Tom Brady: I don’t know why the press is beating up on Brady so badly after two games. He is coming off a very serious ACL injury and has not played in a year. Of course it is going to take some time to get back to where he was before. Anyone who thought Brady was going to waltz in and be the Brady of old from the first snap is seriously delusional. Peyton Manning had a knee surgery and only missed preseason last year and looked very out of sync at least for the first quarter of the season if not longer. Carson Palmer never played particularly well his first year back after ACL surgery.
The Running Game: For the most part the most successful offensive teams are the teams that are running the ball effectively and utilizing their running backs.
Mark Sanchez: Like Flacco and Ryan last year, Sanchez has started off the season looking like the real deal at quarterback. And what do all three have in common? Good teams around them, and solid defenses. It’s too early to evaluate Matt Stafford.
Jim Zorn: Is a terrible head coach. The Redskins look lost on offense.
Jake Long: I am sick of people saying how good a tackle Jake Long of the Dolphins is. I have not seen anything that overly impresses me about him yet. He’s good, but he’s not great. Maybe he will be. He gave us some sacks and struggled in his first game, and had a lot of help against Dwight Freeney of the Colts on Monday Night. And Freeney is not that good against the run anyway.
GAMES I WATCHED
New York Jets over New England Patriots, 16-9
The scariest part of the Jets win over the Patriots for Patriots fans is the realization that we should be 0-2. We have no real leaders left on defense and Tom Brady is struggling early in the season, as one would expect coming off a serious knee injury. With a hot Atlanta team coming to Foxborough, mounting injuries, and the tough Baltimore Ravens on the horizon, we could be looking at a 1-3 start if we don’t right the ship.
The Jets talked the talk during the week leading up to this game, and they certainly walked the walk. In fact their defense walked all over the Patriots. The most intensely frustrating part of this game was that the Patriots squandered excellent field position throughout the first half, either settling for field goals or not scoring at all when they had chances on the Jets end of the of the field.
Brady clearly is still working to regain his form after coming off a year long layoff and ACL surgery. His footwork, timing, and accuracy are all off the mark. It doesn’t help that Wes Welker was on the bench, but rookie Julian Edelman did decent job in his place, although he had a few rookie mistakes. Meanwhile Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis shut Randy Moss down all day long, and Brady had no time throw. It was a long, long, day for the offense.
Defensively the Patriots have gone from old to very young, and lack natural leaders on and off the field. Dan Dierdorf, who I usually think is an idiot, said it best. Needing a stop in the second half to get the offense back on the field, Dierdorf said (paraphrased) “no Harrison, Bruschi, Vrabel, Seymour, and now no Jerrod Mayo. There are no real leaders left on this team that you just expect to step up and make a play in situations like this.” And of course the Jets get a first down. The defense didn’t play terribly, but in the second half they made rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez look like a savvy veteran.
Despite all this you can also lay part of the blame for this loss on a horrendous offensive game plan. There is no way in a two close games Brady should be throwing the ball around 50 times a game. That is ridiculous. Even if he were fully healthy the pass happy game plan in these tight games is head scratcher. We have five serviceable running backs, use them! Most of the time we bothered to run the ball against the Jets we mostly had success, but we didn’t stick with it enough. The best way to slow down an aggressive pass rush is a successful running game, play action passes, and screens. I saw none of that on Sunday and I think that cost us the chance to win the game.
The Jets had a very good season last year and tanked toward the end of the season. This year they again look solid. Mark Sanchez so far looks like the real deal at quarterback and their defense looks very stout.
For the Patriots, I am not hitting the panic button yet. I do think that Brady and the offense will find their rhythm as the season progresses and the defense will continue to improve. But we better not fall into a big hole early in the season or we may be chasing the Jets all year for the AFC East title.
And for me the player of the game is Leon Washington. Although his stats don’t look impressive at face value, his kickoff returns consistently gave the Jets good field position and he made some key offensive plays to keep drives alive in the second half (his lost fumble excepted).
MVP: Leon Washington, RB/KR
Baltimore Ravens over San Diego Chargers, 31-26
The San Diego Chargers are another playoff caliber team that should be 0-2. The loss of Jamaal Williams on the defensive line, along with other injuries, really seems to have put the Chargers defense in a tailspin. Despite their solid play the last two weeks, the Ravens are not a high scoring team generally but they mostly had their way with the Chargers.
Like the Patriots, beyond Rivers two interceptions, their biggest problem was scoring in the red zone. You can’t get into the red zone and settle for four field goals and except to win the game. And once again little Darren Sproles was a one man show but it wasn’t enough.
The Ravens, meanwhile, have picked up right where they left off last year. On offense Flacco is playing well and they are utilizing their three running backs, McGahee, Rice, and McClain very effectively (hear that Bill Belichick?). And defense the old veteran Ray Lewis continues to be a disruptive force.
MVP: Ray Lewis, LB
New York Giants over Dallas Cowboys, 33-31
It is funny hearing Eli Manning touted as the second coming by the pundits when Romo gave up three gift interceptions which doomed the Cowboys to losing their home opener in their new gaudy stadium. They say things are bigger in Texas and Romo seems to be the biggest choke artist of them all. Maybe he’ll take Peyton’s spot in that category. Romo has a great deal of potential but he made poor throws and mistakes in the passing game, and tends to do so on the biggest stages.
Don’t get me wrong, the Giants played well and so did Eli Manning. But he Cowboys helped them out quite a bit. The Giants, in fact, are clearly now the team to beat in the NFC East, if not the entire conference. They have an excellent if inconsistent quarterback, a solid running game, and maybe the best all around offensive line in the league. And now they have found two receivers who have stepped up to the plate and had a coming out party of their own in Steve Smith and Mario Manningham who had nearly 300 yards between them. And as usually, the Giants defense has sketchy defensive backs, but their defensive line is one of the best in the league.
MVP: Mario Manningham, WR
Indianapolis Colts over Miami Dolphins, 27-23
This is one of the most bizarre games I have ever seen. Miami holds the ball almost the entire game, running the ball right now the Colts throats, but still lose. Peyton Manning and the Colts had the ball for less than 15 minutes but scored a touchdown on big plays on nearly every possession to win the game. Unbelievable!
On offense Miami did everything right, rushing for 239 yards, using the “Wildcat” formation effectively, and throwing when they needed to. But the defense gave up big plays, and fast, nearly every time the Colts touched the ball. The first play of the game was an 80 yard touchdown pass from Manning to tight end Dallas Clark and they didn’t slow down or get out of rhythm, they just kept doing it when they had the ball. Manning was just brilliant in this game. If you cut Manning open you would probably find wires because he is a machine.
Miami’s defense should be ashamed. As should Miami wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. who dropped a catchable ball at the end of the game that could of won it for Miami. I think Ted Ginn, Jr. is a bust of a first round draft pick at this point. I have seen nothing in his career that has impressed me.
After the game Steve Young said Miami lost because they do not have a big play offense. This is one of the dumbest things I have ever heard him say. Had Miami scored on big plays that would have likely meant that the Colts just score more points and end up winning anyway. 99.999999 percent of the time a team rushes the ball as well as Miami did, scores touchdowns, and keeps the other team off the field for 45 minutes of the game, they will win. And the best way to beat the Colts is to control the ball, get some points, and keep Manning on the bench, just like Miami did. Few teams are going to win a scoring race with the Colts. It was Miami’s defense that lost this game.
Dallas Clark had 7 catches for 183 yards, including an 80 yard touchdown reception on the first play from scrimmage, but I have to go with Peyton as the MVP because he was just brilliant in this game.
MVP: Peyton Manning, QB
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Offensive Player: Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49’ers (207 yards rushing)
Defensive Player: Antwan Odom, DE, Cincinnati (5 sacks)
Offensive Lineman: Jake Grove, C, Miami
Special Teams: Leon Washington, KR, New York Jets
Rookie of the Week: Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets