. Even more telling is Newton has abandoned his greatest weapon: running. Either he can't or the Panthers are afraid he will be injured even further.
Case in point: During the Panthers devastating 20-14 home loss to the Buccaneers, the Panthers faced a 4th and 1 at the Tampa Bay two yard line in the game's waning moments. Needing a TD to win, the Panthers had to go for it. Everybody knew a classic Newton QB sneak was coming. Except it didn't. The Panthers tried to run a trick play instead with a direct snap to Christian McCaffrey which failed. Newton has run 101 QB sneaks since 2015, the next closest QB is Tom Brady with 38. That odd play call tells the story. Newton is done as a runner and he isn't much of a threat as a pocket passer. Better luck next year Panthers.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, finally free from the insanity of Antonio Brown, were supposed to return to form this season. After getting utterly destroyed by the Patriots in Week One, they needed to right the ship quick with the Seahawks coming to town. They failed, falling to Seattle 28-26. They had to convert two Seahawk turnovers into 14 points to make the score that close.
Even worse for Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger left the game in the 2nd quarter with a right elbow injury. Turns out he needs surgery and his season is over. His backup Mason Rudolph filled in pretty well, throwing for 112 yards and 2 TDs with 1 INT in the second half. But this team is going nowhere fast without Big Ben. The running game has been crap so far and the defense isn't stopping anybody.
Next week the Jaguars have a quick turnaround with a home game against the Titans on Thursday, the Panthers travel to Phoenix to play the surprisingly plucky Cardinals and the Steelers travel to San Francisco to face the red hot 49ers. Uh oh guys, 0-3 is knocking.
You play to win the game! Hello?
If there is one thing I hate (alright there are millions of things I hate, but for the sake of argument let's pretend there is just one) it's head coaches who play it safe. You know the type, the guys who always punt on 4th down instead of going for the jugular. The kind that would rather play for a tie and take their chances with a coin flip instead deciding to go for the damn win on the spot.
Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone is getting a lot of heat for having guts. The Jaguars offense was struggling mightily against the Texans defense on Sunday. Down by 7 late in the 4th quarter the Jags finally scored a touchdown. With 36 seconds left on the clock Marrone was faced with a tough decision coaches get paid the big bucks for: kick the extra point and take his chances in overtime or go for 2 and win now. He had the stones to go for 2. Unfortunately for the Jags Leonard Fournette was stopped on the one inch line and the conversion failed.
But that doesn't mean it was the wrong call. With a rookie QB and an ineffective running game, what were the chances the Jags would score again in overtime? Hell if Houston won the toss the Jags offense might have never even seen the ball again. Marrone knew his team had a chance to win the game right then and there so he decided to put his team's fate in the hands of his players instead of a coin flip. OK, it didn't work out. Doesn't mean it was the wrong decision.
Broncos head coach Vic Fangio isn't facing the same criticism today for making the same exact call. Why? Because Denver converted the two point play. The circumstances were nearly the same: offense struggling all game against a top defense, down seven late in the 4th quarter his team scores a TD with less than a minute to go, the coach shows some balls by going for the win instead of playing for a tie. Sadly for Denver they still lost after a questionable roughing the passer penalty and an even more questionable granting of a time out that put one second back on the clock to save the Bears ass.
Two coaches make the same call. It works for one, fails for the other. One is praised for his decision, the other is ridiculed. They both should be praised for playing to win.
On the other end of the spectrum, Cardinals rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury decided to play it safe on Sunday. The Cardinals have a rookie QB and a banged up roster but still put up a tough fight against a strong Ravens team on the road before falling 23-17. But maybe if Kingsbury had any guts the Cardinals could have pulled off the upset. On three separate occasions the Cardinals faced a 4th and goal within the Ravens 5 yard line while the team was trailing. Kingsbury decided to kick a field goal all three times. No team has kicked that many field goals from within the 5 yard line while losing since the NFL moved the goal posts to the back of the endzone in 1974.
Seriously, he couldn't go for the touchdown even once? The whole complexion of the game could have been changed if they converted one 4th and goal for six points. What the hell do the Cardinals have to lose? They aren't going anywhere this year. Maybe he was afraid of drawing criticism. Maybe he is happier by not losing too badly instead of taking a chance for a victory. Either way it disgusts me. Gutless.
In the end all three teams ending up losing. But at least two of the coaches gave their teams a shot of winning. That's the idea right? But who am I to bitch. Let's ask former NFL head coach and current Arizona State head coach Herman Edwards for his opinion.
You're damn right coach.
Battle for New York Part II
The Buffalo Bills had an unusual scheduling quirk to start the season: two road games at the same stadium. Lucky bastards, who wouldn't want to start the season against two schlubs like the Jets and the Giants.
Last week Buffalo came from behind to squeak by the Jets. Emboldened by their chance to claim the NFL New York championship they kicked the Giants dupa this week 28-14.
I don't get Giants head coach Pat Shurmur. He's supposed to be some kind of offensive guru, but he sure doesn't know what to do with his Giants. The Giants entered Sunday's game without their top three wide receivers. They did have the services of super running back Saquon Barkley. Sounds like a run heavy game plan to me.
Well it started that way. On the Giants first possession they ran the ball five times for seventy five yards and a touchdown. 55 of those yards courtesy of Barkley. Good start. Then the game plan went to hell. On their next three possessions, all three and outs, they handed the ball to Barkley twice while Eli Manning threw seven passes with one completion for a couple yards. What? Why put the game in Eli's hands?
While the Giants were busy screwing around the Bills racked up three TDs. By that point the Giants were forced to throw more to try to come back. Barkley ended the game with 107 yards on 18 carries. Saquon is the best running back in the NFL and he never sees even 20 carries in a game.
Maybe if Shurmur handed the ball off to his superstar more and relied on his aging relic of a QB less the Giants could have stayed competitive. Who knows, maybe they could have even won. It's almost like Shurmur is setting Manning up for failure to make it easier to bench him and start rookie QB Daniel Jones. Hmm, #conspiracytheory.
Bills QB Josh Allen had an excellent first half, racking up 210 yards passing with 2 TDs (one passing, one rushing). Then this interesting factoid appeared on my TV, the Bills have gone 34 games without having a QB throw for 300 yards. By far the longest such stretch in the league. Well surely Allen was going to end that streak. He had 210 by halftime. Of course when the final whistle blew the streak hit 35 as Allen only threw for 43 yards in the second half. It wasn't his fault really, the Bills were protecting a nice lead and chose to run more to chew up the clock. For the Giants sake I hope Shurmur was taking some notes.
Around the League
Before the Titans/Colts game in Tennessee, one of the flame-throwing boxes used for the Titans entrance tipped over and set the field on fire. As someone who enjoys a good pyrotechnical display I thought that was pretty awesome. It was like some kind of half-assed Kiss concert. Without the crappy music. That was the highlight of the day though for the Titans, who lost the game 19-17. Way to build on that momentum after beating the Browns.
Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri missed two more extra points. Time to hang it up bud. You already have all the records and your place in Canton is assured.
Can you believe the refs screwed the Saints again? In a game against the freakin' Rams no less! The Saints sacked Goff, who fumbled the ball, and returned it for a 90 yard TD. Except the refs blew the play dead claiming it was an incomplete pass. Whoops. Replay clearly showed it was a fumble, but the Saints weren't awarded the TD, only possession of the ball on their own ten yard line. Gee, thanks. If Sean Payton ever decides to punch a referee right in the face Goodell better just look the other way. Or he might be next.
Tough break for the Saints after QB Drew Brees banged his thumb off a helmet and had to leave the game early. He needs surgery and is expected to miss 6 weeks. The Saints just can't catch a break. Time for Teddy Bridgewater to step up and show if he can be the quarterback he was in Minnesota before he had his own injury problems.
Lamarr Jackson has seven TD passes this year after Week Two. He had six last season. So far he has stepped up his passing game, admittedly against two piss-poor defenses. The Ravens are the team to beat in the AFC North and if Jackson keeps on performing this way maybe somebody in the AFC can finally knock off the Evil Empire.
Speaking of the Patriots, they flew down to Miami to take their turn at embarrassing the dumpster fire formerly known as the Dolphins. 43-0 whitewash. Tom Brady made sure to get super pain in the ass Antonio Brown involved early by throwing his first three passes to him for 36 yards. Later in the game Brady tossed him a 20 yard TD pass.
Way to make Brown feel welcome. At least for now. The NFL is meeting with his rape accuser today and Sports Illustrated just released a hatchet job piece on him showing he's an even bigger asshole than we already knew. He owes a lot of people a lot of money. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com has reported Robert Kraft would not have allowed the Patriots to sign Brown if he knew about the accusations against him. Yea, right. I'm real impressed by the high moral compass of a billionaire who gets handies in a cheap ass "massage" parlor.
Last week the Lions blew an easy win by simply being the Lions. This week they were able to beat San Diego Los Angeles because the Chargers were being the Chargers 13-10. The Chargers missed two field goals and had two touchdowns called back by penalties. Then Austin Ekeler solved that issue by fumbling the ball on the goal line. At least there wasn't a penalty on the play!
The Jets QB Sam Darnold is reportedly going to miss six weeks after coming down with mono. Haha, only the Jets. I would have thought they would have brought back Joe Namath to teach him how to swing without contracting STDs.
Congrats to Seahawks QB Russell Wilson for becoming the first Seattle quarterback to throw 200 TDs with the team. I was kind of surprised by that fact. Seattle has had some decent quarterbacks in the past. Namely Zorn, Krieg and Hasselbeck.
That Mahomes kid had another decent day on the field. He lit up the Raiders for 4 TDs and 313 yards. In the first half.
Let me know your thoughts about Week Two. I hope your QB didn't go down. I also hope your head coach has some guts.