Observations from a rainy Sunday watching the NFL:
*The NFC West, like last year, just isn’t very good. The Seahawks showed nothing, and did nothing, in a 24-0 loss at Pittsburgh. They generated just eight first downs, and 164 yards total. The Steelers ran up 421 yards and didn’t have a turnover against Seattle, a week after turning the ball over seven times in a blowout loss at Baltimore. Seattle is my early favorite to be the worst team in the league, although its record might not reflect that because of the division.
*We saw last week that the Rams have trouble getting over the hump and succeeding late in games. We saw that Sunday with Arizona and San Francisco, too. At FedEx Field, the Cardinals took a 21-13 lead on Kevin Kolb’s 73-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald with 10:58 left. Arizona allowed Washington to take over from there, with the Redskins scoring the final 11 points of the game in the last 5:17 to pull out a 22-21 win. From the time of Fitzgerald’s touchdown to Graham Gano’s winning field goal with 1:45 to go, the Redskins outgained the Cardinals 121-3 and outscored them 11-0.
In a late game at San Francisco, the 49ers knocked Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo out of the game with broken ribs, but couldn’t stop Romo at crunch time. David Akers kicked a 55-yard field goal to give San Francisco a 24-14 lead with 11:16 to go. From that point on, Romo led the Cowboys to 201 yards and 13 points in a 27-24 Cowboys win. Like Arizona, the 49ers simply crumbled down the stretch, and fell to 1-1.
With the losses by the rest of the division, the Rams can tie Arizona and San Francisco for first with a win over the Giants.
*We aren’t the only ones who don’t know all the rules. After Fred Jackson of Buffalo went over from the 1-yard line to give the Bills a fourth-quarter lead over the Raiders, Oakland coach Hue Jackson threw his red replay flag. Once he did, the referee threw his orange flag. With the new rule that every scoring play is reviewed, a coach can’t ask for a review. If he does, it’s a 15-yard penalty. And it was, against Jackson.
Speaking of Buffalo, isn’t Ryan Fitzpatrick another piece of evidence that Mike Martz knows quarterbacks? Martz drafted “Harvard” in his final draft as Rams coach, and Fitzpatrick now has the Bills at 2-0 and playing great offense. They scored 41 at Kansas City in the opener, and 38 against the Raiders in their home opener.
Perhaps scoring 41 against the Chiefs is no big deal. Kansas City has been outscored 89-10 in its first two games. The Chiefs have lost their best defensive player, Eric Berry, and their best offensive player, Jamaal Charles, with season-ending knee injuries. It could be a loooonng year across the state.
*Credit is due not only to Cam Newton, who is off to the best passing start of any rookie in NFL history, but to the Panthers’ coaching staff. It takes some guts to let a rookie air it out, and they understand what they have in Newton and are letting it rip. He’s been magnificent so far.
*With Peyton Manning out of commission, Josh Freeman is right now the best clutch quarterback in the NFL. Freeman has 14 career wins as an NFL quarterback. Eight of those have come when the Bucs went ahead in the fourth quarter or overtime. Tampa Bay trailed Minnesota 17-0 at halftime, but exploded for two touchdowns in the last 6:39 to pull out the win.
*The team that beat the Bucs last week, Detroit, looks like it is for real. I didn’t think Matthew Stafford would be this effective, but he’s been superb. Stafford is 47 of 72 for 599 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions so far. If he stays healthy, Detroit, with its defense, can beat anyone. The Lions are 2-0 and alone atop the NFC North.
*Finally, next week’s Rams opponent, Baltimore, looked quite beatable in a 26-13 loss at Tennessee. Matt Hasselbeck threw for 358 yards and a touchdown, and the Titans defense allowed the Ravens only 229 yards. Maybe the Ravens were feeling it after their big win over the Steelers last week, and maybe the Titans are better than we think. But Ray Rice didn’t look sharp, Anquan Boldin dropped a sure touchdown pass, and most important the Ravens defense looked slow in the loss. The way Josh McDaniels prepares to attack each team’s weaknesses, that might give the Rams a chance. Of course, the Rams have to stop someone’s running game before we can pick them to win any game.