Surprising Week 2 results turn early-season perceptions on their head
Posted: Monday September 20, 2004 6:15PM; Updated: Tuesday September 21, 2004 11:02AM
DeShaun Foster carved up the Chiefs for a career-high 174 yards, including a team-record run of 71 yards.
We thought we had things reasonably figured out. We thought we knew what we knew. Then along came Week 2. If there was a theme to Sunday's games, it was the debunking of our Week 1 perceptions. Or in this case, make that misperceptions.
Things that looked so solid last week turned shaky on us just seven days later. And some folks who had already been counted out now look like they can be counted on after all. But that's the NFL, where sooner or later the world routinely turns upside down on everybody, everywhere.
Here are our top five Week 1 perceptions that were shot down in Week 2:
Carolina's in trouble without Steve Smith and Stephen Davis and facing a brutal first-half schedule: Saddled with perhaps the franchise's most depressing turn of events since, I don't know, maybe the depths of that 15-game losing streak in 2001, the Panthers circled the wagons and made their stand at Arrowhead.
No Smith? No Davis? So they get a gargantuan 174 yards rushing out of DeShaun Foster -- just four shy of Davis' team record - and the first touchdown of rookie receiver Keary Colbert's career to snap the Chiefs' 13-game home regular-season win streak, 28-17.
Suddenly, the Panthers don't look so post-Super Bowl swoony. If Carolina takes care of business at home a week from Sunday against 2-0 Atlanta (and that's no gimme, since the Falcons are 7-1 in the series since 2000), the Panthers will enter October at no worse than a 2-1 tie for the NFC South lead. In other words, about where they hoped to be all along.
Green Bay is a dominant team capable of winning anywhere: Except for Lambeau Field in the home opener against a heavy underdog, that is. Consider this: After watching the Packers take apart Carolina on the road last Monday night, let's say I would have said that one of those teams was going to win by 11 points on Sunday, and the other was going to lose by 11.
Would anybody have had it being Green Bay going home to fall 21-10 to Chicago, while Carolina hits the road for a 28-17 win at Kansas City? Giving us the diametric opposite of what we expected is what the NFL is all about these days.
Kurt Warner may never win another game as an NFL starter: Hey, we all loved pointing out that the enigmatic Warner hadn't won a game since the January 2002 NFC title game against Philadelphia, with an 0-9 record and counting, so let's give the former grocery-store shelf stocker his due. Warner found a team he could beat in the Redskins, and he's off the schneid.
In fact, he's got the same record this season as that quarterback in St. Louis. What's his name? Marc Bulger? If you're Mike Martz, that kind of smarts.
Drew Brees has finally it under control in San Diego: And by under control we meant not in a position where he might be yanked from the game midway through the fourth quarter of a home-opening loss, prompting him to throw his helmet down in disgust and engage in a heated exchange with head coach Marty Schottenheimer.
But what do we know? Because a week after Brees looked like the ultimate survivor in San Diego's never-ending quarterback melodrama -- Original title: As the Leaf Turns -- it's anyone's guess once again. Step right up, Philip Rivers. Your turn. You might as well get it over with.
Signing Jeff Garcia was the smartest move the Browns made this offseason: Hey, we still like the acquisition and it's not like Tim "Home on the" Couch was a better option. But it's tough to defend a guy when he hangs up a quarterback rating of zero against the Cowboys, a team that surrendered five Daunte Culpepper touchdown passes the week before.
Garcia was a woeful 8-of-27 for 71 yards and three interceptions at Dallas, and you know Terrell Owens had to love that. And remember, it's not easy to get a passer rating of zero. Browns rookie quarterback Luke McCown saw only one snap on Sunday against the Cowboys, threw an incompletion, and still wound up with a 39.6 rating. I think you get credit for just signing your name on the test.
And here are five more preseason perceptions that we're already heavily questioning after just two weeks of results:
New defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham will be the difference in Kansas City: Somewhere, Greg Robinson is wearing a tiny little smirk of vindication these days. Maybe K.C.'s defensive meltdown last season wasn't all the fault of the former Chiefs defensive coordinator. Maybe it's the playing talent that needs replacing.
All I know is that the Chiefs defense looks like it's playing flag football, and everybody else in the NFL signed up for the Sunday afternoon tackle league.
Buffalo's new coaching staff will be able to turn around quarterback Drew Bledsoe's flagging game: In a Week 1 home loss to Jacksonville, Bledsoe threw for 153 yards as the Bills scored 10 points. In a Week 2 loss at Oakland, Bledsoe threw for 198 yards as the Bills scored 10 points. He also absorbed a whopping seven sacks against the Raiders, proof enough that the ghosts of his wretched 2003 season are still capable of lingering.
Bills head coach Mike Mularkey, offensive coordinator Tom Clements and quarterbacks coach Sam Wyche were optimistic about Bledsoe in the preseason. But maybe they were just whistling past the quarterback graveyard.
Joe Gibbs will bring order, discipline and consistency to the chaos that has reigned in Washington: And you can start any time, Joe. What's that? As soon as you get done burning the game tapes of that Week 2 stinker at the Meadowlands? The Redskins had seven turnovers against the Giants, which was roughly more than a month's worth for one of Gibbs' teams in his first Washington incarnation.
At quarterback, Mark Brunell wasn't good before he injured his hamstring, and Patrick Ramsey was worse. Anybody have Mark Rypien's home number?
No way, no how Jacksonville becomes the first Super Bowl team to play the game in its own stadium: Obviously it's still a long shot. But with a 2-0 record and a defense that is nothing to mess with, I like the Jags' Super Bowl chances better than about nine or 10 other AFC teams at this point.
Check back with us next week after Jack Del Rio's Men of Jax test themselves with a trip to Tennessee. The Titans never lose at home unless they're playing the Colts.
Michael Vick's transition to the West Coast offense is going to be a season-long work in progress: Progress is obviously the word we were trying to stress in that sentence. Two weeks into the regular season, after something of a calamitous August, Vick is clearly getting comfortable. He was 14-of-19 passing against the Rams on Sunday, and last we checked, that was well over the magic 60 percent completion rate that we have demanded of him.
If he can throw for 179 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions, and rush 12 times for another 109, and win every game, I'd say he's on his way.
And another thing ...
I don't know about you, but the funniest thing I saw in Week 2 was when Giants head coach Tom Coughlin started to leave the sideline five minutes before the game was over. He told the officials that on his watch it read 0:00.
Next time Bears rookie head coach Lovie Smith tells me he's going to do something, I'm going to pay a little closer attention. And I'm guessing the Packers are, too.
By my count, the Chiefs are now 4-6, playoffs included, since chatty Bengals receiver Chad Johnson told the world they were beatable.
Look, don't feel too bad for Jerry Rice that his record 274-game reception streak is over. He'll just start a new one.
I'm guessing the Super Bowl win over Oakland feels very long ago and far away for Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden.
It's too early to bail on my Super Bowl pick of Tennessee over Seattle, but until the Titans figure out a way to pick up either a third-and-1 or fourth-and-1 against the Colts defense, I'm going to be a little squishy.
I say the Denver Broncos trust in Jake Plummer at their own risk. He's more Brian Griese than John Elway.