SportsPulse: Trysta Krick overreacts to the craziness that was Week 2 in the NFL. From kicker chaos, Jaguars dominance to Patrick Mahomes brilliance.
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The second NFL regular-season Sunday offers a chance to see whether Week 1’s performances were the sign of long-term patterns or whether they were isolated incidents. Here are winners and losers from Week 2.
Patrick Mahomes:He set an NFL record for most touchdown passes (10) through the first two weeks of a season, passing Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, after he dropped six and 326 yards against the Steelers in a 42-37 victory. In fact, Mahomes had more scores than he had incompletions (five). He delivered touchdowns to five different players. Though it’s a tiny sample size and defensive coordinators might eventually latch on to weaknesses in his game to slow him down, Mahomes — who turns only 23 on Monday — looks like a star in the making.
Steve Sarkisian: The Falcons’ offensive coordinator has struggled with his red zone play calling and has drawn criticism for it. In Atlanta’s 31-24 victory against the Panthers, however, Sarkisian reversed the trend and dialed up four touchdowns in each of the team’s four trips inside the 20. Granted, one came on a Matt Ryan scramble out of a broken play and another came from a Ryan sneak from the one-yard line, but Sarkisian opened up his playbook and drew up a couple of plays that exploited mismatches and got playmakers (receiver Calvin Ridley on a 11-yard slant, and tight end Austin Hooper on an eight-yard out route) open in space.
Nathaniel Hackett: The Jacksonville Jaguars learned their lesson from last year’s AFC Championship Game loss against the Patriots, when they let a 10-point lead slip away in the fourth quarter. Instead, in their 31-20 pounding of New England, Jacksonville’s offensive coordinator stayed aggressive throughout the game and didn’t leave a window for the Pats to sneak back in. A perfect example was a second-and-16 from their own 10-yard line — nursing that 11-point lead — with just 3:28 to play in the game. Hackett called a pass play and quarterback Blake Bortles found tight end Niles Paul down the right sideline for a 22-yard first down. Despite not having running back Leonard Fournette (hamstring), Hackett entrusted Bortles (377 yards, four touchdowns and one interception) to distribute the ball to the speedy Jags playmakers.
Any team that plays the Bills: How bad is it for Buffalo? Well, cornerback Vontae Davis went into the locker room at halftime, put on street clothes, left the stadium, and retired from football. All he missed was the second half of a 31-20 loss against the Chargers. Rookie quarterback Josh Allen did have some nice throws (a 3-yard TD to Kelvin Benjamin in a tight window and a 57-yard bomb to Zay Jones) in his first career start, but he very clearly still has a lot to learn. And with a dismal supporting cast, it might be a very long season for the Bills, who look like one of the worst teams in football.
Jameis Winston: Not only is it time to write the obituary on Winston’s (suspended) chances of reclaiming his grip on the job as starter, but it might be time to consider the potential of his end in Tampa, too. Ryan Fitzpatrick has seized control of the offense, throwing for 819 yards, eight touchdowns and only one interception in two games. The Bucs picked up Winston’s fifth-year option for 2019, good for $20.9 million, but it’s guaranteed only for injury. So Tampa Bay can cut Winston at the end of this season and not owe him a dime. More importantly, the Bucs have taken down the Saints (11-5 last season), and the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles (13-3) in the first two weeks for sole possession of first in the NFC South.
Giants offensive line: Really, the losers here are probably quarterback Eli Manning and running back Saquon Barkley. Center Joe Halapio left New York’s 20-13 loss on a cart with his right leg in an air cast, so he’s likely facing a serious injury. Even before his departure, the Giants’ offensive line showed it continues to be a weak spot. The Cowboys relentlessly pressured Manning, forcing six sacks for 59 yards. Making matters worse, New York could not open up rushing lanes to give Barkley room to run and yielded eight tackles for loss. In what figures to be a tough division, poor pass protection and ineffective run blocking could doom the Giants.
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NFL kickers: It was a brutal Sunday for placekickers, especially those for the Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings. In a 21-18 loss against the Saints, Browns kicker Zane Gonzalez missed two extra points and two field goals. Each miss came in the second half. And one of the missed PATs and both stray field goals came in the fourth quarter, including a 52-yard miss with eight seconds that would’ve tied the game. Meanwhile, Vikings rookie Daniel Carlson missed three field goals — two in overtime — the last of which was a 35-yarder that would’ve won the game. In Sunday’s action, NFL kickers missed nine field goals and six extra points.
Houston Texans: They lost 20-17 to the Titans. The problem? Houston was facing a Tennessee team that was without quarterback Marcus Mariota, and both starting offensive tackles in Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin, leaving Blaine Gabbert to lead the Titans attack. Quarterback Deshaun Watson’s attempt to get Houston in field goal range late in the game was as head-scratching a sequence as you’ll see in the NFL. Snapping the ball near midfield with 17 seconds left in the game, Watson had all day to throw because Tennessee rushed only two players. He bounced around the pocket, crossed the line of scrimmage, and then completed a pass to the middle of the field letting time drip off the clock. And now, Houston is the lone AFC South team winless at 0-2.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.
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