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What we learned from Sunday's nine early games

  • By NFL.com
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DeSean Jackson isn't just making the big plays. He's making the tough plays. He's catching passes over the middle.

None were bigger and tougher than Jackson's 49-yard catch Sunday, before Ed Reed leveled him. Jackson is a more complete receiver. He's playing tougher, and we're not just saying that because he's getting in post-play scraps.

Here's what else we learned during Sunday's early games:

Philadelphia Eagles 24, Baltimore Ravens 23

On NFL Replay
NFL Replay
will re-air the Philadelphia Eagles' 24-23 win over the Baltimore  Ravens in Week 2 on Tuesday, Sept. 18 at 9:30 p.m. ET.

" NFL Network schedule

» The Ravens surprisingly didn't use the no-huddle offense that much. Joe Flacco was completely out of sync in the second half; we give the Eagles' defense most of the credit.

» Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron surprisingly went away from Ray Rice for long stretches despite the running back dominating the game. (He had 99 yards on 16 touches.)

» Michael Vick won't survive an entire season taking this many hits. (Or turning over the ball so much.) However, he deserves credit for his late-game heroics.

» Vick will continue to take hits because his offensive line is banged up.

-- Gregg Rosenthal


Arizona Cardinals 20, New England Patriots 18

» Kevin Kolb deserves credit for being on the winning side, but he left too many plays on the field. He's simply not a consistent quarterback.

» Wes Welker didn't have his first catch for the Patriots until after the 2-minute warning of the first half. Welker's playing time might have been considerably less had tight end Aaron Hernandez not been injured.

» Fairly remarkable the Cardinals went into Foxborough and beat the Patriots despite getting only one catch and 4 yards out of Larry Fitzgerald.

» The Cardinals make big plays on special teams, don't they? Quentin Groves did a great job beating his man and blocking a Zoltan Mesko punt in the third quarter. The play led to a touchdown that put the Cardinals ahead for good.

-- Dan Hanzus


New York Giants 41, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34

On NFL Replay
NFL Replay
will re-air the New York Giants' 41-34 win over the Tampa Bay  Buccaneers in Week 2 on Tuesday, Sept. 18 at 8 p.m. ET.

" NFL Network schedule

» Hakeem Nicks' 199-yard receiving effort was especially impressive when you remember he effectively played on one foot.

» Risky, borderline-boneheaded blitz call by Bucs coach Greg Schiano, who sent the house in the fourth quarter and left the ancient Ronde Barber in single coverage with Victor Cruz. 80 yards later, Cruz was doing the salsa.

» Tampa Bay's defense just collapsed down the stretch. The Giants made halftime adjustments for which Schiano's defense had no answers. Victor Cruz and Nicks combined for 378 receiving yards. How can this happen?

» The Giants won't defend their title without some help from the injury gods. Ahmad Bradshaw (neck), David Diehl (knee) and Dominick Hixon (neck) all were knocked out in the first half.

-- Dan Hanzus


Carolina Panthers 35, New Orleans Saints 27

» Cam Newton was sensational on the ground and through the air. Carolina's passing attack looks a lot more dangerous with wide receiver Brandon LaFell pairing with Steve Smith as a legitimate No. 2 receiver.

» The Saints' defense is playing so poorly that Drew Brees has to be perfect to win. Brees has made a handful of mental errors in successive weeks. Early in the game, he forced a pass that was returned for a touchdown.

» Brees got hit a lot in this game, including on the interception that essentially ended New Orleans' chances.

» Jimmy Graham and Lance Moore dropped wide-open, potential touchdown passes early in the game.

» The Saints' defense is sick of facing young quarterbacks who can run. Defensive cooordinator Steve Spagnuolo looked confused and simply not tough enough on many Panthers runs.

-- Gregg Rosenthal


Indianapolis Colts 23, Minnesota Vikings 20

» The Vikings are actively trying to get the ball in Percy Harvin's hands. He was targeted in the pass game more than twice of any other receiver. He also ran the ball and returned kickoffs.

» Colts starting center Samson Satele left the game just before halftime with a knee injury and did not return. The offensive line already struggles and is banged up. It hurts to lose one of the top free-agent acquisitions from this offseason.

-- Kareem Copeland


Miami Dolphins 35, Oakland Raiders 13

» The Dolphins' offense goes as running back Reggie Bush goes. He had the second-most rushing yards of his career as the Dolphins scored 35 points. Miami reached the 35-point plateau only once in 2011.

» Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill improved from Week 1, when he threw four interceptions. He threw the ball extremely well on out-routes this time.

» Tannehill and wide receiver Brian Hartline seem to have clicked. The two played pitch-and-catch all over the Raiders' defense. Hartline looks healthy after he missed all four preseason games with a calf injury.

-- Kareem Copeland


Houston Texans 27, Jacksonville Jaguars 7

» The Jaguars' offense couldn't get out of its own way. Penalties sabotaged drives, and Blaine Gabbert continues to struggle with receiver chemistry.

» Different story for Matt Schaub and the Texans, who used a short passing game early, before running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate took over to combine for 184 yards. Nothing makes Schaub more dangerous than this ground game.

» Jacksonville's 43 yards in the first half were the third-lowest single-half total in franchise history.

» The Jaguars sorely missed linebacker Daryl Smith. This team has issues with group tackling. Foster waltzed in untouched on a first-half backside cutoff run that gave the Texans an early lead. Everyone in the house knew Foster was getting the rock -- it didn't matter.

» Jacksonville sputtered through five three-and-outs at one stage. It wasn't just Gabbert, who ultimately left with a hamstring injury. This offensive line left Gabbert in a collapsing pocket all afternoon.

-- Marc Sessler


Cincinnati Bengals 34, Cleveland Browns 27

» It was a far better (and more hopeful) showing by Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, who spread the ball around to eight targets and didn't throw a pick. Weeden's 322 passing yards were a Browns rookie record.

» Cleveland's defensive backfield -- which sorely missed cornerback Joe Haden -- lined up deep all day in fear of Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green. Didn't matter. Andy Dalton still connected with Green on two long touchdown passes and threw a third to Andrew Hawkins. The Bengals' young wideouts are an intriguing stew.

» Give props to Adam Jones for his first-quarter, 81-yard punt-return touchdown, but Cleveland's shoddy special teams deserves the blame. We saw four defenders bunched up around Jones as he fielded the ball. Once past them, he was history.

» Trent Richardson looked game-ready -- and then some. The rookie ran lower than he did against the Eagles in Week 1 and tore up the Bengals for 109 yards on the ground. Richardson's 23-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter was a thing of beauty. Scary to think where he'll be in a month or two.

-- Marc Sessler


Buffalo Bills 35, Kansas City Chiefs 17

» It has taken a while, but C.J. Spiller is starting to look like a star. The kid is electric when he's in the open field.

» No team has been more disappointing through two weeks than the Chiefs. Their defense was supposed to carry them, but they couldn't stop Spiller, who ran for 123 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns, and gave up too many big plays through the air.

» This is the recipe for the Bills. Their pass rush was unleashed with a big early lead. The defense and special teams chipped in, so Ryan Fitzpatrick didn't have to do too much. He threw just 19 passes.

» Chiefs tight end Kevin Boss took a scary hit to the head and did not return.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

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