CHERRY HILL, NEW JERSEY, September 22, 2015 — The NFL is a quarterback driven league, and the class of 2014 is already looking like they are avoiding the sophomore slump. While it is far too early to rank them with the famed classes of 1983, 1999 or 2004, they are not washouts either. Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder are all at this point busts. Vince Young and Matt Leinart saw potential get wasted. Last year saw Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Derek Carr all brought in to save flagging franchises. All four of these signal callers led their teams to victories in Week 2. Time will tell if this becomes the day the guard changed or just a blip. With that, here are the NFL 2015 Week 2 lessons learned and not learned.
Denver Broncos 31, Kansas City Chiefs 24 — John Elway felt the Broncos were too soft. He now has a nasty defense to go along with Peyton Manning, who apparently is still quite good. Do not blame Walrus Lite Andy Reid for calling a late run that led to the losing fumble. What was he supposed to do, have Alex Smith dink and dunk? You cannot go 80 yards in less than one minute at four yards a West Coast Offense throw.
New England Patriots 40, Buffalo Bills 32 — Tom Brady may be inventing enemies the way Michael Jordan used to do, but Rex Ryan is a real Brady and Bellichick agitator. Brady threw for 466 yards, and is probably mad somebody dropped a throw that would have put him over 500. At least Rex did not guarantee a Super Bowl 50 win.
Carolina Panthers 24, Houston Texans 17 — Between Bryan Hoyer and Ryan Mallett, can somebody get J.J. Watt a quarterback? Ray Lewis won with Trent Dilfer, so maybe Watt will have to do it by himself. The Matt Schaub tradition of completions to the opposing defense is still strong in Houston.
Arizona Cardinals 48, Chicago Bears 23 — David Johnson returned the opening kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown. Jay Cutler once again threw a touchdown to the opposing defense, but he has the ultimate job security in backup Jimmy Clausen. The Cardinals are Super Bowl contenders with a healthy Carson Palmer. A decade later, Dennis Green is still right. The Bears are who we thought they were.
Cincinnati Bengals 24, San Diego Chargers 19 — The Chargers began the game with a fumble and ended it with Philip Rivers throwing an interception. This is probably a different game in San Diego, which is as relevant as saying the result would be different if the teams had different players.
Cleveland Browns 28, Tennessee Titans 14 — Johnny Manziel threw touchdown bombs of 60 and 50 yards and saw a 78-yard punt return stake the Browns to a 21-0 lead. Marcus Mariota went from a good opening game to a more realistic road beating. Manziel returns to the bench when Josh McCown recovers from his concussion, but it seems he can make plays.
Minnesota Vikings 26, Detroit Lions 16 — Teddy Bridgewater would hate the label of game manager, but when Adrian Peterson is the running back, you hand him the ball. Peterson had 29 carries for 134 yards, which took the pressure off of Bridgewater. Sometimes going basic is necessary, especially against a Detroit team reeling from the loss of their best defender to free agency.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26, New Orleans Saints 19 — Last week Tampa Bay looked like the 1976 Buccaneers worthy of execution. Now they are the 1977 Buccaneers, ending their losing streak with a shocking win over the Saints. People are so used to the Saints pinball offense that it is hard to believe how it has fallen apart. Drew Brees is injured, which means the Saints are done.
Atlanta Falcons 24, New York Giants 20 — Tom Coughlin has to be tearing out his white hair. Twice in successive weeks the Giants have blown double-digit fourth quarter leads. You don’t forget how to coach football after winning two Super Bowls. To paraphrase former Giants legend Bill Parcells, you can’t win football games when you’re too stupid. The Giants will win when they stop being stupid.
Pittsburgh Steelers 43, San Francisco 49ers 18 — After winning last week, Jim Tomsula may have admitted he was coaching the team. Reality came in the form of a punch to the face. The Steelers built a 29-3 halftime lead. The complicated scientific reason is that the Steelers have good players while half the 49ers team retired to play shuffleboard somewhere in Boca Raton.
Washington 24, St. Louis Rams 10 — After a big emotional win over Seattle, the Rams came out flat. There is no other explanation for losing to a Washington team more interested in fighting itself than its opponents. Kirk Cousins completed 23 of 27 passes. Every year we hear that Jeff Fisher has a great defense, but the results on the field did not show that.
Jacksonville Jaguars 23, Miami Dolphins 20 — Miami is the most exciting, glamorous city in America, yet somehow it has the most boring football team. Give credit to Blake Bortles for leading the winning drive, but can somebody tell Ndamokung Suh not to become the next Albert Haynesworth? When you cash the 100 million dollar check, just follow instructions. Joe Philbin may look like a bank branch manager, but his title says coach.
Oakland Raiders 37, Baltimore Ravens 33 — The Raider Nation is ready to elect Derek Carr President. The Raiders led the whole game and then collapsed with two minutes left. Before people could lament the typical Raiders, Carr went out and led a stirring comeback. The Raiders in recent years had reduced their penalties but kept losing. They had 16 penalties in this game, the most since 2005, and won. Maybe the glory days are back. Most likely not, but Carr is for real. Jack Del Rio unleashed him, and traded the dinking and dunking for bombs to Amari Cooper. For the Raiders to have a chance, Carr must remain unshackled.
Dallas Cowboys 20, Philadelphia Eagles 10 — The muffled sound you hear is Jerry Jones crying his eyes out. Jerrah has a 2-0 team, but has lost Dez Bryant and Tony Romo for several weeks. Two field goals and a blocked punt were enough to defeat Chip Kelly’s suddenly anemic offense. With Pope Francis coming to town, the cloud of smoke can be attributed to the Vatican and not the three-alarm fire emergency bell being sounded by the Philadelphia fans.
Green Bay Packers 27, Seattle Seahawks 17 — Winning a regular season game will not make up for Fail Mary or the 2014 NFC Title Game onside kick fiasco. However, Seattle will bounce back from 0-2. It is never too early to think about home field advantage. These teams are both far better at home, as Aaron Rodgers led the fourth quarter comeback that belonged to Russell Wilson last year. Seattle won home field last year in Week 1. Kam Chancellor now has the most costly holdout since Emmett Smith in 1993. When Emmett’s team started 0-2, he got his money.
New York Jets 20, Indianapolis Colts 7 — Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Unabomber beard out-dueled Andrew Luck’s Grizzly Adams beard, but this game was all about old-school defense. Todd Bowles does not have the New York Sack Exchange, but his very solid defense did force five turnovers. The Colts even squandered a ten-minute drive by fumbling inside the one yard line. Adam Vinatieri also missed two field goals, including a 29-yarder that dunked off the upright. Brandon Marshall bulldozed over two Colts for the clinching touchdown in a game where the Jets just hit the Colts in the mouth. This was not Super Bowl III, but the Jets at 2-0 and the Colts at 0-2 is no fluke.