NFL Overreactions: Don’t sleep on 2-0 Bucs, are the Chiefs and Bengals struggling?
Sports Seriously’s Mackenzie Salmon ‘overreacts’ to the biggest storylines from Week 2 of the NFL season.
Week 2 in the NFL offered the opportunity for 16 teams who lost their opener to bounce back.
Some of them, like the potential Super Bowl-contending Buffalo Bills did so with efficiency in a complete takedown of the Las Vegas Raiders. Others, like the Los Angeles Chargers, wasted a stellar offensive performance, in this case from star quarterback Justin Herbert.
The defending Super Bowl-champion Chiefs were one of those teams that rebounded from a Week 1 loss, but Kansas City’s offense under reigning Most Valuable Player Patrick Mahomes has suddenly lost its punch.And then there are the Chicago Bears, who look lifeless and lost and potentially bound for big changes.
Here are the winners and losers for Week 2.
Give Eric Bieniemy credit. One week after the Commanders went just 2-of-5 in red zone conversions, Washington’s offense scored touchdowns in all three trips Sunday against the Denver Broncos in a 35-33 win. And Bieniemy, in his first season as the Commanders’ offensive coordinator, has infused balance and aggressive play-calling while placing young quarterback Sam Howell (27-of-39 for 299 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday) in favorable positions to make plays.
Washington gained 122 rushing yards and 266 passing yards. Running back Brian Robinson Jr. has been a star and racked up 129 yards from scrimmage on 20 touches. The offensive line − which has allowed 10 sacks in two games − is a massive issue, and Bieniemy would certainly like to see faster starts and more explosive plays coming out of the passing game, but his effect on this team is undeniable.
The Bills bounce back in a big way
Josh Allen (31-of-37 for 274 yards with three touchdowns) was efficient and protected the football. He also got support in the run game, as Buffalo’s other players ran the ball 32 times for 176 yards − including 123 from lead running back James Cook. The defense pressured Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo into a pair of picks in the 38-10 romp, and cornerback Dane Jackson jarred the ball out of running back Zamir White’s grasp for a fumble. The Bills completely bottled up Josh Jacobs (nine carries, -2 yards) and allowed Vegas just two trips into the red zone.
This was Buffalo at its absolute best, and while the Raiders aren’t near the top tier of the AFC, the Bills showed they are capable of a deep run when they play complementary football like this.
Ravens out to early lead in AFC North
It’s very early in the season, but the Baltimore Ravens secured a massive divisional victory on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals, the defending two-time AFC North champs. That Baltimore secured the 27-24 win with an array of injuries along the offensive line and in the secondary is even more impressive. Yet despite left tackle Ronnie Stanley and center Tyler Linderbaum both missing the game, Baltimore kept Lamar Jackson clean all game long, yielding just a single QB hit and preventing the Bengals from recording even one sack.
Rookie receiver Zay Flowers has shown that he can be an electric playmaker, and the offense seems to be far more diverse this season than it has been in the past. This is the kind of victory, though − with the rematch coming in Week 11 at home − that could have massive implications for playoff seeding.
Patriots sputter without ground game
First, a caveat: the Patriots have been banged up along the offensive line and at receiver, so the New England offense was always going to have to be gritty to pull out a victory against the Miami Dolphins. But Miami, which was gashed in Week 1 to the tune of 233 rushing yards by the Chargers, responded and limited the Patriots to 88 yards on 25 carries in its 24-17 win.
New England’s offensive identity revolves around the rush. But it wasn’t until the Pats faced a 14-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter that they were able to be effective running the ball; 19 of those 88 rushing yards came on a nine-play scoring drive. The longest rush of the day went 18 yards, and it was quarterback Mac Jones who ran it. Given New England’s lack of star talent and depth at receiver, as well as Jones’ up-and-down play, this offense, without a rushing game, is simply too unreliable to outscore the NFL’s best units.
Jets’ offense faces tough days ahead
The Dallas Cowboys may end up with the top defense in the NFL in most major categories, so this was always going to be a tough test for Zach Wilson in his first start replacing the injured Aaron Rodgers. But Wilson (12-of-27, 170 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions), despite reports of progress during the offseason, was again unsteady in the pocket, inaccurate and didn’t protect the ball in a 30-10 rout.
Inexplicably, the Jets abandoned their running game. Breece Hall, the team’s explosive back who ripped off an 83-yard carry last week in the opener, got four touches and gained only 9 yards. In fact, four New York running backs carried the ball at least once; none of them cracked double digits in rushing yards. While the Jets will likely face stacked boxes as defenses may be looking to dare Wilson to make plays, New York’s offensive identity still needs to start on the ground.
The Bears are broken
When the Bears enjoyed success last season, it was when quarterback Justin Fields put the offense on his back and took over games with his legs. The offense Chicago has called thus far this season, including in Sunday’s 27-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has indicated that the organization wants to lessen the burden on Fields. The problem is that the Bears’ running backs are incapable of breaking games open. Players other than Fields have rushed the ball 32 times this season for 98 yards.
The personnel decisions general manager Ryan Poles has made have been mixed, at best, though the move to ship a second-round pick for receiver Chase Claypool, whose effort has been called into question but managed to score a touchdown , cannot be viewed as anything but a failure. Chicago is lifeless on offense. The defense has lost a step and cannot generate a whiff of a pass rush, with their one sack through two games ranking tied for second-to-last in the NFL. The unit also has not generated a single takeaway. Going back to last season, they have lost 12 in a row, and they have given up at least 25 points in each of those contests.
Kellen Moore’s assimilation as the offensive coordinator of the Chargers is still going through some growing pains. In a Week 1 loss against the Dolphins, the passing game simply could not keep up with Miami’s. In Week 2’s 27-24 overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans, the Chargers just could not extend drives and converted only two of 14 third-down attempts. The Chargers did convert each of their three fourth-down tries, but the struggles on third down discomposed the timing and rhythm of the offense as a whole.
Star running back Austin Ekeler missed the game with an ankle injury, but the Chargers, with a stable of potent weapons and a strong offensive line, are out of excuses and cannot afford to waste many more of Justin Herbert’s (27-of-41 for 305 yards and two touchdowns) stellar play. Otherwise, more changes on the coaching staff may be coming.