What We Learned

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2021 NFL season, Week 2: What we learned from Sunday's games

Around The NFL breaks down what you need to know from all of Sunday's action in Week 2 of the 2021 NFL season. Catch up on each game's biggest takeaways using the links below:

Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore Ravens
2021 · 1-1-0
Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs
2021 · 1-1-0

Grant Gordon's takeaways:

  1. A tale of two Lamars. Lamar Jackson's start on Sunday was a dubious one, as two interceptions in the first quarter matched the two fumbles he lost the previous week in a loss to the Raiders. But Jackson, on this night, was not to be denied and the finish was a glorious one. Despite his best efforts gone awry early, Jackson rallied his squad for about as important a Week 2 win as you can have. For the first time, Jackson led the Ravens past Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, accounting for three total touchdowns (all in the second half). For the fourth time, Jackson had more than 200 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in a game. Had things gone the other way, it would've been an 0-2 start for the Ravens and another loss to the reigning AFC champs. Jackson and Co. rebounded from a shaky start, went for the win and got it, as evidenced by Jackson's game-clinching fourth-down conversion on a 2-yard sneak to seal the victory a long time coming.
  2. Rookie turns the tide for good. In a game rife with big plays, one of the biggest came from Ravens rookie defensive end Odafe Oweh. The first-rounder poked away possession from Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and recovered it with 1:20 to go, giving the ball back to his offense for a chance to run out the victory. Baltimore's struggles with Kansas City have been well-documented (Jackson had lost his first three head-to-head meetings with Patrick Mahomes). Perhaps it was poetic that a new addition would pay dividends in the end. The selection of Oweh, who had a sack in the opener and three tackles and a QB hit Sunday, is already paying off big for the Ravens two games into his debut campaign.
  3. Tyrann Mathieu is feeling better. Making his season debut after he was lost for Week 1 due to a bout with COVID-19, Mathieu reminded everyone -- particularly Jackson -- just how impactful he can be. Missing in action for the Chiefs' first game, Mathieu made an emphatic return and intercepted Jackson on the third play from scrimmage for a 34-yard interception return for a score. Mathieu hauled in another pick later in the first stanza, this time in the end zone to end a Ravens scoring drive. Despite the loss, K.C.'s defense is much different and much better when the veteran Pro Bowler is back there.

Next Gen stat of the game: Lamar Jackson had +72 rush yards over expectation, the fifth-most in a game in his career (leads NFL with +1,416 RYOE since 2018).

NFL Research: With 107 yards and two scores on the ground, Lamar Jackson became the first QB in the Super Bowl era to log multiple career games with 100-plus rushing yards and two-plus rushing TDs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2021 · 2-0-0
Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta Falcons
2021 · 0-2-0

Chase Goodbread's takeaways:

  1. Gronk looking ageless. For a guy who briefly retired after the 2018 season, Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski is playing with an awful lot of pep these days. After an eight-for-90 receiving game with two touchdowns in Tampa Bay's opener, he was back in the end zone Sunday for two more scores. Maybe his two-TD Super Bowl in February, after being all but forgotten in the postseason to that point, re-sparked his career. Whatever the case, he's playing like a younger man to open the season, and a rejuvenated Gronk is the last thing defenses facing Tom Brady will want to see.
  2. Fowler fades. After an early strip sack of Brady resulted in a turnover for the Falcons defense, linebacker Dante Fowler all but disappeared Sunday. Bucs left tackle Donovan Smith recovered nicely from getting beaten for that big play, and Fowler ended up with two pressures among 15 pass rush downs. There's not a more important defender on the Falcons roster than Fowler this season, as the club needs him to deliver consistent heat on quarterbacks to take pressure off a questionable secondary. Brady showed why.
  3. Strong up the middle. The interior combo of Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh on the Bucs defensive line was frighteningly effective. They shrank Atlanta QB Matt Ryan's pocket all day, preventing him from comfortably stepping up in the pocket, and gave no ground against the running game. The Falcons offensive line collapsing on them was also one reason LB Devin White was able to run unabated to the quarterback on multiple blitzes up the middle. Suh notched a sack and three pressures, and the brute power Vea showed in pass-rushing situations late in a Week 1 win over the Cowboys showed up again Sunday. This is one nasty tandem.

Next Gen stat of the day: Dante Fowler had two QB pressures and a sack on 27 pass rush snaps (no QB pressures in second half).

NFL Research: Tom Brady, who threw five TD passes, tied Dan Marino for the second-longest streak of consecutive regular-season games with at least four. Brady has thrown four-plus in four straight games dating back to last season. Peyton Manning had a streak of five such games in 2004.

Tennessee Titans
Tennessee Titans
2021 · 1-1-0
Seattle Seahawks
Seattle Seahawks
2021 · 1-1-0

Kevin Patra's takeaways:

  1. Derrick Henry spearheads ferocious Titans comeback. In a forgettable first half for the entire Tennessee team, Henry generated just 35 yards on 13 carries through two quarters, an average of 2.7 per tote as the Titans got down, 24-9. In the final two-plus quarters, Henry blasted a Seahawks defense taking 22 carries for 147 yards and three TDs as Tennessee took the road win in overtime. With the Titans sputtering in all three phases early, Henry's bulldozing style woke up the sleepy visitors. After Seattle took a 30-16 lead in the fourth quarter, Henry romped for a 60-yard TD to close the gap and get his surging squad in striking distance. After the Week 1 home debacle, Tennessee looked dead in the water until Henry saved it.
  2. Seahawks fall to last place in NFC West. Seattle can only blame itself for a brutal self-sabotaged loss, the first for any NFC West team in its division. After skating to a big lead early, thanks to Russell Wilson's majestic deep shots, the wheels came off in the fourth quarter and overtime. A missed PAT opened the fourth quarter, followed by two three-and-outs that allowed Tennessee back in the game. The defense, which won the line of scrimmage most of the day, became a sieve. And Wilson nearly took a safety in overtime, leading to the Titans' game-winning FG. The entire second half felt like Seattle was sleepwalking. Few teams can overcome 10 penalties for 100 yards. In a brutally tough NFC West, the home loss looks even worse.
  3. The Titans' defense stiffens late. For the first six quarters of the 2021 season, the Tennessee defense looked just as woeful as last year. However, outside of one awful busted coverage, the unit played strong down the stretch, harassing Wilson into errors. Beyond the 68-yard TD to Freddie Swain, Tennessee held Seattle to 88 yards on five possessions in the second half and overtime. Jeffery Simmons is a beast on the interior, Denico Autry added 1.5 sack, and Ola Adeniyi's near-safety of Wilson give Tennessee a winning edge.

Next Gen stat of the game: According to the NGS win-probability model, the Titans had as low as a 4% chance of winning the the game with 13:16 remaining in the game. Titans kicker Reggie Bullock finished the 33-30 comeback victory with a 36-yard game-winning field goal in OT.

NFL Research: Derrick Henry tied Barry Sanders for the third-most career games with 150-plus rushing yards and two-plus rushing touchdowns since 1950. Henry and Sanders trail Jim Brown (13) and LaDainian Tomlinson (12).

Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys
2021 · 1-1-0
Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles Chargers
2021 · 1-1-0

Kevin Patra's takeaways:

  1. Greg Zuerlein bails out Mike McCarthy. The Cowboys kicker nailed a 56-yarder as time expired to overcome a head-scratching decision by McCarthy to burn 20-some seconds off the clock before using his final timeout (the coach said after the game the clock he was watching went out at SoFi Stadium). The bizarre clock situation put Zuerlein, who missed three kicks in Week 1, in a precarious spot. But the veteran kicker booted it true. The win came as Dallas' maligned defense, missing several key players, stiffened down the stretch. With Micah Parsons aligning as an edge rusher for the entire game, the Cowboys' red-zone defense allowed just one TD in four trips and generated two INTs.
  2. Tony Pollard is the Cowboys' best back. That's no diss to Ezekiel Elliott, who had a solid day, going for 71 yards and a TD on 16 carries. Pollard, however, provides extra juice out of the Dallas backfield. The third-year RB is an explosive playmaker, going for 109 yards on 13 totes with a score and adding three receptions for 31 yards. Pollard's combination of vision, speed and tackle-breaking ability led to chunk gains all game, including three 20-plus yarders. Pollard's ability to play across the formation also adds diversity to an already dangerous Cowboys passing game. After Dak Prescott threw 58 times in Week 1, the QB didn't need to shoulder the load with Pollard and Zeke combining for 180 rushing yards.
  3. Justin Herbert, my gawd. The second-year QB made ridiculous throws all game, finding holes in the defense other mortals wouldn't even consider. Herbert's arm allows him to puncture even good defensive efforts. His hole-shots down the sideline between defenders are jaw-dropping. Even with his otherworldly play, it was the latest close loss for a Chargers club plagued by coming up short. Herbert's worst plays came in the red zone. He threw a pick in traffic in the end zone when Keenan Allen fell. Late in the fourth quarter, after an illegal shift wiped out a would-be go-ahead TD, refs called Herbert in the grasp for a sack, killing the drive -- L.A. settled for a tying FG. The Chargers were their own worst enemy, with two TDs getting wiped off the board, a missed field goal and 12 penalties for 99 yards.

Next Gen stat of the game: Chargers running back Austin Ekeler had 18 routes run from backfield, three from the slot, three from out wide.

NFL Research: The Cowboys have won 11 straight games when rushing for at least 175 yards.

Arizona Cardinals
Arizona Cardinals
2021 · 2-0-0
Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings
2021 · 0-2-0


Nick Shook's takeaways:

  1. Two weeks, and two offensive explosions from Kyler Murray and the Cardinals. After lighting up the scoreboard in a blowout Week 1 win, Arizona needed every last yard (and a missed kick) to scratch out a win in Week 2. Murray was again worth a ton of production, completing 29 of 36 passes for 400 yards and four total touchdowns, but he wasn't as perfect Sunday, throwing two interceptions, including one that resulted in a Vikings score. This week's receiving star wasn't DeAndre Hopkins, but Rondale Moore, whose long touchdown reception accounted for 77 of his 114 yards. Ultimately, Arizona's chances came down to the heroics of Murray, who replicated his absurd, back-foot touchdown pass from Week 1 with another fadeaway heave to Christian Kirk on fourth down that put Arizona in the red zone, instantly flipping its chances (see Next Gen stat below) of victory. As long as Murray is healthy, these Cardinals will be a tough out -- and worthy of a weekly watch.
  2. The Vikings' hard look in the mirror did them plenty of good. After lumbering through the preseason and digging themselves a hole in Cincinnati in Week 1, Minnesota attacked Week 2. The Vikings' defense played with an energy we haven't seen from them in quite some time, swarming to the ball carrier in the open field, pressuring Murray to the tune of three sacks for Danielle Hunter and recording a pair of interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. The star of that takeaway -- Nick Vigil -- stood out for most of the afternoon in place of the injured Anthony Barr, flying all over the field (sometimes out of the play, but you'll have that) to help Minnesota's defensive efforts. And Kirk Cousins was damn good, completing 22 of 32 passes for 244 yards, three touchdowns and a 122.4 passer rating. Dalvin Cook weathered a couple of departures after getting banged up to finish with 22 carries for 131 yards. All that was missing was the win. Greg Joseph will be wishing he had a second shot at his missed 37-yarder -- but if you're a Vikings fan, you have to walk away encouraged by what you saw.
  3. The Chandler Jones Show continues, but he could use a co-star. A week after Jones finished with five sacks and Arizona registered a QB pressure percentage of 41.5, the Cardinals came back to earth as a team. Jones was again effective, leading Arizona with five QB pressures but went without a sack. His next-closest teammates in pressures: J.J. Watt, Jordan Hicks and Markus Golden, who each recorded two pressures. As a defense, Arizona's pressure percentage fell to 27.3. It's no surprise, then, that Minnesota racked up 419 yards of total offense, but there's a silver lining beyond the final score: The Vikings converted just two of 10 third down attempts, and both of those came late in the game. Arizona isn't going to stuff the stat sheet every week, and it has an offense capable of outscoring an opponent, but a missed field goal -- not its pass rush -- saved them this week.

Next Gen stat of the game: Kyler Murray had a 29.2% completion probability on his fourth-and-5 pass to Christian Kirk (29.7 air yards, seven pass rushers, one-yard WR separation at pass arrival). The completion increased Arizona's win probability from 42.5 to 72.5%.

NFL Research: With his third touchdown pass Sunday, Kyler Murray became the first player in NFL history with three-plus passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in each of his team's first two games of the season.

Buffalo Bills
Buffalo Bills
2021 · 1-1-0
Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins
2021 · 1-1-0

Chase Goodbread's takeaways:

  1. Easy day for Allen. Despite a blowout 35-0 score, it was a relatively pedestrian day for Bills quarterback Josh Allen. A dominant Buffalo defense and a running game that averaged 4.8 yards per carry did a lot of the heavy lifting. Still, Allen managed to flash his unorthodox style in a positive way. Remember the longtime adage that quarterbacks should never throw across the field? Allen apparently doesn't, but his violation of that rule resulted in a big touchdown throw to Stefon Diggs. After rolling right and finding nothing, he threw back left into the end zone for a score to Diggs, who had fallen down on the play and got up to find an open space in the end zone. Allen is always going be Allen, and golden rules aside, it's going to work more often than not.
  2. Pass pro woes. Given the way he was protected, it shouldn't be surprising that Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa got knocked out of the game. Things up front were such a mess for Miami, as it not only gave up sacks but allowed the Bills to rush completely unblocked at times. Tagovailoa was sacked on two of his first three snaps, and on the play he was injured, the Bills' A.J. Epenesa blew past RT Jesse Davis. It wasn't any better for backup Jacoby Brissett. Buffalo tallied six sacks, including a pair for rookie Gregory Rousseau, and 11 QB hurries.
  3. Wake-up call. For the most part, the Dolphins sleep-walked through the first quarter. Beyond the problems on the offensive line, the defense couldn't even lay a hand on Bills RB Devin Singletary on a 46-yard TD run up the middle. On special teams, the punt unit gave up a 20-yard return to Isaiah McKenzie that helped set up a touchdown. By quarter's end, Miami found itself down 14-0 -- too much of a deficit to ask of a backup quarterback in Brissett. If the Dolphins hope to improve to 2-1 next week, they'll have to do a better job of getting off the bus.

Next Gen stat of the game: Bills RB Devin Singletary reached a speed of 20.29 mph on his 46-yard TD run.

NFL Research: Josh Allen became just the second Buffalo Bills QB to amass 10,000 career passing yards in his 45th career start. Jim Kelly did so as well.

Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears
2021 · 1-1-0
Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals
2021 · 1-1-0

Kevin Patra's takeaways:

  1. Justin Fields time in Chicago. The first-round rookie took over just before halftime when Andy Dalton suffered a knee injury. It was a wild ride for Fields, who flashed playmaking ability coupled with growing pains. A late interception when the rookie QB didn't see a defender dropping kept the Bengals in the game late. However, on the ensuing drive, Fields showed what he brings to the table with his legs, shedding a Trey Hendrickson tackle to pick up a key first down to help ice the clock. Like most rookie QBs, the highs were high and the lows low. Fields didn't protect the ball on a blindside rush, got blasted and fumbled (recovered). Fields' stat line isn't pretty (6/13, 60 yards, INT), but he also had a couple of great throws negated by penalty, and Allen Robinson dropped a gorgeous deep throw that should have been a TD. Dalton played solid before exiting. Depending on the severity of the injury, however, the door might be open for head coach Matt Nagy to stick with the dynamic rookie moving forward. The offense is simply more dangerous with Fields, even if the Bears have to live with some rookie mistakes.
  2. Joe Burrow melts down. The second-year QB threw three INTs on consecutive passes deep in the second half, including a pick-six when he never saw linebacker Roquan Smith. The sequence was a disaster for Burrow, who looked rattled in the pocket all afternoon. Whether it's lack of trust in his O-line, questionable play-calling, or still knocking off the rust following his ACL injury, Burrow struggled most of the game. His second INT against a zone corner reading the play the whole way was a ball that should have never been thrown. Before the catastrophic three-play stretch, the Bengals' offense was in hibernation. Burrow attempted just one pass of 15 air yards before his turnover parade. It's a wobbly operation that should be more explosive given their weapons on the outside. Calling play-action dump-offs for two yards isn't creative or entertaining.
  3. Roquan Smith is going to be a rich man. The 24-year-old linebacker was the best player on the field Sunday, destroying everything the Bengals attempted. Smith led the Bears with eight tackles, a pick-six, a sack, a QB hit and a tackle for loss. After Chicago's defense struggled in Week 1, this was a performance we've come to expect from the Bears. A menace in the middle, Smith displayed Sunday why he is the next linebacker in line for a huge payday.

Next Gen stat of the game: All 13 pass attempts for Justin Fields came from inside the tackle box.

NFL Research: Joe Burrow became the first QB since Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 3, 2018 versus Pittsburgh to throw three interceptions on three consecutive pass attempts.

Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos
2021 · 2-0-0
Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville Jaguars
2021 · 0-2-0

Chase Goodbread's takeaways:

  1. Receiving goods. The Broncos' receiving corps showed off talent and depth Sunday without injured wide receiver Jerry Jeudy. Courtland Sutton took up most of Jeudy's slack with career highs in catches (nine) and yardage (159), and beat Chris Claybrooks deep on a 55-yard reception, which set up the key touchdown that gave Denver a 17-7 lead. Tim Patrick pulled in a TD catch, as did TE Noah Fant, and Patrick drew a DPI call on a deep ball of his own for a 35-yard flag. Jeudy might be a key member of this offense, but against a Jaguars defense that gave up nearly 400 total yards, you wouldn't know Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was short-handed.
  2. Lawrence needs help. Too many Trevor Lawrence pass attempts and too few James Robinson carries isn't a great formula for the development of the Jaguars' young gunslinger. The two-week combined tally: 84 against 16. For the second week in a row, Lawrence was stuck in too many tough down-and-distance situations, feeding into his tendency to hold the ball, let deeper routes develop, and eschew the dump-off option. His receivers don't get enough separation for the Jaguars offense to function that way, either. He's golden-armed, to be sure, but he's already thrown five picks on the year and needs the play-calling to put less on his shoulders.
  3. Held at bay. The last time Broncos pass rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb were on the field together before Sunday, they combined for three sacks against the Jaguars in the fourth game of the 2019 season. This time, the Jaguars' offensive tackles -- Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor -- did a surprisingly good job against them. Robinson, on the left side, handled Chubb until an ankle injury put him out for the game, while Taylor worked mostly against Miller, who notched a third-quarter sack on which he was obstructed by only a bump from a tight end.

Next Gen stat of the game: Teddy Bridgewater was 22 of 24 for 211 yards, two touchdowns on passes of fewer than 10 air yards.

NFL Research: Teddy Bridgewater joined Peyton Manning as the only Broncos QBs to complete 75% of his passes with at least two TD passes and no interceptions in a game.

New England Patriots
New England Patriots
2021 · 1-1-0
New York Jets
New York Jets
2021 · 0-2-0

Michael Baca's takeaways:

  1. A New York debut to forget. Everything went downhill quickly for No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson, whose first two pass attempts at MetLife Stadium were interceptions. Neither were solely on the Jets rookie as J.C. Jackson caught a tipped pass and Corey Davis' drop let a ball fall in the lap of Adrian Phillips, but they resulted in the Patriots' first 10 points by the end of the first quarter. There was no one else to blame for Wilson's next two picks in the second and third quarter and those bad throws aided the Patriots' rout. The 152 yards on the ground New York gained was a positive stat lost in the mire of Wilson's bad day. It ended with him going 19 of 33 for 210 yards and four INTs.
  2. Another Belichickian victory against the rival Jets. The Patriots took advantage of every Jets mistake and limited those of their own for a routine win coach Bill Belichick knows so well. Defensively, the Patriots feasted on a rookie QB whose troubles mounted even without much pressure, but they still managed to sack Wilson four times (Josh Uche had a pair of sacks) in the process of a four-takeaway game with cornerbacks Jackson, Phillips and Devin McCourty making the big plays. On offense, rookie QB Mac Jones wasn't asked to do much, but was able to make every throw asked of him. New England's play-calling was superb; handing off to Damien Harris (16/62, TD) and James White (5/20, TD) in the red zone, dissecting the Jets pass defense with short throws to wide-open receivers and even throwing in some trick plays with an early lead. Jones' day ended with him going 22 of 30 for 186 yards (no TDs or INTs), and the stress-free day was a breeze compared to his contemporary.
  3. Jets defense shows life. Coach Robert Saleh is still looking for his first win after Week 2, but he will be proud of a defense that maintained its intensity for four quarters. That was evident on the final sequence of the day -- holding New England out of the end zone and settling for a 26-yard field goal with two minutes left to play and the game out of reach. Hard luck struck the Jets defense even before Wilson's four-INT day after Marcus Maye's forced fumble of Kendrick Bourne was erased thanks to an early whistle. Saleh's defense sacked Jones three times (one fumble forced), held the Patriots to just three of 12 on third down and played winning football despite the offense consistently putting it in bad situations.

Next Gen stat of the game: Zach Wilson was 15 of 23 for 132 yards and four INT when not under pressure.

NFL Research: Patriots CB J.C. Jackson has had an INT in each of his last three games versus the Jets. The last player with one or more INT in three straight games versus the Jets was Patriots safety Lawyer Milloy in 1998-99. The last CB? NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent Sr. in 1994-95 with the Dolphins.

San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers
2021 · 2-0-0
Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles
2021 · 1-1-0

Kevin Patra's takeaways:

  1. DeMeco Ryans' stingy defense slows Eagles attack. Despite a secondary ravaged by injuries already, the Niners defense kept the big plays to a minimum, and Nick Bosa (two sacks) harassed Jalen Hurts all afternoon. Outside of one 91-yard bomb, the 49ers negated the big plays by Eagles receivers (one other reception went for more than 14 yards). While Hurts did damage late with his legs, the 49ers defensive line played better than Week 1, slowing an array of Eagles runs. With stellar tackling, particularly from Fred Warner, this is the type of defense we expected from San Francisco in 2021. Three players generated at least three QB pressures. Interior pressure from the D-line helped the secondary, and a huge fourth-down stop at the goal line late in the first half completely changed the complexation of the contest.
  2. Jalen Hurts fearless downfield but comes up short. The second-year QB couldn't connect on a bevy of deep shots, but kept slinging it. Hurts gave his receivers a chance to make plays downfield, heaving seven passes of 20-plus air yards but connected on just two. Hurts used his legs to help finally puncture a stout Niners defense late. The Philly offense struggled to sustain drives in the second half against a defense that didn't miss tackles on the screens and dump-offs. After dicing up 49ers pressure in the first half (3/4 137 yards vs. blitz), Hurts went 0-4 under pressure in the second half, per Next Gen Stats. Even with the loss, Hurts showed he's an exciting player still growing in Nick Sirianni's offense. He'll hit more of those deep shots moving forward.
  3. 49ers offense grinds it out. It wasn't pretty for Kyle Shanahan's offense. The Eagles' stout defensive line controlled the game early, negating the ground game. On 27 handoffs, the Niners popped just two for 10-plus yards. San Francisco started the game with three straight three-and-outs. A 97-yard TD drive to close the half finally brought life to the offense that lived in Strugglesville. Jimmy Garoppolo made some solid throws, but also missed a host of tosses high. Jimmy G didn't put pressure on the Eagles' secondary, completing just three passes of 10-plus air yards and attempting just a single pass of 20-plus air yards. Still, Garoppolo played point guard well enough to get the ball into Deebo Samuel's hands, scoring on two long drives. Surprisingly, rookie QB Trey Lance didn't play a snap.

Next Gen stat of the game: The Eagles defense blitzed on three of 30 49ers dropbacks (10.0%, Garoppolo 0-3 vs blitz).

NFL Research: Deebo Samuel's 282 receiving yards in Weeks 1-2 are the second-most by a 49ers player in first two weeks of a season since Hall of Famer Jerry Rice's 285 yards in 1989.

Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns
2021 · 1-1-0
Houston Texans
Houston Texans
2021 · 1-1-0

Nick Shook's takeaways

  1. Break out the broken records, folks: The Browns are at their best when they run it well. Though Baker Mayfield finished with a solid line (19-of-21 passing, 213 yards, one touchdown, one interception), Cleveland's offense didn't truly find a consistent rhythm until Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt got going. That improved pace shined at the perfect time, with Chubb and Hunt once again teaming up to close a game out on the ground. Cleveland almost exactly split its rushing production between halves (79 yards in the first, 77 in the second), but it wasn't until Chubb ripped off a 26-yard touchdown run with 5:52 left that Browns fans could breathe easily. In a strange game, Cleveland's tried-and-true method again proved to be the most reliable. The only difference this time around: FirstEnergy Stadium was packed with fans for the first time since the 2019 season.
  2. Counting these Texans out would be foolish going forward. For a decent stretch Sunday, it seemed as if the Browns might have flirted with doing so. Houston had the Browns on their heels defensively for most of the game, and if Tyrod Taylor hadn't been knocked out by a hamstring injury, it's fair to wonder if this game might have played out differently. Taylor was stellar before leaving at the half, Brandin Bryant consistently caused problems for the Browns' secondary for most of the game and Mark Ingram and David Johnson ran hard. Houston's defensive front proved to be a scrappy bunch, too, and Davis Mills even put together a commendable performance. His interception ended up being a key mistake, though, and dug the Texans a hole they weren't quite equipped to escape. Even with that result considered, make no mistake: Houston is no pushover.
  3. The Browns' biggest weakness is still at the second level of their defense. Cleveland allowed Houston to convert seven of 13 third-down attempts largely because they repeatedly failed to tackle the ball carrier in the open field. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods also has some explaining to do, directing a largely vanilla defense that didn't show any significant creativity until a key sequence late in which he sent Grant Delpit on a blitz (resulting in the Browns' lone sack of the day) and then dialed up a well-timed stunt on the defensive line, leading to a quarterback pressure that produced an incompletion. The Browns weren't able to get too aggressive last season because of personnel deficiencies; That's no longer a valid excuse, and they need to be better going forward.

Next Gen stat of the game: After recording just one rushing yard gained over expectation (RYOE) in Week 1, Nick Chubb gained +40 RYOE in Sunday's win. The NFL's leader in RYOE per attempt (at +1.75 for the season) in 2020 gained +3.64 RYOE/ATT against the Texans.

NFL Research: With his 26-yard rushing touchdown, Nick Chubb has at least one scrimmage TD in eight straight games dating back to Week 12, 2020 (longest active streak in the NFL). He joins HOF RBs Jim Brown (twice) and Leroy Kelly (nine-game streak in 1968) as the only Browns players to do so since at least 1950.

Carolina Panthers
Carolina Panthers
2021 · 2-0-0
New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints
2021 · 1-1-0

Jelani Scott's takeaways:

  1. Is the Panthers' front seven for real? After tearing through the Jets with gusto in the opener, the Panthers had a chance to prove Week 1 wasn't a fluke against a better O-line. It's hard to argue they didn't achieve that task. Anchored by Brian Burns, Haason Reddick and Morgan Fox, Carolina again brought consistent pressure against a unit littered with All-Pro caliber talent. The promising bunch accumulated four sacks and 10 QB hits, and made Jameis Winston (11 of 22, 111 yards, two INTs) look a lot more like the risky decision-maker he's been known to be. Tack on Alvin Kamara's quiet day (30 scrimmage yards) and Carolina couldn't have asked for a better way to nab its first division win.
  2. How will the Saints D account for its losses? The outlook for the Saints defense felt iffy going in. The subtraction of Marshon Lattimore, Marcus Davenport and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson put the group at an early disadvantage that Carolina capitalized on. The Saints allowed 305 yards through the air and another 89 on the ground; six of the seven Panthers who caught a pass recorded at least one reception of 10-plus yards. It's hard to believe we live in a world where the Saints struggle more with Sam Darnold than Aaron Rodgers but, hey, here we are.
  3. Panthers find balance. Credit to Joe Brady for scheming a well-balanced attack. D.J. Moore gave rookie Paulson Adebo, who drew the matchup with Lattimore out, fits to the tune of eight receptions (11 targets) for 79 yards and a score. Christian McCaffrey shined as usual -- 137 scrimmage yards, TD on 30 touches -- while Dan Arnold and wideout Brandon Zylstra, who unexpectedly logged the game's first score, combined for six catches and 99 yards. Similar to last week, Carolina's first half (58.8 yards per drive, 17 points) trumped its second (24.7 YPD, 9 points), a trend worth keeping an eye on. But, at least at the early going, Darnold and Co. look as well-rounded as Matt Rhule could hope for.

Next Gen stat of the game: Panthers DE Morgan Fox recorded 8 QB pressures, 0.5 sack, TO forced by pressure on 17 pass rushes (47.1 pressure pct).

NFL Research: McCaffrey has tied Le'Veon Bell with the most games (19) in first five seasons with 50+ rushing yards and 50+ receiving yards, since 1950.

Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Rams
2021 · 2-0-0
Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis Colts
2021 · 0-2-0

Adam Maya's takeaways:

  1. Matthew Stafford has a favorite receiver. Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods have effectually shared go-to target duties for the Rams over the past four years. With a new quarterback, a No. 1 receiver seems to have emerged. Kupp topped 100 yards and caught a touchdown for the second straight week -- his exact line Sunday was 9-163-2. He had 103 yards after the catch alone, per Next Gen Stats, continually creating separation on a day in which his QB wasn't his sharpest. The fifth-year veteran is one of the league's best players to not make a Pro Bowl. That probably won't remain the case after 2021, so long as he stays healthy.
  2. Indianapolis doomed by rough start. The Colts drew the short end of the schedule stick in having to face the Seahawks and Rams in the first two weeks of the season, despite both contests coming at home. The NFC West opponents figure to be two of the conference's best teams, if not the league's. Indy's biggest obstacle in the early part of Sunday's game, though, was its own offense. The Colts had first-and-goal from the 1 on their opening drive and came up empty as Jonathan Taylor was stuffed on three consecutive tries before Wentz was sacked. Wentz started out 7 of 7, but squandered a third-down conversion when he overthrew Nyheim Hines on the following possession, leading to a field goal. Indy moved inside the Rams' 5-yard line on its third drive, only to see Wentz unleash an errant shovel pass that was picked off. That took at least 14 points off the board.
  3. It starts and ends with Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. The Rams are widely regarded as having the NFL's top defense by virtue of finishing No. 1 in total and scoring D last year. Donald and Ramsey are the main reasons. While L.A.'s defense often bent in its narrow Week 2 win, its All-Pro duo ultimately broke the Colts. Donald was a total menace to Quenton Nelson and Co. in the trenches, heading the aforementioned goal-line stand and chasing down Wentz for a crucial third-down stop in the fourth that forced the Indy QB out the game. Ramsey then sealed the victory with a late interception of Jacob Eason. This wasn't the cleanest performance from the Rams, but their margin for error is so much bigger because they boast the best lineman and cornerback in the game.

Next Gen stat of the game: Matthew Stafford has two-plus pass TDs of 10-plus air yards in each of his two career games with the Rams (three TD in Week 1). Former Rams QB Jared Goff never had more than two games with two-plus downfield pass TD in an entire season.

NFL Research: Carson Wentz was sacked at least three times for the 12th consecutive game. This is now the third-longest streak since the merger, trailing just Randall Cunningham (19 games) and Greg Landry (13 games).

Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders
2021 · 2-0-0
Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers
2021 · 1-1-0

Nick Shook's takeaways:

  1. Derek Carr haters, line up for your reckoning. Whatever the Raiders figured out in that frantic fourth quarter Monday night is working, and Carr is the one powering their attack. Carr put together a second stellar performance in as many weeks, finishing with a passing line of 28 of 37 for 382 yards, two touchdowns and a 126.2 passer rating. He even shook off what appeared to be a worrisome injury to return and lead the Raiders to a road win. Carr has been in the crosshairs of Raiders doubters seemingly since he was drafted back in 2014, and even after management gave him a strong vote of confidence in the offseason, he didn't seem to be on solid footing. Well, he's on fire after two weeks, and it's time the rest of the league recognizes.
  2. Steelers are still a work in progress offensively, and a lot of it has to do with their OL. Trai Turner's ejection for spitting on an opponent didn't help, of course, but even with the veteran playing, the Steelers still had issues protecting Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben was pressured on 13 of his 42 dropbacks, completed just 4 of 11 pressured passes, threw an interception in the process and was sacked twice by Solomon Thomas. Najee Harris had his first memorable game of his career, but not because of his rushing stat line: Harris rushed 10 times for 38 yards, making his mark with a viral stiff-arm and a 25-yard touchdown reception. Otherwise, running the ball wasn't a viable option for the Steelers, and a nine-point deficit ended up proving insurmountable. The Steelers have a stingy defense, but they'll need more offensively. It starts with the guys up front.
  3. Last week, I wrote that Carr's receiving corps was still buffering; the playback certainly resumed Sunday. Henry Ruggs III finally flashed the big-play potential that made him a first-round pick in 2020, catching a strike from Carr over the middle for a 61-yard touchdown that proved to be the dagger. Darren Waller was once again productive, catching five passes for 65 yards, while Hunter Renfrow proved to be a trustworthy target on third down. Bryan Edwards had a touchdown erased by penalty, but continued his upward trajectory, and Foster Moreau came through in the clutch with a touchdown grab. Suddenly, the Raiders have plenty of options through the air, and even without Josh Jacobs, they had enough to secure a nice win in a tough environment.

Next Gen stat of the game: After recording a pressure rate of 54.5% in Week 1, the Raiders finished with a 31% pressure rate Sunday. Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue led the way for Las Vegas' pass-rushing attack, combining to account for 11 pressures (Crosby: six; Ngakoue: five), and each caused a turnover via pressure despite neither recording a sack.

NFL Research: Derek Carr has 817 pass yards over his first two games of 2021, the most in any two-game span in Raiders franchise history. Carr is also the first Raider with 350-plus passing yards, two-plus pass TDs in at least three straight games (since last game of 2020 for Carr).

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