Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen had a simple mindset heading into Week 2 after committing four turnovers in a season-opening loss.
“It was always, ‘Be me,’” Allen said after Sunday’s win.
It worked very well. The Bills looked like a playoff team again after a tough Week 1 performance. But they weren’t the only team to shine on Sunday. The Baltimore Ravens overcame serious injuries to beat a division rival and improve to 2-0, while the Washington Commanders continued to show signs of life on offense. Some teams haven’t been so lucky — you’re looking, Chicago Bears — and have had weeks that fans will try to forget.
Here’s a look at some of the league’s winners and losers on Sunday.
Winners: Commanders could finally commit an offense
The Washington Commanders failed to score 35 points on offense in any game during the first three seasons of Ron Rivera’s tenure. But that’s exactly what the Commanders did Sunday in Eric Bieniemy’s second game as Washington’s offensive coordinator.
Washington beat the Denver Broncos, 35-33, despite giving up a last-second touchdown on a Hail Mary. The Commanders are 2-0 and rank seventh in the league in scoring. Rivera’s team scored touchdowns on all three drives in which it reached the red zone. Quarterback Sam Howell threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns, while the team also totaled 122 yards rushing.
The Commanders’ two wins both came against teams that are now 0-2. But Washington will have real tests in Weeks 3 and 4 against the Bills and Philadelphia Eagles.
Loser: Brandon Staley’s job security
The Los Angeles Chargers fell to 0-2 on the season with a 27-24 overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans. Head coach Brandon Staley has a franchise QB in Justin Herbert and a roster generally considered one of the best in the NFL. But the Chargers are off to a disappointing start for a team heavily favored to make the playoffs.
The Chargers’ offense, led by new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, converted just two of 14 third-down attempts in the game. Herbert threw for 305 yards and two touchdowns that day, but that may have been the only positive.
Staley appeared agitated after the game when asked about the Chargers’ missed playoff game last season and whether that loss carried over into the new campaign. But if the wins don’t start piling up soon for the Chargers, who led by double digits on Sunday, Staley could be on his way out before the playoffs start this time around.
Winners: Josh Allen and Geno Smith return to form
The Bills and Seahawks both reached the playoffs last season, but began their 2023 campaigns with humiliating defeats.
Buffalo fell to the New York Jets in overtime, 22-16, despite the departure of Aaron Rodgers early in the first quarter. Allen threw three interceptions and lost a fumble in the loss. The Seahawks were blown out at home by the Los Angeles Rams, 30-13, and quarterback Geno Smith threw for just 112 yards. A week can definitely change things.
The Bills looked like a Super Bowl contender again with a 38-10 shellacking of the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 2. Allen rebounded and threw three touchdowns, while the Bills defense forced three turnovers and held the Raiders to 55 rushing yards. . Smith also returned to Pro Bowl form in a 37-31 shootout victory over the Detroit Lions in overtime. The signal-caller threw for 328 yards and two touchdowns in the victory.
Oh, and he participated in this humorous exchange:
Losers: Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears
The Bears are a mess.
Chicago lost its Week 2 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 27-17, to fall to 0-2 on the season. The Bears have now lost 12 straight games dating back to last year. Quarterback Justin Fields has thrown two more interceptions and his pocket presence is leaving Bears fans frustrated. Back-to-back screen pass calls late in the fourth quarter, including one that was caught and returned for a touchdown, drew widespread criticism.
Defensively, Chicago has allowed the second-most points in the league, has just one sack in two games and has yet to force a turnover. Push?
Winners: the Ravens overcome their injuries
The list of important players on Baltimore’s roster injured is long.
Starting running back JK Dobbins? Released for the season. Offensive linemen Ronnie Stanley and Tyler Linderbaum? Week by week. Safety Marcus Williams? Absent for “a while”. And that’s not even the end. Still, the short-handed Ravens were able to defeat the defending AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals, 27-24, to improve to 2-0. Former MVP Lamar Jackson threw two touchdowns that day despite missing part of his starting offensive line.
Losers: Zach Wilson and the Jets offense
It wasn’t supposed to be like this for the Jets.
Zach Wilson’s days at center were thought to be history. Then Rodgers tore his Achilles tendon during the team’s first offensive drive of the season. The Jets were able to defeat the Bills and move to 1-0 without Rodgers. But facing the fearsome Dallas Cowboys defense was too daunting a task. Wilson threw three picks, Gang Green managed just 64 yards rushing, and the Jets lost 30-10.
Jets players were frustrated with the performance after the game, including running back Breece Hall. The sophomore running back only ran the ball four times in the loss, as did veteran Dalvin Cook. The two backs combined for 16 yards rushing.
“I mean, I only had four hits,” Hall said. “That’s why we struggled. But it is what it is. We came in early today and kind of gave up on the race. I feel like with any team, that kind of things happen, it’s like that. You feel like I have to get back in the game and stuff like that. It slips away. So that’s what it was.”
Multiple reports last week indicated that Rodgers hoped to be healthy by the time the NFL playoffs began. If the Jets offense continues to perform like it did in Week 2, he won’t have to worry about that.
Winner: Puka Nacua continues to shine
Fifth-round picks generally don’t produce the same thing that Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua produced through two games. Then again, most players in general don’t do this.
Nacua has caught a record 25 passes for 266 yards in two weeks this season.
That includes 15 catches on 20 targets for 147 yards in Sunday’s 30-23 loss to the 49ers. The Rams may have lost a game to a division rival, but appear to have found a reliable target for quarterback Matthew Stafford while All-Pro Cooper Kupp is injured. Nacua’s 25 catches are the most by a rookie over two games in NFL history and the most by a rookie over a two-game span.
“He’s a stud,” Rams coach Sean McVay said after the game. “The game makes sense for him. Physically and mentally tough. He works very hard. He’s very curious. He asks a lot of questions and he can rely on great guys.”
Losers: Colts and Bengals deal with QB injuries
Indianapolis Colts rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson dazzled with two rushing touchdowns in the first six minutes of Sunday’s game. But the torrid start to Week 2 came to an abrupt end for the Colts. The rookie QB left the game with a concussion, marking the second time in two weeks that Richardson did not finish a game due to injury.
The No. 4 overall pick thrives playing with his feet. But staying healthy will be key for Richardson, whose status for Week 3 remains uncertain.
The Bengals also know all about injuries at the quarterback position. Pro Bowler Joe Burrow aggravated a calf injury as Cincinnati fell to 0-2 on Sunday. Burrow said he “twisted” his right calf on the final offensive drive of the loss to the Ravens. Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said Monday it was “hard to say” whether Burrow would play in Week 3.
Winner: Arizona Cardinals avoid victory
Yes, the Cardinals lost. No, that’s not a bad thing.
Arizona is generally considered one of, if not the worst teams in the NFL. The Cardinals certainly confirmed that on Sunday. Arizona blew a 20-0 halftime lead and ended up losing 31-28 to the New York Giants.
Quarterback Daniel Jones led the Giants on five field goals in the second half to avoid an 0-2 start to the season. But the Cardinals lost their second straight game. And that will only improve the team’s chances of finishing with the worst record in the league (and the No. 1 overall pick).
Loser: Chiefs OT Jawaan Taylor
Chiefs right tackle Jawaan Taylor was the subject of debate in Week 1 when fans and reporters commented on how the offensive lineman appeared to come out of his stance before the snap.
Taylor’s performance in week two was perhaps more notable, but not for good reasons. The 25-year-old was penalized five times and briefly removed from the game during Kansas City’s win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Sunday was Taylor’s second game with the Chiefs since signing an $80 million contract to join the franchise this offseason.
The tackle is the most penalized player in the NFL since entering the league in 2019, according to ESPN, committing 49 penalties during that span. The second most penalized player? Donovan Smith, Kansas City’s other starting offensive tackle. Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Taylor may have to change his approach to avoid penalties.
“He’s naturally fast without having to cheat on that thing or get caught on it, and he’s strong, so he doesn’t need to do that,” Reid said. “He’s a smart kid. We can do something about it.”