Week 2 of the NFL season is behind us. It gave us plenty of blunders that left us scratching our heads, wondering what we just saw.
The Cleveland Browns found another way to lose a game. While kicker Zane Gonzalez deserves plenty of blame, Hue Jackson and the coaching staff do as well. And as bad as they were, a blunder from the quarterback was arguably just as costly. Additionally, the Browns were not the only team with glaring kicking problems in Week 2. The seemingly never-ending kicking woes of the Minnesota Vikings continued at Lambeau Field.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continued their surprising start by beating up on the Philadelphia Eagles. One member of the Super Bowl champs just couldn’t seem to get anything right. After a strong Week 1 outing, mistakes against the Miami Dolphins brought New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold back to earth in Week 2.
Those were just some of the top blunders from Week 2 of the 2018 NFL season.
Cleveland done in by a hurt kicker
Gonzalez and the Browns had a nightmare day on Sunday. Two missed field goals and two other missed PATs were prime contributors in yet another loss. But Gonzalez isn’t solely to blame for this fiasco.
No, Cleveland’s coaching staff deserves ample blame here, too. It came out on Monday that Gonzalez had been dealing with a groin injury. That seems relevant for a kicker. So, with people like Dan Bailey available in free agency, the Browns just decided to go ahead and roll with an injured kicker.
It may just be that Gonzalez is not a good NFL kicker. He made only 75 percent of his kicks in 2017, after all. But if that’s the case, he shouldn’t have broken camp as Cleveland’s kicker. At the very least, he shouldn’t have been out there on Sunday. It’s errors like this that make us think that Hue Jackson’s 1-32-1 record in Cleveland isn’t a fluke.
Disastrous first play leads to awful day for Jalen Mills
DeSean Jackson ate Mills’ lunch on the first play of the game. He and Ryan Fitzpatrick connected on a a 75-yard touchdown. That only set the tone for a terrible day for the Philadelphia cornerback.
Whether matched up against a speed receiver like Jackson, or a big, strong receiver like Mike Evans, Mills just couldn’t seem to do anything right. Between those two receivers, Fitzpatrick was 7-for-7 for 172 yards with two touchdown passes when targeting Mills. That’s an awfully hard hole to climb out of.
Mills was by no means the only Eagle to struggle in Sunday’s loss in Tampa. But if we’re trying to figure out who was most responsible for the loss, his name is at or near the top of the list.
Sam Darnold throws costly interception in loss to Dolphins
Darnold overcame an early mistake to have a great Week 1. In Week 2, he looked like a rookie quarterback. He threw two interceptions. The first led to a Miami touchdown. The second came in the end zone and potentially kept the Jets from scoring. That’s the one that gets our focus.
Xavien Howard made a great play on the ball and Terrelle Pryor could have helped his quarterback more. But it never needed to come to that. Isaiah Crowell was wide open with only one man standing between him and the end zone. Even if Crowell was brought down, it was first down. Any positive play would have worked. And even if a score was needed on that play, Robby Anderson would have made for a much better target.
Darnold has looked impressive. But Todd Bowles’ reluctance to get too excited about his rookie quarterback was well founded. There a lot of work that needs to be done.
Draft day decision bites Vikings in a big way
After Daniel Carlson struggled mightily in Sunday’s tie with the Green Bay Packers, we really have to go back to April’s draft and wonder just what the Vikings were thinking. Minnesota not only drafted a kicker, but traded up to get him.
Normally, that might buy Carlson some equity. That wasn’t the case here. On the one hand, we have to credit the Vikings for not sticking with a failed experiment. It didn’t work, so the Vikings made the apparently easy decision to cut ties with Carlson. But if one bad game was enough to get Carlson cut, why did Minnesota trade up for him in the first place? And if it went deeper than just one disastrous game, maybe the Vikings should have dropped him earlier and signed Bailey before Week 2 instead of after.
Sunday was a blunder-filled day for Minnesota’s now former kicker. But it also spotlighted plenty of blunders made by the front office in the weeks and months leading up to the season.
Vontae Davis makes wrong kind of history in Buffalo
We can’t fault Davis for getting old and not being the player that he once was. If he realized that he couldn’t do it anymore and retired two weeks into the season, we couldn’t even really fault him for that.
But Davis retired from the game at halftime of the Week 2 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers and made it official when the game was over. The move didn’t sit well with his teammates. Davis owed it to the Buffalo Bills to at least finish the game.
It’s often sad to see once great athletes end their careers by struggling. But that’s much better than quitting on his team mid-game. David owed a better finish to not only his teammates, but to himself.
Texans forget to guard Dane Cruikshank on fake-punt
Tennessee Titans safeties Kevin Byard and Cruikshank deserve plenty of praise for perfectly executing a fake punt (which you can see here) in the first quarter of Sunday’s win over the Houston Texans. But Houston couldn’t have made it much easier for them.
On a fourth-and-seven, Cruikshank lined up outside the numbers in the traditional gunner position. No opponent on that side of the field was even lined up outside of the hash marks. As such, Byard had an easy pass to Cruikshank, who not only converted the first down, but scored a touchdown.
This would have been a terrible formation even if the fake hadn’t been tried. In that case, Cruikshank would have had a clear path to Houston’s return man. That would have been less than ideal for the Texans. If Houston was trailing late in the game, we might understand the idea of selling out for the block and leaving nobody on the outside. But at 0-0 in the first quarter? That kind of lapse can’t happen.
Tyrod Taylor’s interception sets up frantic finish
Cleveland’s loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday can’t be blamed completely on Gonzalez, nor can it be blamed solely on Jackson and the coaching staff. Taylor did them no favors.
On the surface, Taylor’s finishing line (22-for-30, 246 yards, one touchdown, one interception) looks okay. But so much of that came on the Browns’ final two drives. To that point, Taylor was only 16-for-23 for 120 yards with no touchdowns and a pick. That included a disastrous interception. The pick set the Saints up for their first lead of the day and set the stage for the crazy finish.
Admittedly, Taylor bounced back from the interception quite well. He threw a beautiful touchdown pass to Antonio Callaway that would have given the Browns the lead if Gonzalez had made the PAT. He also got the Browns in position for a potential game-tying field goal, which was also missed by Gonzalez. We’re not letting Gonzalez off the hook here. But we also can’t help but wonder what might have happened if Taylor was a little sharper through the game. We certainly wonder how things would have played out if he didn’t throw that interception.
LeGarrette Blount reverts to old self
Blount was ejected in the fourth quarter of the Detroit Lions loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. On the play in question — which you can see here — San Francisco’s Elijah Lee hit Matthew Stafford as the Detroit quarterback was close to going out of bounds. The play was not flagged and looking at the replays, it appeared as though the no-call was correct. But even if Lee’s hit on Stafford was dirty, what could Blount have possibly been thinking?
Blount’s shove came well after the play was over. There was even a significant pause between Lee’s hit and Blount’s retaliation. In other words, there was no way it wouldn’t get called. That’s an ejection and a 15-yard mistake.
Even if the Lions overcame Blount’s error (which, on that drive, they did), this is blunder is far too hard to ignore. Blount’s history just doesn’t allow for that kind of benefit of the doubt.
Cardinals emphasize Sam Bradford over David Johnson
Sam Bradford attempted 27 passes and was sacked seven times in Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams. David Johnson ran the ball 13 times. And this wasn’t a matter of the Arizona Cardinals just chucking the ball a lot in a 34-0 blowout. That’s only part of it.
The game was reasonably close for most of the first half. The Rams didn’t score at all in the first quarter. Los Angeles did put up 19 points in the second quarter, but eight of those came on the last play of the half. In other words, the Cardinals didn’t run a single offensive play before halftime when trailing by anything worse than 11-0. While that was happening, Bradford, who struggled all game, attempted 10 passes. He was also sacked once and scrambled on a play that was ultimately nullified by a penalty. In that same time, Johnson got only seven carries over the same period of time.
Drawing up a game plan that would have given the Cardinals a chance to upend the Rams was always going to be tough. But relying on Bradford nearly twice as much as Johnson when the game was on the line? That was never going work and is impossible to defend.
Jon Gruden’s ridiculous comment after loss
Starting 0-2 has to be frustrating for the Oakland Raiders, especially given that they led at halftime in both games. But that’s not really where the blunder comes from.
No, the blunder comes from what Gruden said after the Week 2 loss to the Denver Broncos. For the second week in a row, Gruden expressed frustration at his team’s lack of a pass rush. For a reminder, this is a man who traded Khalil Mack, one of the league’s best defensive players, right before the season in a widely panned move.
Gruden will never come out and acknowledge publicly that trading Mack was a mistake — at least not any time soon. While it would be refreshing, we can’t expect him to, either. But he has to find a better way to word these frustrations. It’s one thing for a coach to note a hole on his team. But doing this so shortly after trading Mack almost seems like a coach trolling his team’s fans.