Fans around the nation got their fill of big plays as NFL teams threw themselves into action during the second week of the new season.
History was made by more than one person, and it’s clear the youth movement is alive and well around the league. On the flip side, some players and teams just could not get out of their own way, putting up stinkers.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 2.
Winner: That Mahomes kid can really play, eh?
The numbers that Patrick Mahomes put up Sunday against Pittsburgh are astounding. The second-year quarterback, starting just the second significant game of his career — last year’s start was a no-pressure deal that had no impact on the playoffs — was practically flawless.
Mahomes completed 23-of-28 passes for 326 yards with six touchdowns and nary a single interception. Combined with last weekend’s outstanding performance against Los Angeles, the young man has 10 touchdown passes in the first two games — a new Super Bowl-era record — on just 55 attempts, no less.
It’s worth noting that he got Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce involved on Sunday, which is huge because now it means opposing defenses have to key in on three big-time playmakers — not just Tyreek Hill. This pick-your-poison offense is simply amazing.
Loser: Big Blue’s offensive line is big trouble
?: @snfonnbc #DallasCowboys pic.twitter.com/sjoV9FEerI
— NFL (@NFL) September 17, 2018
The New York Giants did some work this offseason to attempt shoring up what’s been an awful offensive line in recent years. They added Will Hernandez in the draft and paid Nate Solder a ton of money up front to come man the left tackle position.
On Sunday night, none of that mattered. The front seven of the Dallas Cowboys had its way with the Giants. Saquon Barkley, for all his brilliance, was only able to generate 28 yards on the ground, and the Giants as a team averaged 2.1 yards per carry. Eli Manning was sacked six times for a loss of 59 yards.
The passing offense was unable to really make much of a dent at all until garbage time. Barkley was the exception, catching an astounding 14 passes for 79 yards.
Dallas’ defense deserves a ton of credit. But let’s be honest, it’s not like we’re talking about the Steel Curtain here. The Giants are just bad.
Winner: Run CMC continues to wow
The Carolina Panthers lost to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, but you cannot pin an ounce of blame on the shoulders of Christian McCaffrey.
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner only dialed up eight runs for the second-year phenom, and he did fine when his number was called, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Where McCaffrey did most of his damage was through the air, hauling in an astonishing 14 catches for 102 yards. All told, the former Stanford star piled up 139 yards, marking the second week in a row where he was clearly Carolina’s best offensive weapon.
Fantasy owners who started this guy in PPR leagues were beaming, even though he didn’t score a touchdown.
Loser: Yep, Buffalo still stinks
Hosting the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, the Buffalo Bills were already doomed at halftime, down 28-6. Combined with last weekend’s awful showing against the Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo had given up 75 points in the first six quarters of the new season. Even worse, and potentially very telling about how things are going behind the scenes, Vontae Davis is said to have quit on his team and retired at halftime.
The second half was mostly just a grind, and rookie quarterback Josh Allen threw two interceptions to preemptively put an end to any potential momentum the Bills might have seized upon as their defense stiffened up.
The one piece of silver lining Bills fans can take away from this game is that Allen did throw his first career touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
Winner: Phillip Lindsay the clear No. 1 back in Denver
When the season opened up, we assumed that the Denver Broncos would have a rookie lead back. That proved to be correct, but we got the player wrong. Rather than former Oregon star Royce Freeman, who was selected in the third round, undrafted rookie Phillip Lindsay — who wasn’t even invited to the combine — has become the star of Denver’s offense.
Following up a 102-yard performance in Week 1, this diminutive back out of Colorado was once again the top producer for Denver in Week 2 against the Oakland Raiders. Though he touched the ball just 15 times, Lindsay had 111 total yards, with 107 yards coming on the ground. He made history in the process.
Phillip Lindsay's quickness is insane. Watch how fast he changes his speed and direction. pic.twitter.com/IKzSJhMf11
— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) September 17, 2018
The Broncos have been searching for a consistent ground threat for years. Now they’ve found one in the most unlikely of places.
Loser: Zane Gonzalez hands the Browns yet another loss
Cleveland’s defense has done enough to win games two weekends in a row. Unfortunately, after Sunday’s debacle in New Orleans, they enter Week 3 with a record of 0-1-1.
The big goat of the team’s 21-18 loss to the Saints was kicker Zane Gonzalez. He was just awful, missing 2-of-4 field goal attempts and both of his extra-point attempts. That’s eight points. The Browns should have beaten the Saints, who ended up winning by three points with a 44-yard field goal of their own after Gonzalez’s second missed extra point kept the game tied with just 76 seconds left on the clock.
The second field-goal attempt he missed, with eight seconds left on the clock in the fourth quarter, would have tied the game. Instead, the Browns are still Brownsing in the worst possible way.
Winner: Trick play sparks huge upset for shorthanded Titans
Something about Tennessee’s matchup made me think the Houston Texans were ripe for an upset. Lo and behold, that’s exactly what happened.
It wasn’t easy, though, especially since Marcus Mariota was ruled out, meaning it was the Blaine Gabbert show. Tennessee was also without a few key offensive linemen. In the end, the Titans eked out a 20-17 win at home over their AFC South rival, thanks in large part to a trick play that gave them an early lead in the first quarter.
From Tennessee’s own 34-yard line, Mike Vrabel called for a fake punt. That’s very risky, given the field position a mistake would have given the Texans. But Kevin Byard made a perfect throw to Dane Cruikshank, who was wide open down the right sideline. Sixty-six yards later, Cruikshank scored (watch here).
Tennessee’s offense only generated one touchdown in this game. That play proved to be the difference between winning and losing.
Loser: Rough game for Sam Darnold and Co.
First, credit is due to Sam Darnold for his first career 300-plus-yard game. He’s the youngest player in NFL history to hit that milestone, and he clearly has a bright future in this league.
That being said, Sunday’s home game against Miami was one of those learning experiences for young Darnold and his offensive teammates.
The USC product threw an interception in the first quarter that immediately turned into a touchdown for the Dolphins on their next drive. Then Robby Anderson lost a fumble in the second quarter, leading to a Dolphins touchdown two plays later. Darnold’s second interception negated a forced fumble that occurred right after New York’s first touchdown of the game, and the Jets were lucky to have only lost one of their four total fumbles.
In the end, Miami walked out of MetLife Stadium with a 20-12 win.
Winner: Tavon Austin makes a big impact
SIXTY FOUR YARDS!@dak to @Tayaustin01. WOW!
?: @snfonnbc #DallasCowboys pic.twitter.com/9Pf5QVVi6l
— NFL (@NFL) September 17, 2018
Over the course of his career, Tavon Austin has always been a disappointment. He was the No. 8 overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft, but heading into this season he had averaged just 38.5 combined rushing and receiving yards per game.
Dallas has been talking about how Austin would be a big part of its offense since early this summer. Last week, he touched the ball just once, going for one yard on his lone carry. So, it seemed like that talk was nothing but hot air.
Then Austin showed up in a big way Sunday, scoring the game’s first points on a gorgeous 64-yard catch and run for a touchdown. He added another 15-yard reception, along with a 15-yard run, to finish with 94 yards and one of the two touchdowns scored in the game by Dallas.
Loser: Patriots secondary absolutely torched by Jags
Tom Brady didn’t explode on the stat sheet, but he didn’t exactly fizzle, either, as the New England Patriots hosted the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
Instead, it was the New England defense that lit a stink bomb.
Blake Bortles — yes, this guy — was on fire. He went off to the tune of 377 yards and four touchdowns, all to different receivers. Keelan Cole was the star of the game, both for his one-handed gem and touchdown afterward.
All told, Bortles distributed the ball to nine different pass catchers. New England’s secondary was helpless to stop this attack, and the Jaguars cruised to a big-time 31-20 win over last year’s top AFC squad.
Winner: Melvin Gordon was a touchdown machine
In his fourth season as a pro, former Wisconsin star Melvin Gordon is evolving into one of the best dual-threat running backs in the league. Following up a nine-catch, 26-touch outing against Kansas City in Week 1, Gordon was once again a threat as a receiver on Sunday in Buffalo, not to mention on the ground.
Of the Chargers’ four first-half touchdowns, three went to Gordon. He caught six passes for 38 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 28 more yards and a score on the ground. That kind of production is a huge reason why the Chargers were able to cruise to an easy road win in Week 2.
Loser: Refs absolutely rob Packers of a win over Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers finished their game all tied up after a see-saw game that was quite honestly the best game of the week, right up until the end.
In reality, the Packers should have won in regulation after Clay Matthews forced Kirk Cousins to throw what should have been the game-sealing interception. But rather than end the game, Tony Corrente’s crew called a roughing the passer penalty on Matthews for supposedly picking Cousins up and then driving him to the ground.
If you take a look at the replay video, that’s absolutely not what happened. The Packers got jobbed, and what’s worse is that the penalty gave Minnesota new life, and the Vikings ended up tying the game and sending it into overtime.
Winner: Michael Thomas on historic pace
Michael Thomas elevates and comes down with the jump ball! #CLEvsNO pic.twitter.com/AyHT9tAl88
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) September 16, 2018
Can’t. Guard. Mike. Just can’t do it. Now in his third NFL campaign out of Ohio State, this dynamic receiver has now caught 28 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns in his first two games of the 2018 season.
That’s a new NFL record. The previous record for most catches in the first two games of a season was 26, set back in 1994 by Andre Rison.
At his current pace — difficult to sustain, we know — Thomas would finish the season with 224 catches for 2,152 yards and 12 touchdowns. This is a historic pace he’s setting, and we cannot wait to see what he does next.
Loser: Sam Bradford isn’t it, Arizona
The Arizona Cardinals are going nowhere, at the speed of light. This is a team that’s been beaten now by the Washington Redskins and Los Angeles Rams by a combined score of 58-6.
Along the way, Sam Bradford has put up astonishingly poor statistics — 60.6 percent completion rate for 243 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions — leading an offense that’s managed 350 total yards and 19 first downs.
In two games.
Given that the defense is getting toasted as well, it’s fair to assume the Cardinals are doing go be pretty bad all year, regardless. So with that in mind, Arizona absolutely has to see what Josh Rosen can do. He cannot possibly be any worse than what we’re seeing from Bradford.
Winner: A.J. Green sets personal single-game TD mark
The Cincinnati Bengals came out on Thursday night with a dominant first-half effort, putting 28 points on the board to essentially put the game away in the first 30 minutes. Of the four touchdowns that Andy Dalton threw in that first half, three of them went to A.J. Green.
It’s no secret that Green is one of the NFL’s best wide receivers. He’s been putting up amazing statistics since being selected No. 4 overall back in 2011. But those three touchdowns, and the two he scored in the first quarter, were both career-best numbers.
Green finished the game with just five total catches for a meager 69 yards. But those three touchdowns were special, and they helped the Bengals jump out to a 2-0 start in 2018, handing a divisional rival a big loss in the process.
Loser: Pittsburgh’s defense a red hot mess
We get it. Patrick Mahomes is currently leading the hottest offense in the NFL. It’s likely most defenses would struggle to contain the weapons at his disposal.
That being said, the Steelers were absolutely helpless on Sunday to do anything remotely positive defensively. The Chiefs averaged 8.3 yards per play. They put 42 points on the board and punted just twice in the entire game.
If this were just a one-week issue, we might brush it off as an aberration. However, Pittsburgh also allowed the Cleveland Browns to gain 327 yards and 22 first downs in a rain storm last weekend as well. It’s also worth pointing out that the team is 0-1-1 on the season, despite scoring 58 points. That’s a problem.
Winner: Matt Breida sparks narrow victory for 49ers
Matt Breida takes the stretch play to the house pic.twitter.com/sWGA9E2J5y
— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) September 16, 2018
Sunday’s home win against the Detroit Lions wasn’t pretty. The San Francisco 49ers are honestly lucky to have escaped with their first win of 2018 against a Lions team that was torched by none other than the New York Jets a week ago.
So, there’s clearly a lot of work ahead of Kyle Shanahan and his coaching staff to improve things, on both sides of the ball.
That being said, the play of second-year running back Matt Breida stood out as a huge positive for the 49ers. He and veteran Alfred Morris split carries, with Morris actually seeing more work than Breida. But the former undrafted back out of Georgia Southern made his opportunities count, going off for 138 yards on the ground on just 11 carries.
His afternoon was highlighted by a brilliant 66-yard scamper that put the 49ers up by two touchdowns in the third quarter and would ultimately prove to be the difference in the narrow 30-27 win.
Loser: Stagnant offense dooms Washington
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: An Alex Smith-led offense struggled to make explosive plays and put points on the board.
Okay, so it’s not fair to pin it all on Smith. On Sunday at home against the Indianapolis Colts, the offensive line got absolutely dominated at the line of scrimmage, and Adrian Peterson was almost invisible. All told, the run game averaged just three yards per play, gaining a total of 65 yards.
That said, Smith and his passing game wasn’t great, either. He attempted 46 passes. Only two of them went for over 20 yards, and only one of those was hauled in by a wide receiver. In the end, Washington managed just nine points and failed to score a single touchdown in the 20-9 loss.
Winner: Another Fitzmagical Sunday for Tampa Bay
Over 400 yards passing.
And a WIN over the defending champs.
Ryan Fitzpatrick = FITZMAGIC! ??? #PHIvsTB #GoBucs pic.twitter.com/VrHskO4NFg
— NFL (@NFL) September 16, 2018
For the second weekend in a row, Ryan Fitzpatrick was magnificent leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their second win of the season.
On Sunday, Fitzpatrick took it to the defending Super Bowl champs, putting up numbers comparable to his humongous Week 1 outing against the New Orleans Saints. Completing 27-of-33 passes for 402 yards with four touchdowns (including this incredible 75-yard bomb to DeSean Jackson on the first play of the game) and an interception, he was unstoppable.
Through two games, Fitzmagic has 819 yards and eight touchdowns. He is giving the front office and his coaching staff a lot to think about with Jameis Winston soon coming back from suspension.
Loser: Damontae Kazee deserves to be suspended for dirty hit on Cam Newton
Late hits happen. We totally get that. Sometimes players are moving so fast that there’s no time to make an adjustment. But players who are head-hunting are easily identifiable, and when those plays occur it’s unmistakable that there’s an intent to harm.
That’s what happened in early in the second quarter of Sunday’s game between the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons. Cam Newton — a player who’s been targeted by defenders since he entered the league — was laid out by Damontae Kazee while sliding on the ground.
Kazee went head-first into Newton’s head. It was a dirty, inexcusable play that has no place in the league. The officials correctly made the call to eject him, but the NFL needs to do more than that. Kazee needs to be suspended for his blatant disregard for Newton’s health, and for the rules.