From a deep 60-0 deficit six quarters into the season and a 21-point third-quarter hole Sunday in Arizona, the Giants are suddenly, improbably, coming alive.
The 49ers somehow won nine straight in the regular season over the Rams.
And Sean Payton and the Broncos — after blowing a 21-3 lead on the Chiefs almost tying the score with a 50-yard Hail Mary by Russell Wilson and Brandon Johnson as time expired – they are now 0-2.
Sunday’s NFL slate was defined by plenty of furious finishes, none more improbable than the 21-point rally the Giants staged in the desert. A week after an embarrassing 40-0 loss to Dallas, New York played just as poorly in the first half against the Cardinals, mustering just 76 yards of total offense in a 20-0 hole.
It looked bad. Really not good.
All told, the Giants opened the 2023 season with more than 90 minutes of scoreless football.
But by the end of the game, it was a 31-28 triumph, thanks to 24 unanswered points in the final two quarters, the franchise’s biggest comeback win in more than 70 years. Saquon Barkley scored twice, but left the game late with an injury and slammed his helmet on the bench in frustration. His status, along with that of the Colts’ Anthony Richardson (concussion) and the Bengals’ Joe Burrow (calf), will be among the injuries to watch in the coming days.
In Detroit, the Seahawks won on a Geno Smith touchdown to Tyler Lockett in overtime; in Atlanta, the Falcons outplayed the Packers to win on Younghoe Koo’s 25-yard field goal with 57 seconds left; and in Nashville, the Titans sent the Chargers to 0-2 with Nick Folk’s 41-yard gain in overtime.
And Russell Wilson nearly outdid them all, connecting with Johnson on an untimed 50-yard dash. The touchdown cut the Chiefs lead to 35-33; all Denver needed was a successful two-point conversion to force overtime. But Russell’s pass to Courtland Sutton was incomplete after some contact. Ron Rivera’s team is now surprisingly 2-0, and Sean Payton is winless in his first two games as Denver’s coach.
Here’s what we learned from Week 2’s afternoon schedule:
Dallas looks like a contender
The Cowboys officially own New York City after defeating the Giants and Jets by a combined score of 70-10 in consecutive weeks to open the season. The engine of their early success was Dan Quinn’s defense, a Super Bowl-caliber unit led by the early favorite for Defensive Player of the Year. Micah Parsons has been good since he entered the league, but he’s never been this good.
The All-Pro linebacker looks absolutely unblockable so far.
It was never close in Dallas on Sunday as Parsons and the Cowboys dominated the Jets 30-10. Zach Wilson’s first start of 2023, taking over for Aaron Rodgers, was rough: he completed just 12 passes on 27 attempts for 170 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. Dallas’ defense now has seven turnovers and nine sacks through two games.
The offense was sharp Sunday as well, as Dak Prescott racked up 255 yards on 31 completions and two touchdowns. CeeDee Lamb was great, with 11 catches for 143 yards.
The Cowboys will face tougher tests — starting with the 49ers in Week 5, then the Eagles in Week 9 — but up until this point, Dallas has checked every box. Mike McCarthy’s side look a serious threat to play into February.
Will Justin Fields ever look like The Guy for the Bears?
Bears general manager Ryan Poles decided to roll the dice with Justin Fields last spring, sending the No. 1 pick to Carolina in an effort to bolster the supporting cast around his young pass rusher. We’re only two weeks into the season, but the early returns in Chicago aren’t promising — for the Bears or their franchise quarterback.
Chicago was outscored by a combined 28 points in two early season losses to Green Bay and Tampa Bay. Fields threw three interceptions, two of which came on Chicago’s final two drives Sunday. The first cemented the loss when Fields was picked off by Bucs linebacker Shaq Barrett at his own 6-yard line.
But the problems continue: Fields has been hit 16 times and has already been thrown 10 times.
It’s early and Fields deserves a full season with improved weapons around him (DJ Moore, acquired in the Carolina trade, had six catches for 104 yards on Sunday and Chase Claypool caught his first touchdown in Chicago), but most of the signs I’ve seen over eight quarters a sign of another long season in the Windy City. Since last season, the Bears have lost 12 straight games.
It won’t get any easier next week. Chicago is in Kansas City next week to take on the reigning champions.
Get the plays right for the Chiefs, Bills
It’s amazing what returning two first-team All-Pros can do.
The Chiefs still didn’t look like the Chiefs Sunday in Jacksonville, but the return of two of football’s best players — tight end Travis Kelce and defensive tackle Chris Jones — made all the difference after both missed Week 1. Jones looked to be in midseason form, racking up 1.5 sacks for a Kansas City defense that held one of the league’s most explosive offenses to just nine points.
While Kelce had just four catches on nine targets, one went for a nine-yard touchdown in the third quarter, which was enough to put the Chiefs up for good. (It also prompted the best call of the day from CBS’s Ian Eagle, who noted that Kelce found an “empty spot” in the end zone for the score, a nod to his relationship with pop star Taylor Swift.)
In a rematch of January’s divisional playoff — and quite possibly a playoff preview for the coming winter — the final score was a little misleading. The Jags had at least three instances of a possible touchdown if the receiver was able to keep both feet in bounds on a contested catch. KC’s defense was solid, but in a tight game where points were surprisingly hard to come by, that was what separated the two.
(Also, the Chiefs may have a problem at right tackle: Jawaan Taylor, signed to a four-year, $80 million contract in the offseason, had a terrible day, getting tagged. Five times, including twice for false starts and twice for holding. According to CBS, he is the most penalized player in one game in 23 years. Taylor drew criticism after the Chiefs’ Week 1 loss for lining up too far beyond the line of scrimmage.)
Meanwhile, in Buffalo, another Super Bowl contender looked again. Josh Allen shook off a dismal four-turnover performance in Week 1 — “I’m the reason we lost tonight,” he admitted after the overtime loss to the Jets — and returned to MVP form against the Raiders, completing his first 14 passes. his way to a 31-for-37 day for 274 yards and, most importantly, no turnovers.
So with Allen in mind, everyone can rest easy — at least for the next week.
Uh-oh in Denver
Speaking of comfort, don’t expect much from Broncos fans. It’s not just about not calling the game’s final two-point conversion; it’s an 0-2 start for a franchise — and a quarterback — poised to move on from the horrors of 2022. If Wilson was better this year, it wasn’t by much.
The Broncos played early on Sunday, leading the Commanders 21-3 early in the second quarter. However, the game appeared to be tipped after Broncos safety Kareem Jackson was sacked for an illegal hit on Commanders tight end Logan Thomas. From there, Washington QB Sam Howell cashed in, finishing with 299 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson, meanwhile, cooled off considerably after his fast start, turning the ball over twice. He was also sacked five times.
What about the Bengals? And chargers?
The most surprising 0-2 team so far has to be the Bengals, who dropped a couple of AFC North games to open the season and now have to once again have some concerns about the health of their franchise quarterback. A week after the worst start of his pro career, Burrow was better Sunday against the Ravens — 27-for-41 for 222 yards, two touchdowns and a pick — but it wasn’t enough in a 27-24 loss.
It is not WHO The Bengals have lost so far — both the Browns and Ravens will be fighting for playoff spots the rest of the season — but how they looked at the losses.
Simply put: Something is wrong in Cincinnati.
Burrow spent the final moments of the game with a manual massager on his right calf, the same one he strained during training camp. He later admitted that he had improved it and “now it hurts quite a bit”. Burrow’s condition will be paramount for the Bengals moving forward: The season is far from lost — Cincinnati went 0-2 last year before making a deep playoff run — but the offense hasn’t looked nearly right through two games. For example, Burrow had just 35 yards in the first half. The Bengals were outgained by the Ravens 415-282.
“This is exactly where we were last year,” coach Zac Taylor said. “When you stumble early, you just have to learn from it.
The Chargers, meanwhile, are also 0-2 after falling in overtime to the Titans. That’s two losses by a combined five points to start the season — this after LA collapsed in its playoff opener in January, blowing a 27-0 halftime lead in Jacksonville. Justin Herbert threw for 305 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday, but the offense was just 2:14 on third down.
Here are the winning teams so far through two weeks of the postseason: Bengals, Broncos, Vikings, Chargers, Bears, Cardinals and Texans. Three others playing in prime time would join them with a loss: the Patriots, Steelers and Panthers. My colleague Mike Sando will have much more on this group in his Pick Six column on Monday morning.
(Photo: Michael Owens/Getty Images)
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