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Saints' continued demise the top surprise of Week 2

A year ago, the New Orleans Saints were the NFL's surprise team with the surprise offense.

One season later ... well, nothing has really changed.

At 0-2, the Saints have surprised any number of league observers who considered them the cream of a not-so-impressive NFC crop. And with an offense that has produced a mere two touchdowns in two games, the Saints, indeed, have sent shockwaves with their struggles to reach the end zone.

Adding to the concern surrounding their slow start is this: It's one thing to lose a season opener at Indianapolis against the defending Super Bowl champion Colts, but it's quite another to suffer a 31-14 loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Yes, the same Bucs who were 4-12 last season and who began this year on the wrong end of a 20-6 defeat to the Seattle Seahawks.

You want more surprises? Week 2 had plenty, especially upsets. It also had some big-time performances, most of which occurred in those upsets.

A rundown of the day's noteworthy accomplishments follows:


Tampa Bay 31, New Orleans 14: The Saints have a familiar problem. They can't prevent big plays. Jason David, the new cornerback they acquired from Indianapolis, struggled in coverage as he did in the opener against the Colts. He was beaten on one of Joey Galloway's two touchdown receptions. Jeff Garcia, showing why Jon Gruden promptly made him his No. 1 quarterback after he was cut loose from Philadelphia, had little trouble finding openings in New Orleans' secondary, throwing for 243 yards. The Buccaneers also had little trouble creating running room for Cadillac Williams, who ran for 61 yards and a pair of scores. But what's up with the Saints' offense? Drew Brees threw for one touchdown to the lone New Orleans player who resembled what he was a year ago -- Marques Colston, who finished with eight receptions for 70 yards.

Cleveland 51, Cincinnati 45: Let's give Derek Anderson credit. For a team that isn't supposed to know whether it has a quarterback until rookie Brady Quinn gets his first chance to play in the regular season, Anderson did pretty well. He threw for 328 yards and five touchdowns. But let's face it: This was a game devoid of defense. It's notable that the Browns won, of course, because the Bengals were supposed to be the better team. Still, Cincinnati isn't going to go very far with such a porous defense (sound familiar?), which allowed Jamal Lewis to rush for 215 yards and a score. The same could be said for the Browns, who allowed Carson Palmer to throw for 401 yards and six touchdowns while giving up 118 yards on the ground to Rudi Johnson. After his team's horrendous season-opening loss against Pittsburgh, Browns coach Romeo Crennel needed this game to quiet mounting criticism about his leadership as well as persistent calls for Quinn to start.

Houston 34, Carolina 21: How great does the Texans' acquisition of Matt Schaub look now? Anyone who thought they paid too large a price (Houston swapped first-round picks with Atlanta last April and sent a pair of second-round picks -- in 2007 and 2008 -- to the Falcons in exchange for Michael Vick's backup) should be having serious second thoughts. Schaub has brought stronger leadership and a more decisive presence to the Texans' pocket than his predecessor, David Carr. He threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns against the Panthers. The performance completed a solid day by another key Texan pickup, former Packer running back Ahman Green, who ran for 71 yards and a score. It's worth mentioning that Carr's former teammates didn't do any favors for his chances of becoming Carolina's starting quarterback any time soon. Jake Delhomme threw for 307 yards and three touchdowns.

Green Bay 35, N.Y. Giants 13: First conclusion: Brett Favre still has it. Yes, yes, the strength of this Packers' team is its defense, which did a nice job of preventing Eli Manning from overcoming his sore shoulder and having another prolific performance as he did in a season-opening loss to the Dallas Cowboys. But Favre's ageless throwing arm was the story, as he shredded the Giants for 286 yards and three touchdowns on the way to becoming the winningest quarterback in NFL history. It should be mentioned that the Giants' defense, as it demonstrated in Week 1, is awful. Still, Favre did what a good quarterback should do against an awful defense.

San Francisco 17, St. Louis 16: The 49ers are still playing it safe on offense. They're not asking Alex Smith to do a whole lot with his arm. He barely did anything against the Rams (126 passing yards, no touchdowns) other than manage a close game fairly well, with the exception of a fumble. Niners coach Mike Nolan put the offense in the hands of Frank Gore, who despite his mother's passing earlier in the week generated a strong 81 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Nolan's defense was impressive, especially rookie linebacker Patrick Willis, who was credited with a team-high eight tackles and a pass defense. Although Marc Bulger threw for 368 yards and a touchdown, he was unable to do much damage. And it didn't help that his banged-up offensive line struggled mightily, allowing six sacks and providing little running room for Steven Jackson (60 yards on 21 carries).

Arizona 23, Seattle 20: This was a complete team victory, which is a clear sign of how much the Cardinals are maturing and progressing under the leadership of new coach Ken Whisenhunt. The decisive play came on defense, as linebacker Gerald Hayes forced a fumble that Darnell Dockett recovered at the Seattle 46-yard line with less than two minutes remaining. That set up Neil Rackers' winning 43-yard field goal with one second left. In addition to their defense and special teams, the Cards also got a huge game out of Edgerrin James, who ran for 128 yards and a touchdown. Matt Leinart was solid, throwing for 299 yards and a score. Russ Grimm, Arizona's new offensive line coach, has his blockers playing exceptionally well, especially in pass protection.


» Detroit: The Lions showed plenty of grit in their 20-17 overtime victory against Minnesota. Their defense flustered young Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who threw four interceptions. The Lions also did a nice job of containing rookie running back Adrian Peterson, who finished with only 66 yards and did not reach the end zone. Jon Kitna was solid, continuing to do a nice job of operating a strong passing game that made up for what Detroit lacked on the ground, which was plenty. Color this 2-0 start promising, but shaky.

» Green Bay: With a strong defense and a youthful-looking Favre, the Packers have every reason to believe that they are a true contender. Color this 2-0 start legitimate.

» Houston: With Schaub at quarterback and Green in the backfield, the Texans are taking on the look of a playoff-caliber team. Color this 2-0 start intriguing.

» San Francisco: Two weeks, two nail-biting victories. The 49ers' defense looks for real. That was an explosive Rams team it held in check. It's hard to get a read on Smith or on how the Niners' coaching staff views his abilities, which certainly seemed more impressive last year when Norv Turner was San Francisco's offensive coordinator. At some point, he'll need to contribute much more. Color this 2-0 start shaky.

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