It’s only Week 2 and already some things are out of place in NFL
Replacements were a huge issue in the second Sunday of NFL games.
Not replacement officials, replacement teams.
Who swapped out the New England Patriots? They lost at home to the Arizona Cardinals.
Are body snatchers to blame for the New Orleans Saints? They’re 0-2 after losing at Carolina.
And what happened to Dallas? After an impressive debut at the New York Giants, the Cowboys careened south by Northwest with a 27-7 loss at Seattle.
On a day when 66,000 fans in St. Louis set a world record for the most fake mustaches — really, they did — it seemed everyone was going incognito.
The first-year quarterbacks certainly didn’t look like rookies. Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck got his first taste of an NFL victory, as did Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Miami’s Ryan Tannehill. Washington’s Robert Griffin III had a fantastic game in defeat at St. Louis.
Then, there’s the team that simply cannot lose, despite its best efforts. Philadelphia is 2-0 after oh-so-close wins over Cleveland and Baltimore. The Eagles, who had a total of nine turnovers in those two games, became the first team since 1950 to begin its season with back-to-back one-point victories.
The Eagles are 2-0 for the first time since 2004, when they made it to the Super Bowl. Although what we’ve seen to this point falls far short of a championship-caliber team, there’s no arguing Philadelphia has made the plays in crunch time.
“In the moment, you have to be your best,” said Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who has six interceptions in two games, yet scored the winning touchdown Sunday with a one-yard plunge. “It’s got to be an any-means-necessary mentality.”
Urgency is the buzzword for those teams still winless. Since 1990, just 12% of teams that started 0-2 made the playoffs.
“The challenge now is keeping from that mentality of why it’s happening, or pointing fingers and saying, ‘This guy isn’t doing what he’s supposed to,’ ” Saints tackle Zach Strief told reporters. “That’s dangerous. That’s poisonous to a locker room.”
The last time the Saints started 0-2 was 2007, when they finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs.
“There’s always adversity,” quarterback Drew Brees said. “Unfortunately, it’s coming to us a little bit sooner than we expected.”
Don’t adjust picture
That’s right, the Cardinals beat the Patriots, 20-18, becoming the first team to knock off New England in a home opener since Tom Brady & Co. moved into Gillette Stadium in 2002.
What’s more, the Cardinals improved to 2-0 with Kevin Kolb at quarterback for the injured John Skelton. Kolb ran for one touchdown and threw for another.
Arizona’s defense was stifling, sacking Brady four times. The Patriots’ last gasp was a missed 42-yard field-goal try by Stephen Gostkowski.
“Nobody gave us a chance,” said Cardinals Coach Ken Whisenhunt, whose team was a 13-point underdog. “But our guys believed they could do it, and it’s great to see them operate that way.”
Stat’s easy to forget
The Cardinals have won nine of their last 11 games. They play host to Kolb’s former team, the undefeated Eagles, on Sunday. Something’s got to give. The last time the Cardinals franchise started 3-0 was in 1974 when the team was still in St. Louis.
Bonehead to bonehead
Early candidate for dumbest play of the season was made by Redskins receiver Josh Morgan, who reacted to a post-whistle push by St. Louis cornerback Cortland Finnegan by gunning the ball at him. Morgan was flagged for a 15-yard penalty, and the comeback-minded Redskins were pushed out of reasonable field-goal range. Billy Cundiff’s 62-yard attempt sailed wide from the start. Game over.
Morgan’s gaffe took some of the heat off Rams running back Steven Jackson, who was benched after a similarly dumb penalty. He was ruled short of the end zone on a touchdown plunge (although replays appeared to show he scored), and he spiked the ball in frustration. Flagged.
Reggie Bush, coming off his first 1,000-yard season, picked up where he left off with an impressive game against the Raiders. He ran for 172 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-13 rout of Oakland, Miami’s first victory in a home opener since 2005.
The Dolphins used a lot of no-huddle and simply left the visitors gassed.
“We felt our tempo would be a key,” Bush said. “We pressed that tempo and felt like we wore them down and just continued to pound the ball.”
Last season, Detroit’s Jim Schwartz and San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh had to be separated after their postgame handshake. They defused that Sunday night by exchanging a cordial handshake during warmups.
The heated midfield meeting Sunday was between the Giants’ Tom Coughlin and Tampa Bay’s Greg Schiano in the wake of New York’s 41-34 win.
Coughlin was irate that Schiano had his players fire hard off the snap when Eli Manning was taking a knee to run out the clock. There was an angry scrum on what should have been a routine play, with Manning diving back to get away from the smashing bodies.
“Obviously I think it is a little bit of a cheap shot,” Manning said. “Going down, we are taking a knee, in a friendly way. They are firing off, and it’s a way to get someone hurt.”
Schiano, the former Rutgers coach, defended the strategy.
“I don’t know if that’s not something that’s done in the National Football League, but what I do with our football team is we fight until they tell us the game is over,” he said. “There’s nothing dirty about it. There’s nothing illegal about it. We crowd the ball. It’s like a sneak defense and we try to knock it loose.”
Fine’s in the mail
The Ravens were clearly unhappy with the performance of replacement officials in their game Sunday, and quarterback Joe Flacco didn’t hold his tongue.
“The NFL always talks about the integrity of the game and things like that, and I think this is kind of along those lines,” he said. “Not to say these guys are doing a bad job, but the fact that we don’t have the normal guys out there is pretty crazy.”
Regular officials have been locked out since June.
“There’s some serious calls the refs missed,” Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis said. “It’s just the way it is, man, all around the league. We have to correct that. These games are critical. Guys are giving everything they’ve got all across the league. But these are calls, with the regular refs, if they were here, we know the way the calls would be made.”
Earlier in the day, the NFL announced line judge Brian Stropolo wouldn’t be working the New Orleans-Carolina game. Turns out, Stropolo is a Saints fan from New Orleans who had posted pictures of himself in team gear on his Facebook page.
The NFL record book can wait, because the Rams have made the Guinness Book. They distributed fake mustaches to all ticket-holders at the game Sunday in honor of Coach Jeff Fisher, who wears a real one. That crushes the previous world record of 227 fake moustaches at one gathering.
Ironically, the record was set on a day when long-suffering Rams fans, for once, didn’t feel like wearing their usual disguise: a moustache, yes, but also a beard and dark sunglasses.
Get our high school sports newsletter
Prep Rally is devoted to the SoCal high school sports experience, bringing you scores, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at what makes prep sports so popular.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.