There are defining moments in every season. Some of those moments can be good, some can be bad, but those moments rarely come in September.
The Buccaneers are 2-0, and should be proud, but their team is a long way from being defined. The same can be said for the Chiefs and the Bears. But for the Houston Texans, September has been their defining moment, one that will propel them from the team with a great offense to a tough-minded, well-rounded squad. It started with a convincing win against the Colts and then a come-from-way-behind victory on the road against the Redskins. And that Week 2 win was one for the ages.
Often, I hear coaches say, "We need to go away to camp to help unify the team, to build chemistry to unify the team." Why do teams need to go away to build unity with players that probably won't be on the team? To me, building team unity, bonding a team, developing chemistry happens when you come from behind on the road to win. There is no greater feeling in life than walking off the field to the sounds of silence from the home crowd after a comeback victory.
The Texans had their defining moment Sunday, after coming from behind 27-10 on the road to beat the Redskins. Winning on the road has never been easy for the Texans, but yesterday they found a way to win a game that in the past they would have let get away. This was their first overtime win in eight games as a franchise. Once the old Texans got behind especially late in the game, they never seem to have the toughness, the resolve, the determination to keep playing. But all that is in the past, as the Texans 2010 are tough, they have the never give up mentality and they now know they can win any game, anywhere, no matter what happens.
The NFL's sleeping giant has always been the Texans, a talented team with questionable toughness and resolve to finish games. But the giant is awake and the rest of the league has taken notice.
» When Ben Roethlisberger's suspension was revealed, everyone thought the Steelers would have to fight and claw to win one or two games while their star quarterback was out. Coach Mike Tomlin has used an "us against the world" rallying cry without Big Ben, and along with an incredible defense, the Steelers have started 2-0. Great call by Tomlin on the reverse to open the game, which gave the Steelers an early lead.
» Michael Vick's 69th career start at quarterback was memorable. He showed the same skills he had in the other 68 starts, and on the carpet in Detroit, was the fastest player on the field. His talents allowed the Eagles to run the ball (Vick and LeSean McCoy have combined for 295 rushing yards) the last two weeks and he has not thrown an interception to go with a 63.8 completion percentage, an incredible number for Vick.
» I never worried about Jay Cutler and the offense this offseason. I knew that Cutler and offensive coordinator Mike Martz would click and the Bears had enough talent to move the ball. Cutler showed his skills against the Cowboys, but he also showed great toughness, consistently getting hit to hang in the pocket and make some sensational throws. Chicago's offensive line is subpar, but when Cutler has some time, he will be hard to defend.
» The Dolphins are one of my favorite teams to watch on tape. They are tough, physical and their execution is remarkable. They won their second straight road game with an impressive defensive showing, especially in the red zone. Cornerback Jason Allen had two picks, but this was a total team effort. It illustrated to the rest of the league that Miami and all of its young defensive talent is going to be tough to beat.
» What a difference six days can make in the life of Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. Last week, he looked so bad against the Ravens, and then so good against the Patriots on Sunday, attacking their young secondary and trying to make plays as opposed to just trying not to turn the ball over. Sanchez must participate in the game, make plays and drive the offense, or the Jets will not be able to win with defense alone. He can build on the performance, but has to understand that there is a difference between being careful and being a playmaker.
» Just when I was convinced that Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had taken a huge step forward in his career, he laid a huge egg in Cincinnati. Where is the offense? Maybe more importantly, what is the identity on offense? They need to stop trying to spread the ball to their "name" receivers and start worrying about moving the ball.
» Vince Young is 9-3 in his last 12 games as a starter, but that is not the issue. The question is, can Vince Young move the ball passing, when the opponent has stopped Chris Johnson? Can Young handle the responsibility of winning? On Sunday, he showed he was a long way from being the man who can throw the ball effectively when the game is on the line. Young will be the starter against the Giants, against whom the Titans will be able to run the ball, thus helping Young look much better. However, this loss to the Steelers will linger in the minds of those who doubt Young's skills as a passer.
» All the concerns about the Dallas Cowboys reared their ugly head against the Bears. A missed field goal, questionable offensive line play and inconsistency in their secondary were all a part of the loss. Now the Cowboys have dug an 0-2 hole for themselves, but what is more alarming is their lack of execution on both sides of the ball. The Cowboys looked like a team that treated training camp like the primary goal was to make sure no players were injured, not to perfect their execution.
» Kurt Warner never played defense for the Arizona Cardinals, so his retirement should not have any bearing on their defensive effort. In Atlanta, the Cardinals were bad in every phase of the game. They could not convert third downs and allowed the Falcons to have 33 first downs. Yes, they miss Warner badly, but the defense has to show up no matter who plays quarterback.
On the lookout
» Demaryius Thomas started his Denver Broncos career with an impressive eight-catch, one-touchdown performance. His size and speed are impressive. Once he gets more comfortable with the pace of the game, he will be a great player.
» Coming off a three-sack game, you would have thought the Bills would have doubled teamed Clay Matthews on most plays. Instead, Buffalo chose to treat him as just another player and, for the second game in a row, Matthews recorded three more sacks. My sense from this point forward, most teams will be doubling Matthews.
Fantasy on the lookout
» The Chargers' Mike Tolbert is not just a fullback. He is a one-back power runner that the Chargers have been telling me would be a featured part of their offense. Tolbert flashed that power in Kansas City last week and showed he could fill the role as the main runner when Ryan Mathews was injured against the Jaguars. Tolbert is a beast and when coach/play-caller Norv Turner gets a big back who can break tackles, he will make sure to feature him. In Seattle in Week 3, Tolbert will be huge.
Off the beaten track
» The Patriots are a young team, which means they will make mistakes as the year goes along. The loss to the Jets was part of that growing process that, if they continue to practice and grow, will benefit them in November and December.
» James Jones is the other receiver in Green Bay, but he is really good. Once the ball is in his hands, he might be the best yards-after-the-catch receiver in the league.
» For all the talk about the problems with the Vikings' offense, I wonder what has happened to their vaunted run defense. In New Orleans, the Saints were able to run the ball late in the game and the Dolphins averaged over 4 yards per carry on Sunday. There are more problems in Minnesota than just lacking wide receivers.
» The Giants are too slow and lack quickness on defense to handle the speed of a good passing team. The Colts ran the ball well, but the Giants' lack of speed at linebacker and safety has worried before and, after this game, worry me even more now. ...
» Cleveland's next seven games: At Baltimore, Cincinnati, Atlanta, at Pittsburgh, at New Orleans, New England and the New York Jets. Can the Browns win one of these games? I really doubt they can, as they are one of the slowest teams in the league, on both sides of the ball. ...
» Putting in Bruce Gradkowski might have saved Tom Cable's job with a win over the Rams. After six quarters of Jason Campbell, Cable had seen enough and went to the player that best fit his offense. Now, Campbell has lost his job and all the hoopla about him saving the Raiders was just talk. ...
» Has there been a worse team when traveling to the West Coast than the Jaguars. Last year, they were outscored 61-3 by the Seahawks and 49ers combined. On Sunday, they were no match for the Chargers. For me, the best evaluation of where you are as a team is how you play on the road, and the Jags are a long way from being a good team. ...
» Winters are long in Buffalo, but this might be an even longer one as the Bills are bad -- really bad. ...
» I like that the Bears are using Devin Hester more like Wes Welker and less like Randy Moss. All Chicago has to do is get the ball into Hester's hands and a big play can happen. Throw the deep ball to Johnny Knox, let Hester catch and run. ...
» If Kevin Kolb does not start fast at Jacksonville, he won't finish the game. Vick's play has forced coach Andy Reid into having a short rope around Kolb. Clearly the offense is better with Vick than at any time they have been with Kolb. ...
» The Chiefs are not beating themselves and playing it smart on both sides of the ball, proving the theory that force the other team to beat you, don't beat yourself. ...
» Follow me on Twitter @michaelombardi.