Here's the argument for Week 2 serving as one of the best slate of games all season: It methodically blows up a laundry list of ponderous narratives coming out of Week 1.
It also allows for plenty of 0-1 teams to even the slate and wipe out ill memories of the regular-season opener.
Los Angeles, though, did the exact same thing as Jeff Fisher's club stunned the Seahawks 9-3 in the team's victorious return to Southern California.
Here's what else we learned on Sunday:
- The Patriots flourished early this season without Tom Brady. We'll see how they fare without Jimmy Garoppolo, who left Sunday's game midway through the second quarter with a shoulder injury. The early results weren't promising. Garoppolo left with a 21-3 lead and the Patriots barely held on after getting conservative on offense, needing an interception from safety Duron Harmon in the end zone late to secure the victory.
- The injury was a shame because Garoppolo was on fire with 234 yards and three scores in only 25 minutes of action. He was again sterling at making decisions on third and long. His tendency to extend plays wound up getting him injured. Jacoby Brissett, the team's third-round rookie, was not asked to do much while completing 6 of 9 passes with the Patriots essentially in prevent offense mode.
- The Dolphins' defense deserves the blame here. They provided no resistance to Garoppolo early. When the Dolphins cut the lead to seven points with six minutes left and a third-string QB in the game, the Patriots executed a long drive primarily by running the ball. LeGarrette Blount (129 yards on 29 carries) deserves the game ball, consistently getting more than what was blocked.
*-- Gregg Rosenthal *
- With rangy linebacker Ryan Shazier leading the way, the Steelers defense has succeeded in shutting down the ground game through two weeks, turning opposing offenses into one-dimensional attacks. Starting tailbacks Matt Jones and Jeremy Hill have averaged just 23 rushing yards versus Pittsburgh's active front seven. If the defense keeps playing at this level, the Steelers will be playing in January.
- The intermittent rain was a big factor in a game that featured at least eight drops and several blatant misfires. Roethlisberger did much of his damage during stretches in which the rain subsided. He stared at his throwing hand with annoyance after overthrowing Antonio Brown on one third down. Brown had one bad drop and was on the receiving end of a couple of errant Roethlisberger throws. Credit goes to the Bengals' secondary for minimizing his damage, though. In four games since the start of last season, Brown has averaged six receptions, 73 yards and 0.25 touchdowns versus Cincinnati compared to 8.6 catches, 119 yards and 0.8 touchdown versus the rest of the league.
- Although emotions were kept in check throughout, the most intense rivalry of the past couple of years did produce one controversial call late in the game. Down eight points and driving with a chance to tie, Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd lost a fumble on a hit from ageless linebacker James Harrison. It appeared on replay that Boyd's knee was down when the ball came loose, but the officials allowed the play to stand. That ruling effectively eliminated any chance of a Cincinnati comeback.
*-- Chris Wesseling *
- Victor Cruz has made a huge impact on both Giants wins to start the season. The veteran wideout came down with a 50/50 ball from Eli Manning with less than two minutes to play, a 34-yard gain that set up the game-winning field goal by Josh Brown as time expired. Cruz is more than just a feel-good story -- he remains a weapon in this offense. Consider him an early favorite for Comeback Player of the Year.
- The Giants were humiliated by Drew Brees and the Saints offense in a 52-49 loss last season. Big Blue got even here. The Saints were held to 288 yards of total offense and Brees managed just one touchdown pass after throwing seven against New York in their 2015 shootout. The Giants invested a ton of money in their defense in the offseason and early returns are very promising. Beating the Saints on a day when your offense commits three turnovers and doesn't score a touchdown is quite a feat.
- Sterling Shepard is another playmaker in the Giants' loaded wide receiver group. The rookie second-round pick was targeted eight times and finished with eight receptions for 117 yards, both game highs. Teaming Sheppard with a healthy Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr. means bad news for NFC East secondaries.
*-- Dan Hanzus *
- Kirk Cousins was the Cowboys' best defensive player Sunday. The Redskins' quarterback threw off target the majority of the loss. He missed DeSean Jackson on two deep passes that could have gone for scores. Cousins continued to look antsy in the pocket and not confident in his reads versus an undermanned Dallas defense. His 364 yards were more fantasy production than solid football play. Even on his 57-yard bomb to rookie Josh Doctson, Cousins underthrew what would have been a touchdown if he'd hit the wide open receiver in stride. Five plays later, Cousins made a boneheaded decision on third-and-goal that resulted in an interception, setting up the Cowboys go-ahead score. It was apropos that Cousins' Hail Mary attempt at sailed out of the end zone without giving a Redskins receiver a chance to make a play on the ball.
- Dak Prescott was solid under center, engineering three long touchdown drives of 94, 75 and 80 yards. Cowboys coaches helped protect the rookie with a bevy of play-action and roll-out calls. Prescott stood strong and calm in the pocket and proved shifty enough to elude defenders and generate positive gains when plays broke down. The rookie signal-caller spread the ball around to seven receivers on his 292-yard passing day. Dak also added a touchdown dive. Prescott averaged 9.7 yards per pass, but Dallas offensive coaches continue not to stretch the field with the rook under center.
Josh Norman traveling to cover Bryant was a (nauseating) storyline all week. The Redskins corner stayed on the left side of the defensive formation, for the most part. Norman did move around to matchup with Dez during certain points of the game. Perhaps defensive coordinator Joe Barry should have utilized his high-paid corner more. Norman locked down Dez in their few one-on-one tilts. When covered by Norman, Bryant caught zero passes on just two targets -- including a beautiful punch of the ball by Norman that would have been a catch. Bryant sliced up other Redskins corners in zone and Bashaud Breeland in one-on-one matchups. Washington has deeper problems on defense than where Norman lines up.
-- Kevin Patra
- This was a Jeff Fisher fever dream from outer space. The Seahawks always have their issues against the Rams. It's one of the NFL's stranger trends, and Sunday was no exception. Russell Wilson dropped to 4-5 in his career against the Rams on a day that saw him battered for two sacks and countless hits behind Seattle's overpowered O-line. The ankle sprain he suffered last week clearly impacted Wilson, whose final numbers -- 22-of-35 passing for 254 yards -- look better on paper. Fans came close to seeing Wilson do the remarkable on that busted final drive, but the comeback fell short when running back Christine Michael fumbled the ball following an eight-yard catch inside the Rams' 30-yard line with less than a minute to play. If only Fisher could face Seattle every week.
- Coming off a mega-disastrous opener, Case Keenum opened the game with a nine-play, 54-yard drive for a field goal -- the first points for the Rams since last season. While Keenum gets credit for testing the ball downfield with completions of 44, 36, 27 and 18 yards, he also failed to dial up a touchdown with Los Angeles sitting first-and-goal at the Seattle four-yard line. Keenum threw for a respectable 8.1 yards per pass, making good use of wideout Kenny Britt and tight end Lance Kendricks. Nobody should mistake Keenum for a bona fide NFL starter, but as long as Fisher dreams of kicking three field goals per game, he's got his man.
- Seattle's ground game was a non-starter as the 'Hawks finished the first half with 14 rushes for 14 yards. Thomas Rawls has the faith of this coaching staff, but was held to minus-seven yards on seven totes before leaving the game with a leg injury. Michael looked like the better runner -- not hard to do today -- heating up when allowed to roll as the unquestioned lead dog in the second half and plowing for nearly all of his 60 yards at 6.0 yards per rush over the final 30 minutes.
*-- Marc Sessler *
- The Colts simply don't have the talent on either side of the ball to knock off the defending champions. Already down three cornerbacks, they lost Darius Butler and Rashaan Melvin during the game while Antonio Cromartie battled through a shoulder injury. Butler was about to finish off a spectacular pick-six when his hamstring snapped, leaving him in a heap at midfield. The defensive issues aren't limited to the secondary. The front seven lacks the speed to generate a pass rush, leaving the occasional blitz by safety Mike Adams as the only way to manufacture heat on quarterbacks. A major issue in the season opener, missed tackles came back to haunt the Colts defense on a late fourth-quarter Broncos drive after Andrew Luck pulled to within three points with just over four minutes remaining.
- Minus a viable ground attack -- as usual -- the deck was stacked against Luck in a matchup with Denver's dominant defense. By halftime, he had been hurried on half of his dropbacks and hit on a third. Luck is 6-foot-4 with one of the NFL's highest releases. It's telling that he had a series of passes batted down at the line of scrimmage, as Denver's defensive front consistently pushed the Colts' offensive line back. With the cornerback trio of Aqib Talib, Chris Harris and Bradley Roby tying up Indy's receivers, Luck was too often forced to hold the ball and use his legs to bail out of trouble. Losing Donte Moncrief to a first-half head injury didn't matter, as the undersized duo of T.Y. Hilton and Phillip Dorsett have trouble winning at the catch point versus physical cornerbacks.
- Miller showed Super Bowl MVP form with three sacks, highlighted by a game-clinching strip sack that resulted in a Shane Ray touchdown. Luck had the ball down six points in a two-minute drill at the time of Miller's turnover. The Broncos will likely need more impact plays from Ray and Shaq Barrett after losing DeMarcus Ware to an ulna fracture in the third quarter. Ware was ruled out for the game shortly after going down.
*-- Chris Wesseling *
- The Vikings couldn't have asked for much more out of Sam Bradford in his Minnesota debut. Bradford stepped in for the injured Teddy Bridgewater and benched Shaun Hill and took control of the offense. The journeyman, who joined the Skol squad in a preseason trade with the Eagles just three weeks ago, made few mistakes, completed some impressive throws and found a new friend in Stefon Diggs. His 286 passing yards were the most by a Vikings quarterback in his first game.
Diggs' 182 receiving yards on nine targets were the most yards by any Bradford receiver in any game, per NFL Network research. The wideout's yardage was also the most productive outing from a wide receiver of this young season. If Bradford can stay healthy -- he bruised his non-throwing hand in the first half -- we think he and Diggs will get along quite well.
- A poor night for Adrian Peterson got worse with one hit. The Vikings running back was ruled out of Sunday night's game after suffering a right knee injury in the third quarter. Peterson hopped off the field without putting any weight on his right leg before being helped to the locker room. Peterson had amassed just 26 total yards on 14 touches at the time of his exit. The news could not come at a worse time for the Vikings, who were hoping to open their new stadium with a full slate of franchise stars, but now may have to play the remainder of the season without their two franchise players, Peterson and Teddy Bridgewater.
- The return of Jordy Nelson has not ignited the Packers' vertical passing game. For nearly three quarters, Aaron Rodgers attempted to find Davante Adams, not Nelson, deep outside the numbers to gain chunk yardage at least five times, but only succeeded when Adams drew two pass interference calls; the wideout also committed one O.P.I. Green Bay's offense moved better in the second half when Rodgers distributed the ball via intermediate routes to new tight end Jared Cook and swiss army man Randall Cobb. Nelson's 39-yard grab in the fourth quarter to set up Green Bay's final score was too little, too late as Minnesota learned its lesson and took away the deep ball on ensuing drives.
-- Jeremy Bergman
- What a wild game. After operating as a dead-on-arrival offense in the opener, the Browns came out firing with Josh McCown at the helm. The 37-year-old passer engineered 20 points in the first quarter alone -- including two touchdown passes to electric rookie wideout Corey Coleman -- for a Cleveland team that generated just 10 points in Week 1. Credit coach Hue Jackson with a string of play calls that featured a rash of exotic shifts, multiple looks and vertical shots downfield. McCown, though, was never the same after badly injuring his non-throwing shoulder before the half. Cleveland's old-as-the-hills passer showed incredible toughness staying on the field, but his nearly magical two-minute drill to win the game was short-circuited by a questionable taunting call on Terrelle Pryor, who was flagged for flipping the ball to the ref after hauling in a 20-yard catch at the Ravens' 10-yard line with 27 seconds left. The foul pushed the Browns back to the Baltimore 30 and McCown unfurled a pick one play later to end the game.
- Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco struggled early, throwing an off-kilter pass that was picked off by Joe Haden as Baltimore was held scoreless over their first four drives. Flacco bounced back before the half, though, with a six-play, 75-yard scoring march capped by a seven-yard touchdown strike to Mike Wallace. The Ravens stole momentum with three straight scoring drives to end the second quarter and to open the third as Flacco threw for 302 yards, two scores and a pair of picks. Wallace also matched Coleman with two scores of his own on a day that saw the Ravens never lose their cool.
- Coleman's early explosion was paired with a wild performance from running back Isaiah Crowell, who surpassed the 100-yard mark in mere minutes thanks to a fantastic 85-yard touchdown blast through Baltimore's defense. Jackson has shown plenty of confidence in the third-year undrafted runner and it paid off on Sunday. You're not going to see that every week from The Crow, but Coleman (5/104/2) looks like a star-in-the-making for Cleveland.
*-- Marc Sessler *
- The blueprint is still the same. If you're not getting to Cam Newton, you're not beating the Carolina Panthers (1-1). Their offense has so many elements -- power, speed, touch, finesse -- that they cannot go down as long as Cam Newton is upright. This was proven time and time again Sunday afternoon, but no more significantly than at the seven-minute mark in the fourth quarter when Kelvin Benjamin bodied his defender and hauled in a 27-yard catch on a third-and-10. At the time, San Francisco (1-1) was trailing by just a touchdown. A few minutes later, they hit a game-sealing field goal. Gerald Hodges had the only sack on the books for San Francisco, which is surprising given how far we've seen Arik Armstead come since last year.
- Kelvin Benjamin makes a good product better. At this point last year, it was easy to identify the differences in Carolina's offense from the year before. This season, outside of a few window dressings added on to get favorable matchups before the snap, the only difference is Benjamin. The big-bodied wide receivers (Greg Olsen and Devin Funchess included) are going to be a nightmare all season long in single coverage, especially with the boom-or-bust stylings of Ted Ginn operating in the background.
- Chip Kelly is adapting. The 49ers are still running a lot of plays, but this isn't the breathless no huddle that we've become accustomed to. Blaine Gabbert has more time to make adjustments at the line and, in 100-degree heat down in North Carolina on Sunday, his players weren't sucking wind like they would have a year ago. That being said, the offense still feels incomplete. Maybe that isn't fair to say about a Gabbert-led team that has put up almost 30 points in each of its first two games, but Kelly is finding himself in a predicament not unfamiliar to Jeff Fisher and the Rams. In a run-first offense that isn't getting a push on first and second down, are you placing an undue burden on your quarterback by forcing him to throw on third?
*-- Conor Orr *
- After its disappearing act in the Cardinals' season-opening loss to the Patriots, Arizona's aggressive vertical passing game re-emerged against the Buccaneers. Led by Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals wide receivers found space again and again in Tampa's emerging secondary, often picking on Lovie Smith-holdover Chris Conte. Fitz set the pace early with a touchdown and continued his hot start to the season with a six-catch, 81-yard afternoon. The Cards put the game away late in the first half when Carson Palmer (18-for-31, 301 yards, 3 TD) led a five-play touchdown drive from their own 26 in just 45 seconds, capped off by a 51-yard bomb to Jaron Brown. It was the return of trademark Arians, back after a week's hiatus: pummeling the enemy while his guard is down.
- Jameis Winston sank the Bucs' sad ship with five ugly turnovers against Arizona, including two picks to backup cornerback Marcus Cooper. Frustration finally boiled over for the sophomore quarterback in the fourth quarter when he blindsided Cooper on a block and the corner responded in kind. After last week's performance against Atlanta hinted at a breakout season, Winston (27-for-52, 243 yards, TD, 4 INT) came back down to earth Sunday against the conference's most ferocious defense and lost his composure in the process.
- The absence of Doug Martin contributed heavily to Tampa Bay's struggles on offense. The Bucs' irreplacable running back left in the second quarter with a hamstring injury and did not return. Tampa was not able to establish any semblance of a running game following his exit, forcing Winston to attempt desperate passes to Evans and company. If the Bucs lose Martin for an extended period of time, that will spell trouble for a promising Tampa offense.
-- Jeremy Bergman
Travis Benjamin led the way with his fourth 100-yard performance in his five-year career, solidifying his status as the team's top healthy wideout. His first trip to pay dirt came on a drive route inside the Jacksonville 10. He bested Jaguars corner Davon House with a nice 45-yard snag in the end zone for his second score. All in all, Benjamin excelled on multiple types of routes, leading to his monster day.
- Casey Hayward is rapidly climbing up the list of best signings this offseason. The corner agreed to a three-year, $15.3 million deal with the Chargers, and already looks like a steal. Hayward and Jason Verrett did an excellent job covering the Jaguars' promising young wideouts, including holding Allen Robinson to just one reception.
The new acquisition picked off his first two passes of the season off Blake Bortes, as the Jags quarterback had a rough performance. Hayward also had four solo tackles and two passes defensed, displaying ability as a true all-around corner. San Diego's secondary will face another intriguing test against Andrew Luck and the Colts' array of weapons next Sunday.
- Two bright spots for the Jaguars were their rookie pass rushers: Dante Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue. Fowler picked up his first two career sacks, although they both came with Jacksonville trailing by three possessions. Nonetheless, coach Gus Bradley must be happy about the burst the 2015 first-round pick showed at Qualcomm.
-- Max Meyer
- Atlanta's star wideout Julio Jones reached the 100-yard plateau, but Matt Ryan did an excellent job spreading the wealth in Oakland. Eight different Falcons accumulated multiple receptions, and a ninth, Justin Hardy, added a score off a deflected pass. Tight ends Jacob Tamme and Austin Hooper combined for 159 yards and one trip to pay dirt on eight grabs.
- It'd be easy to blame the Raiders' secondary for Ryan's 396 yards and three touchdowns through the air, but where has the Oakland pass rush been? Pressure from the defensive line occurred few and far between, with backup defensive tackle Stacy McGee generating the sole takedown of Ryan. McGee now has one of the two Oakland sacks over the first two contests.
Superstar Khalil Mack has put up a zero in the sack column to start the season, but he also posted a similar result in 2015 before exploding for 15 in the final 14 games. Mack, second-round rookie Jihad Ward and offseason acquisition Bruce Irvin need to be more disruptive to aid a secondary that has been getting torched.
- We were a huge fan of Jack Del Rio's aggressive decision to go for two and the win last weekend, and he continued his bold decision-making in Week 2. On the Raiders' first drive of the second half, the Raiders were set to punt the ball back to the Falcons down six. When it looked like the Falcons' offense was about to come back on the field, ol' Jack threw the red flag, challenging that the Falcons had 12 men on the field when the fourth-down play was snapped. Sure enough, he won and the Raiders' subsequent first down led to a go-ahead 31-yard connection from Derek Carr to Clive Walford.
Del Rio's onions showed again with 12 minutes remaining, going for it on Atlanta's two-yard line on fourth with the Silver And Black down seven. It paid off, as Carr found Michael Crabtree in the end zone for the game-tying score.
Oakland's coach could have claimed the Riverboat title from Ron Rivera, but opted against an onside kick with 2:10 left down a touchdown.
*-- Max Meyer *
- With two weeks under his belt, rookie wide receiver Will Fuller is already proving his worth. Fuller, who amassed 104 yards against the Chiefs, became the first rookie in club history to begin his career with back-to-back 100-yard games. DeAndre Hopkins also added 113 yards -- first time the Texans had multiple 100-yard receivers since the 2013 season.
-- Andie Hagemann
- Matthew Stafford had thrown 212 passes without an interception before tossing the game-losing pick to Perrish Cox. The Lions quarterback has looked strong since Jim Bob Cooter took over the offense last season, but he struggled Sunday. Stafford missed opportunities for several big plays in the second half, including overthrowing Golden Tate for what could have been a score late in the second half. He finished the game just 22 of 40 for 260 yards, one touchdown, one interception and one incredibly awkward slide.
*-- Edward Lewis *