It turns out the Kansas City Chiefs might have a good defense this season, too. Uh oh, NFL.
Had the Chiefs won in Week 1, their defense would have been a much bigger story. Without star defensive lineman Chris Jones, the Chiefs did a good job against the Detroit Lions. Detroit scored one of its three touchdowns on a pick-six. The focus on the Chiefs after the game was the 21-20 loss, not the defense looking pretty good. That was understandable.
The Chiefs’ defense should start to get more credit after Sunday. Kansas City had Jones back after he ended his holdout after getting a new one-year deal, and KC looked good again. The Chiefs kept the Jaguars out of the end zone in a 17-9 win. Jacksonville will be a pretty good offense with Trevor Lawrence maturing into a star, but Kansas City went on the road and held down the Jaguars most of the game. The Chiefs won the kind of ugly game that hasn’t been too common in the Patrick Mahomes era.
It’s good that the Chiefs’ defense came through because the offense was just OK. Jacksonville wasn’t expected to have a great defense this season, but the Chiefs didn’t score like they usually do. For most games with Mahomes, 17 points would not have been enough to win. But because Kansas City was so strong defensively Sunday, 17 points was more than enough.
The story for the Chiefs through Mahomes’ time as their quarterback has been that the offense was awesome and the defense would usually be adequate. That was good enough for two Super Bowl rings. The Chiefs’ offense will eventually be awesome this season too, though it’s off to a mediocre start. KC’s defense looks much-improved. The Chiefs have allowed 23 points in two games, if we remove the Lions’ interception return touchdown, to two good offenses. Kansas City had a lot of interesting young players on last season’s Super Bowl defense, and they’re a year older. Jones is working his way back into football shape but he’s still one of the league’s most dominant linemen.
A Chiefs team with Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and a top-end defense? That might be unfair.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Week 2 of the NFL season:
Sam Howell: Howell has some work to do. He holds the ball way too long. He’s still not calm enough under pressure.
But Howell passed a big test on Sunday. The Washington Commanders trailed 21-3 on the road to the Denver Broncos. And they came back to win. The Commanders had to knock away a two-point conversion after a Hail Mary pass went for a touchdown with no time left, and they hung on to win 35-33. It was the biggest comeback win for the Commanders since 2015, the famous Kirk Cousins “You Like That!” win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Howell wasn’t the only reason the Commanders won, but he was a big one. Howell finished with 299 passing yards and two touchdowns. That came against a very good Broncos defense.
The Commanders aren’t a pretty 2-0, but it’s still 2-0. If Howell can continue to build on the good things he does and eliminate the mistakes, maybe the Commanders will be pretty good this season. If they are, they can look back on Sunday’s comeback win as a big turning point.
Kyle Shanahan: Plenty of other head coaches would have kicked a field goal with one second left in the first half. Shanahan knew his team needed some juice going into halftime.
With a second left in the first half, Shanahan left his offense on the field for one final play from the 1-yard line. They trailed 17-10 to the Los Angeles Rams at that moment. Brock Purdy snuck into the end zone for the score, and the 49ers took over from there. They won 30-23, their 12th straight regular-season win.
The Rams played well to stay in the game. Matthew Stafford looked sharp again, as he did in Week 1. And maybe the Rams could have pulled the upset had the 49ers played it safe at the end of the first half. But Shanahan played it right, and the 49ers are 2-0.
Josh Allen: It turns out, the New York Jets’ defense is pretty good. That’s the main reason Allen struggled in Week 1.
Allen looked like his normal self Sunday, facing a much weaker Las Vegas Raiders defense. The Buffalo Bills looked better too, rolling the Raiders 38-10. The Raiders got off to a good start, taking a 7-0 lead on a Davante Adams touchdown, and it was all Bills after that. Allen had three passing touchdowns in the win, making plenty of big plays moving around in the pocket and using his strong arm to deliver the ball downfield.
Allen had four turnovers in Week 1 and took the blame afterward for the loss. He can’t have those types of games often if the Bills want to win a Super Bowl. But his upside is still as high as ever, as he showed Sunday.
Smith looked great on Sunday in a huge 37-31 overtime win at the Detroit Lions. He completed 32-of-41 passes for 328 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. When the Seahawks got the ball first in overtime, Smith calmly led a touchdown drive, capping it with a walk-off winner to Tyler Lockett.
Smith’s ability to repeat a very good 2022 season was questioned through the offseason. It looked in Week 1 like the critics might be right. Maybe Smith won’t fade away so quickly.
John Harbaugh: He doesn’t quite get the respect he deserves. He’s clearly one of the best head coaches in the NFL and has been for a while.
He showed it again on Sunday. The Baltimore Ravens were without multiple offensive linemen, running back J.K. Dobbins and safety Marcus Williams, on the road against a Cincinnati Bengals team looking to avoid an 0-2 start. Nobody would have ripped them if they lost in that spot.
But the Ravens played a great game and got a huge 27-24 win. Baltimore dominated most of the game. Cincinnati finally got some offense going late and cut Baltimore’s lead to 27-24, but Lamar Jackson scrambled for a big first down just before the two-minute warning. The Ravens ran the clock out after that.
The Ravens are an impressive 2-0. Given the Bengals’ struggles and how Joe Burrow was limping after the game, they’re in a good spot in the AFC North.
Bijan Robinson: You might have disagreed with the Atlanta Falcons taking a running back eighth overall in the draft, but everyone knew they got a good one.
Robinson had his first of many huge NFL games on Sunday. Robinson had 124 yards rushing, 48 yards receiving and was a big part of the Falcons’ 25-24 comeback win over the Green Bay Packers. Robinson looked fantastic. The Falcons trailed 24-12 in the fourth quarter but the defense kept getting stops and the offense did enough to set up a go-ahead field goal in the final two minutes.
The Falcons are 2-0. They also have one of the most electrifying players in the NFL to give the ball to.
Arizona Cardinals, though not really: If we’re being honest, the Cardinals probably would have regretted winning Sunday.
The Cardinals have to be eyeing the top pick of the draft, but they led 28-7 against the New York Giants on Sunday. Not good for draft position. But the Giants came back and won 31-28. It was their first comeback win from trailing by 21 or more since 1949.
It’s not fun for the Cardinals’ players or coaches after a loss like that, but the organization probably sees the silver lining. Too many wins could cost the Cardinals a chance to draft a top quarterback or trade that draft pick for a massive return. The loss was rough in the moment but it was for the best in the long run.
Wilson, the electric second-year New York Jets receiver, was going to have a huge year with Rodgers. Now he’s stuck at the mercy of Zach Wilson, like the rest of the Jets.
Garrett Wilson made one great play Sunday, turning a short pass over the middle into a 68-yard score against the Dallas Cowboys. And that was basically it for him. With the Jets offense struggling mightily, Zach Wilson couldn’t get the ball to his best receiver. The Jets lost 30-10 and reality is setting in that for another season, they’ll have a good team that is held back by quarterback play.
Garrett Wilson’s second catch didn’t come until the fourth quarter, with the Cowboys up big. Later in the fourth quarter Zach Wilson let a deep pass fly to Garrett Wilson and it was picked off. That summed up the Jets’ offense.
The Jets will struggle with Rodgers out with an Achilles injury. Talents like Garrett Wilson might go to waste this season.
Anthony Richardson’s playing style: Sunday showed the good and the bad for Richardson, the Indianapolis Colts’ rookie QB.
Richardson looks like prime Cam Newton, a massive quarterback with a cannon arm and great running skills. He scored two rushing touchdowns and looked great on both of them. One was for 18 yards and the other was for 15. The Colts led 14-0.
But on the second score, Richardson got hit hard as he crossed the goal line and hit the back of his head on the turf. Richardson played one more series after that, then Gardner Minshew II came in the game. Richardson was ruled out due to a concussion. The Colts went on to win 31-20 but the injury to their rookie quarterback dampened the enthusiasm a bit.
Injuries could be a part of Richardson’s game too. He is carrying the offense without Jonathan Taylor, and that will mean way more hits that you’d like your quarterback to take. He’s at a higher risk of injury. He was knocked out late in the first game, though that didn’t turn out to be serious. The concussion is more troubling, especially this early in the season.
Brandon Staley’s job security: The Los Angeles Chargers have way too much talent to be this disappointing. The thing is, that sentence could have been from practically any recent season.
The Chargers are continuing their lackluster ways this season. They’re 0-2 after blowing another late lead. The Tennessee Titans drove downfield and scored with 2:22 left in the fourth quarter to take a 24-21 lead. The Chargers answered with a field goal to force overtime, but got nothing going on their first overtime drive and allowed the Titans to move downfield and win the game right after that. Tennessee kicked a field goal and won 27-24.
Staley, the Chargers’ head coach, was on the hot seat after last season even though the Chargers made the playoffs. This offseason, yet again, experts started talking themselves into the Chargers being good. Just look at all the talent on the roster, after all. But they’re off to a bad start. If it gets worse, Staley shouldn’t feel too comfortable about staying on his job.
Justin Fields and Chicago Bears: Hey, remember when people thought the Chicago Bears might be good this season? Maybe they got the first pick of this year’s draft for a reason.
The Bears have looked again like one of the worst teams in football through two weeks. They got blown out by the Packers last week and then fell to 0-2 with a 27-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They were more competitive this weekend but the result was the same.
The Bears had a chance to win or at least tie it in the final minutes but Fields couldn’t get it done.
Chicago trailed 20-17 with a little more than two minutes left when Fields threw a terrible short pass that was picked off by edge rusher Shaq Barrett and he bulled in for a 4-yard touchdown.
Fields struggled in two-minute situations through last season and he failed again in that spot Sunday. Fields threw another interception with 1:07 left, but the game was decided by that point.
The Bears aren’t finished at 0-2. But they don’t look like a team that will be as good as some hoped this season.
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