NFL players and teams work hard to correct mistakes on a week-to-week basis. For those who did it successfully after Week 1 losses, things look very different today than they did a week ago, when it appeared the world was caving in. On the other hand, there were a few things this weekend that solidified notions I had after play was completed in Week 1.
Here's a look at six things from Sunday that caught my eye:
1. The bounce-back guys
The NFL is a cruel place for players who perform poorly. I don't care who the athlete is, the second he has a bad game, people are digging the hole to bury him. What makes NFL players special -- and probably the biggest reason some succeed -- is the ability to bounce back from horrendous performances. Media criticism, booing fans, and even some self-doubt have to be eliminated as part of the healing process. Four quarterbacks on Sunday went from one end of the spectrum to the other end in one week.
In Week 1, Kurt Warner, Matt Schaub, Jay Cutler and Jake Delhomme lost four games, combined to complete 68 of 130 passes (52.3 percent) for 804 yards, just two touchdowns and 11 interceptions, with 10 sacks. On the same day, Drew Brees had six touchdown passes by himself.
A week later, these same four players looked a whole lot different. Combined, they were 3-1, completing 101 of 144 passes (70.1 percent) for 1,144 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception, with just two sacks. Don't ever underestimate how mentally tough most NFL veteran quarterbacks really are.
2. What about the comeback kids?
When it comes to the art of the fourth-quarter comeback, two of the quarterbacks that do it best were asked to do it again on Sunday. Tom Brady is usually considered the best comeback QB in the NFL. He has 29 come-from-behind victories in his 129 NFL games, including the postseason. I could make a case for Ben Roethlisberger, with 20 comeback wins in his short 83-game career. Both guys fell short in Week 2. What was interesting to me wasn't the missed field goal in Pittsburgh or all the talking that went on during the week leading up to the Patriots-Jets game, but rather the defensive plans used to stop the comeback kids. The Jets and the Bears used a lot of pressure packages instead of "prevent" defenses. Rex Ryan used two six-man pressures and a seven-man pressure in the final New England drive. It was supposed to be a classic Brady drive but it fizzled. The Bears used a "mug" look on a few plays to hurry Roethlisberger on two consecutive plays. Bringing heat looks like the plan in 2009.
3. Forget the sophomore jinx
It is time to officially rule out the idea of a sophomore jinx for Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco. Both quarterbacks have led their teams to 2-0 records. I had the privilege on Sunday of sitting with Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino and watching these young men perform. We watched both young quarterbacks operate with the poise, precision and pocket awareness of a 10-year veteran. They rarely get sacked because their decision-making skills are so good. When you think about the Ravens and Falcons, can you already see them facing off in a Super Bowl? I can, and it might not be that far off in the future. It will not surprise me one bit if they both throw close to 30 touchdowns this year and lead their teams back into the playoffs. Ryan and Flacco already have five touchdown passes each, and are on pace for big things in 2009. Flacco didn't get his fifth TD pass last season until Week 9; Ryan got his fifth in Week 6.
4. Adding up the zeroes
Zero took on relevance in Week 2:
» Julius Peppers is paid more than $1 million a game. His combined sacks, tackles for a loss and hits on the QB: zero. Peppers had 64 plays against Atlanta to generate at least one big play and it didn't happen.
» Five teams -- the Raiders, texans, Bears, 49ers and Giants -- had zero turnovers, and they all won. Those clubs weren't exactly shoe-ins coming into the weekend, but not surrendering the ball helped the cause.
5. More than a passing machine
The Saints have scored 93 points in two games (46.5 per game) and they're doing it with more than just that prolific passing attack. Drew Brees' nine touchdown passes suggest the NFL record of 50 is within reach, but the running game is also impressive. New Orleans had 157 rushing yards in Week 1 and followed that with a 133-yard day against the Eagles. The Sainst are averaging 4.53 yards per carry. They are currently ranked seventh in the NFL in rushing average; last year, only four teams finished with a worse average.
Not only is the passing game helping the running game, it's also helping the defense. Through two games, the Saints have scored 22 first-quarter points and 24 second-quarter points. By halftime, opponents conclude they have to start throwing more. It didn't hurt the Saints' cause that the first two quarterbacks they faced were a rookie (Matt Stafford) and a backup (Kevin Kolb), neither of whom should be throwing a lot. But those players were forced to call 91 pass plays between them just to attempt to stay close to New Orleans. The Saints defense already has six interceptions in two games, which just puts that potent Saints offense back on the field.
6. Be worried ... be very, very worried
Defense used to be the backbone of the Buccaneers, but they have given up 900 yards in two games. Only the Houston Texans (910) have given up more. The Bucs allowed four plays of more than 40 yards in Week 1 and the Bills on Sunday built a game plan around that issue. As one coach said, "The Bucs started the fire and now they have to put it out." ... The Packers have an excellent passing attack with a rising star in QB Aaron Rodgers and terrific receivers, but they have problems at offensive tackle. Rodgers has been sacked 10 times, and when five come at home at the hands of Cincinnati's Antwan Odom, you just have to wonder what Minnesota's Jared Allen is going to do in two weeks. ... The Jaguars are struggling with two rookie tackles on offense and very little pass rush on defense. No quarterback should be able to do what Kurt Warner did, breaking an NFL record for completion percentage. ... Browns fans wanted Brady Quinn under center in the worst way last year and after two games he has been sacked nine times and has thrown just one touchdown pass in 66 attempts. It will not be long before the same fans that booed Derek Anderson will be calling for him to play again.