Week 2: Settling for FGs won't cut it; Fox a cool customer on hot seat
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Week 2 analysis: Conservative ways, red zone woes costing teams
By John Clayton, ESPN.comThe lesson learned in Week 2 was that the game may be called football, but it's not always wise to overuse the foot. Too many coaches settle for field goals nowadays in the NFL. Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell made five field goals on Sunday, but the Vikings blew a 15-point lead and lost to the Colts 18-15. The Jaguars tried to be aggressive at the beginning of the second half by executing a successful onside kick sandwiched between two field goals. Although the second field goal gave the Jaguars a 13-10 lead, their failure to score a fourth-quarter touchdown was a contributing factor in a 20-16 loss to the Bills. The Bears blew a 17-3 lead by being too conservative with short passes and failed runs, allowing the Panthers to rally for a 20-17 win. Sure, it's easy to kick instead of taking a risk on fourth down. Kickers are better than ever. In Week 1, field-goal kickers made 58 of 65 attempts. In Week 2, they made 34 of 39. That's an average of six misses a week. The field goal is becoming almost as automatic as the extra point, but the failure to score touchdowns is costing teams games.
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RB Adrian Peterson rose to the occasion in Week 2. The rest of the Vikings' offense did not.
The Vikings were the classic example. Minnesota's Adrian Peterson was the player of the day. He had 160 yards on 29 carries and four catches for 20 yards. He accounted for 180 of the Vikings' 299 yards and touched the ball on 33 of the team's 62 plays. He was a one-man show, but quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (130 passing yards on 14 completions) -- with the help of some key drops by Vikings pass-catchers -- failed to complete drives, playing into the hands of a veteran Colts team."Because we held them to field goals, we had the chance to make a couple of plays and win it at the end,'' Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "That's what you have to do when things don't go perfectly.'' The Colts were reeling. Left tackle Tony Ugoh was out in the second half with a groin injury. Safety Bob Sanders was carted to the locker room in the second half with an ankle injury. Center Jeff Saturday and tight end Dallas Clark didn't suit up because of knee injuries. Down 15-0 with 3:31 left in the third quarter, Colts WR Anthony Gonzalez got behind Cedric Griffin on a post pattern for 58 yards and then made what he called the stupidest play of his career, pitching the ball to teammate Reggie Wayne while he was being tackled. Wayne caught the ball and took it to the 1-yard line, setting up a touchdown run by Joseph Addai. All of a sudden, the Colts were down one score (15-7), and they later tied the game with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Wayne and a Dominic Rhodes two-point conversion. Colts general manager Bill Polian called this the most courageous game of Peyton Manning's career. It's hard to argue. By the end of the game, Manning was playing with a rookie center (Jamey Richard), a rookie guard (Steve Justice) and two raw tight ends (Tom Santi and Gijon Robinson). The Colts had to use regular personnel instead of three tight ends on the goal line because Ugoh and Clark were out and Justice, slated to be the emergency third tight end, was playing guard. Manning got the Colts to the Vikings' 29 and set up Adam Vinatieri's game-winning 47-yard field goal. On the flip side, the Vikings made six trips inside the Colts' 35 and went 5-for-6 on field goals. Jackson was booed continuously for his red zone failures. Maybe everyone needs to learn from Mike Shanahan. Down by one in the final seconds against San Diego, the Broncos went for a two-point conversion, and now they have a two-game lead over the Chargers. Now that's a gutsy move.
Five things I learned in Week 2
By John Clayton, ESPN.com
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Jay Cutler (350 yards passing in Week 2) has been able to compensate for the Broncos' questionable running attack.
Jay Cutler is sensational. Though his red zone interception in the fourth quarter could have cost Denver the game, Cutler brought the team back for one more touchdown drive and a two-point conversation. The receiving combo of Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal looks unstoppable with Cutler at the helm. They combined for 23 catches for 203 yards and two touchdowns Sunday. Cutler completed 36 of 50 passes for 350 yards and four touchdowns.All that being said, the Broncos should have lost. Replay rules are totally messed up if you can't overturn a bad call. With 1:14 left in the fourth quarter, Cutler fumbled. The ball clearly slipped out of his hands, but officials made a bad call, ruling it an incomplete pass. Here's referee Ed Hochuli's mumbo-jumbo explanation of the call: "It should have been ruled a fumble. By rule, by the instant replay rules, on that particular play where there's a pass/fumble -- a quarterback pass/fumble -- the rules do not permit you to give the ball to the other team.'' What?
John Clayton's game balls
Loose endsNFL Blog Network
Week 2 rundown• Tennessee 24, Cincinnati 7
Sure, Bengals QB Carson Palmer has faced two pretty good defenses so far this year. But 233 yards in two games is unacceptable, regardless of the opponent. Photos
Oakland 23, Kansas City 8
Darren McFadden did his best to bolster Raiders coach Lane Kiffin's job security. The rookie's 164 rushing yards made up for QB JaMarcus Russell's lackluster day (6-of-17, 55 yards). Photos
Buffalo 20, Jacksonville 16
Bills QB Trent Edwards was efficient (20-of-25, 239 yards) -- and clutch. Two huge completions in the final minutes, including a 7-yard TD to James Hardy, keyed Buffalo's victory. Photos
Denver 39, San Diego 38
What will people be talking about? The controversial call? Mike Shanahan's gamble? Brandon Marshall? Darren Sproles? This instant classic had a little bit of everything. Photos
So much for the Patriots being an also-ran without Tom Brady. The Jets have Brett Favre, but they still seemed overmatched against New England. Photos • Arizona 31, Miami 10
Looks like Kurt Warner was the right choice for the Cardinals after all. Then again, the Dolphins' defense will probably make a lot of QBs look like Pro Bowlers this season. Photos • Pittsburgh 10, Cleveland 6
Is there a more one-sided rivalry in football? That's 10 straight wins for the Steelers over the Browns. Who says the NFL is unpredictable? Photos • Monday Night Football: Eagles at Cowboys
(ESPN, 8:30 ET) Tony Romo is coming off a 300-yard effort. Ditto for the rejuvenated Donovan McNabb. Something's gotta give in an early NFC East showdown. Matt Mosley • Play animations: Eagles' waggle, 'Boys screen
• Football Outsiders: Must stop T.O. | Podcast
• Watch: MNF team's preview ... Jessica Simpson
Looking aheadAn early look at next weekend's biggest games:
• Arizona (2-0) at Washington (1-1): A big road test for the first-place Cards.• New Orleans (1-1) at Denver (2-0): Another shootout at Mile High? This one certainly has the potential.
• Pittsburgh (2-0) at Philadelphia (1-0): An intriguing interconference matchup with state bragging rights on the line.• Week 3 schedule