What Have We Learned From Week 2 of the 2015 NFL Season

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Todd Bowles

New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles in the first half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Indianapolis, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Here is What Have We Learned from Week 2 of the 2015 NFL Season, thanks to the AP Pro 32 for photos & help in this article.

                                                                                         Ups

  • NY Jets off to a 2-0 start— Two games, two wins. Not too shabby for the New York Jets.

    Coach Todd Bowles isn’t exactly celebrating, though. And neither are his players.

    “They know how long of a season it is and this just tells us we can be 2-14 right now,” Bowles said Tuesday. “They understand that, too, but I’m not going to temper them from being excited.”

    Still, it’s a strong start for a franchise that cleaned house in the offseason, from the general manager to the coach and throughout the roster.

    “No, I’m not surprised,” Bowles said when asked if the 2-0 start was unexpected. “I don’t want to be 0-2. We’ve been working hard and we’ve been grinding and as the team comes together, it’s a process to get to where we want to be.”

    Bowles’ even-keeled personality is perhaps the biggest change for a team that had been used to Rex Ryan making headlines with a brash, confident approach after both wins and losses.

    While the Jets have done a lot of things right in wins over Cleveland and Indianapolis to open the season, Bowles is low-key about it all.

    Boring? Maybe. But Bowles doesn’t sugarcoat anything.

    Take the Jets’ quarterback situation, for instance. When asked if Ryan Fitzpatrick will remain the starter even when Geno Smith is healthy enough to play after having his jaw broken last month by a then-teammate, Bowles added no fuel to any possible quarterback controversy.

    “Ryan is our starting quarterback right now,” Bowles said. “We’re doing well, we have good chemistry going and everything else and Geno understands that. And as we go, Ryan is our quarterback. We’ll go forward from there.”

    Bowles was then asked if Smith was healthy enough to play this week if Fitzpatrick would still be the starter.

    “Yes,” he said without hesitation. “Ryan’s the starter.”

    Bowles repeatedly said in the preseason that if Fitzpatrick was playing well and the Jets were winning, Smith would not automatically retain his starting job.

    So far, Fitzpatrick has been solid, throwing for 423 yards and four touchdowns, along with two interceptions. The addition of Brandon Marshall has been huge, giving the Jets a strong, physical receiver to complement Eric Decker. Chris Ivory and the running game have also been solid.

    Against the Colts, the Jets struggled a bit in the second half offensively, failing to put Indianapolis away. The Colts got within three points at 10-7 in the fourth, but then Fitzpatrick led the Jets down the field and connected with Marshall on a 15-yard TD that made it a two-score game with 6:20 left.

    For now, though, the defense has done the job.

    After having a league-low 13 takeaways last season, the Jets already have 10 — including three by Darrelle Revis — in just two games, a team record. They’ve given up just 17 points, and that includes mostly shutting down Andrew Luck on Monday night.

    The Jets’ solid start has them soaring in the minds of many media, some of whom didn’t expect much more than a mediocre showing in Bowles’ first season, figuring it to be a rebuilding or retooling year. New York leaped from 21st to a tie for No. 9 in the AP Pro32 power rankings Tuesday.

    Still, Bowles remains unfazed. He’s already focused on facing the 0-2 Philadelphia Eagles at home on Sunday — and improving.

    “We’re just going to keep progressing, getting better every week,” Bowles said. “We saw a lot of good stuff, but we saw some bad stuff, too.”

  • Oakland Raiders get Del Rio 1st win as Head Coach in Oakland– Coach Jack Del Rio noticed a lot more smiles around the Oakland Raiders offices this Monday than there were a week ago.That’s what a win can do for a team.

    The Raiders rode the best game of young quarterback Derek Carr’s career to rally past Baltimore for a 37-33 victory on Sunday. They bounced back from the lopsided season-opening loss to Cincinnati and at least ended the talk of the “same old Raiders” for one week.

    “I think we took a step forward as a football team,” Del Rio said. “Offensively some of the things we were talking about a week ago, were a lot better this week. We’re looking to make the same kind of jump on defense.”

    Carr played like the franchise quarterback the Raiders (1-1) hope he becomes, completing 30 of 46 passes for a career-high 351 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner to Seth Roberts with 26 seconds remaining.

    That was part of a breakthrough offensive performance that saw the Raiders score on seven of their 10 full drives against a defense that had shut down Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos just a week earlier.

    Rookie Amari Cooper (nine catches, 111 yards, one TD) and Michael Crabtree (seven catches, 109 yards, one TD) gave the Raiders the big-play targets they have lacked on the outside for most of the past decade.

    Latavius Murray gained yards on all of his 15 runs and finished with 87 yards from scrimmage against a stout front and Carr was sacked just once in Oakland’s highest-scoring game since 2010.

    As well as the Raiders played offensively, the defense still remains a work in progress. Oakland allowed 493 yards, gave up two TD catches to the opposing tight end for the second straight week and failed to record a single sack for the second game in a row. Now the task will be carrying those to the road, where the Raiders have lost 11 straight games and 19 of the past 20. Oakland is also looking to win back-to-back games for the first time since October 2012. The Raiders have been outscored by more than 21 points a game following their past nine wins, including a 52-0 loss to St. Louis a year ago after the first win of the season.

  • Alfred Morris & Matt Jones running wild for the Skins– By adding rookie Matt Jones to dependable veteran Alfred Morris, the Washington Redskins have created an unusual two-back rushing attack.How unusual? With Jones running for 123 yards in Week 2, after Morris gained 121 yards in Week 1, the Redskins are the first NFL team since the 2006 Chargers to have two backs each gain at least 100 yards on the ground in a season’s first two games.

    “To have that solid, 1-2 punch — and both of those guys are so much alike — keeps the pressure on the defense,” Redskins left tackle Trent Williams said. “It takes a gang to tackle them. It’s priceless, man, to have that type of backfield. It don’t come too often.”

    The Redskins (1-1) lead the NFL by averaging 171.5 yards rushing per game. On Thursday night, the next team to try to stop them will be the NFC East rival New York Giants (0-2), whose defense ranked fourth entering Monday by allowing 68 yards per game.

    In Washington’s 24-10 victory over the Rams on Sunday, Jones carried 19 times and wound up in the end zone twice, on runs of 39 and 3 yards. Morris ran it 18 times for 59 yards.

    “People a lot of times devalue running backs nowadays,” Morris said. “But we’re just showing that we are still valuable.”

    Overall, the Redskins wound up with a whopping 182-67 advantage in yards rushing, often employing three tight ends.

    In a Week 1 loss to the Miami Dolphins, Washington ran for 161 yards, so this marks only the third time since 1950 that the Redskins began a season with two games of at least 150 on the ground.

    Another side benefit: The Redskins’ time of possession in each game was at least 37 minutes, the first time the club did that in consecutive games since 1992.

    Some teams that rotate runners have a big, drive-it-up-the-gut guy, and then will go to a change-of-pace alternative, often a smaller and perhaps speedier back.

    Not the Redskins. They have two heavy runners.

    The 5-foot-10, 224-pound Morris is in his fourth season; he’s gained at least 1,000 in each of the first three. The 6-foot-2, 231-pound Jones was taken in the third round this year out of Florida.

Downs

  • Eagles searching for answers– Chip Kelly’s offense looked better with all the players he didn’t want.Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray and Co. were dismal in Sunday’s 20-10 loss to Dallas that dropped the Philadelphia Eagles to 0-2.

    “I was embarrassed,” Kelly said Monday. “That’s not the way we’re supposed to play football.”

    The Cowboys held Philadelphia to 21 yards total offense in the first half and didn’t allow a touchdown until the game was out of reach in the final minutes. The biggest problem was the offensive line. Murray had nowhere to run and finished with 2 yards on 13 carries.

    Kelly made massive changes after taking control of personnel decisions in the offseason. He traded 2013 Pro Bowl quarterback Nick Foles for Bradford. He traded two-time All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy for linebacker Kiko Alonso. He let Pro Bowl wide receiver Jeremy Maclin walk away in free agency a year after releasing three-time Pro Bowl wideout DeSean Jackson.

    It’s easy to question those moves now. But the decision to release two-time Pro Bowl left guard Evan Mathis because of a contract dispute, and longtime starting right guard Todd Herremans for salary-cap purposes, are the ones haunting Kelly.

    Allen Barbre, who replaced Mathis, and Andrew Gardner, who replaced Herremans, each had eight career starts before this season. They’ve struggled along with their veteran linemates.

    The Eagles had arguably the best offensive line in the NFL in Kelly’s first season in 2013. Jason Peters, Mathis, Jason Kelce, Herremans and Lane Johnson started every game and paved the way for McCoy to set a franchise-record for yards rushing. The Eagles went 10-6 and won the NFC East.

    The unit didn’t start one game together last season because of injuries, but the offense still averaged 124.5 yards rushing per game. They have just 70 yards in two games this season.

    “It doesn’t matter who the running back is, we are not doing anything upfront to give him an opportunity,” Kelce said. “We have got to get this fixed up front. We have to get it better.”

    The Eagles had Super Bowl aspirations after a 3-1 preseason in which Bradford looked sharp by leading the offense to four touchdowns on four series in the two games he played. But defenses didn’t game plan for Philadelphia’s up-tempo offense in those games.

    So forget Super Bowl, making the playoffs is tough enough now.

    Since the NFL expanded its playoff format to 12 teams in 1990, only 23 teams of 204 (11.2 percent) made the playoffs after an 0-2 start. Only two of 45 teams that started 0-2 since 2009 made the playoffs. The Colts did it last year and reached the AFC championship game. Carolina did it in 2013.

    The Eagles are 0-2 for first time since 2007, when they finished 8-8. They opened the 2003 season with home losses to Tampa Bay and New England, but went 12-2 the rest of the way and lost the NFC title game to the Panthers.

    “We’re overthinking things instead of going out and playing fundamental football,” Kelly said.

    Next up for Philadelphia is a game at the New York Jets. Then Jets will be coming off a short week following Monday night’s game at Indianapolis.

    NOTES: The Eagles signed Thad Lewis to be the No. 3 quarterback and released Stephen Morris. Lewis is 2-4 as a starter in six seasons. He’s on his sixth team. … Kelly had no update on injured LBs Kiko Alonso (knee) and Mychal Kendricks (hamstring).

  • Has the Aints returned to New Orleans?– Saints coach Sean Payton isn’t ready to say whether he expects Drew Brees to miss snaps because of a hit he took to his throwing arm.”It’s early right now. Today’s the day after (the injury),” Payton said when asked if he’d consider resting Brees this Sunday at Carolina. “Certainly we’ll do the best thing for him and where he’s at.”

    Brees was in the locker room Monday when it was open to reporters. He usually does not do interviews on Mondays and that was again the case. His outward appearance in the locker room offered no hint at anything unusual, but on Sunday he had acknowledged that one of the hits he took hurt his throwing shoulder and probably affected him on some throws.

    Brees, who hasn’t missed a start because of injury since joining the Saints in 2006, never left Sunday’s 26-19 loss to Tampa Bay. He didn’t play to his usual standard of 300-plus yards and multiple touchdowns. He passed for 255 yards and one touchdown. His 16-yard scoring pass to first-year receiver Willie Snead came in the fourth quarter, well after Brees’ right shoulder injury in the second quarter. But on shorter throws, Snead said, “I felt like he was putting a lot of velocity on the ball. I didn’t really see a difference. But I could tell his arm was hurting. Hopefully he’s OK. The health of New Orleans’ all-time passer is but one of many matters Payton has to address as he tries to correct the myriad mistakes that have contributed to an 0-2 start. That much, the coach made clear. The Saints were penalized 10 times for 115 yards, and Payton noted that there were more flags against his team which were declined.

    As for the turnovers, two came on fumbles, and Payton said he had specifically warned his players last week to focus on ball security because Bucs coach Lovie Smith has long coached defenses that are proficient at forcing fumbles.

    Payton also was critical of New Orleans’ special teams play, particularly a 37-yard kickoff return late in the first half that set up a Bucs score. Additionally, first-year kicker Zach Hocker missed a 42-yard field goal and had an extra point blocked.

    Then there was the beating that Brees took. He was sacked four times and Payton noted that Brees was hit as he threw “too many times.”

    The running game, Payton said, was inconsistent, leading to more difficult third-down situations.

    “That’s going to be important for us,” Payton said. “Our first and second down efficiency (Sunday) wasn’t real good at all.”

    At the same time, Payton said he wasn’t worried about fracturing in the locker room, calling his players “grown men” who appear committed to evaluating their performances fairly and making corrections.

  • Can the Ravens overcome being 0-2?– John Harbaugh has dealt with all sorts of challenges during his eight-year tenure as coach of the Baltimore Ravens — none of which involved digging his team out of an 0-2 hole.That’s the unique and unwanted situation he’s in now after a miserable trip west resulted in defeats at Denver and Oakland.

    The Ravens returned home Sunday night after a 37-33 loss to the Raiders that left Baltimore alone in last place in the AFC North. The Ravens haven’t been 0-2 since 2005, and never have been 0-3.

    “We’re going to have to work from the position we’re in and improve and find a way to win,” Harbaugh said Monday.

    The two successive losses aren’t the only unprecedented facet of this season for Harbaugh. Instead of bringing the team home after the Denver game, he held practice in California — a first for this organization — to prepare for the Raiders.

    Harbaugh said the team might reconsider its original plan to stay out west next month between successive games at San Francisco and Arizona. Baltimore faces the 49ers on Oct. 18 and Arizona on Monday, Oct. 26.

    “If we go, it will be because us and the players think it’s the best thing. If we don’t, it will be because we’d rather get back in our home confines,” Harbaugh said. “If it was a short week, it would be a no-brainer to stay out there. When it’s a long week, it becomes a little bit of a decision.”

    Next on the schedule: A home game against the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals, who handled Oakland 33-13 on the road before defeating San Diego on Sunday.

    The Ravens reached the postseason in six of Harbaugh’s first seven seasons despite enduring significant stretches without several key players — including Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed and Jimmy Smith. Last year, there was the Ray Rice suspension to deal with.

    This season, the challenge is to get over the loss of Suggs — who tore his Achilles tendon in Denver — and bouncing back from 0-2.

    “We’ve got to go forward,” Harbaugh said. “We have every opportunity to accomplish what we need to accomplish. We just have to get better.”

    The perplexing aspect of the two losses is that they featured alternatingly poor performances by the offense and defense. Against Denver, the Ravens failed to notch a touchdown on offense. At Oakland, Baltimore put up 493 yards and made 29 first downs.

    But the defense couldn’t come up with a key stop.

    The Ravens made a move to enhance the pass defense Monday by acquiring cornerback Will Davis from Miami for a seventh-round draft pick. Davis is a third-year player who has been slowed by injuries and has yet to start an NFL game.

    It would be convenient for the Ravens to blame their lapse on the loss of Suggs, a sack-specialist who is lost for the season. But the players won’t use that as an excuse.

    “Even if he was there we still would have needed to do a little more to get the job done,” safety Will Hill said.

    The schedule-maker did not do the Ravens any favors by putting them on the road in back-to-back games to open the season, and it doesn’t get any easier in the weeks ahead.

    After hosting the Bengals, Baltimore faces Pittsburgh on the road in a Thursday night game. Then there’s a home game against Cleveland, followed by those consecutive games against San Francisco and Arizona.

    The reward is that six of the last nine games are at home. But that won’t do the Ravens much good if they don’t put themselves in position for a stretch run.

    “We’ve got to get better as a team — and fast,” Yanda said. “That’s the bottom line. There’s no magical formula.”

  • The Colts are 0-2 & searching for answers– Andrew Luck delivered his statement with a disgusted glare.Chuck Pagano resorted to a terse tone and sharp words.

    Either way, both made their point clearly: It is past time for the Colts to correct the mistakes that are threatening to turn their season into an early bust.

    “You can’t turn the ball over. You’ve got to protect. You’ve got to give him time, you’ve got to give him a clean pocket so he can step up and not get hit when he’s releasing the ball and we’ve got to get it fixed,” Pagano said after Monday’s 20-7 loss to the Jets. “You can’t drive the length of the field, a 10-minute drive, and get to the 1-yard line and put the ball on the ground. You can’t do it. You’re not going to beat Zionsville (High School) doing that.”

    Pagano’s not-so-subtle references were to Luck, Indy’s poor pass protection and Frank Gore, who gave away a scoring chance by fumbling into the Jets’ end zone.

    Less than 24 hours later, Pagano tried to dispel the notion his postgame comments were directed primarily at his franchise quarterback.

    “I was saying ‘Hey guys, we’ve got one helluva quarterback and we’ve got a great player and a great leader there,'” Pagano said Tuesday. “It was ‘Hey, we’re lucky we’ve got Andrew.'”

    Most of Indy’s troubles, so far, have been self-inflicted and the result of a bad Luck.

    He has already thrown five interceptions and his six giveaways this season have run his league-leading total to 28 turnovers over the past 18 games. That’s not a new phenomenon. Luck came into this season with the league’s fourth-highest turnover total since 2012 — perhaps because he was hit more than any other NFL quarterback in the league, too, according to STATS.

    Indy (0-2) also drew 11 penalties Monday, many of which brought back big plays and stalled drives. Dropped passes, tipped balls, the lack of a consistent ground game and playing two of the NFL’s better defenses have hurt, too.

    It’s a confounding twist for a team that expected to be one of the NFL’s highest-scoring offenses. The Colts now have more turnovers (eight) than touchdowns (three) and head into Week 3 trailing Tennessee (1-1) and Jacksonville (1-1) in the AFC South. The Colts play at Tennessee on Sunday.

    “It’s tough when we put ourselves in third-and-longs. That’s when it’s tough,” Luck said. “If we can stay ahead of the chains on first and second down and get third-and-manageables, then we’ve got a chance. Third-and-long makes it hard.”

    Indianapolis has faced longer odds during Pagano’s tenure.

    In 2012, the Colts reached the playoffs after being dubbed the worst team in football and despite losing Pagano for 12 weeks as he battled leukemia.

    Last season, Indy won the division title and reached the AFC championship game after starting 0-2.

    But this slump has a different feel.

    With the offense out of sync, Luck off the mark, the defense lacking playmakers and even the usually reliable Adam Vinatieri 0 for 2 on field-goal attempts, fans booed heartily as things went awry against New York. Behind the scenes, Pagano is in the final year of his contract and there’s a rumored rift between Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson — something both men and team owner Jim Irsay deny.

    Notes: Pagano said tight end Dwayne Allen (ankle) would be day to day and cornerback Vontae Davis (concussion) could return to the field in a few days. … Pagano is optimistic cornerback Darius Butler (hip) and linebackers Jonathan Newsome (hamstring) and D’Qwell Jackson (stinger) will play this week. Cornerback Greg Toler (neck), Pagano said, could be a limited participant at practice this week is but remains day to day.

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