As other professional sports leagues march ahead with their altered schedules, the NFL train is rolling right along like normal. The league looks a little different, only a few NFL fans are allowed in select stadiums, and it feels a little different, with strict safety protocols, yet the product on the field remains as thrilling as ever. Most importantly, players and personnel are staying safe. In the NFL’s most recent press release, they announced that in their latest round of testing, from September 13-19, there were zero new positive cases among 14,074 total tests from players and only five new cases among team personnel.
The biggest news from Week Two of the NFL season is the staggering amount of injuries. Since the dawn of football, injuries have been a part of the game, but you would be hard-pressed to remember a week where so many significant players were lost to damaging injuries. Hit the hardest were the San Francisco 49ers.
While the reigning NFC champions still crushed the Jets, San Francisco was dealt multiple nasty injuries. Nick Bosa, one of the league’s best edge rushers, was upended by the Jets offensive line and tore his ACL. Another stalwart on the 49ers defense, Solomon Thomas, also tore his ACL during the game. As with ACL tears, both Bosa and Thomas are out for the remainder of the 2020 season. Further, running backs Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert have mild knee sprains, which will sideline them for multiple weeks.
No one was safe from injuries ravaging the entire NFL. The New York Giants lost their superstar running back Saquon Barkley for the season with a torn ACL. Anthony Barr, Pro Bowl linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings, is lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. A torn ACL also finishes the season for linebacker Bruce Irvin, the last remnant of the Seattle Seahawks legendary Legion of Boom. The Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers couldn’t escape the devastation either, losing quarterback Drew Lock (rotator cuff strain) and running back Christian McCaffrey (high ankle sprain) for 4-6 weeks.
While the list of high-profile injuries dominated headlines, there was still a plethora of exciting football games played this past weekend. Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson continued rolling in dominant wins for the Cardinals and Ravens. The Kansas City Chiefs kicker nailed a 58-yard field goal to narrowly avoid an upset loss and the Las Vegas Raiders opened Allegiant Stadium with a victory on Monday Night Football. Here are some of the best and worst performances of Week Two.
Once again, the Green Bay Packers turned in one the best performances of the week. For the second week in a row, the Packers scored over 40 points, defeating the Detroit Lions 42-21. Green Bay overcame an early 14-3 deficit in the first quarter, leaning heavily on running back Aaron Jones. Jones had a career day, running for 168 yards on 18 carries, including a 75 yard run to start the third quarter. He rushed for two touchdowns and caught a third from quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers cooled a little after last week’s magnificent performance, throwing 18-30 for 240 yards and hitting Jones and tight end Robert Tonyan for two touchdowns. Cornerback Chandon Sullivan claimed the Packers final touchdown, returning a Matthew Stafford pick-6. The Packers start the season 2-0, as they did in last season’s 13-3 campaign.
The Buffalo Bills survived both the Miami Dolphins and a lengthy lightning delay on Sunday, defeating their division rivals 31-28. Quarterback Josh Allen carried the Bills, notching career highs with 417 yards and four touchdowns. Allen spread the wealth around, hitting tight end Reggie Gilliam and wide receivers Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, and John Brown in the endzone. This was Diggs’ first touchdown with the Buffalo Bills. The Bills held off a late Dolphins rally to advance to 2-0, Buffalo hoping to win the division without Tom Brady for the first time in 20 years.
The Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots played another exciting game on Sunday night. Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson continued to be electric, throwing 21-28 for 288 yards and five touchdowns. Wilson used Seattle’s dynamic offense to get everyone involved, flinging each touchdown was to a different receiver. D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are a terrific deep threat duo and sure enough, they raced past New England’s elite cornerback Stephon Gilmore. However, the Patriots brought their best game too. Quarterback Cam Newton rushed for two touchdowns and New England had a chance for a game-winning drive in typical Patriot fashion. The Patriots had enough time and enough timeouts to march 80 yards down the field and reach the 1-yard line with :03 seconds left. Newton tried rushing the ball in himself, but the Seattle defense stuffed him to end the game. It was an exciting win for the Seahawks, needing every win they can secure in the highly competitive NFC West.
The most crushing loss of Week Two has to belong to the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons scored two touchdowns and two field goals in the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys, taking a 20-0 lead with them into the second and a 29-10 lead into halftime. The Cowboys responded well in the third quarter and quarterback Dak Prescott ran for two touchdowns, bringing the score to 29-24. Despite the Falcons scoring another 10 points, Dallas would not quit. With under five minutes to go in the game, the Cowboys scored another two touchdowns and gave themselves a chance to recover the onside kick. Four Falcons special teams players surrounded the onside kick, but inexplicably, not one of them picked up the football, so Dallas pounced on it, securing one more crucial possession and kicker Greg Zuerlein nailed the game-winning kick as time expired. If the Falcons had simply picked up the ball, they would have won. Perhaps they forgot the rules, perhaps they thought the ball wasn’t going to travel 10 yards; either way, the Falcons blew a colossal lead. It is not a good look for Head Coach Dan Quinn, who’s job was already in jeopardy.
Another team struggling this season is the Minnesota Vikings. After getting blown out by Green Bay last week, the Vikings lost to the Indianapolis Colts 28-11. The Vikings defense simply got picked apart by an elite quarterback in Aaron Rodgers last Sunday. This week, it was simple too. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was plain awful. Cousins was just 11-26 with a meager 113 yards. Plus, he threw three interceptions and was tackled in the endzone for a safety. Cousins finished the game with a 15.9 quarterback rating, an ugly number capping off an ugly performance. Although Minnesota traded away Stefon Diggs in the offseason, the Vikings offense still has wide receiver Adam Thielen and running back Dalvin Cook. There is no excuse for Cousins’ poor play, especially for the money he is making. Kirk Cousins still has two years remaining on his current contract for $66 million guaranteed.