Epic Week 2 in the NFL!
You have to love Aaron Jones' career day in Lambeau. You must be impressed with the Tom Brady bounce-back. And you gotta loathe the Lions blowing a double-digit lead for the second straight week, bringing more embarrassment to the franchise that's been rebuilding since 1957.
That's just a taste of the best and worst from another captivating day of football, an appetizer to whet the appetite. Ready for the main course?
Here's what I loved, liked and loathed in the second Sunday of the 2020 NFL season, Schein Nine style:
WHAT I LOVED
1) Josh Allen silencing his critics
I've never understood the Josh Allen haters. And now, for the second straight week, they need to crawl back into their hole.
Allen keeps setting personal bests while the Bills keep taking care of business in a season that began with high expectations for the quarterback and the team. After recording his first 300-yard passing game in the season-opening blowout of the Jets, Allen logged his first 400-yard game in a 31-28 win over the Dolphins. In fact, Allen became the first QB in Buffalo's franchise history to throw for 400 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. And he did so against a well-coached division rival with a strong secondary. Through Sunday, Allen leads the NFL with 729 passing yards, simultaneously boasting a sparkling 6:0 TD-to-INT ratio and a surgical 70.4 percent completion rate. Surprised? You shouldn't be.
The No. 7 overall pick from 2018 has a rocket arm, dangerous legs and a spectacular work ethic. After showing flashes as a rookie, Allen blossomed in Year 2, helping Buffalo nab a wild-card slot by routinely answering the bell in the clutch (SEE: four fourth-quarter comebacks and five game-winning drives, both league-highs). Now he's taking the next step to stardom, thanks to his continued growth -- and GM Brandon Beane's brilliant trade.
Beane and head coach Sean McDermott have done a spectacular job in building the team around their franchise signal-caller. And no single move currently shines brighter than the March acquisition of Stefon Diggs. Buffalo gave up a lot in the deal with Minnesota, including a first-round pick, but the Bills received a true No. 1 receiver, as evidenced by Diggs' prolific effort on Sunday. With eight catches for 153 yards and a touchdown in the three-point win at Miami, Diggs was a game-changer. The trade was a season-changer. The bona fide WR1 takes Allen -- and Buffalo -- to the next level.
For reasons I still don't entirely get, Allen entered the NFL as a highly polarizing player. But two games into his third season, he's the league's leading passer on the AFC East's only undefeated team. How's the crow taste, critics?
2) Russ cooking at an MVP rate
In a fantastically entertaining Sunday Night Football bout between New England and Seattle, Russell Wilson outdueled the rejuvenated Cam Newton and led the Seahawks to a 35-30 win. Mr. Unlimited was nearly unstoppable. Wilson became just the third quarterback to throw for five touchdowns against Bill Belichick's Patriots. Two weeks into this season, Russ has nine touchdown passes against 11 incompletions!
As I've mentioned many times before in this space, I cringe every time I hear Wilson has never received an MVP vote. Not a single one. As one of the AP voters responsible for this unfortunate fact, I applaud Russ' early effort to hold us accountable through undeniable transcendence.
3) Sean McVay's Rams looking like Sean McVay's Rams again
Don't look now, but the Rams are 2-0 and just trashed the Eagles in Philly, 37-19. It's not hyperbolic to say these 2020 Rams look like the 2018 Rams, who -- you might recall -- made it all the way to Super Bowl Sunday.
Now, I'm certainly not crowning L.A., but I am absolutely acknowledging the Rams' inspired start after an offseason full of high-profile attrition. This is a testament to McVay's amazing coaching. No Todd Gurley or Brandin Cooks on offense? No problem. Jared Goff just enjoyed his most efficient outing since the Super Bowl season, completing 20 of his 27 throws for 267 yards, three touchdown passes and zero picks. And all three of those scoring strikes went to Tyler Higbee. This makes the Rams so dangerous in the big picture, with the tight end joining Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp as legitimately big-time weapons. How about the defense, which parted ways with coordinator Wade Phillips this offseason, while also waving goodbye to the unit's top two leading tacklers (Cory Littleton and Eric Weddle) and two most prolific edge rushers (Dante Fowler and Clay Matthews). Well, Brandon Staley's unit has allowed the third-fewest points in the NFL.
This team's off to a fine start, and I can't wait for this Sunday's trip to Buffalo in a matchup of well-coached 2-0 clubs.
WHAT I LIKED
4) The dangerous Cardinals improving to 2-0
You know I'm not surprised, seeing how I picked Arizona as my Cinderella team for the 2020 season five months ago. But this Cardinals flock has truly embraced increased expectations.
Kliff Kingsbury has done a great job early in his second season at the helm. These Cardinals are playing incredibly hard -- and quite well -- for the 41-year-old head coach. Reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Kyler Murray is off to the kind of start that has people tossing his name into the early running for the league's top individual award. Murray's absolutely electric in the open field, and his rapport with new WR1 DeAndre Hopkins (22 catches for 219 yards and a touchdown through two games) isn't bad, either. Meanwhile, the defense is far more talented than most people realized entering this season. Arizona has allowed the second-fewest points in the league thus far, racking up a respectable seven sacks in the process.
Most importantly, this upstart club has displayed a consistent effort over the first two weeks of the season. After the upset win in San Francisco, there was no letdown against the Washington Football Team. The Cardinals took care of business in their home opener, jumping out to a 20-0 lead and eventually prevailing 30-15. This kind of steadiness -- for a young, up-and-coming team -- is no small deal.
5) Justin Herbert staking his claim as the Chargers' starter
As many of you know, I'm obsessed with the Oregon product and think he's going to be an NFL star. Well, given a surprise start in place of the injured Tyrod Taylor, Justin Herbert only increased my infatuation with 311 passing yards and two total touchdowns in an overtime loss to the defending Super Bowl champions.
Yes, Herbert threw a bad second-half interception that helped fuel Kansas City's comeback. I don't care. The guy found out he was getting the start less than a minute before kickoff. And he proceeded to go toe-to-toe with Patrick Mahomes for 68 minutes, nearly pulling off an upset NOBODY predicted.
Herbert has every trait you want in a franchise quarterback. In his first NFL game action, Herbert made a number of "wow" throws, scored a touchdown with his legs and undoubtedly showcased the "it" factor every team desires at the game's most important position. I know what Anthony Lynn said in the postgame regarding Tyrod retaking the starting reins when healthy, but I don't want to hear it. The rookie almost knocked off the Chiefs -- and looked quite good in the process. This has to be Herbert's job.
6) Harrison Butker hitting the game-winner -- three times!
On a day when the Chargers' offense was energized by Herbert and the Bolts' defense made Mahomes look (somewhat) human, it was Harrison Butker who bombed the game-winning field goal in overtime to give the Chiefs their 11th consecutive win. And how about the way he did it?
Butker lined up from 53 yards out and nailed the kick ... but a false start penalty erased the make and pushed the ball back five yards. No matter: Butker nailed it from 58 ... but a Chargers timeout right before the snap once again eliminated the majestic boot. Third time's a charm? Indeed! Butker split the uprights with plenty of room to spare. This guy is totally unfazed by anything.
Butker's a rock and a lock. It's almost unfair that the mighty Chiefs also just happen to have an automatic kicker.
7) The Colts bouncing back
Philip Rivers bounced back with a largely efficient effort in the 28-11 win over the Vikings. And my preseason Offensive Rookie of the Year pick, Jonathan Taylor, got the football and pounded the Vikings. He became the starter with Marlon Mack's season-ending injury, and he delivered 101 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. That's only the beginning for the second-round pick. Minnesota's offense got crunched by Matt Eberflus' D. The Colts picked off Kirk Cousins three times and sacked him three times. With the dynamic DeForest Buckner anchoring that defensive front, this will become the norm.
WHAT I LOATHED
8) The Falcons again blowing it in unthinkable fashion
Maybe just close up shop. Open an ice cream shop. Everyone likes ice cream.
28-3 in Super Bowl LI. The 1-7 start last year. And now Sunday. Up 20 on the Cowboys, Atlanta choked. What an embarrassment.
Credit Dallas, sure, but really, this was about the Falcons completely blowing it. It wasn't a game for all the marbles, obviously, but in terms of inexplicably pulling defeat out of the jaws of victory, Sunday felt even worse than the Super Bowl. Dallas was faking punts unsuccessfully and begging Atlanta to win. According to Next Gen Stats, when the Cowboys were down 39-24 in the fourth quarter, their win probability dropped as low as 2.0 percent. The Falcons scored 39 points and lost. Entering action on Sunday, teams were 440-0 when scoring 39 or more points with zero turnovers. How do you not pick up the onside kick?!!
You can't make this up. Or, you can. Because Dan Quinn is the common denominator.
9) The injury bug
It's just the worst. Where do you start? Saquon Barkley is done for the season with a torn ACL. Absolutely brutal for the Giants. Christian McCaffrey's gonna miss 4-6 weeks with a high ankle sprain. Good luck replacing that production in Carolina, Matt Rhule, Joe Brady and Co. Minnesota won't get another snap out of Anthony Barr this season, as the four-time Pro Bowler tore a pec. The Broncos lost stud WR Courtland Sutton for the season to a torn ACL, while young QB Drew Lock is going to miss 3-5 weeks with a rotator cuff injury. In Indy, Colts safety Malik Hooker tore his Achilles, while wideout Parris Campbell suffered a serious knee sprain. Shoot, I haven't even mentioned studs like Green Bay WR Davante Adams (hamstring), Miami CB Byron Jones (groin) and Washington RG Brandon Scherff (knee), who all left their respective games due to injury.
Of course, nobody got bit harder by the injury bug than the defending NFC champion 49ers. Nick Bosa was lost for the year due to a torn ACL, Solomon Thomas got carted off the field shortly thereafter, Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a high ankle sprain and Raheem Mostert hurt his knee. Good grief.