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NFL: Surprise Defeat For Seahawks And Forty Niners

football

Week two of the NFL season is now behind us, and the unpredictability factor rages on. A lot of teams considered to be Super Bowl contenders lost again this week, as the New Orleans Saints, San Francisco Forty-Niners and Seattle Seahawks all lost. We’ll review five of the biggest games here.

Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers (7-24)

One of the big question marks hanging over the Carolina Panthers during the off-season was who would Cam Newton be able to throw the ball to. It didn’t look like such a problem this weekend, as Greg Olsen was open time and again for the Panthers. First-round draft selection Kelvin Benjamin made the most of the two passes that came his way, while Jason Avant and Jerricho Catchery put up solid numbers. If those guys keep getting open, the Panthers will go a long way. Cam looked good, despite missing last week’s win over the Tampa Bay Bucanneers, and maybe it was no bad thing that backup Derek Anderson played well down there to pressure Newton. Carolina struggled to establish their run game, and the likelihood is that teams will dare them to throw the ball. If the Panthers can continue to exploit defenses with less coverage, then retaining their NFC South crown is a distinct possibility.

One score in four quarters of football is a poor return for an offense that the Detroit Lions possess. They turned the ball over in the red zone, while also missing two field goals. The Lions even led after scoring their touchdown, but turning the ball over three times in Carolina is a recipe for disaster. After looking so good against the New York Giants in week one, this was a very disappointing second outing for Detroit. Both Joique Bell and Reggie Bush had good run averages against a Panthers team shorn of Greg Hardy, but they received just sixteen carries between them. Admittedly Bell’s fumble hardly made him deserving of more touches, but this Lions team will struggle until it finds a balance. The defensive line impressed, as they tried to take away the running game, but the secondary gave up too many key plays to a Panthers receiver core that is far from frightening overall.

Atlanta Falcons at Cincinnati Bengals (10-24)

The Cincinnati Bengals had to overcome staggering offensive losses to win this one, as AJ Green, Kevin Zeitler and Alex Smith left the game early, joining starting receivers Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert on the sideline. Add to that the three missed field-goals from kicker Mike Nugent, and it is a wonder they managed to win at all, let alone by two touchdowns. It was this game that showed that the Bengals strengths lie in the trenches, where they were able to overwhelm the Atlanta Falcons defensive line to provide running room, while they breezed past the Falcons offensive line and put Matt Ryan under huge pressure. Assuming AJ Green doesn’t miss too much game time, the Bengals look well placed to make a run at the championship. They even found a new backup quarterback, with receiver Mohamed Sanu completing a fifty-yard pass.

The Falcons clearly want to be a physically dominant team like the Bengals. That’s why they spent the majority of the off-season trying to beef up their linemen. Clearly though, a lot of work needs to be done in this regard. In mitigation, they had lost both of their starting offensive tackles for this game, which partly explains why Matt Ryan was forced into throwing three picks, stalling the offense throughout. Still though, you would have to consider it somewhat of a missed opportunity for the Falcons to secure a big road win. They have to get better at winning games played outside of domes.

Seattle Seahawks at San Diego Chargers (21-30)

A big win for the San Diego Chargers here. Not only did they beat the Seattle Seahawks, the reigning Super Bowl champions, but they did it by throwing the football. While their claims that Richard Sherman was exposed seem like a stretch, they did pick apart the Legion of Boom. In particular they worked on Kam Chancellor, who was generally in coverage on Antonio Gates. The veteran tight-end scored three touchdowns, showing that the toughest thing for a defense to get right is covering a quality tight-end. Philip Rivers beat their vaunted pass rush by releasing the ball quickly, and in the end Seattle had no answer for the Chargers offense. Eddie Royal had an impressive outing, catching seven passes for 69 yards, helping to ease the pressure on Keenan Allen.

The sad fact for Seattle is that the score should have been even worse, as Percy Harvin’s huge running touchdown should have been ruled out as he stepped out of bounds. It’s a tough loss for Seattle, but there’s no shame in losing a road game to a side who made the playoffs last year. They had no answer for Antonio Gates, and it would be fair to expect other sides to test Kam Chancellor and company in the coming weeks. Does the Seahawks secondary really have a weakness? Nobody would have said so before Sunday. It’s also a rarity to see the ‘hawks lose the turnover battle, but they did here.

Chicago Bears at San Francisco Forty-Niners (28-20)

The numbers in this win for the Chicago Bears are crazy. Jay Cutler throws four touchdowns, but only 176 yards total. Jay Cutler outrushed Matt Forte, but the Bears run game only managed 46 yards total. No Bears receiver topped fifty yards gained, while the Bears only converted a third of their third downs. Chicago were seventeen points in arrears at one stage. It’s fair to say, then, that this win was partially down to Chicago’s resilience and Brandon Marshall’s wonderful natural ability (despite playing through injury), but also were handed their opportunities by the opposition. But the Bears didn’t blink, and took all the chances that came their way to sneak out with the win. Rookie Kyle Fuller’s two interceptions were the difference-makers.

How many San Francisco Forty-Niners fans wish they could move back to Candlestick Park after that? They handed that game to the Bears while they were still in complete control. Colin Kaepernick’s three picks were all very poor, while he also lost a fumble. The young quarterback put his defense in horrible position after horrible position, but they also accumulated a lot of flags which maintained drives for the Bears. And still, they were only a Michael Crabtree lost catch (and a successful two-point conversion) away from tying the game. A bad night all around for San Francisco.

Philadelphia Eagles at Indianapolis Colts (30-27)

The Philadelphia Eagles mounted their second successive comeback on Monday Night Football, coming back from 6-20 down to win with a late Cody Parkey field goal. Darren Sproles was the key to all of this, taking seven receptions for 152 yards. Sproles is so elusive in one-on-one situations, and the defense had no answer for him all night. He also added 26 yards on four rushing attempts, and adding that to the 102 total yards LeSean McCoy had, you see why the Eagles were able to rack up points late in the game. Yet they also defended well, with the secondary keeping the opposing receivers in front of them, preventing any explosive catch-and-run plays.

The Indianapolis Colts will feel they left this one behind them, no doubt. They really struggled for offense in the second-half, having to settle for dink-and-dunk passes. TY Hilton’s six receptions were for 65 yards, but his longest was 16. Taking away Indy’s deep threat was massive for the Eagles. The running game functioned a lot better in the new committee, but Trent Richardson gave up an easy fumble at a key point. Even when he’s having a good night, things don’t go right for him. Really though, you would have to say that this defense isn’t good enough right now to get the Colts any further than a divisional title. Maybe not even that far, because they are already in a hole chasing the Houston Texans.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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