Every week there are so many interesting storylines that unfold from the games that they are worth exploring. Here are the subjects that intrigued me as we wrap up Week 2 in the NFL.
1. The Brady-Cassel comparison
Tom Brady has three Super Bowl rings and is considered one of the best players in the NFL, so comparing Matt Cassel to Brady is a bit ridiculous -- but comparing their points of entry into the Patriot program is worth a peek.
Brady came off the bench when Drew Bledsoe went down in a 2001 home game against the Jets, and went 5-for-10 for 46 yards in a loss. Cassel came off the bench for Brady in this year's home opener against the Chiefs and went 13-for-18 for 152 yards and won. In Brady's first start the following week, he went 13-for-23 for 168 yards with no touchdowns, no interceptions and the Patriots beat the Colts. It looks like Belichick dusted off that game plan for Cassel, because in his first start he went 16-for-23 for 165 yards with no touchdowns, no interceptions and the Patriots won.
Brady had a bad day in his second start, going 12-for-24 for 86 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions and 4 sacks in a loss. What lies ahead for Cassel? It took Brady more than 50 pass attempts in the NFL before he hit on his first touchdown pass; Cassel already has three in his first 56 throws. Cassel has a long way to go before he can be compared to the great Tom Brady, but the Patriots are now 2-0 and it may say an awful lot for the value of training a guy in a system and giving him time to learn.
2. What happened to home-field advantage?
Home teams went 5-9 this week, with the Cowboys hosting one final Week 2 game. Home teams with a lead at halftime win 80 percent of the time -- which makes the Vikings' loss to the Colts after leading 15-0 at home even more frustrating. Jacksonville and Seattle were both considered preseason selections to be playoff teams, but both teams are so ravaged by injuries that not even home field could get them a win.
3. Half full or half empty?
The Broncos' defense has given up 52 points in two games; New England is trying to win without Brady; the Steelers still need to find a way to better protect QB Ben Roethlisberger; the Panthers are making a living on late-game heroics; Kerry Collins is under center for the Titans; and, as always, injuries lurk just around the corner. It's great to see the fast starts, but no one has made the playoffs just yet.
4. Hit the road, rookie
Matt Ryan will be a franchise quarterback someday, but for now he's paying his dues to learn the pro game. It was interesting sitting with Dan Marino and Boomer Esiason while watching Ryan play his first road game this week. Both quarterbacks had their own memories of hitting the road early in their careers. After throwing a TD pass in his first career attempt and throwing no interceptions in a Week 1 win at home, Ryan threw two interceptions in his first nine throws (with no touchdowns) in his first road game. He was sacked just once in his home opener, and sacked four times on the road.
Ryan is one tough competitor but, as my QB friends pointed out, the noise of a visiting stadium, the tighter windows to throw the ball into and a running game that wasn't what it was at home will make the road trips a real learning experience. Baltimore rookie Joe Flacco didn't get to make his first road start because of Hurricane Ike, but it's safe to say it should be more of the same when the Ravens head to Pittsburgh in two weeks.
5. These decisions look pretty good now
The Packers were heavily criticized for the Brett Favre situation. The Steelers were not let off the hook for not re-signing Alan Faneca. Not many 49ers fans had ever heard of J.T. O'Sullivan before this season. The Redskins were under the microscope for subjecting Jason Campbell to yet another offensive scheme. And how could the Panthers ever suspend Steve Smith for two games with John Fox supposedly on the hot seat?
Two weeks into the season, there's not much to say right now about any of those decisions. Maybe it's time we learn that the clubs really do know what they are doing when it comes to managing thei team.
6. Week 2 Unsung Heroes
Note: For 10 years, I have been highlighting the NFL's Unsung Heroes -- bringing attention to the people behind the scenes that help make some of the extraordinary things happen in the NFL on any given weekend. At the end of the year, the Unsung Hero of the Year is presented a trophy made in the name of Chip Myers, a longtime NFL assistant coach and former player who passed away just days after he was elevated to his first coordinator position with the Minnesota Vikings. Chip was well respected by everyone in the coaching ranks and embodied all the virtues assistant coaches need to be successful. He was humble, a good teacher, a loyal friend and a tireless worker.
1. Josh McDaniels
Defensive coordinator, New England Patriots
What needs to be said about a young coordinator who loses Tom Brady in Week 1 and has the offense working well enough to win in Week 2 with a young QB making his first NFL start? Cassel looked well coached, the offensive game plan was effective and realistic, the Pats were 6 of 14 on third downs and won the time of possession battle against the Jets. There were no cries for a more experienced QB to be in there. McDaniels deserves much of the credit for the divisional road win.
2. Turk Schonert
Offensive coordinator, Buffalo Bills
The Bills are 2-0, and have scored 54 points with second-year QB Trent Edwards, who connected on 20 of 25 passes against the Jaguars defense while hitting eight different receivers. Schnonert was with me as a player at the Jets and he has a creative mind. He is building a solid reputation as a play-caller.
3. Jeff Davidson
Offensive coordinator, Carolina Panthers
Davidson has coordinated an offense that has beaten the Chargers on the road and the Bears at home without the services of its best player, Steve Smith. The numbers weren't pretty in Sunday's win, but the Panthers' offense battled back to win with a strong running game after being down 17-6 in the third quarter. Next week, the 2-0 Panthers get Smith back!
4. Lane Kiffin
Head coach, Oakland Raiders
Rarely do I praise a head coach in the Unsung Heroes segment, but I feel compelled to do so this week. Kiffin is the 33-year-old head coach of the Raiders who entered the road game against division-rival Kansas City with all the rumors about him being fired after the game, win or lose. There's enough pressure on every coach in the NFL without that added burden in Week 2 of the season. The Raiders won the game, they rushed for 300 yards, and converted 6 of 14 third downs. A rookie running back, practically a rookie quarterback, a left tackle who never played a down in the NFL, a beat-up receiver group and a 23-8 victory. Fire the coach?