Saints struggling to mask flaws in secondary

9/17/2007 - NFL

ST. LOUIS -- A wild week marked by the Patriots' spying scandal turned into one of the wilder weekends in recent NFL memory.

Nothing was wackier than the Browns' stunning 51-45 victory over the Bengals.

Browns brass took heat early in the week for trading Week 1 starter Charlie Frye and naming Derek Anderson the starter over first-round pick Brady Quinn.

The Frye trade smelled of panic, but all Anderson did was lead the Cleveland offense to 554 yards. The Browns scored six more points against the Bengals on Saturday than they scored in all of September last season. They scored 13 more points than they scored in their final four games.

Yet it was barely enough to overcome Carson Palmer's six touchdown passes.

Not since 1969 had two quarterbacks thrown at least five touchdown passes in the same game. New Orleans' Billy Kilmer and St. Louis' Charley Johnson tossed six apiece, one more than Oakland's Tom Flores (six) and Houston's George Blanda (five) had put up in a 1963 game.

The NFL is upside-down after two weeks. Houston, Green Bay and Detroit are 2-0 after opening last season with 0-2 records. Washington can join them by beating Philadelphia on Monday night. New Orleans is 0-2 after winning its first two games last season.

Here are 10 observations from Week 2:

1. Saints' smoldering secondary

For the Saints, getting shredded by the Indianapolis Colts was one thing. Watching Tampa Bay celebrate scoring passes of 69 and 24 yards was quite another.

The Saints' problems in the secondary are nothing new. They seem more pronounced because Drew Brees and the offense haven't gotten going. Brees has one touchdown, three interceptions and a 66.4 rating through two games.

New Orleans needs points on the scoreboard to cover for a defense that failed to hit Jeff Garcia one time in 16 pass attempts.

2. Pack coming back

The Packers are looking like a potential playoff contender in the NFC. They've won six consecutive games dating to last season, the longest current winning streak in the league. They won their opener by holding off Philadelphia in a defensive struggle. In Week 2, their offense scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns to embarrass the injury-depleted Giants, 35-13.

Packers GM Ted Thompson was an easy target in the offseason. He didn't do enough to land Randy Moss, some said. He stuck with safety Marquand Manuel too long, others pointed out.

Green Bay is young and talented on defense, with only two starters in their 30s. The Packers are the only team in the league with five of their own draft choices starting on the offensive line.

Rookie receiver James Jones had a 46-yard reception against the Giants, giving Brett Favre someone other than Donald Driver in the passing game.

The Giants, St. Louis and Carolina already have lost home games. New Orleans is struggling. It's early, but the Packers are two games ahead of the pace they set en route to 8-8 last season.

3. Fast starter

Matt Schaub's impact in Houston has been immediate and dramatic. He posted a perfect passer rating in the first quarter of a 34-21 victory over the Panthers, completing all but one of his seven passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.

Two games into the Schaub era, the Texans have set a franchise record for points in a game (34, including one defensive touchdown). They are 2-0 for the first time.

4. Beating down Bulger

Marc Bulger won't last much longer without better protection or a game plan predicated on shorter passes. The 49ers hit Bulger 11 times in their 17-16 victory.

He stood tough in the pocket and made San Francisco pay with downfield strikes on late-developing routes to Isaac Bruce and tight end Randy McMichael. But Bulger was limping back to the huddle more frequently than the typical Week 2 quarterback. The bruised ribs he suffered in the opener aren't feeling any better after those 11 hits.

The Rams locked up Bulger before the season with a six-year, $65 million contract. But with Orlando Pace and Richie Incognito out Sunday, and with Claude Terrell missing part of the game, the Rams protected their $65 million man with Alex Barron, Mark Setterstrom, Brett Romberg, Adam Goldberg and Milford Brown.

5. Still inconsistent

Jacksonville has scored 23 points in two games. Cincinnati has allowed 71. Both are inconsistent and both are facing potentially pivotal seasons.

Nine NFL head coaches have been with their current teams for the last five-plus seasons. All nine have taken their teams to a Super Bowl.

Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis and Jacksonville's Jack Del Rio are the only other head coaches who have been with their current teams longer than four seasons. Neither has reached a Super Bowl. In fact, neither has won a playoff game.

Del Rio is gambling his future on David Garrard, but the Jaguars' offense remains flawed. Lewis was a much better defensive coach when Ray Lewis was on his side.

6. Drops back in Seattle

Seattle's Deion Branch, Bobby Engram and Marcus Pollard dropped first-half passes against the Cardinals, but the game wasn't lost for the Seahawks until a botched exchange between Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander in the final minutes.

Alexander said he thought Hasselbeck might have called an audible. Hasselbeck saw Alexander's indecision and thought the play might have been blown dead.

Not what you'd expect from guys who have played together since 2001. Alexander wore a wrap on his left hand to protect an injury. He had a 16-yard touchdown run, but garnered only 54 yards on his 17 other carries.

7. Same-old for Chiefs

The Chiefs are younger, but so far not better, without Trent Green under center. Kansas City has converted eight times in 27 third-down chances, with one touchdown pass and three interceptions. Green isn't lighting it up for the Dolphins, but he has three touchdown passes.

Kansas City is trying to get younger, but the Chiefs have 11 starters in their 30s, the most in the league. They have just five starters age 25 and younger. Twenty-four teams have more.

8. Believing in Kitna

Detroit's Jon Kitna talked a big game in the offseason, throwing out 10 victories as a realistic goal for the long-suffering Lions. He has two of them, with assists from Oakland and Minnesota.

Kitna is an emotional leader and always a favorite among teammates. He proved it again Sunday by coming back into the game after Minnesota knocked him out in the second quarter.

The leadership stuff is nice, but the Lions will take the victories. They're 2-0 for the second time this decade. The road gets tougher with Philadelphia, Chicago and Washington next on the schedule.

9. Kicking themselves

Kicker Adam Vinatieri had been automatic for the Colts before missing a 36-yard field goal and an extra point against the Titans. Tennessee deflected another field goal try, but that one bounced through after hitting the crossbar.

Vinatieri wasn't the only kicker kicking himself Sunday.
Minnesota lost in overtime after Ryan Longwell's 52-yarder bounced off the right upright as regulation expired. Jeff Wilkins came up short from 56 in the Rams' failed comeback against the 49ers.

Arizona's Neil Rackers hit the winner from 42 after his 53-yard try hit the left upright. Denver's Jason Elam hit the winner from 23 after missing wide right from 45.

10. Learning to finish

The Raiders are competitive under first-year coach Lane Kiffin, but they still don't know how to finish games. They lost to Detroit in the opener by allowing 19 fourth-quarter points. They had the Broncos in their sights, but Josh McCown couldn't connect with a wide-open Jerry Porter for a would-be touchdown in the final seconds of regulation.

The Raiders get Anderson and those red-hot Browns next week.

Mike Sando covers the NFL for ESPN.com.