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. I'm not going to lie to you, for a few hours Sunday afternoon I hated football. I thought it was the worst sport ever invented, a scourge upon society, and I didn't understand why I wasted so much time watching the game. Then I saw a football spinning beautifully upon the turf of Jerry World be cradled into the arms of CB C.J. Goodwin. All of a sudden I had a great revelation: football is the greatest sport ever invented, the savior of society, and I wish I could watch it 24 hours a day!
That was the gamut of emotions I went through watching the Cowboys game this week. If you love your favorite team you'll know what I'm talking about.
Anyway 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.
How 'bout them Falcons special teams!
Is there any lead the Atlanta Falcons can't blow? I think not after watching the Dallas Cowboys roar back from a 20-0 1st quarter deficit to defeat the Falcons 40-39 on a game ending FG by kicker Greg Zuerlein. What a comeback for the Good Guys!
The Dallas offense started the game off with a serious case of fumblitis. They fumbled the ball four (4!!!) times in the 1st quarter, losing three. Atlanta took full advantage of the gifts by converting the turnovers into 17 points. By the time the clock hit zero to end the quarter Atlanta held a 20-0 lead.
Being the #1 Cowboys fan, I was devastated. 0-2 was staring Dallas right in the face and that is one ugly record. In case you are unaware, since the NFL switched to the two wild card format only 12.2% of the teams that started the season 0-2 made the playoffs. There will be three wild cards this year, but still 0-2 is a terrible hole to dig out from.
I thought the game was already lost. I forgot the team on the other side of the field was the Falcons.
The Dallas offense started to hang on to the ball in the second quarter and put some points on the board. Yet the Dallas defense was lost and the Falcons kept scoring as well. Atlanta held a 29-10 lead at the half.
The third quarter was a different story as the Cowboys kept scoring and the Falcons offense went flat. 2 TDs let Dallas close the gap to 29-24 by the end of the period. The roles were reversed to start the 4th quarter as the Cowboys offense went cold and the Falcons heated back up. A TD and a FG helped Atlanta stretch the lead to 39-24 with a hair under 8 minutes left in the contest. I started losing hope at this point, it's hard to keep grinding and I felt the Cowboys were going to come up short in their comeback attempt.
Ol ye of little faith, I underestimated the heart of the Cowboys on Sunday. They stormed back with 2 TDs of their own to cut the lead to 39-37 with 1:49 left. The problem was they were out of timeouts. Their only hope was to recover an onside kick. Shit.
Last season the NFL changed the onside kick rules to prohibit overloading one side of the field. Only around 6% of onside kicks were recovered last season. However it is much easier to recover if the other team just stares at the ball. Watch for yourself:
WTF Atlanta! Thank you so much for the gift! In case you aren't aware of kickoff rules, the kicking team (Dallas) can't touch the ball until it reaches 10 yards. The receiving team (Atlanta) can touch the ball immediately. The Falcons just watched the ball spin down the field until CB C.J. Goodwin recovered it for Dallas. If I was a Falcons fan my TV might have gone into orbit. Luckily for me I'm a Cowboys fan, I jumped around the living room shouting "Holy shit we are going to win this fucking game!" (True story).
The Cowboys didn't waste the their gift, QB Dak Prescott hit WR Ceedee Lamb with a 24-yard pass to move Dallas into FG range and K Greg Zuerlein punched through a 46-yard kick as time expired. Cowboys 40 - Falcons 39.
Wow what a comeback. The Cowboys needed some help to get there, but in the end they pulled it off. Dak Prescott had a helluva day: 34/47, 450 yards, 1 passing TD, 3 rushing TDs. Dak is the first QB in NFL history with over 400 passing yards and three rushing TDs in the same game. He spread the ball around to eight different receivers with WR Ceedee Lamb (6 receptions, 106 yards), WR Amari Cooper (6 receptions, 100 yards) and TE Dalton Schultz (9 receptions, 88 yards, 1 TD) being his top targets.
The Cowboys didn't abandon the running game and while RB Zeke Elliott didn't run wild (22 carries, 89 yards, 1 TD) his contributions kept the Falcon's defense honest, which in turn helped Dak with the passing game.
Atlanta wasted top notch performances by QB Matt Ryan (24/36, 273 yards, 4 TDs) and WR Calvin Ridley (7 receptions, 109 yards, 2 TDs). The Cowboys defense was awful overall but they did manage to hold WR Julio Jones in check: 2 receptions, 24 yards.
This was truly a historic loss for the Falcons. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, since turnovers were first recorded in the statistics in 1933, teams which scored at least 39 points and had zero turnovers went 440-0. Think about that. 440-1 now.
0-2 Time to Panic!
The dreaded 0-2 start, where all hope seems lost. Like I mentioned earlier only 12% of the teams who hit this mark tend to make the playoffs. The NFL's endless quest for more money will improve the odds this season a bit with the adding of a third wild card spot, but still no team wants to have to dig out of this hole.
Ten teams have started the 2020 season with a 0-2 record. Four of them were no-brainers due the dumpster fire nature of their respective franchises: Bengals, Jets, Giants and Lions. The Falcons and Panthers are also 0-2 but that isn't really surprising. Carolina has a dreadful defense and Atlanta, well, you already read about them.
The remaining four teams on the other hand had playoff expectations, at least in some circles, and had better right the ship quick if they don't want fall into the even deeper hell of 0-3, where all hope is officially gone.
The Philadelphia Eagles fell to 0-2 after dropping their home-opener 37-19 to the L.A. Rams. Philly was completely outmatched by the Rams, QB Jared Goff completed his first 13 pass attempts on his way to a 20/27, 267 yards, 3 TDs afternoon. The running back committee ran roughshod as well with 39 carries for 161 yards, RB Darrell Henderson (12 carries, 81 yards, 1 TD) led the charge.
The Eagles running game got a boost with the return of RB Miles Sanders (20 carries, 95 yards, 1 TD), yet for the second week in a row the passing attack was ineffective. QB Carson Wentz (26/43, 242 yards, 2 INTs) has been a turnover machine to start the year. He's regressing and that is bad news for the Eagles because he has to be the main cog of the offense for the team to have any success. Head coach Doug Pederson continues to baffle me. Last week he had Wentz continually take shots down the field with the Washington defense teeing off on the QB repeatedly instead of bleeding the clock with a lead. This week, despite trailing by large margins, Pederson didn't take shots even though the Eagles needed to score in a hurry to try to catch up.
The Denver Broncos were a dark horse pick to make the playoffs by many people, but they fell to 0-2 after losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-21. Give the Broncos credit for a tremendous effort on the road after losing QB Drew Lock early in the game due to a strained rotator cuff. Backup QB Jeff Driskel (18/34, 256 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) filled in admirably but the Broncos are probably going to struggle with him under center. Especially since #1 WR Courtland Sutton (3 receptions, 66 yards) suffered a torn ACL on Sunday and will miss the rest of the season.
The Broncos already lost LB Von Miller (possibly for the season) and RB Phillip Lindsay (several weeks) to injuries. Denver has a lot of young talent, yet not enough to overcome this many injuries to key players to be a contender.
The Minnesota Vikings fell to 0-2 after being run over by the Indianapolis Colts 28-11. The Vikings offense is struggling big time with an awful offensive line and the loss of big play threat WR Stefon Diggs (traded to the Buffalo Bills). QB Kirk Cousins (11/26, 113 yards, 3 INTs) was harassed all day by the Colts defense, including getting sacked for a safety. RB Dalvin Cook (14 carries, 63 yards, 1 TD) is supposed to be the centerpiece of the offense, but it is hard to stick to the running game when falling behind by multiple scores each week.
A week after the Vikings defense got shredded through the air by Aaron Rodgers, the Colts showed you can run over them as well. The Colts took a lead and simply ran the rock all over Minnesota to continue adding to the scoreboard and bleeding the clock. All told the Colts rushed 40 times for 151 yards, not eye popping stats by any means yet effective in keeping the Vikings offense off the field. The entire Vikings team just looks bad right now and I don't see them being able to turn it around to make the playoffs.
It doesn't get much tougher than opening up the season against the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens. That was the scenario afforded to the Houston Texans and a big reason why they are now 0-2. The Ravens hardly seemed to break a sweat in defeating the Texans 33-16 on Sunday.
QB Deshaun Watson (25/36, 275 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) was running for his life all day. He got little help from the running game (17 carries, 51 yards) and his offensive line gives him barely any time to let any receiving routes develop. The Ravens on the other hand had no problem running the rock all over Houston, 230 yards on 37 carries. With the ground game doing so well, QB Lamar Jackson didn't need to do much through the air: 18/24, 204 yards, 1 TD.
Obviously the Texans schedule is going to get easier down the road. If they can find some cohesion in the offensive line to give Watson time to make plays, Houston can turn their season around and possibly make the playoffs.
Me 0-2? Never!
QB Tom Brady has accumulated a number of different stats and records in his long career, yet one was in jeopardy on Sunday: Not once in his 20 year career has a Tom Brady led team started the season 0-2. Really amazing when you consider how long the old man has been playing QB in this league. Of course Brady made sure to keep his streak intact as led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 31-17 win over the Carolina Panthers.
Last week the Bucs looked like a team that needed more practice time together to gel. Considering they put three TD drives together in the first half alone I'd say that week of practice went well. Brady still looks like a shadow of his former self (23/35, 217 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) but he can still come through with a few big plays if his teammates give him some aid.
WR Mike Evans was gimpy last week and had a forgettable game. This week he sure looked healthier as he made a 50-yard grab to set up the Bucs first TD. Overall he had a good game: 7 receptions, 104 yards, 1 TD. RB Leonard Fournette, who rushed for 5 yards on 5 carries last week, rebounded with a strong performance as well: 12 carries, 10 yards, 2 TDs.
Truly the Bucs defense were the real stars of the game. They harassed Panthers QB Teddy Bridgewater (33/42, 367 yards, 2 INTs) all day, sacking him 5 times and forcing 2 turnovers. They held all-pro Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey to 59 yards on 18 carries. McCaffrey did score 2 TDs as the Panthers made a late push to score some points in garbage time.
The Bucs looked much better in Week 2 than they did in Week 1, albeit against easier competition. A favorable schedule the next few weeks should let them continue to grow together as a unit before the competition heats up again.
Sunday Night Shootout
The Seattle Seahawks beat the New England Patriots 35-30 in a game that featured an epic battle between the starting QBs.
Seattle QB Russell Wilson's night got off to a rough start when his second pass attempt was intercepted by Patriots CB Devin McCourty and returned for a pick six. Being the pro that he is, Wilson shook off his early mistake and pounded the endzone the rest of the night: 21/28, 288 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT. Talk about being an equal opportunity passer, his 5 TD passes were caught by 5 different receivers. His legs were in mid-season form too as he carried the ball 5 times for 39 yards.
Wilson needed to have a big game since Patriots QB Cam Newton showed he still has plenty of football left in him. Last week New England relied primarily on Cam's legs to move the ball. This week they let him air it out and he responded big time: 30/44, 397 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. His top target was WR Julian Edelman (8 receptions, 179 yards) who set a career high for receiving yards in a game. Of course Newton's legs were dangerous as well: 11 carries, 47 yards, 2 TDs.
The major difference in the two teams that let Seattle pull ahead was in the ground attacks. Wilson got support from RB Chris Carson (17 carries, 72 yards) while Newton got little help from the Patriots RB committee (14 carries, 20 yards). The Patriots were without the services of RB James White, who's father was killed earlier on Sunday in a car crash.
Russell Wilson is making a serious run for MVP to start the year and if he can stay healthy the Seahawks will be the team to beat in the NFC West. Cam Newton meanwhile is proving that he is injury-free for the first time in several years, don't count out the Patriots yet.
Around the League
The Kansas City Chiefs needed K Harrison Butker to hit two 58-yard FGs to defeat the Los Angeles Chargers 23-20 in overtime. The Chiefs offense didn't get rolling until the second half, then QB Patrick Mahomes (27/47, 302 yards, 2 TDs) started to find his top targets WR Tyreek Hill (5 receptions, 99 yards, 1 TD) and TE Travis Kelce (9 receptions, 90 yards, 1 TD). Kansas City has a bad habit of starting games slowly and then coming alive in the end to pull out the win. They better clean that up because it will come back to bite them.
The Chargers QB Tyrod Taylor experienced chest pains while warming up, so the team had to turn to rookie QB Justin Herbert to lead them. He stepped up magnificently for a rookie facing the defending World Champions: 22/33, 311 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 rushing TD. Quite a performance for a kid who found out he was starting minutes before kickoff.
Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn stated Monday the QB job is still Taylor's if he is healthy. Was he smoking crack before the press conference? Taylor, who couldn't cut it in Buffalo and lost his job in Cleveland to Baker Mayfield, stunk Week One against the woeful Bengals. Herbert walks on the field without getting starting reps in practice and takes the defending champs to the limit. Justin Herbert is the future of the franchise and he showed he is ready to take over now. Lynn should only stick with Taylor if he dislikes winning and is hoping to lose his job.
You have to love divisional matchups because the familiarity between the two teams usually means a tough fought, close game even if the teams are worlds apart in talent. We were treated to two such contests on Sunday.
The supposedly tanking Jacksonville Jaguars hung tough in Tennessee before falling to the Titans 33-30. The Jaguars contained Titans RB Derrick Henry as much as they could possibly hope to (25 carries, 84 yards), but Titans QB Ryan Tannehill continued his career resurgence with a big day: 18/24, 239 yards, 4 TDs. Titans TE Jonnu Smith (4 receptions, 84 yards, 2 TDs) made the most of his few opportunities.
More importantly for Tennessee, K Stephen Gostkowski seemed to put his horrible Week One performance behind him by hitting his two FG attempts, including a 51-yarder.
Jaguars QB Gardner Minshew (30/45, 339 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs) refuses to buy into tanking.
In another nail-biter the Buffalo Bills held off the Miami Dolphins 31-28 in Miami. Last week Bills QB Josh Allen had his first 300 yard passing game. For an encore he destroyed the Dolphins for over 400 yards: 24/35, 417 yards, 4 TDs. He was aided by his new #1 WR Stefon Diggs (8 receptions, 153 yards, 1 TD).
The Dolphins looked horrible Week One, but QB Ryan Fitzpatrick pulled some Fitzmagic out his dupa (31/47, 328 yards, 2 TDs) to keep Miami in the game. TE Mike Gesicki had a career day (8 receptions, 130 yards, 1 TD), finally showing off some of the skills he routinely displayed in his college career at Penn State.
Of course not every divisional game was exciting. The Green Bay Packers beat up the Detroit Lions 42-21. The Lions jumped out to a 14-3 in the first quarter, but the Packers weren't impressed and scored 31 unanswered points to put Detroit away easily.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (18/30, 240 yards, 2 TDs) had a quiet game compared to the fireworks he unleashed against the Vikings. RB Aaron Jones roared instead. He led the team in rushing (18 carries, 168 yards, 2 TDs) and receiving (4 receptions, 68 yards, 1 TD).
The Lions made NFL history on Sunday, but since they are the Lions it obviously wasn't a coveted mark. Detroit became the first team to lose four consecutive games in which at some point they held at least a 10 point lead. Congrats I guess.
The New York teams did what they do best, namely losing. That isn't news, but the injuries suffered in their games is newsworthy.
The Chicago Bears beat the New York Giants 17-10. Giants RB Saquon Barkley (4 carries, 28 yards) tore his ACL and will miss the rest of the season. The Giants offense stunk with Barkley, they are in real trouble without him. Giants QB Daniel Jones (25/40, 241, 1 INT) has only showed skills in throwing INTs so far in his career.
The San Francisco 49ers cruised to an easy 31-13 victory over the New York Jets, but paid a heavy price in injuries. QB Jimmy Garoppolo (14/16, 131 yards, 2 TDs), RB Raheem Mostert (8 carries, 92 yards, 1 TD), and DL Nick Bosa all left the game early with injuries. Bosa tore an ACL and is done for the year.
The Jets avoided serious injuries, but unfortunately for their fans the front office avoided drafting talent. Sometimes you can't have it all.
The 49ers better get healthy quick because the Arizona Cardinals are looking like the real deal in the NFC West. On Sunday they easily dismissed the Washington No-names 30-15.
The No-names bullied QB Carson Wentz last week, but had no answer for QB Kyler Murray in the air (26/38, 286 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) or on the ground (8 carries, 67 yards, 2 TDs). So far it looks like Murray has taken a big step forward from his rookie season.
Washington looked lifeless, getting shut out in the first half and only scoring in garbage time. WR Terry McLaurin (7 receptions, 125 yards, 1 TD) was the only no-name to put up any significant stats.
As I am finishing up this post the Las Vegas Raiders beat the New Orleans Saints 34-24. Are the Raiders for real this year? Who knows, they have tricked us before.
The biggest surprise from this game was Raiders QB Derek Carr (28/38, 282 yards, 3 TDs) outplayed Saints QB Drew Brees (26/38, 312 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT). Brees stats were padded a bit from some late garbage time.
The Saints are rarely as potent away from the Superdome, but it is still a good win for the Raiders, who improved to 2-0.
Thanks for taking the time to read. Let me know your thoughts on Week Two.