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Week 2 NFL Report Card for Every Team

Russell S. BaxterContributor IDecember 19, 2016

Week 2 NFL Report Card for Every Team

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    Two weeks into the season and barring a tie in Monday night’s tilt between the Broncos and Falcons, we’ll have six teams at 2-0 and, of course, a half-dozen clubs looking for their first win.

    As has been noted, starting the season with a couple of victories puts you in an advantageous position when it comes to reaching the playoffs. On the other hand, we haven’t seen any team reach the postseason after losing their first two games since the Dolphins, Vikings and Chargers all managed the trick in 2008.

    So here are this week’s team grades following a very interesting Sunday afternoon (and Thursday evening) in early September.

    With a game under each team’s belt, it was interesting to see which clubs improved on their opening weekend efforts. Meanwhile, there were a handful of teams that took a slight step backward after a promising start.

    Let’s get started. I hear the bell…

Arizona Cardinals: A

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    Give credit to Ray Horton’s defense and the Cardinals’ special teams, as Ken Whisenhunt’s team pulled off one of the bigger upsets in recent memory.

    Arizona’s 20-18 win at New England featured Horton’s unit sacking Tom Brady four times and picking off one of his passes. The Cards also blocked a punt to set up a short touchdown.

    While running back Ryan Williams’ fumble with a little more than a minute remaining nearly proved costly, a little luck did come Whisenhunt’s way as sure-footed Stephen Gostkowski pulled a 42-yard field-goal attempt wide left to preserve the Arizona victory.

    And what of quarterback Kevin Kolb, getting the start in place of injured John Skelton? He hit on 15-of-27 passes for 140 yards and a score. He did not throw an interception and was only sacked once. While he did lose a fumble, his five-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference in a stunner.

Atlanta Falcons: A

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    The Georgia Dome has proven to be a very tough place to play ever since head coach Mike Smith, quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner (among others) arrived in Atlanta in 2008.

    And veteran quarterback Peyton Manning found that out the hard way as an opportunistic Falcons’ defense picked off the prolific passer three times in the first quarter and forced a total of four turnovers in the first 15 minutes in an efficient 27-21 win over the Broncos.

    For the second straight week, Smith’s team held onto the football while taking advantage of their opponent’s miscues. The first two interceptions of Manning led to a touchdown and a field goal and all told, Denver turnovers led to 13 Falcons’ points.

    And after Manning and company narrowed the deficit to six points with just over three minutes to play, Ryan, Turner and the offense made sure the Broncos’ signal-caller never got his hands on the football again.

Baltimore Ravens: B

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    Last season, John Harbaugh’s club got off to a tremendous start, routing the Steelers 35-7 only to lose to the Titans a week later in Nashville.

    Last Monday night, the Ravens rolled the Bengals 44-13 but knew a trip to Philadelphia wouldn’t be as easy. And despite forcing four turnovers and leading 17-7 at the half, Baltimore couldn’t close the deal in a 24-23 loss.

    While Joe Flacco had his moments, he also committed a pair of turnovers. The Ravens’ quarterback made tight end Dennis Pitta (15) and running back Ray Rice (10) his top targets, the duo combining for 14 of his 22 completions. And his touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones was a thing of beauty.

    But Harbaugh’s defense also gave up 129 yards rushing and allowed Michael Vick to throw for 371 yards. The Ravens gave up an astounding 486 yards, 264 of that in the second half, and Vick led his team on an 80-yard touchdown march late in the fourth quarter to secure the win.

     

     

     

     

     

     

Buffalo Bills: A

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    This may have been more of what Bills fans and others were expecting.

    A solid offense complemented by a much improved pass rush seemed like the formula that would make the Bills a playoff contender in 2012.

    But we saw little of that in the opener against the Jets. A semblance of a rally made the final score 48-28, as Buffalo’s pass rush failed to get to the quarterback.

    That was not the case against the Chiefs. Matt Cassel was sacked five times and committed two of Kansas City’s three turnovers.

    Meanwhile, it was another big outing for former first-round pick C.J. Spiller, who totaled 170 yards from scrimmage and scored two touchdowns. In addition, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for two scores and didn’t commit a turnover.

    The exhale you just heard came from Orchard Park, N.Y.

Carolina Panthers: A-

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    To be a contender in the NFC South, Ron Rivera's team knew it had to be more competitive against the Saints and Falcons, having lost its last eight games against those two division rivals entering Sunday's game against the Saints.

    And after stubbing its toes against the obviously improved Buccaneers a week ago with an attack that produced 10 points and 10 rushing yards, the Carolina Panthers went back to the kind of football we saw from them last season: plenty of offense and not too much defense.

    In Carolina's 35-27 win, four players had at least 25 yards rushing as the team rolled up 219 yards on the ground and a total of 463 yards. Meanwhile, Carolina allowed the Saints to pick up 486 total yards, but a pair of Drew Brees interceptions (one returned for a touchdown by safety Charles Godfrey) proved costly to the visitors.

    It’s safe to say that holding serve at home against the defending division champions likely takes the sting out of that stifling loss in Tampa.

Chicago Bears: D+

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    If you remember how things started for the Bears in their eventual 41-21 season-opening win over the Colts, quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked on the team’s first play from scrimmage, and on Chicago’s next series, he threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.

    Cutler had to be thinking déjà vu all over again when he was dropped by Packers linebacker D.J. Smith on the first play of Thursday night’s tilt at Lambeau Field. Only this time, things got dramatically worse.

    The Bears’ offense totaled 168 yards in the 23-10 loss to the Packers, as Cutler threw four interceptions and was sacked seven times.

    It was yet another frustrating outing for the strong-armed quarterback against the Packers.

    Cutler has now faced Green Bay seven times (including playoffs) since he arrived in the Windy City and Dom Capers joined the Pack, both in 2009. And it adds up to six losses in seven games for the Bears’ quarterback, throwing more than twice as many interceptions (16) as touchdown passes (7). He's thrown  two or more picks in five of those contests.

    It's safe to say it was an extremely frustrating evening for Lovie Smith and company, who saw running back Matt Forte go down once again.

Cincinnati Bengals: B-

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    No one was surprised that Marvin Lewis’ club rebounded from the Monday night loss to the Ravens with a home win over the Browns.

    That the Bengals’ defense had its issues with the Cleveland offense may have been a bit of a shock.

    While Cincinnati took an early 14-3 lead on its cross-state rivals and never relinquished it, the Bengals  also never put their opponent away. Quarterback Andy Dalton threw for 318 yards and three scores, but also threw an interception and was sacked six times.

    The Browns, limited to 168 total yards a week ago against the Eagles, rolled up 439 total yards on Mike Zimmer’s defensive unit.

    A win is certainly a win in this league. But the Bengals don’t look like they're quite clicking on all cylinders yet.

Cleveland Browns: C+

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    After a forgettable performance in a narrow loss to the Eagles, the Cleveland offense awoke after roughly a years nap.

    Unfortunately, Dick Jauron’s defense just didn’t answer the bell enough times.

    The Browns dug themselves a 14-3 second-quarter hole and couldn’t catch up, losing 34-27 to a Bengals’ team that made plenty of big plays through the air and on special teams.

    Still, you had to be encouraged by the play of rookies Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden. Richardson rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown. He also made four receptions for 36 yards and a score. Weeden, who did not turn the ball over, threw for 322 yards and two touchdowns. And Cleveland’s pass rush sacked Andy Dalton six times.

    But the Browns gave up touchdown passes of 44 and 50 yards, as well as an 81-yard punt return for a score by Pacman Jones.

    When it was all said and done, Pat Shurmur’s team lost to a divisional foe for the 11th consecutive time.

Dallas Cowboys: C

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    Perhaps the bigger question for Jason Garrett’s team more than a week after defeating the defending Super Bowl champion Giants on the road was how to avoid a letdown after such an important win?

    Unfortunately, Seattle is never an easy place to play. And this week was no exception. The Pokes dug themselves an early hole via their special teams. Felix Jones fumbled the opening kickoff (which led to a Seattle field goal) and punter Chris Jones had a kick blocked and returned for a score.

    Perhaps even more disappointing was the Dallas defense, which had held the Giants to 82 yards on the ground. Seattle added a C-note to that total (182) as Marshawn Lynch had his way, running for 122 yards and a score.

    When you combine the special teams' miscues, a Tony Romo interception and four fumbles by the Cowboys, you get a sloppy effort from a club that should have used its Week 1 win over the defending champions as a stepping stone.

Denver Broncos: B-

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    All you have to do is take away the team’s first-quarter performance vs. the Falcons and John Fox’s team would be a perfect 2-0.

    But let’s not be ridiculous, which is one of many words that probably came to mind as Peyton Manning and the Broncos spent the early part of Monday’s night’s game at the Georgia Dome spreading the wealth…to literally everyone.

    The Denver quarterback served up three interceptions in the first eight minutes of the game, the first two leading to 10 Falcons’ points, and running back Knowshon Moreno lost a fumble in the first quarter as well. Fox’s club would dig itself a 20-0 second-quarter hole and a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown weren’t enough in a 27-21 setback.

    Manning was also sacked three time on the evening as the Broncos’ offense appeared stuck in neutral for most of the evening, thanks in large part to a sound Falcons’ defense. Running back Willis McGahee would run for 113 yards and a pair of scores.

    It’s usually how you finish and not how you start in this wacky game. For the Broncos, it was simply a case of too little too, too late by the time the lights went out in Georgia.

Detroit Lions: B-

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    Incredibly, the Lions were looking for their first win in San Francisco since 1975 (a string of 11 straight losses, including playoffs).

    You can make that an even dozen.

    While Jim Schwartz’s team wasn’t manhandled by the 49ers, it had the expected problems trying to solve their defense. The 27-19 setback was somewhat reminiscent of these same Niners last season, as the Lions had problems punching the ball into the end zone.

    Veteran kicker Jason Hanson kicked four field goals. Schwartz’s offense didn’t score its only touchdown until there was less than two minutes remaining in the game.

    Still, the Lions hung with the team many regard as the best in the league. It wouldn’t be a total surprise to see these clubs renew acquaintances in early January.

Green Bay Packers: B+

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    Four days after being handled at home by the 49ers, the Packers did what they do best when facing Jay Cutler.

    They turned him over.

    Seven sacks and four interceptions later, Mike McCarthy’s team walked away with a 23-10 win Thursday night and avoided a problematic 0-2 start.

    Besides the play of Dom Capers’ defense and a pass rush that has produced 11 sacks in two games (Green Bay totaled just 29 sacks in 16 games in 2011), you have to give credit to McCarthy and a stronger commitment to the running game.

    By game’s end, the Packers had run for 106 yards. But more importantly, they did so on 28 attempts, doubling the 14 carries the team had in the Week 1 loss to San Francisco.

    Still, the win wasn’t without its issues. Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times and threw an interception. Punter Tim Masthay’s 27-yard scoring toss to Tom Crabtree on a fake field goal was the longest pass play of the evening by either team.

    Regardless, there had to be a sigh of relief for McCarthy and Capers as the defense resembled the unit that was a big part of the Super Bowl XLV championship run.

Houston Texans: A+

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    It’s safe to say that it was a nearly perfect afternoon for the defending AFC South champions in their latest visit to Jacksonville.

    Led by a ground attack that rolled up 216 yards, as well as a defensive unit that continues to thrive under Wade Phillips, the Texans took care of business in an efficient 27-7 win.

    Gary Kubiak’s team outgained its hosts by nearly 300 yards (411-117), held the ball for 43:17, didn’t commit a turnover and didn’t allow a sack. Houston ran 83 plays, the Jaguars 38.

    While Arian Foster ran for more than half (110) of the team’s rushing yardage, he was doubled in the touchdown department by backup Ben Tate, who had 74 yards yards on the ground.

    It’s been quite a start for the Texans, who are 2-0 for the third straight season and have allowed a combined total of 17 points and 392 yards in their two victories.

Indianapolis Colts: A-

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    It took the Peyton Manning-less Colts 14 games to post a victory in 2011.

    It took the Andrew Luck-led Colts two weeks to get into the win column in 2012.

    Led by their rookie signal-caller, Chuck Pagano’s team built a 20-6 lead, then watched it completely disappear before Luck led a short drive to set up Adam Vinatieri’s 53-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining that gave the Colts a 23-20 win.

    While the Colts were hardly a juggernaut on offense, it was their defensive effort that was most encouraging. They sacked Christian Ponder four times and recovered his only fumble. Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota ground attack totaled only 95 yards.

    Meanwhile, Luck threw for 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns and, more importantly, took the Colts 45 yards in four plays in less than 30 seconds to set up Vinatieri’s game-winning boot.

Jacksonville Jaguars: C

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    After a game effort at the Metrodome in their opener, the Jaguars looked like an improved team on offense, with a quarterback feeling better about himself after a rocky rookie season.

    But following a tough afternoon at home Sunday against the Texans, it’s back to the drawing board in some ways for Mike Mularkey’s team.

    After scoring only seven points and gaining a mere 117 total yards (the fewest in a game in the franchise’s 18-year history) against the Texans, the Jaguars also saw starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert leave the game in the fourth quarter. The former first-rounder completed just 7-of-19 passes for 53 yards and a score. He was sacked three times before going down with a leg injury and being replaced by Chad Henne.

    Meanwhile, Jacksonville’s defense was simply overrun by a Houston ground attack that rolled up 216 yards on 48 attempts.

    The Jags were simply overmatched by one of the best teams in the NFL. They should play much better in Week 3 against the Colts.

Kansas City Chiefs: F

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    You can bet that if the NFL ever decides to realign again, the Chiefs will not agree to be shifted into the AFC East.

    That’s because Kansas City was 0-4 versus the AFC East in 2011 and outscored 143-23 in those setbacks.

    Now it’s another season, but the lack of success against this division hasn’t changed. A pair of late touchdown passes from Matt Cassel to Dwayne Bowe made the final score more respectable in the 35-17 defeat, but make no mistake, this was a rout. Buffalo rolled up 201 yards rushing while Kansas City defenders had no takeaways.

    Although Cassel rolled up 301 yards through the air, he was sacked five times and committed a pair of turnovers.

    So far, so bad for a Kansas City team that figured to be in the thick of the AFC West race. It’s hard to be in constant catch-up mode, as the Chiefs have learned after allowing 75 points in two games.

Miami Dolphins: A-

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    So the Dolphins do have an offense after all.

    Following a frustrating afternoon in Houston in which the team’s only touchdown came on a punt return, Mike Sherman’s offense got untracked against the Raiders and Joe Philbin earned his first head-coaching win.

    Led by Reggie Bush, who continues his amazing transformation from utility back and return artist to workhorse runner, the 'Fins wiped out a 10-7 deficit at intermission en route to a 35-13 win.

    Bush ran for 172 yards and a pair of scores, covering 23 and 65 yards, while rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who was sacked just once, threw for 200 yards and a touchdown. After coughing up the ball four times against the Texans, Philbin’s team played turnover-free football against the Raiders.

    All told, this was a promising outing for a team thought to be the most offensively-challenged in the league.

Minnesota Vikings: B-

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    A 2-0 start would have been a pleasant surprise for a team that won just three games last season.

    But it wasn’t meant to be as the Colts did to the Vikings what the Purple Gang did to Jacksonville the previous Sunday. 

    Still, it was a game effort by Leslie Frazier’s team, which rallied from a 20-6 fourth-quarter deficit to even the score with 31 seconds to play. But Christian Ponder’s heroics were overshadowed by rookie Andrew Luck and his prowess in the closing seconds.

    Speaking of the Vikings’ signal-caller, he was sacked four times and lost a fumble. Although he and his teammates came up short on Sunday, there’s a sense that this team may be headed in the right direction after a few lean years.

New England Patriots: C-

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    As we know, Bill Belichick’s team hasn’t lost a lot of games in recent seasons. Entering the 2012 campaign, the Patriots were an NFL-best 64-16 dating back to 2007, finishing 16-0, 14-2 and 13-3 along the way.

    The Patriots also don’t usually lose at home. Over the previous five seasons, New England is 36-4 at home and has gone 8-0 at Gillette Stadium in three of those campaigns.

    And New England fared well against the other conference. Since 2001, including the postseason, the Pats are an astounding 41-8 vs. NFC teams (three of those losses to the Giants).

    But none of those losses over that span were to the Cardinals, whose last visit to Foxborough resulted in a snowy 47-7 loss in 2008.

    However, if you allow Tom Brady to be sacked four times and give up an easy touchdown set up by a blocked punt, you have a problem. And when your usually reliable placekicker misses a field goal late in the game, it adds up to a shocking 20-18 loss to an Arizona team that was given little to no chance of winning.

    All told, the Patriots were far from horrible. But these days, they may not be good enough in the right spots to avoid a loss when all the pieces don’t fall into place.

New Orleans Saints: D

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    Since head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees arrived in New Orleans in 2006, the Saints have put up big numbers. And even though the Saints haven’t been among the defensive elite in recent seasons, they’ve still managed to find ways to limit the damage.

    Not these days.

    Seven days after giving up 459 total yards and 40 points at home to the Redskins, the Cajuns followed that up by allowing 463 yards in a 35-27 setback at Carolina in which Steve Spagnuolo’s unit was exploited once again. After surrendering 153 yards rushing in the loss to Washington, the Panthers rolled up 219 yards on the ground against a helpless New Orleans defense.

    While Brees put up his usual 300-plus yards through the air, he also threw two interceptions.

    Although we’re just two weeks into the season, the Saints are the lone NFC team without a win. Nobody could have foreseen that entering the 2012 season.

New York Giants: B-

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    While it’s never over until it’s over, Tom Coughlin’s team was determined to make it as dramatic as possible against an improved Buccaneers squad.

    Down 27-13 in the third quarter and with quarterback Eli Manning having already thrown three interceptions in the first half, the Super Bowl XLVI MVP would wind up throwing for 295 yards and a pair of touchdowns, all in the second half.

    Manning finished with 510 yards through the air, tied for the eighth-most passing yards in a game in league history, and Big Blue wound up escaping with a 41-34 win. Coughlin’s club rolled up an astounding 604 total yards, as wideouts Victor Cruz (11-179-1 TD) and Hakeem Nicks (10-199-1 TD) had monster days.

    Despite allowing 34 points, New York allowed just 307 total yards. But between the Manning turnovers and the big plays allowed by the Giants’ secondary, this was a victory that perhaps raised more questions than answers.

New York Jets: C

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    With a twist of irony, Mark Sanchez’s 10-of-27 passing performance at Heinz Field added up to a 27-10 loss in the Steel City.

    Not only did the Jets’ signal-caller throw for just 138 yards in the loss, but nearly one-third of that total came on a 45-yard first-quarter completion to wideout Jeremy Kerley.

    Elsewhere, the loss of running back Shonn Greene (head) during the game can’t be understated. While he totaled just 11 carries for 23 yards, his presence in the backfield would have been a major plus.

    On the other hand, Rex Ryan’s secondary, minus the services of perennial Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis, had its ups and downs against Ben Roethlisberger and his explosive receiving corps.

    Despite the 17-point setback, it was a respectable effort against a determined Pittsburgh team looking to avoid an 0-2 start.

Oakland Raiders: D+

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    It wasn’t that long ago that we were talking about a Raiders revival.

    Last season, the Silver and Black opened 7-4 only to lose four of its last five games and miss the playoffs for a ninth consecutive season.

    Enter Dennis Allen, who was hoping to fix what ailed a struggling Raiders defense last season.

    But after watching Oakland defenders whiff or fail to wrap up Reggie Bush in Miami, there’s obviously still some work to be done.

    Keep in mind that this was a Miami team that failed to score an offensive touchdown against the Texans. On Sunday, Miami rolled up 452 total yards, including a gaudy 263 on the ground.

    With the Chargers already sitting at 2-0 and the Broncos in position to match them, the Raiders can't afford to waste much more time getting themselves on track.

Philadelphia Eagles: B-

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    Apparently, nine turnovers add up to two wins, each by one point.

    Philadelphia’s 24-23 victory over the visiting Ravens was further evidence of two facts: Andy Reid’s team can move the ball on just about any team, and the one club that always seems to trip them up is themselves.

    For the 14th time in their last 18 games, the Eagles gave up the ball at least twice. Four turnovers against Baltimore ran the team total to 47 in those 18 contests.

    But quarterback Michael Vick, who has seven of those nine miscues thanks to six interceptions and a lost fumble in two games, drove his team to a win late in a game in which the Eagles trailed by 10 points at halftime. While he didn’t score a touchdown, tight end Brent Celek was huge, hauling in eight passes for 157 yards.

    It will be interesting to see if the turnovers continue. That being said, this was a quality win over a very good Baltimore team.

Pittsburgh Steelers: B+

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    Playing without James Harrison and Troy Polamalu, the Steelers’ defense was shorthanded against the Jets, to say the least.

    And when the visiting Jets drove 90 yards on eight plays in the first quarter to take a 7-3 lead, I was wondering if it was going to be a long day for Dick LeBeau’s unit.

    It did prove to be a long day, only for the Green and White.

    After that drive, Pittsburgh’s defense held the Jets to 129 total yards the rest of the game, shutting out New York in the second half.

    Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger did what he always does best. Despite being sacked three times, he missed on just seven of 31 pass attempts and used speedsters Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders to frustrate a shorthanded Jets secondary that was without cornerback Darrelle Revis.

    It will be interesting to see this Pittsburgh defense when it finally has all hands on deck.

St. Louis Rams: A

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    So what if the Jeff Fisher’s club had been able to hold on last week when it had the Lions on the ropes in Detroit?

    Combined with this week’s win over the high-flying Redskins, the Rams may have been the talk of the NFL.

    But as disappointing as the setback in Detroit proved to be, it may have made the victory over Washington a bit more satisfying, especially when you consider the ‘Skins opened up a 21-6 lead in the second quarter.

    But re-enter quarterback Sam Bradford, who was limited to only 10 games last season and threw only six touchdown passes. Against the Redskins, the former No. 1 overall pick threw for 310 yards and three scores (one interception), more than half (15) of his 26 completions going to wideout Danny Amendola, who totaled 160 yards and a touchdown.

    Meanwhile, the Rams defense rebounded well after that tough start, holding Washington to only seven points in the second half.

San Diego Chargers: A-

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    Six days after a road win at Oakland, the Bolts made it two wins in as many tries, giving Norv Turner his first 2-0 start with the team.

    Save for an interception by quarterback Philip Rivers, who was sacked four times, the Chargers did little wrong in a convincing 38-10 win over Tennessee.

    San Diego rolled up 416 total yards, including 148 yards rushing. Meanwhile, Rivers threw for 284 yards and three touchdowns, with all of his scoring tosses to Dante Rosario.

    But the biggest news perhaps was another impressive outing by the San Diego defense, which held the Titans to 38 yards rushing and has now limited two opponents to a combined 83 yards on the ground.

    There are a lot of new faces in San Diego these days. So far, so good for Turner and company as they look to end a two-year postseason drought.

San Francisco 49ers: A-

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    The bad news for Jim Harbaugh was that his team committed a turnover.

    The good news for the Niners is that they committed only one.

    Once again, efficiency prevailed in the Bay Area as the defending NFC West champions made it 2-for-2 over 2011 playoff teams with another eight-point win, this time over the visiting Lions.

    The physical 49ers kept the Detroit attack at bay, holding Matthew Stafford and company out of the end zone until the final 1:29.

    Meanwhile, a balanced San Francisco offense kept the Detroit defense on its heels. Led by Frank Gore, Harbaugh’s team ran for 148 yards on 27 carries, while Alex Smith threw two touchdown passes without an interception for the second consecutive week.

    But more importantly, it was the physical play of this team that garnered the most attention. It's a style that will be tough to beat.

Seattle Seahawks: A

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    Last week versus the Cardinals, it was a close-but-no-cigar game for the Seahawks, who came up just short at Arizona despite some late opportunities.

    Sunday’s convincing 27-7 win over the visiting Cowboys saw Pete Carroll’s team leave little doubt about which team was superior, at least on this afternoon.

    That’s because running back Marshawn Lynch rolled up 122 yards rushing on 26 carries against a Dallas defense that was staunch against the run in the win over the Giants.

    Carroll’s club rolled up 182 yards on the ground, while quarterback Russell Wilson threw for 151 yards and a score. And the Seahawks played turnover-free football.

    The tone was set early by the Seattle special teams, which built a 10-0 lead thanks to a fumble recovery of the opening kickoff as well as a blocked punt (Malcolm Smith) and return for a touchdown (Jeron Johnson). It was a lead the Seahawks never relinquished.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: C+

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    After bringing a little excitement to the final kneel-down, head coach Greg Schiano explained that his Buccaneers always play to the whistle.

    Perhaps the head coach would have liked to have seen that whistle blown early in the third quarter when his improved club owned a 14-point lead over the defending Super Bowl champions in New Jersey.

    But a 2-0 start just wasn’t meant to be as the Bucs fell 41-34. It was quite a reversal of fortune for a Tampa defense that limited Cam Newton and company the previous week to 10 points and 10 yards on the ground.

    On Sunday, Schiano’s defenders gave up an astounding 604 total yards, as Manning would throw for 510 yards and three touchdowns (along with three interceptions).

    Despite the setback, there is obviously a new attitude in Tampa. While things didn’t go the Buccaneers' way this week, this doesn’t look like a 4-12 team anymore.

Tennessee Titans: D

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    There were some who felt that Mike Munchak’s team could be a playoff club based on last season’s respectable 9-7 finish.

    It may be tough finding those few supporters right now.

    It’s been an ugly start for the Titans, who’ve been outscored 72-23 in the losses to the Patriots (34-13) and Chargers (38-10). Even more perplexing has been the performance of former Pro Bowler Chris Johnson, who’s looking like a former Pro Bowler with each passing day.

    After a dismal outing against New England in which he totaled four yards rushing on 11 carries, Johnson followed that up with only 17 yards on eight carries at San Diego.

    Despite four sacks of Philip Rivers, the Chargers quarterback carved up the Titans for 284 yards and three scores (one interception).

    This looks like a team going backward rather than a young club trying to break a playoff drought.

Washington Redskins: C

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    Those believing rookie Robert Griffin III was going to come crashing back to earth after his scintillating performance against the Saints probably had a little egg on their faces.

    Those expecting Jim Haslett’s defense to protect a 21-6 second-quarter lead had to be really disappointed.

    Just when it appeared that Mike Shanahan’s club was going to cruise to a win at St. Louis, Washington seemingly let one get away as the Rams came all the way back for a 31-28 victory.

    It was another solid showing for Griffin, who threw an interception but totaled 206 yards through the air and a score. He also rushed for 82 yards and two touchdowns as the Redskins’ ground game (176 yards) had another big outing.

    Still, Haslett’s defense couldn’t get to Rams quarterback Sam Bradford often enough. He was sacked just twice while throwing for three touchdowns. More than half of his 310 yards and 26 completions were to wideout Danny Amendola, who had 15 catches for 160 yards and a score.

    While any loss stings, blowing a 15-point lead makes this one even more disappointing.

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