Week 2: Highlights, Lowlights, Disappointment, and Upset in the AFC North
Well, the picture at Soldier Field showed Steelers kicker Jeff Reed with a very different look on his face. An interesting Week Two for the AFC North has just finished unfolding, and it seems that expecting the unexpected is the theme for this 2009-2010 NFL season.
Looking at the upset first, the Cinncinati Bengals went up to Lambeau Field after a heartbreak loss at Denver last week looking to regain the spark they showed in the offseason and preseason. After an even more impressive preseason, and a hard-fought win against the Bears last week, Green Bay came into Sunday as the heavy favorites.
Unfortunately for the Packers, Carson Palmer came ready to play, as he threw for 3 TD's.
While not perfect, it was enough to secure the win, as the AFC North Defensive Player of the Week (most likely) DE Antwan Odom racked up five sacks on Aaron Rodgers and kept the Packers' offense out of sync. The other key difference was Cedric Benson, who ran all over a Packers Defense that kept Chicago's run stuffed up in Week One, racking up an impressive 141 yards.
Chad Ochocinco has to be happy today, as he got to keep his promise to do the Lambeau Leap after catching one of Palmer's three TD passes (which probably should have been censored, as Packers fans didn't appear to appreciate Ochocinco's antics). All in all, the Bengals have much to celebrate after an impressive upset win as they get ready to host the Steelers next week.
As for the lowlights, there are two really: one is the play of the Cleveland Browns, the other being the play of Jeff Reed. In the so-called "Belichick Bowl" between Eric Mangini's Browns and Josh McDaniels' Broncos, Kyle Orton looked fairly well polished as the Browns managed only two field goals in the first quarter and no other scores the rest of the game.
The Broncos finished the Browns off easily, as many Browns fans are feeling despondent for another season.
The Steelers headed into today's game excited, rested, and eager to start off their title defense 2-0. Unfortunately for them, the Bears put up more of a fight than many expected. Bears QB Jay Cutler looked much more relaxed and comfortable than he did in his disastrous season debut. Cutler kept the Bears in the game, even after Roethlisberger led the Steelers 92 yards for a TD on their opening drive.
In the end, the difference in the game was not the defenses, but rather missed field goals. Pittsburgh's game tying/winning hero, K Jeff Reed, missed on not one, but two field goal opportunities. Hitting either one would have probably forced OT, and hitting both would have won them the game.
In Reed's defense, the weather was dreary, and the field appeared to be completely messed up. Usually when wet, sodded ground will tear apart as cleats sink in. Instead, the field at Soldier Field seemed to repel cleats, causing slips by players on both teams.
Bears K Robbie Gould seemed unfazed by the turf, nailing a 41-yarder to win the game. The game should not be all doom and gloom for the Steelers, however. The running game got back off the ground (sorry for the bad pun), as the O-line looked far more polished. Rashard Mendenhall finally showed Steeler Nation why he was a first-round pick, after busting out a nice 39 yard run to help set up the Steelers 2nd TD.
As for the upset, in my opinion at least, it came in San Diego as the Ravens managed to keep Chargers QB Phillip Rivers under raps—literally. Rivers seemed to get hit after every single throw, as the Ravens' defense came through in a big way (see Ed Reed hitting Darren Sproles in the backfield on 4th-and-1 on the go-ahead for the win).
The offense was back to its Week One form for the Ravens, getting big production, putting up big points (31) on a team usually known for its overwhelming defense. Joe Flacco is continuing to get better, and it shows as the Ravens claim the top spot in the AFC North.
Heading into Week Three, there will be a lot of pressure on the Ravens to continue their dominance on both sides of the ball, as they look to continue to lead the division. The Bengals and Steelers, currently tied for second, will hash out the official second and third place seeds in the division next week (assuming the Ravens win against the last place, 0-2 Cleveland Browns). As for the Browns, they will most likely fall next week, keeping them in 4th, and the Ravens on top. As the saying goes, however, anything can happen on any given Sunday.
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