Week 2 in the NFL saw Handshake Gate 2012, Tom Coughlin acting like a crotchety old man to an opposing coach, and Jay Cutler having his leadership questioned by a former teammate. However, while fun, those weren't the top five stories in this second week of the 2012 regular season.
1. The 49ers Look Scary Good
Jim Harbaugh's kids came into Green Bay last week and seemed to enjoy themselves as they walked all over the Packers. On Sunday, they were gifted another NFC North foe known for its explosive passing attack but soft, gelatinous defense: The Detroit Lions. San Francisco gobbled up the Lions and spit them out, just like they did Green Bay, with a bone-crushing defense and a surprisingly poised Alex Smith. Smith ran an efficient passing attack, completing 20-of-31 passes for 226 yards, two touchdowns, and no picks. Smith had nearly the exact same stat line last week. This is now more than just "game management" for Smith. His first touchdown to Vernon Davis was the result of Smith checking out of the called play and into a 21-yard touchdown. His second score to Davis, a 23-yard play that effectively iced the game for the 49ers in the fourth quarter, capped a 13-play, 79-yard drive.
If Smith continues to play like this, San Francisco is nearly impossible to beat.
2. Philly's Right There With Them
The Eagles and Michael Vick looked awful last week against the Browns. Yet, despite nine turnovers in two games, Philly is 2-0. The reason for this is their defense. For all the flak he took last year, it's only fair for defensive coordinator Juan Castillo to get the credit for the Eagles recent defensive dominance. Teams have converted just 6-of-27 on third down against Philly, and the Eagles have forced six turnovers of their own.
Another reason Philadelphia is 2-0 is their tight ends can leap over an Ed Reed in a single bound.
Vaulting tight ends aside, the concern with Philly has to be Vick. He's a turnover machine at this point, and he is also getting knocked around harder than a pinata at a birthday party full of sugared-up toddlers. Vick was sacked twice against the Ravens, but it seemed like he was hit virtually every time he dropped back with the football. Eagles head coach Andy Reid must do a better job protecting Vick. Potentially losing center Jason Kelce to a knee injury won't make that job any easier.
3. I Guess The Patriots Won't Go Undefeated
Remember when CBS Sports' Pete Prisco wrote this before the start of the regular season? Me, too. In fairness to Prisco, his logic was spot on, but logic doesn't not dictate football. Craziness and unpredictable insanity define this game. Only in the NFL can a team like the Arizona Cardinals walk into Gillette Stadium (with a quarterback their head coach had next-to-no faith in) and beat the Patriots. A blocked punt, some decent play from Kevin Kolb, and a 42-yard field goal attempt by Stephen Gostkowski sailing wide left with five seconds left on the clock handed Arizona the upset win.
Patriots owner Bob Kraft looked stupefied when cameras caught his expression from the sideline after the missed kick. He wasn't the only one.
4. Fourth-Quarter Comebacks!
Fourth-quarter comebacks are fun, and in Week 2 we saw a some very good ones. The comeback that will get significant air time is the four-play, 45-yard drive orchestrated by No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck that led to a game-winning field goal by Adam Vinatieri with 8 seconds left, helping the Colts defeat the Vikings 23-20. Michael Vick's touchdown drive with less than two minutes remaining gave the Eagles a 24-23 edge for the victory over Baltimore. However, the most impressive comeback this week goes to Eli Manning and the defending world champs, the Giants. Manning threw for 510 yards Sunday and guided New York to 25 fourth-quarter points in a comeback over Tampa Bay.
5. Rookie Quarterbacks Bounce Back
I already mentioned Luck, who led the Colts to their first win of 2012. He also tossed two touchdown passes and threw for 224 yards with (most importantly) no turnovers. Cleveland's Brandon Weeden bounced back from a single-digit QB rating against Philly last week to throw for 322 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to the Bengals. Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins got their first win of 2012, with Tannehill tossing for 200 yards and scoring two touchdowns (one passing and one running) in a dominant win over the Raiders. Surprising Seahawks starter Russell Wilson got his first win as well, managing a 151 yard, one touchdown throwing effort in Seattle's beatdown of the Dallas Cowboys. In fact, the only rookie QB to throw a pick this week was Robert Griffin III, but who cares? Against the Rams, he threw for 206 yards, ran for 82 more, and scored three touchdowns (two rushing, one passing) in a crazy loss to the Rams.
Overall, an impressive day for rookie quarterbacks.
- The Chiefs got blown out ... badly ... again. Kansas City Star columnist Kent Babbs penned a scathing indictment of general manager Scott Pioli. If the losing continues, the calls for Pioli's job will grow louder. Kansas City is 21-29 in four years under Pioli's direction, including one playoff appearance in 2010.
- Twenty teams are 1-1 as of right now, including the entire NFC North and AFC East divisions.
- The Saints are 0-2. Their next three games before the bye week are Kansas City at home, at Green Bay, and back home for San Diego. If they go 2-1 in those three, they are back in this. If they enter their bye 1-4, then things become dicey. They hit the road for games at Tampa Bay and Denver, then return home to host Philadelphia and Atlanta after the bye.
- The replacement referee story is one that is starting to draw stronger opinions among players and media. Consensus this weekend among them was that the replacements were terrible. Former 49ers quarterback and current ESPN analyst Steve Young was the most candid of anyone on this subject. Following the Monday Night Football debacle between the Broncos and the Falcons, which saw officiating mistakes cause the first half of the game to last over two hours, Young was clear in how the NFL simply does not care about player safety or the integrity of the game. If football makes money with unsafe and poorly conducted officiated, that's OK with them.
Young: "Because it's inelastic. There's nothing that changes the demand for the NFL. So they want to break the union, they want to send a message to them, they don't care about player safety in the case of bringing in Division 3 officials, because it doesn't affect the desire for the game. If it affected the desire for the game, they'd come up with a few million dollars."Though, for fans, it seems they could care less, which is Young's point in a lot of ways. The apathy of fans is the bargaining chip the NFL uses. If fans don't care about the quality of the product, and if ratings continue to climb, the NFL will feel no incentive to give in to the NFLRA.