Buffalo Bills: The Bills surrendered 28 points to the Chargers in the first half on Monday, and just a field goal in the second half in their 31-20 loss. The difference? Perhaps the defensive play-calling of head coach Sean McDermott. After the half, McDermott took over from defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. “I just thought we needed a spark and that’s my background. Coach Frazier does really good job as well as the defensive staff. I just felt like we needed a spark,” McDermott said. He added: “I didn’t really change all that much, honestly. I thought the defense played with a lot of energy in the second half and the guys, give the players credit, they battled.”
Miami Dolphins: Running back Frank Gore passed Curtis Martin to move into fourth-place on the all-time rushing list on Sunday. Drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft after suffering two ACL injuries in college, the 35-year-old Gore has rushed for 14,112 yards and 77 touchdowns during his career with the 49ers, Colts and Dolphins. “I’ve been doubted my whole life, especially coming out of college with the injuries I had,” said Gore, in his 14th season. “People said I would be in the league for two to three years and then I would be done. I’ve been blessed to keep going and also have success.” Hall of Fame members Emmitt Smith (18,355 yards), Walter Payton (16,726) and Barry Sanders (15,269) are ahead of Gore on the list.
New England Patriots: The silver lining in the loss on Sunday at Jacksonville was the debut of rookie running back Sony Michel, who was out all preseason with a minor knee issue. A product of Georgia, Michel was a first-round draft pick by the Patriots in April’s draft. Michel rushed 10 times for 34 yards and caught a
7-yard pass from Tom Brady. “Once I step on the field, I’m ready to go,” Michel said. “There’s no way that I can be trying to work my way back into stuff. Once I step onto the field and the doctors say I’m good to go, I’m good to go.” Brady said: “He had a tough injury early in camp and had some opportunities today and he will learn from them. He ran hard when he had some chances.”
New York Jets: Team owner Woody Johnson is away from New York, serving as ambassador to the United Kingdom. In his absence, his younger brother, Christopher, is running the team. Christopher said he likes it so much that he hopes to maintain some duties when his brother’s ambassadorship is done. “I’m having the time of my life,” the younger Johnson told reporters recently. “If I was having that much fun with a five-win season, imagine how much fun I’ll be having if we actually start killing it. I’m hopeful we can do that. I’m looking forward to my brother coming back in a few years. He’s a great leader, but no question, I’m hoping to have a larger role at that point than I had prior. I think he’d welcome that.”
Baltimore Ravens: With the Denver Broncos up next, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said it’s fair to put a spotlight on the Baltimore offensive line. The Cincinnati Bengals gave the Ravens’ front five issues in Week 2. “Not systemic in terms of what type of protections we’re running. We had one bad matchup, a tight end on a pass rusher ... he ended up hitting Joe on what would have been a big play for us,” Harbaugh said. “They won some one-on-one battles at times. You’ve got to work really hard protecting your quarterback.” The Broncos have seven sacks in two games. Flacco has been sacked five times this season. Backup Lamar Jackson has been sacked once in five drop backs as a change-up option.
Cleveland Browns: As the Browns lost belief in wide receiver Josh Gordon, they gained confidence in rookie Antonio Callaway, who delivered in spades Sunday at New Orleans. Callaway caught a 47-yard touchdown pass with 1:16 to go and a 16-yarder to set up a potential game-tying field goal in the closing seconds. He is emerging as a standout in a wide receiver group turned on its ear since adding Jarvis Landry in the offseason. In addition to Gordon, the Browns parted with former first-round pick Corey Coleman. “That was big-time, big-boy football. That’s what we expect him to do,” Landry said. “We’re going to need a lot more of him this year, just like that.” Quarterback Tyrod Taylor said Callaway “knows the opportunity in front of him.”
Cincinnati Bengals: Even when rookie center Billy Price went down against the Ravens in Week 2, the offensive line was a glowing strength, praised endlessly by quarterback Andy Dalton and coaches in the immediate aftermath of the game. Trey Hopkins had never played center before but stepped into the game and made every line call and adjustment. Offensive tackle Bobby Hart said the Bengals were successful even against the Ravens’ “funky” blitz packages because they kept it simple. “We stuck to the things we knew well, and we were comfortable with that we wanted to do,” he said. “The results were there — just running our bread-and-butter plays, running the things where you don’t have to worry about different looks and stuff. Just getting it and going. I’m proud of the guys, and I’m excited moving forward.”
Pittsburgh Steelers: Winless entering Week 3, a veteran locker room could be the greatest asset for the Steelers going forward. A tie at Cleveland and close loss to the Chiefs on Sunday put Pittsburgh out of the win column entering the third game of the season for the first time since 2013 (when they started 0-4 and finished 8-8). “It’s just Game 2,” offensive guard Ramon Foster said. “No panic at all. None of that.” Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said the Steelers understand it is “look-in-the-mirror time” heading to Tampa Bay against the 2-0 Bucs for “Monday Night Football.” “We’ll see,” Roethlisberger said, “how everyone wants to respond.”
Houston Texans: An 0-2 start brought critics out but coach Bill O’Brien was quick to point out his team hasn’t even played its first home game. “We realize we have to do a lot better,” O’Brien said. “We have to play more consistently, we have to practice better, we’ve got to coach better, we understand that, but we also know there’s a lot ball left to be played.” Cornerback Johnathan Joseph is of the mind set that one victory can serve as the wake-up call. “You hear a lot of hype coming out of the preseason and things like that and then you have one or two games where it doesn’t fall in your favor, sometimes it crumbles a little bit,” Joseph said, “but we’re definitely standing tall in this locker room and we’re moving on to next week.”
Indianapolis Colts: The defense will see Carson Wentz make his return from a major knee injury when they visit the Philadelphia Eagles and safety Malik Hooker says the unit will be ready for the test. “He’s a great quarterback, obviously. Everybody knows that,” Hooker said. “But at the end of the day, football’s an 11-player game and not one, so we can’t just let one person beat us. We’re going to get out there and do the same thing and improve on the mistakes that we had this week.” Colts first-year coach Frank Reich is obviously familiar with Wentz after tutoring him the past two seasons as the Eagles’ quarterback coach.
Jacksonville Jaguars: The offensive line suffered a big blow with left tackle Cam Robinson going down with an ACL tear in his left knee during Sunday’s win over the New England Patriots but the injury presents a big opportunity for Josh Wells. The 27-year-old Wells was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2014 after playing collegiately at James Madison. He has made four previous NFL starts, all last season. “It’s a shame what happened to Cam, and I’m praying for him — I really am,” Wells said. “But it is an opportunity now, and it’s an expectation level between the group — and a trust between the group. I need to be someone who can be counted upon and play to the best of my ability.”
Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota (elbow) is still ailing and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Blaine Gabbert is the starting quarterback for the second straight game when Tennessee faces the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. Gabbert wasn’t asked to do a lot but was steady enough — 13 for 20, 117 yards, one touchdown — and guided the team to the game-winning field in a 20-17 win over the Houston Texans. “He made some great throws, and he was the player of the game offensively,” Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel said. “I think Blaine gave us a chance to win the game and executed two great throws on that last drive.” Vrabel said the team won’t rush Mariota, who is experiencing tingling sensations and having issues gripping the football.
Denver Broncos: Coach Vance Joseph said Monday he wasn’t pleased with how the Broncos’ defense started against the Raiders on Sunday, specifically pointing to the cornerbacks playing with too much cushion. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr reached halftime having gone 18 for 19 for 158 yards, which Joseph attributed to soft underneath coverage. “I thought yesterday defensively that we didn’t play aggressive enough in the first half,” Joseph said. .”.. We played way too cautious. ... Our corners have to — have to — play with great confidence all the time and obviously play press coverage.” Joseph said he liked how the group responded after halftime, though Carr went 11 for 13 for 130 yards after the break.
Kansas City Chiefs: Lost in the commotion of Patrick Mahomes’ six-touchdown day at Pittsburgh was that the youngster, who turned 23 on Monday, handled the Steelers’ blitzes effectively. “The thing that I think gets overlooked in this is they threw a bunch at him,” coach Andy Reid told reporters, “which I thought was gonna be an important thing for him to work with.” Reid added that the offensive line, which allowed just one sack on the day, played a major role in handling Pittsburgh’s disguised looks. “The O-line did a really good job of picking the stuff up and kind of kept him clean,” Reid said. “Even when they tried to press the receivers and throw your timing off, the O-line still gave him enough time where he could still function.”
Los Angeles Chargers: Melvin Gordon finished with only nine carries and 28 yards (including a 20-yard TD) in Sunday’s romp over the Bills, compared to 11 carries for 77 yards by Austin Ekeler, but Gordon added six receptions for 38 yards and two scores. Through two games, Gordon leads the team in receptions (15) and receiving touchdowns (two), while gaining 140 yards through the air. Coach Anthony Lynn expects that production to continue. “Melvin has excellent hands, and he’s a decent route runner,” Lynn told reporters. “We’re trying to get him more involved in the passing game, and I think you’re seeing that the first couple weeks.”
Oakland Raiders: The Raiders have tallied just two sacks through two games, but coach Jon Gruden said he doesn’t have regrets about dealing defensive end Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears. “We made the trade,” Gruden told reporters. .”.. I’d have loved to have had him here, but he’s not here. Somebody has to step up.” Gruden added that the Raiders “need more and more” from defensive end Bruce Irvin, who had a sack in the opener and a QB hit and tackle for loss in Denver. “I know he’s giving us everything he has,” Gruden continued. “It’s tough on him, certainly, because we do have a lot of new guys around him up front.”
Dallas Cowboys: Former Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones, cut by Pittsburgh on Sept. 1, worked out for the Cowboys on Monday, according to the Star-Telegram. Jones, 29, could be the veteran quarterback the Cowboys need to back up Dak Prescott. The current backup is Central Michigan product Cooper Rush, and coach Jason Garrett had this to say about him after their Aug. 26 game against the Cardinals: “There were some good things in the game and obviously there were some bad plays. He’ll learn how to handle some of the situations better as he goes forward. ... When you’re in some challenging situations, all of that gets tested. At times, I thought he handled it really well. Other times, he didn’t handle it well enough.”
New York Giants: For a team that some thought had Super Bowl potential, the Giants played far from superbly on Sunday night in a 20-13 loss to the Cowboys. And their performance left new coach Pat Shurmur and quarterback Eli Manning looking for answers. “We certainly didn’t do enough in terms of offense to — we didn’t score enough points, especially early,” Shurmur said. “And then the game gets twisted like that and you got to pass it more than you want to. Just didn’t make enough plays, so here we are, we’re 0-2.” Manning added: “We didn’t execute well enough. When we did get some first downs we made, but seemed to be going backwards a few plays later. We got into some third-and-longs and tough situations.”
Philadelphia Eagles: Move over, Norm Van Brocklin. With a 12-yard pass Sunday against Tampa Bay, Nick Foles surpassed the Hall of Fame member and moved into ninth place on the Eagles’ all-time passing yardage list. Van Brocklin had 7,497 yards from 1958-60. Foles now has 7,741 but is a long way from No. 1: Donovan McNabb with 32,873 yards. Foles likely won’t hold that spot long. Third-year quarterback Carson Wentz, shelved to start the season with a knee injury, is expected to start Sunday and send Foles back to the bench. In just 29 games with the Eagles, Wentz sits at No. 12 on the all-time list with 7,078 yards and could climb quickly. “He probably will come back stronger and better than ever,” Adam Dedeaux, Wentz’s mechanics coach at 3DQB, told NFL.com.
Washington Redskins: The Redskins traditionally have one of the staunchest fan bases, but this season is off to a bad start. The home opener at FedEx Field on Sunday saw the lowest crowd in the stadium’s history: 57,013. The previous low, according to Pro Football Reference, was 76,512 in 2015. The Redskins are 1-1, beating Arizona on the road in Week 1 and losing to Indianapolis 21-9 on Sunday. Team president Bruce Allen spoke about attendance late last week: “I think we’re going to be OK. We had a nice pep rally out here at Redskins Park night and I think we’re going to be fine. You can feel the enthusiasm with our fans for this team. It is the right talent and attitude, and they’re putting out an effort that we haven’t seen in a while.”
Detroit Lions: Nevin Lawson and Teez Tabor are next in line if cornerback Darius Slay isn’t cleared from a concussion in time for “Monday Night Football” with the New England Patriots. Slay’s status will not be updated until Thursday. He was ushered to the sideline after taking a blow to the head in each of the first two regular-season games, and left Week 2 at San Francisco following a collision with 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Head coach Matt Patricia signaled a possible start for Tabor when pressed about the next man up. “I think Tabor does a good job every week of being ready to go. He studies, he’s smart. He’s a big, long guy that can go out there and obviously have a good presence. But, I’m always confident that he’s ready to go,” Patricia said.
Green Bay Packers: Linebacker Clay Matthews and head coach Mike McCarthy are seeking clarity from the NFL on what they labeled a “gray area” when it comes to enforcement of roughing the passer penalties. For the second game in a row, Matthews was penalized for roughing late in the game, including Sunday when he hit Kirk Cousins in the ribs as Cousins delivered a pass that was intercepted for what would have been a game-sealing pick. “I get what the goal (of player safety) is, and we’re all for the goal being achieved, but at the same time, you have to make sure it’s not a competitive disadvantage to the pass rusher trying to hit the quarterback,” McCarthy said Monday. He also questioned the validity of a holding call on left guard Lane Taylor that wiped out a touchdown pass to tight end Jimmy Graham.
Minnesota Vikings: Blair Walsh was granted several chances to save his job with the Vikings under coach Mike Zimmer, but after cutting Kai Forbath in favor of the Auburn rookie, Daniel Carlson missed his shot to endear himself to a Super Bowl hopeful. Carlson missed three field goal attempts in the Week 2 tie at Green Bay, including two in overtime. “Guys are supposed to do their jobs,” Zimmer said. On Monday, when Carlson was waived, Zimmer was asked to explain the decision. “Did you see the game?” The follow-up question was whether the decision was easy. Zimmer said “Yeah, it was pretty easy.”
Atlanta Falcons: Coach Dan Quinn disagrees with published reports claiming running back Devonta Freeman (knee) will be sidelined two or three weeks, but was unable to say if Freeman will be available for Sunday’s game against New Orleans Saints. “We’re not sure where that report came from, it certainly didn’t come from us,” Quinn said. “So we’re going to continue in that spot of day-to-day, and when Devonta can (show) the same explosion that he plays with then we’ll let him do his thing. But until that part comes, we’re not going to put a timetable on it.” Atlanta rushed for 170 yards in Sunday’s win over the Carolina Panthers as Tevin Coleman gained 107 on 16 carries and Ito Smith had 46 on nine attempts.
Carolina Panthers: First-round selection DJ Moore will become a bigger part of the offense after scoring a 51-yard touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons on his first career catch. Moore caught a pass from Cam Newton at the Atlanta 34-yard line, broke a tackle and sailed down the middle of the field for the score. The touchdown came on just one of two times Moore was targeted through his first two NFL games. “I think we’ve got to put more on his plate,” Rivera said. “Just looking at some of the things that we’ve done, things that we’ve done in practice, I think that we can stress him more and ask more of him.”
New Orleans Saints: Receiver Michael Thomas set an NFL record with 28 catches through two games — Atlanta’s Andre Rison (26 in 1994) held the old mark — but he isn’t too interested in getting caught up with the milestone. “It’s a long season, man. I’m trying to play in the championship. I’m trying to play in the Super Bowl,” Thomas said. “I’m trying to do big things here, so individual stats at the end of the day, with a player of my caliber and the guy behind center and the offensive line and all the tools around me, I’m gonna catch a lot of footballs. I’m gonna get open. I’ve been doing that my whole life.” However, Thomas also lost a fumble for the second straight week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ryan Fitzpatrick is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 400 yards and at least four touchdowns in each of his team’s first two games of the season. Fitzpatrick’s strong performances could lead to him remaining the starter even after Jameis Winston returns from a three-game suspension next week. Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter had no interest in helping ignite a quarterback controversy a week earlier than necessary. “I won’t be the one getting into that,” Koetter said in response to a question at a press conference. “We’ll worry about that when the time comes. Right now we’re going to start working on Pittsburgh and that’s all that matters right now. Everything else is in the future because it could all change just like that.”
Arizona Cardinals: Through two games, the Cardinals’ offense has just six points and 350 total yards, both last in the league by a mile (Buffalo is next at 23 points and 446 yards). One way to improve could be using running back David Johnson — who has 22 carries for 85 yards and six catches for 33 yards this season — more creatively. “We talked about that,” coach Steve Wilks told reporters Monday. “We’ve got to utilize David from the standpoint of getting him out of the backfield, putting him in the slot, putting him out there to try and create that matchup that we need. David is very effective when he is out in space, so we have to start utilizing him in those particular matters.” Johnson had 80 receptions for 879 yards and four scores in his last full season (2016), before missing almost all of last year with a wrist injury.
Los Angeles Rams: For the second consecutive year, the Rams shut out the Cardinals, and Sunday’s 34-0 pasting allowed L.A. to rest some of its key veterans. Todd Gurley was kept out of much of the second half after dealing with leg cramps, playing 49 of 72 (68 percent) offensive snaps. Meanwhile, the defense faced just 45 snaps all game, and no player played more than 35 (78 percent) of them. Aaron Donald (30) and Michael Brockers (21) each played less than half of the snaps they did in the opener (62 and 44, respectively), while all four members of the starting secondary (Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, Lamarcus Joyner and John Johnson) played exactly half (35, after 70 last week). The extra rest could help, as the Rams face the Chargers on Sunday and the Vikings the following Thursday in Week 4.
San Francisco 49ers: Third-year defensive end DeForest Buckner has already eclipsed his 2017 sack total (three) with 3.5 through two games, which ranks second in the NFL behind only Denver’s Von Miller (four). He had one sack of Matthew Stafford in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win over the Lions, but Buckner noted the defense as a whole must be more consistent over the course of a whole game. “I feel like the energy kind of fell off a little bit and we needed to build it back up that last defensive stand that we had,” Buckner said. “I feel like guys kind of woke up during that last drive on defense. We’ve got to keep the pedal down all four quarters.” Stafford and the Lions trimmed a 30-13 lead to 30-27 before being unable to tie in the final minutes.
—Field Level Media