Patterns forming in NFL after only two weeks
It generally takes more than two games to find out which teams have playoff potential and which ones may be in for a long season. However, after watching quite a few games these past two weeks, it’s pretty apparent who the haves and have-nots might be when January rolls around.
The jury appears to still be out on our Dallas Cowboys, who have shown a few moments of brilliance and then look like the same pathetic outfit we’ve endured for the past five seasons.
But in Sunday’s 27-24 come-from behind overtime victory at San Francisco, the fourth period looked like it came right out of a Superman movie—No. 9 looking for his helmet so he can get out on the field and save the day for his teammates and millions of fans depressed because it looked like the Cowboys were going to start the 2011 season at 0-2.
The Houston Texans have posted a pair of solid victories against opponents that normally aren’t destined for the cellar of their respective divisions. They will get a staunch test Sunday against the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome after outclassing the Miami Dolphins 23-13 Sunday afternoon at South Beach.
The Texans are only one of seven teams with 2-0 records after the first two weeks of the 2011 NFL season and are the only undefeated team in the American Football Conference not in the East Division.
If Houston’s start is a fluke, then the Texans might have company in that category with the Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions also sporting unblemished 2-0 marks. But it appears these three teams drafted well and made some good trades in the past few years and are now reaping the fruits of their scouting success.
Starting 2-0 is nothing new for the Texans, who began the 2010 season with victories over Indianapolis (34-24) and Washington (30-27) but then went on to finish last season with a 6-10 record.
The big difference between the two starts is that last year the defense allowed 884 total yards, including 822 passing and six touchdowns. In the twin wins over Indianapolis and Miami this year the Texans surrendered 542 yards, including 342 passing and only two touchdowns.
“We only gave up 13 points today, and you’re going to win a lot of games doing that.” Head Coach Gary Kubiak told the Houston Chronicle Sunday after the game. Hiring Orange native Wade Phillips, who installed a 3-4 defense, is paying quick dividends.
Last year’s NFL rushing leader Arian Foster, who missed the entire first game for the Texans, started against the Dolphins and ran 10 times for 33 yards before taking himself out of the game before halftime when his tender hamstring tightened.
But his understudy, rookie Ben Tate, relieved Foster and ran the ball 19 times in the second half for 82 yards. Tate finished the game with 103 yards on 23 carries and became only the 11th player in NFL history to rush for 100 yards in his first two games.
Tate picked up 116 yards against Indianapolis and is the first rusher to accomplish this feat since Tampa Bay’s Carnell Williams in 2005. He joins an elite group that includes Edgerrin James (1999), Marshall Faulk (1994), Billy Sims (1980), Earl Campbell (1979) and Alan Ameche (1955).
Things looked bleak for the Cowboys at San Francisco as the 49ers jumped out to a 14-0 lead after Dallas quarterback Tony Romo took a shot to his rib cage on the third play of the game. He was hurting and fought nausea throughout the first half. He went into the locker with the medical staff to see just how badly his ribs were cracked.
Ageless backup Jon Kitna started the third period and threw a touchdown pass, but also tossed a couple of interceptions as Romo exited the locker.
Romo began looking for his helmet and informed Head Coach Jason Garrett he was “good to go” and vowed to make up for his meltdown a week ago when his mistakes turned a two-touchdown lead into a 27-24 loss against the New York Jets.
The Cowboys were trailing 24-14 when Romo took over and breathed new life into the Dallas offense. He drove the team downfield and hit wide receiver Miles Austin on a 25-yard diving catch in the end zone. It was Austin’s third TD grab, but he injured his hamstring making the circus catch.
With time running down and the Pokes still behind 24-14, the Cowboys turned to little-used wide receiver Jesse Holley who made a couple of key grabs of Romo’s passes to put Dallas in position for a game-tying 48-yard field goal with just two seconds remaining. Dan Bailey booted the ball through the uprights, putting the game into sudden-death overtime.
The 49ers won the coin toss, but the Cowboy’s defense stiffened and caused a three-and-out. Romo made a perfectly-executed play-action fake that sucked in the 49ers’ defense and found Holley all alone over the middle. He was dragged down after a 73 yard gain on the one-yard line where Bailey calmly kicked the game-winning 19-yard field goal.
Romo had fought through what owner Jerry Jones called “excruciating” pain to record his 10th fourth-quarter comeback of his career. “It was something out of a movie,” Jones said of Romo’s performance.
Jones compared Romo’s feat to that of Emmitt Smith overcoming a separated shoulder to lead Dallas to a division-clinching win over the New York Giants in 1994.
“I didn’t want to be 0-2,” Romo said after the game. “At the end of the day it’s about winning and losing, and we needed to win. Why did I want to be out there? I’m competitive. If I can play, I’m going to play.”
Things don’t get any easier for the Cowboys, who host the undefeated Washington Redskins before a national viewing audience Monday night.
Besides Miami and Indianapolis, a couple of teams off to shaky starts this season are Earl Thomas’ Seattle Seahawks, who have very little offense but are among the top 5 NFL teams in defense and the Kansas City Chiefs who has a porous defense and lost last year’s second-leading rusher All-Pro Jamaal Charles of Port Arthur, with what appeared to be a serious knee injury that ended his season.
KWICKIES…Our two closest Southland Conference teams—the Lamar Cardinals and the McNeese State Cowboys—were the only teams to register victories against non-conference opponents. The Cards outlasted Incarnate Word of San Antonio 45-35 while our alma mater McNeese downed Sioux Falls 31-17. The only other SLC team to post a victory Saturday was Sam Houston State which throttled Central Arkansas 31-10 in a league contest. Leading Lamar at quarterback was former West Orange-Stark star Andre Bevil who completed 14-of-19 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns and had a passer rating of 197.8, the highest in his 12 games at Lamar.
It looks like a new star is born as 16-year-old Lexi Thompson became the youngest player to win an LPGA Tour event last weekend. The Floridian shattered the age record for winning a multiple-round tournament held by Paula Creamer, who won in 2005 at 18. The victory also brought $195,000.
If Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech jump to the Pac-12, it will cause the death knell to the Big 12, according to Sunday’s Austin American-Statesman. Pac-12 presidents have not yet been asked to approve invitations, the article added.
JUST BETWEEN US…One of the most impressive individual offensive performances in West Orange-Stark Mustang football history occurred Friday night in Jasper when diminutive tailback Britton Lindsey exploded for 308 yards and five touchdowns on 36 carries to lead the Mustangs to a 37-13 win over the Bulldogs in a non-district game. His big night presented Head Coach Cornel Thompson with his first victory as the Mustangs head man. The modest Lindsey credited his offensive line. “I had gaping holes to run through and took advantage of them,” he said.