Perhaps the one thing no viewer ever wants to see, Week 2 of the NFL season was defined by the slew of injuries that occurred from the start of the kickoff to the last play on Monday night. It was another one of the devastating side effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the sports world, as a canceled preseason made players particularly vulnerable to injury. The cruelty of the week was known coming in, as it was already a week that saw stars such as San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas and Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay out for their respective games, but it eventually took a turn for a brutal Sunday. While the 49ers won their game against the Jets, the defending NFC champions will have plenty to mull over as they saw their starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, star defensive end Nick Bosa, defensive tackle Solomon Thomas and RB Raheem Mostert all leave the game due to injury. A pair of generational RBs went down, with Saquon Barkley tearing his ACL, while Christian McCaffrey picked up an ankle injury. An over-dependence on both means that the New York Giants and the Carolina Panthers, respectively, will have to find ways to restructure their offense if they want to keep any sort of relevance in the league this year. Though, Clemson University QB Trevor Lawrence is always an option! More notable injuries include Chicago Bears RB David Montgomery, Giants WR Sterling Shepard, Broncos QB Drew Lock, Broncos WR Jerry Jeudy and Los Angeles Chargers QB Tyrod Taylor. Rather than a game of football, the NFL resembled the likes of an Antietam battlefield on Sunday. Here is a recap of some of Sunday’s games.
A Cowboy miracle
If it were possible to come up with the worst possible start to a game, the Dallas Cowboys may have had exactly that in their matchup against the Atlanta Falcons. Coming into the game as favorites against an Atlanta team engrossed in mediocrity, America’s team produced a disastrous first quarter: three lost fumbles, blown coverages, a futile fake punt and a score line that read 20–0 after 15 minutes of play. Besides the fumbles, their offensive line continued to provide no protection for both QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliot. Their defense was shambolic, giving QB Matt Ryan the ability to turn back the clock and throw two touchdown passes in a matter of minutes. In front of a crowd of over 21,000 (yes, you read that right), the Cowboys would have preferred the silence of other NFL stadiums compared to the chorus of boos they were showered with by the end of the first quarter.
Much of the same remained for the second quarter, but by the second half, the team began to show its abundance of talent and began to crawl its way back into the game. However, by the closing stages of the fourth quarter, it seemed that Atlanta would hold on for the upset; the Falcons led the Cowboys 39–30 at the two-minute warning. But alas, the world seemed to have forgotten the perpetual ills of the Falcons, a team with a historic inability to hold a lead. After scoring a touchdown with about a minute and a half remaining, the Cowboys attempted an onside kick, a play in which the Falcons’ special teams seemed to be playing an incredibly realistic virtual reality version of Madden rather than a game of professional football. As the ball rolled, the Falcons stayed in their nest, watching the pigskin roll and roll until the Cowboys landed on it. Improbably, they proceeded to march down the field and with five seconds remaining nailed a field goal to give the Cowboys and new head coach Mike McCarthy their first win of the season. Final score: Dallas 40, Atlanta 39.
A shootout in Seattle
The New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, two of the NFL’s best and most successful teams over the last decade, faced off Sunday night in a rematch of their infamous matchup in the 2015 Super Bowl. Strangely and eerily different from that fateful night was the face of the Patriots, a position now held by quarterback Cam Newton (yeah, anyone else still getting used to that?). Even more so was the absence of fans in the loudest stadium in the world. The silence of the game was deafening and a painful reminder of where we currently are in the world.
The game was as good as they come, as the teams went back and forth throughout the first half. Russell Wilson got off to an uncharacteristic start, throwing a pick six just two minutes into the game, leading to the game’s first score. However, Wilson once again proved his underrated greatness, bouncing back with two touchdown passes, including one 54-yard bomb to WR D.K. Metcalf. The second half started seeing the Seahawks pull away — a stout Seattle defense led by former New York Jet Jamal Adams was able to neutralize Newton’s dynamism. Yet, just as the history shows between these two teams, the losing team simply refuses to go away. With the Patriots down 23–35, Newton relied on his tremendous arm strength to will his team back to within five. A strong defensive stand on the ensuing drive meant the Patriots had the ball with a minute and a half left only needing a touchdown. Down the field they went, all the way to the 1-yard line with three seconds left. An ending for the ages, similar to that of the 2015 Super Bowl — one play, one yard, one win. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick elected to let Newton run the ball but was stifled by the Seattle defense. Final score: 35–30, with Seattle taking the win.
A Raven runaway
In one of the more intriguing matchups from Week 2, the Baltimore Ravens traveled to play the Houston Texans which featured a duel between two of the most explosive and exciting quarterbacks in the NFL. Reigning MVP Lamar Jackson of the Ravens once again showed his consistent dominance, passing for over 200 yards and rushing for another 54. Texans QB Deshaun Watson ironically had a better game than Jackson through the air — barring his one interception, the Texan talisman threw for 275 yards. Ultimately, none of that mattered as the game was won on the ground, with the Ravens steamrolling the Texans through their rushing yards. The chemistry between the Ravens’ two Heisman Trophy winners, Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram II, picked up right where it left off last season as they combined for over 100 yards on the ground. Add to that a stellar 73-yard performance from RB Gus Edwards and a near 50-yard game from rookie running back J.K. Dobbins, the Texans were left in the dust as the Ravens ultimately ran away to victory. It was another impressive showing from a team with Super Bowl aspirations this year after last season’s bitter disappointment. On the flip side, head coach Bill O’Brien will be left to ponder the potential of his mistake-prone Texans team, especially after his widely criticized offseason moves. However, gifted with perhaps the toughest two opening games in the NFL, the Texans will be at peace knowing there will be easier games ahead. Final score: Baltimore 31, Houston 16.
Other scores from around the NFL
The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs had a bit of a rough day on Sunday, nearly falling to a Chargers team with second-string QB Justin Herbert under center. The Chargers led for almost the entirety of this game, but the Chiefs were able to kick a field goal as time expired to send it to overtime. Ultimately, the Chiefs pulled it out in the nick of time, hitting the game-winning field goal with less than two minutes to go in the overtime period. Final score: Kansas City 23, Los Angeles 20.
The Philadelphia Eagles continued their rough start to the season, dropping their game against the Los Angeles Rams. Eagles QB Carson Wentz threw for 242 yards but threw two interceptions, with the team having three turnovers in total. Meanwhile, Rams QB Jared Goff threw for 267 yards with just seven incompletions. It was a game that saw the Rams in full control from start to finish and will have the Eagles flocking back to the drawing board. Final score: Los Angeles 37, Philadelphia 19.
QB Joe Burrow and his team faced off against an old rival on Thursday as Ohio’s two teams, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns, squared off. The game featured two No. 1 picks in the draft, with QB Baker Mayfield being a little older than Burrow. However, it was clear who had the better game as Burrow threw for 316 yards and tossed three touchdowns. Yet, the Browns were still squarely in control, representing the plight of any top draft pick. The expectation to be the face of a franchise, to be the team’s sole offense, is both a tremendous opportunity and pure recipe for disaster. Burrow’s valiant efforts came just short, with Mayfield, WR Odell Beckham Jr. and the Browns holding on. Final score: Cleveland 35, Cincinnati 30.
Tampa Bay was back at it again on Sunday, as the Buccaneers looked to get their first win in the new Tom Brady era against the Carolina Panthers. From the start, there was no question over who would prevail, with Brady and his loaded offense racing out to a 21-point lead. Brady finished with 217 yards, a touchdown, an interception and a win. Final score: Tampa Bay 31, Carolina 17.