2011 appears to be the NFL’s answer to the MLB steroid era. The lockout, years of pro-passing rule changes and obvious obliviousness to steroid use (I’m looking at you Peyton Hills) have offenses putting up NFL Blitz numbers from coast to coast. The marquee matchup in week two featured two of the Air Attack Era’s offensive juggernauts in the Patriots and Chargers. With defenses around the league in shambles and perfect weather smiling upon Foxboro, a shootout was a foregone conclusion.
Both teams obliged, as neither team’s front seven could generate enough of pass rush. Phillip Rivers appeared almost bored by the proceedings as he repeatedly abused whichever miniscule cornerback drew the task of shadowing Vincent Jackson and dumped the ball to his checkdowns 10 yard chunks. Not to be outdone, Tom Brady dropped an easy 400 yards on the bewildered Chargers defense, hooking up with his two-headed tight end monster whenever he pleased. Even Chad Ochocinco caught a few passes.
The difference in the game was turnovers, as New England got interceptions from a variety of unlikely sources, including their new starting free safety Vince Wilfork. Conventional wisdom would assume both teams need to improve on defense to have a chance in the playoffs when you know it wins championships. But as New Orleans and Green Bay have proven, the times have changed. Maybe this is finally the year Tom Brady single-handedly wins a title.
Speaking of marquee matchups, the annual 49ers-Cowboys game was the Super Bowl back in the day, but that was before Deion Sanders made commercials dressed as a fairy and Nate Newton turned into the Avon Barksdale of Mexican schwag. With Hall of Famers and Pro Bowlers at seemingly every position, the two iconic franchises clashed in four straight NFC Championship games. These teams were the standard for those of us who started watching football in the ’90s.
While this week’s contest lacked anything close to the roster quality of those bygone contests, there was a similar level of excitement, thanks to a heroic comeback from Tragic Tony Romo. With supposed “number one” receiver Dez Bryant on the bench, Romo hooked up with his real ace Miles Austin for three touchdowns to lead the Cowboys on an epic comeback. An overtime win relives the pressure off Romo for a few weeks, until he inevitably blows another game with his fatal flaw, abominable decision making.
For sheer entertainment however, nothing topped the battle between Buffalo and Oakland, as both downtrodden franchises looked to go to 2-0 in their quest for relevancy. Oakland charged out to the early advantage behind Darren McFadden, who bulldozed over Bills linebackers for two touchdowns. Oakland’s halftime advantage seemed to only anger Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who entered beast mode for the entire second half. The game turned into a battle of aerial assaults as both teams hung crooked numbers, before Fitzpatrick broke the hearts of Raider nation with a last minute, penalty aided TD drive. Great entertainment for a Sunday afternoon, but the madness has to stop before the likes of Jason Campbell, Matt Schaub and Rex Grossman push John Elway and Dan Marino from the record books.
— Michael Vick gave Atlanta faithful a taste of why they miss him and why they don’t in an erratic performance. Vick’s playmaking abilities are incomparable, but like the aforementioned Romo, his whirlwind style can bite him too frequently.
— The Titans shocked everyone making the Ravens defense look mortal after they looked impenetrable last week. Hasselbeck to Britt is a good combo, and if CJ2K gets going the Titans could make a run at that division crown (not sold on Houston just yet). As for Baltimore, they managed to kill the momentum gained from last week’s win with a flat performance all around.
— Bills, Skins and Lions move to 2-0. Have at that how you will. Detroit beat the holy hell out of Kansas City though. And although Kansas City may have a tough time beating the University of Oklahoma right now, Detroit looks like a playoff contender. I guess having three consecutive top 2 picks can help you build a team.
— Cam Newton threw three picks, but still totaled 400 yards in another loss. If you’re a Panthers fan, you’re at least inspired because he looks the part of a franchise QB. Things can change and it’s a long season, but you have to wonder if Ron Rivera will ever take some of the pressure off Cam. They only ran the ball 21 times yesterday while Newton had 46 pass attempts. Get that young man some help down there in Charlotte.
— Joining the Chiefs in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes are the Seahawks, Dolphins and Colts, all of whom appear to be good bets for 12 losses assuming Peyton doesn’t return. Even though Indianapolis somehow lost to Cleveland at home, we at TSS are riding Tavaris and the ‘Hawks in this derby of inepititude.