Top takeaways from Sunday’s Week 2 NFL action

By Vincent Frank

Week 2 of the NFL season didn’t necessarily provide us with the drama of opening weekend. Seven of the games on Sunday ended in relatively lopsided manner, with the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders burying their opponents in a big way.

The same cannot be said for the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers, who put up stinkers in narrow wins against bad teams. Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos absolutely manhandled the defending NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys at home. And speaking of titles, the defending AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs relied on an elite backfield to open the season with a 2-0 record.

These are among the top takeaways from Sunday’s Week 2 NFL action.

Falcons take care of business after brief scare

Up 31-7 after a Desmond Trufant fumble recovery for a touchdown early in the third, it looked like the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons were going to absolutely blowout Green Bay in a rematch of last year’s conference title game. It was a dominating performance through the first 31-plus minutes of the game

Then, things started to get a bit tricky. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers found a groove and led his team on two fourth quarter touchdown scoring drives. Meanwhile, Atlanta’s offense stalled big time. With just under six minutes remaining in the final quarter, the Falcons were having flashbacks of last year’s Super Bowl meltdown against New England.

Fortunately, a couple well timed passes from Matt Ryan to Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu put to rest any idea of a late-game comeback for the opposing team. And when the clock struck zero in their first regular season game in their new digs, the Falcons had pulled off an impressive 34-23 win over Green Bay.

Bears, Mike Glennon absolutely implode

Mike Glennon was atrocious in return to Tampa Bay.

There were seemingly good vibes in Chicago after the Bears put up a solid performance in a narrow loss to the defending conference champion Atlanta Falcons in Week 1. Those vibes were quickly replaced with dejection and misery, the likes of which fans in the Windy City have known for some time.

In the first half of Chicago’s game against the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay — Glennon’s old stomping grounds — this talent-stricken team looked completely lost. Glennon turned the ball over three times, including an absolutely atrocious pick-six (watch here). When all was said and done, Chicago lost by the lopsided score of 29-7.

If that weren’t enough Kendall Wright became the fourth Bears receiver to go down to injury over the past month-plus — joining Cameron Meredith, Kevin White and Markus Wheaton on the sideline. Needless to say, Sunday was a day in which Bears fans realized this squad is nothing more than a cellar dweller.

Broncos absolutely manhandle Cowboys

Want to talk about an early-season statement game? That’s exactly what we saw from the Broncos at home against the defending NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. They absolutely took it to Jason Garrett’s squad in every imaginable way.

From Trevor Siemian throwing four more touchdown passes to C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles combining for 164 rushing yards, the domination was real from the outset. Denver’s offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage. Its defense forced two interceptions from a quarterback in Dak Prescott who had thrown four in 17 career starts prior to Sunday. Meanwhile, Ezekiel Elliott was bottled up to the tune of eight yards in nine attempts en route to a 42-17 blowout Broncos win.

Both the Chiefs and Raiders will get most of the play in the AFC West heading into Week 3, but there’s absolutely no reason to forget about this Broncos team. It made the Cowboys look utterly foolish in Denver. That’s something no other NFL team has done since Dak and Zeke arrive on to the scene last season.

Shades of the Ed Reed, Ray Lewis Ravens defense

Okay, so that might be an early-season overreaction But what the Ravens’ defense has done through two games is nothing short of amazing. Following Sunday’s 24-10 win over Cleveland, Baltimore has given up an average of five points per game. Sure taking on the Andy Dalton-led Bengals and a rookie quarterback in DeShone Kizer helps. Though, you can only play in who is on front of you. And the Ravens’ defense has been absolutely brilliant.

Here’s a unit that has forced 10 turnovers, including seven interceptions. It has sacked opposing quarterbacks eight times while allowing a total of one touchdown. Heck, opponents have put up a combined 35.0 quarterback rating against this defense in two games. We know the Ravens’ offense will struggle this season, especially now that Pro Bowl guard Marshall Yanda is lost for the year. But with a dominating defense, there’s no reason to believe this team can’t win the AFC North in 2017. It will be all about continuing what we’ve seen thus far against better competition down the road.

The no good, absolutely terrible Carson Palmer

Following their 46-9 loss to the Los Angeles Rams last week, most figured the talentless Indianapolis Colts would lay down against a Cardinals team that was looking to rebound after a Week 1 loss. That most definitely did not happen.

Sure Arizona came out on top, but the focus here has to be on the regression of Carson Palmer under center. He threw another interception and completed just over 50 percent of his passes in an overtime win over Indianapolis on Sunday. That one pick — a splendid play by Colts rookie first-round pick Malik Hooker — displayed just how brutal Palmer has been during the early part of the season. He now has four interceptions on 84 pass attempts in two games. That’s just not good for anyone involved in the desert.

We know the Cardinals lack talent on offense, especially with David Johnson sidelined. But there’s absolutely no reason to look anywhere else when it comes to the team’s early-season struggles. At 37 years old, Palmer is making rookie-level mistakes. Could it be at the point where Bruce Arians and Co. turn to former Jaguars first-round bust Blaine Gabbert? At this point, something needs to change in Arizona. If it doesn’t, we could very well be looking at a last-place team in an otherwise pedestrian NFC West.

Kansas City Chiefs’ elite backfield continues to dominate

Kareem Hunt continues to dominate early in his NFL career.

Despite seeing himself sacked four times and hit a total of nine times, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith stood in there and played a heck of a game against Philadelphia on Sunday. His final numbers were not comparable to what we saw in a blowout Week 1 win over New England, but they were still rather impressive. Smith completed 21-of-28 passes for 251 yards with a touchdown and zero picks en route to leading the Chiefs to a 27-20 home win. Thus far this season, Smith is now completing 78 percent of his passes for 619 yards — equating to 12.6 yards per completion. Talk about opening it up some.

On the ground, rookie third-round pick Kareem Hunt had a tremendous second half performance after struggling to an extent before halftime. He would ultimately put up 109 yards and another two touchdowns on just 16 touches. The better news than basic stats is that Hunt seems to get better as the game progresses. That will be big moving forward. And it’s helped the Chiefs to an average of 34.5 points in their first two games.

Another dominating performance from Panthers’ defense

After yielding just three points in Week 1 against a weak 49ers offense, the Panthers’ defense was back to its dominating form in an otherwise lackluster overall showing against the Bills on Sunday. Consider this: Buffalo and Tyrod Taylor had put up six net passing yards and a total of 39 yards in the first half of the game.

In reality, one could conclude that the Panthers’ young secondary is what’s making this defense click early in the season. Bills receivers combined to catch 7-of-13 targets in the 9-3 Carolina win. That’s where the likes of James Bradberry and Daryl Worley, both second-year players, have stepped up. It also doesn’t hurt that pass rushers Julius Peppers and Mario Addison combined for three sacks on the day.

Even with an offense that’s struggled to do anything of substance (more on that later), the Panthers could be legitimate NFC South title contenders if their defense continues to play like this.

Maybe the Saints should have thought about defense

Remember when the Saints traded up in the third round for running back Alvin Kamara back in April? Sure it might not have an immediate impact, but those resources would have been better used on the defensive side of the ball.

Following a Week 1 performance where the Saints’ defense made Sam Bradford look like the new Dan Marino, this unit was absolutely destroyed by Tom Brady and the defending champs on Sunday. For the first time in his career, Brady threw three first quarter touchdown passes.

He would ultimately finish the day having completed 30-of-39 passes for 447 yards with three touchdowns. For Brady, it was a nice little rebound performance after struggling in New England’s Week 1 loss to Kansas City.

For the Saints, it was just the latest example of a defense that could end up being among the worst in NFL history. That’s really not hyperbole. It’s right there in the stats. Including Brady’s Week 2 performance, the Saints’ defense have yielded 78 touchdowns compared to 18 interceptions since the start of the 2015 campaign. In two games this season, the Saints are giving up an 80 percent completion mark and 141.4 quarterback rating. That’s bad. Really bad. And in reality, it’s wasting the twilight of Drew Brees’ career in the Bayou.

Still major issues in the Pacific Northwest

Russell Wilson needs more press protection.

The Seattle Seahawks escaped with a 12-9 win over a hapless San Francisco 49ers squad on Sunday. But there are a ton of issues remaining on this team. It primarily starts upfront, where Seattle’s offensive line allowed Russell Wilson to get hit 10 times in the 12-9 win. Sure Wilson was only sacked three times, but he found himself pressured on 40-plus percent of his drop backs for the second consecutive week.

Accordingly, Seattle finished with just one touchdown on three red-zone trips. This came against a defense that ranked dead last in the NFL in both points and yards allowed last season. Some will point to an improved 49ers defense. And that’s most definitely the case. But Seattle needed a late touchdown from Russell Wilson on yet another broken play to pull out the win here. Against a team most think will finish in the NFC West’s cellar this season, that’s most definitely not a great sign for Pete Carroll and Co.

Case Keenum is no Sam Bradford

Once Bradford was confirmed to be inactive Sunday with a knee injury, Minnesota’s chances of starting the 2017 season with two wins took a major hit. Like clockwork, backup Case Keenum proved that he shouldn’t see the field during the regular season. The career backup completed 20-of-37 passes for 167 yards in an uninspiring performance en route to Minnesota falling to Pittsburgh by the score of 26-9.

This just goes to show us how valuable Bradford is to the Vikings’ success. To put this into perspective, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen caught a combined seven passes for 71 yards. The two combined for 16 receptions and 250 yards in Week 1’s win over New Orleans.

The good news here for Minnesota is that Bradford’s injury seems minor and he could potentially return to the field in Week 3. It is, however, stunning that a player of Bradford’s ilk has proven to be so valuable to his team.

Raiders are a well-oiled machine

Derek Carr and the Raiders are hot.

It took a bit over two quarters for Oakland to take control of its game against the hapless New York Jets on Sunday. But once that happened, the Raiders continued to prove themselves as potentially the class of the AFC. In a game that saw the Raiders commit nine penalties, the likes of Derek Carr and Michael Crabtree stepped up big time.

Fresh off signing a huge new contract extension, Carr threw three touchdowns to his veteran receiver. He also completed an absurd 23-of-28 passes, numbers that included three dropped passes. On the ground, Marshawn Lynch scored his first touchdown as a member of the silver and black en route to leading a rushing attack that gained 180 yards on 27 attempts.

Sure there were some issues on both sides of the ball in an otherwise lopsided 45-20 win. Josh McCown played a near flawless game for the Jets, which is the latest example of an Oakland pass defense that’s well below average. Meanwhile, the Jets gained 126 yards on 25 rushing attempts. These are problems Jack Del Rio’s squad will have to fix. Even then, a 25-point home win against a bad team is the definition of taking care of business. On that note, it’s time for us to actually start taking this Raiders team seriously as legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

Jaguars back up to their old tricks

A week after handing Houston a shocking home loss to open the season, Jacksonville was right back to its old tricks. It’s not a coincidence that the Jaguars controlled the time of possession and boasted great balance in its Week 1 win over the Texans. That game saw Leonard Fournette run the ball 26 times compared to 21 pass attempts from the turnover-prone Blake Bortles.

So, common sense seemed to dictate we’d see a repeat of this run-pass balance in Week 2 against Tennessee. It did not happen. Even with the Titans up just 6-3 at the half, Jacksonville completely abandoned its running game.

When all was said and done, Bortles threw 34 passes compared to 14 attempts for the rookie running back. Ultimately, this is what helped lead to a 37-16 blowout loss. Bortles would throw two interceptions, find himself sacked twice and lose a fumble in the 21-point defeat.

Cam Newton continues struggles

It's about time the Carolina Panthers get Cam Newton pass protection NFL Week 1

Carolina might have opened the season 2-0 with a win over the talent-stricken Bills on Sunday, but the team is a hot mess on the offensive side of the ball. Whether it was the ankle injury he suffered in the second half or something completely different, Cam Newton was nowhere near on his game for the second consecutive week.

The stats tell us one story. Newton completed 20-of-32 passes for 228 yards without a touchdown en route to leading Carolina on three field goal scoring drives throughout the game. But the tape tells us a completely different story. After showing himself to be inaccurate in a less-than-stellar Week 1 performance, Newton followed that up with another stinker of a performance here — continually missing wide open receivers throughout the afternoon.

To make matters even more difficult for Carolina, the quarterback was sacked a whopping six times by Buffalo’s suddenly stingy defense. Left tackle Matt Kalil, who signed a huge free agent contract during the spring, was in way over his head. Meanwhile, rookie running back Christian McCaffrey put up just 44 yards on 12 touches.

Adding insult to injury (literally), Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen exited the game with a broken foot. Sure the Panthers’ defense has proven to be dominant. But their offense definitely needs to step up.

Despite solid defense, 49ers offense a no-show

Something needs to change drastically with San Francisco’s offense here soon. If that doesn’t happen, a current two-game losing streak to open Kyle Shanahan’s first season as head coach will continue further into the year. After putting up just three points in a season-opening blowout loss to Carolina, the 49ers racked up all of nine points (three field goals), 11 first downs and 248 total yards against Seattle. They went 2-of-12 on third-down conversions and quarterback Brian Hoyer threw for a grand total of 99 yards. Heck, the veteran averaged just 3.7 yards per attempt.

With San Francisco’s defense more than showing itself capable of being a top-10 unit, this team has an opportunity to be competitive moving forward this season. That became rather evident in a 12-9 loss to Seattle on Sunday. Though, the team’s offense, most notably the quarterback, needs to find a way to open it up. That must include actually throwing the ball five-plus yards down-field. If Hoyer can’t do it, maybe rookie third-round pick C.J. Beathard should be called on. Simply put, a team can’t have success in today’s NFL with its offense looking like its from the 1940s. This is what we’ve seen from the 49ers over the first two games. And it’s just not sustainable.

DeShone Kizer shows his inexperience

Browns QB DeShone Kizer looked the part in his NFL debut.

It was really just a matter of time before this rookie quarterback showed how inexperienced he is. It came in his first road start against a Ravens defense that shut out the Cincinnati Bengals last week. After suffering from a migraine earlier in the game, Kizer returned to throw three interceptions and lose a fumble in a 24-10 loss to Baltimore.

We knew that Kizer would likely struggle against one of the best defenses in the NFL. But some of his throws were just inexcusable. That’s what comes with committing to a player that many viewed to be a project.

The hope here is that head coach Hue Jackson doesn’t pull the plug on the Kizer experiment too soon. Cleveland is going nowhere fast this season. It’s all about seeing Kizer progress and grasping whether he can be the franchise quarterback. Having a quick hook on him won’t help anyone.

Jared Goff throws game away 

All the good feelings surrounding these Los Angeles Rams following a blowout Week 1 win over Indianapolis can now be thrown out the window. Taking on a struggling Redskins team at home on Sunday, Los Angeles had a chance to go 2-0 for the first time since Kurt Warner was tossing the rock for the franchise back in 2001.

That’s when the ugly Jared Goff — a variation of last year’s quarterback — showed his face. With the Rams down  27-20 and less than two minutes left, Goff made a brutal mistake. He stared down young receiver Cooper Kupp, throwing the ball late and to the outside. Like clockwork, Redskins linebacker Mason Foster picked it off.

It’s a throw any starter-caliber NFL quarterback cannot make. And it pretty much ended the game on the spot. Sure Goff will look to rebound moving forward this season, but that one play definitely leaves a bitter taste in his mouth.

Chargers need to learn how to win

This one is rather obvious. Coming off a two-year span under former head coach Mike McCoy that saw the then San Diego Chargers lose 18 games by one score, they have now accomplished this feat two consecutive times to start the 2017 campaign. On Sunday, in front of their new home crowd in Los Angeles, the Chargers saw a 44-yard Younghoe Koo field goal attempt fall wide right with nine seconds left. The team was down by just two points at the time.

What makes this even more disturbing than Week 1’s late-game loss following a Koo block field goal is that Los Angeles struggled even getting lined up for the play. The team was then saved by the Dolphins, who inexplicably called a timeout. Even after that, Koo couldn’t put it through the uprights.

Despite seeing Philip Rivers complete 31-of-39 passes for 331 yards, the Chargers couldn’t find it in themselves to come out on top against what had to be a rusty Dolphins team that saw its Week 1 game postponed due to Hurricane Irma. It’s not a good way to start Anthony Lynn’s first year as head coach. It’s most definitely not a good way to begin the team’s tenure in Los Angeles in a game that was viewed by less than 26,000 live souls.

Packers’ injury woes

Green Bay entered Sunday night’s game against Atlanta without starting offensive tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga. If that wasn’t bad enough for a team going up against the defending conference champs, the Packers would also ultimately lose both Jordy Nelson (quad) and Randall Cobb (shoulder) to injuries. For his part, Nelson was ruled out relatively early in the game.

For a team that is lacking a ton of talent outside of quarterback and wide receiver, this was most definitely a major blow for the Packers. It will be interesting to see what happens on the injury report heading into next week’s game against the hapless Cincinnati Bengals. But one thing is for sure. These injuries impacted Mike McCarthy and Co. in a game that ultimately ended in an 11-point defeat.