Fans expected a lot of things to happen with regards to the AFC East in Week Two. Very few expected the week to end with all four teams at 1-1. Here’s a look at how and why that happened.
It’s Not In the Cards for Brady and the Pats
You really have to feel for Stephen Gostkowski. The man made four field goals, including two from outside 50 to bail out Tom Brady and the Patriots’ uncharacteristically anemic offense, but he’s going to bear the brunt of the criticism because Zoltan Mesko muffed a hold on the most important kick of the game and Gostkowski pushed the 42-yard attempt wide left, giving the Cardinals a 20-18 victory.
Never mind that Bill Belichick seemed to have Marty Schottenheimer calling his offensive plays. Never mind that Brady was 19-of-33 for 220 yards and a pick (a 65.2 rating) halfway through the fourth quarter. Never mind the misplayed two-point conversion attempt to tie the game at the end.
Most of the criticism is going to fall on Gostkowski, because kickers have one job and he didn’t do it. A solid defensive effort was wasted, one that held Arizona to 245 yards of total offense and saw Brandon Spikes force a HUGE fumble by Ryan Williams that Vince Wilfork fell on.
But hey, at least they can stop all that undefeated talk early on. No pressure anymore, right?
Oakland Gets Bushwhacked
Nobody is expecting the Dolphins to do much in 2012. This will likely just end up being one of the four or five wins they tally all season. If they do, however, defy expectations and make some sort of run, Reggie Bush should most certainly be the NFL’s MVP.
Bush rolled against a good Raider defense for 172 yards and two touchdowns in Miami’s 35-13 blowout over Oakland. Ryan Tannehill recorded both his first rushing and passing touchdowns, and (more importantly) didn’t turn the ball over in his 200-yard performance, 111 of which went to apparent number-one receiver Brian Hartline.
Dolphins fans shouldn’t get too carried away, however. The Raiders were a question mark coming into the season, and it’s likely that this game did more to answer the questions around that team than around Miami. Oakland’s 1-for-12 third-down conversion rate was likely a product of both offense and defense, and Carson Palmer still managed to throw for 373 yards even though Miami knew what was coming.
Given how things are shaking out, Miami could win more than expected this season. It’s more a testament to their soft schedule, however, than it is to any sign of greatness on their part.
Jets Crash and Burn
The last time Tim Tebow was in Pittsburgh, he accounted for three touchdowns and completed ten passes. This time, he accounted for three plays, and Mark Sanchez completed ten passes. That was about all that was the same.
Sanchez followed up the best performance of his career with possibly the worst, and not much else went right for the Jets in their 27-10 loss to the Steelers.
Sanchez went 10-of-27 for 138 yards and a touchdown, and the Jets went for all of 219 yards against a defense missing two of its best players. The Jet defense played admirably, sacking Ben Roethlisberger three times but not managing a turnover and giving up 331 yards.
The big question is why Rex Ryan didn’t turn to Tebow for more than three plays in the third quarter, especially since they gained more yards on those three plays (28) than they did in the entire fourth quarter (26).
Sanchez, for his part, did his best Tebow impression by misfiring on most of his passes, but added a new wrinkle by throwing into double and triple coverages as well, which actually worked to their benefit as the atrocious officiating crew called two pass interference penalties in the fourth quarter that also accounted for more yardage (35) than the Jets offense. That included a 19-yarder on Ike Taylor at the start of the quarter that was absolutely terrible even by the extremely low standards of these terrible officials.
There’s little time to wallow in this loss for the Jets, as they have to take a trip to Miami to face a Dolphins team that looked much better than they did.
Spiller Footing the Bill(s)
Last season, an injury to Fred Jackson was the death knell for the Bills. This season, it might have been the saving grace.
C.J. Spiller padded his NFL rushing lead with 123 yards on only 14 carries, and also added 47 yards receiving on three catches. More importantly, he scored two touchdowns in Buffalo’s 35-17 win over Kansas City.
Ryan Fitzpatrick only threw for 178 yards on 10-of-19 passing, but he had two touchdowns and zero interceptions while Spiller carried the load for most of the game. He didn’t get a lot of carries again, but this time it was more of a product of the team’s 21-0 lead at halftime, which they stretched to 35-3 by the end of the third quarter.
The defense came up big in this one, sacking Matt Cassel five times after failing to touch Sanchez last week. Mario Williams made his first contribution with a fumble recovery that set up the team’s third touchdown, and Bryan Scott came up with an even bigger recovery inside the Bills’ end zone at the end of the first half that kept the shutout intact.
Kansas City racked up 422 yards of offense, but 185 (and both touchdowns) came in the fourth quarter with the game already settled. The Bills even took another cue from the Jets by returning a punt 88 yards for a touchdown, allowing all three phases of the game to contribute to the outcome.
For a team that was so thoroughly dominated last week, they came out swinging this week. Next up is a Browns team that might be 0-2 but played very well in a loss to Cincinnati yesterday.
Ryan Tannehill went 18-of-30 for 200 yards and a touchdown, and also ran three times for 14 yards and a touchdown. Most importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over in the victory. If he can play the game manager role and let Reggie Bush and the defense do the heavy lifting, the Dolphins might make some noise in the NFL this season.
CJ Spiller ran for 123 yards on 15 carries, caught three passes for 47 yards, and scored two touchdowns, most of which came in the first half when there was still a game going on. As long as he doesn’t screw it up, Spiller should hold on to the starting job even after Fred Jackson returns. As it stands, he has a 51-yard lead in the NFL rushing title race and is putting himself in an extremely muddles and premature MVP conversation.
Mark Sanchez went 10-of-27 for 138 yards and a touchdown. His 66.6 rating was largely the product of not turning the ball over, because he was not nearly as good as that rating would indicate. He was often off-target, and locked onto Santonio Holmes far too often (11 targets) with far too few results (three catches for 28 yards and the touchdown). If he turns in another game like that, Tebow Time could strike in New York.