The NFL's second and third Sunday shifts delivered during a quality Week 2 slate. Derrick Henry cost the NFC West an 8-0 start, while Kyler Murray gave Gus Johnson strong material in his Sunday return. And, of course, Patrick Mahomes-Lamar Jackson IV provided a high peak. Here are the grades from around the NFL in Week 2.
The Chiefs (1-1) allowed their most rushing yards since September 2013, and the Ravens ground troops' 251 yards certainly marked the lead reason Patrick Mahomes is now 11-1 in September starts. The Ravens outrushed the Chiefs 251-62. Kansas City's top-heavy blueprint would have probably worked had Clyde Edwards-Helaire not fumbled on a would-be game-winning drive. The Chiefs have never truly replaced Kareem Hunt; their Edwards-Helaire luxury pick has not helped Mahomes sufficiently. And Kansas City's defense has required two Mahomes bailout efforts this season. The NFL's best player needs more help.
CHIEFS GRADE: C-plus | NEXT: vs. Chargers (Sun.)
The Ravens' post-Joe Flacco identity has not proven it can work on the biggest stages, but Lamar Jackson cleared a key barrier as he continues to make the case this offense can do so. Down his top two running backs, O-line starters Ronnie Stanley and Tyre Phillips, and first-round wideout Rashod Bateman, Jackson bewildered the Chiefs with the kind of comeback he has struggled with in his career. Jackson's fifth 200-100 game (239-107) -- two more than any other Super Bowl-era QB -- gashed a healthier Chiefs defense than the one the Browns faced. And Sunday doubled as his first regular-season comeback win after a 10-point deficit. A pivotal victory for an embattled Ravens team (1-1).
RAVENS GRADE: A | NEXT: at Lions (Sun.)
In a game that welcomed Gus Johnson back to an NFL booth, the exuberant announcer -- stationed largely at Big 12 games for many years -- had some quality subject matter to discuss. The Cardinals' ex-Big 12 quarterback-turned-franchise centerpiece accounted for 431 yards and four touchdowns, vexing the Vikings with his all-around game. Two Murray escapes left resulted in DeAndre Hopkins and Rondale Moore scores, and the third-year QB erased a 13-point first-half deficit before the second quarter's conclusion. The Cardinals (2-0) are pushing back against numerous fourth-place predictions, with Murray on track to approach Mahomes' $45 million average annual value.
CARDINALS GRADE: B-plus | NEXT: at Jaguars (Sun.)
The Vikings' hopes at a more experienced roster extending the franchise's odd-year playoff streak to four have ventured onto shaky ground. Minnesota's Anthony Barr- and Everson Griffen-less defense allowed Murray to throw for 400 yards -- 35 of which coming on a fourth-and-5 that set up Arizona's go-ahead fourth-quarter field goal -- and its offense produced three points in the final 29 minutes. None of this would have ultimately mattered had Greg Joseph hit a 37-yard field goal, but the Vikings are now 0-2 and set to face a Seahawks team that has beaten them in each of the past three seasons.
VIKINGS GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: vs. Seahawks (Sun.)
The Rams have used second-round picks on wide receivers in the past two drafts, and Sean McVay brought in ex-pupil DeSean Jackson this offseason. None of this has affected Cooper Kupp, who has done well to develop immediate chemistry with Matthew Stafford. The daily breakfasts the fifth-year receiver and his new quarterback enjoy are clearly paying off -- though, not for Robert Woods fantasy GMs -- with Kupp operating like a borderline All-Pro. Kupp's nine-catch, 163-yard, two-TD day helped save the Rams (2-0) in a game in which their mistakes kept the Colts in it.
RAMS GRADE: B-plus | NEXT: vs. Buccaneers (Sun.)
Despite the limited skill-position corps, the Colts saddled him with to start the season, Carson Wentz had the Colts hanging with the Rams. For the second straight game, however, the Indianapolis O-line lost its trench battle. The Rams stopped four straight Colts goal-to-go runs and hit Wentz 11 times during the game, ending the trade acquisition's day early with two sprained ankles. Indiana was to be a place where Wentz could enjoy better protection than he received last season, but the Colts (0-2) have now lost two home games and appear likely to face the Titans in a borderline must-win spot with Jacob Eason at the controls.
COLTS GRADE: C-plus | NEXT: at Titans (Sun.)
The Seahawks' 15-point lead could not stand up to the Titans' unrivaled backfield weapon, who did well to save his team from an 0-2 start and major questions on both sides of the ball. Playing behind an O-line that lost left tackle Taylor Lewan in warmups and left guard Rodger Saffold during the game, Henry put his cape on to ensure Tennessee exited Washington at 1-1. The Titans have done a poor job identifying a backup for their two-time rushing champ, and 41 touches -- after 397 last season -- are a new career-high. For now (237 scrimmage yards, three TDs, fantasy folk rejoicing) the results keep coming.
TITANS GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: vs. Colts (Sun.)
Sunday's result notwithstanding, the Seahawks certainly can still depend on their defensive constant. Bobby Wagner, beginning his 10th season, set his new career tackles standard by posting 20 in Seattle's overtime loss. One of those stops came on a rapid-fire inside blitz, resulting in a third-down sack in the red zone, and another occurred in Tennessee's backfield on Henry in OT. At 31, Wagner is on the back nine of his prime. But as the Seahawks (1-1) keep changing defensive parts, they have one of the game's top anchors in the Canton-bound middle linebacker.
SEAHAWKS GRADE: B | NEXT: at Vikings (Sun.)
Greg Zuerlein bailed out Mike McCarthy in what would have been one of the more embarrassing clock-management debacles in recent memory, and some Cowboys cover men helped ensure the veteran kicker was in position for his 56-yard game-winner. Chargers receivers tested Trevon Diggs, but his first-half interception halted one of Justin Herbert's drives. Recently acquired safety Damontae Kazee provided a second progress stopper for the burgeoning star QB, grabbing a fourth-quarter INT in the end zone. With the Cowboys (1-1) down both their starting defensive ends, their secondary did just enough to allow for a win over a rising AFC team.
COWBOYS GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: vs. Eagles (Mon.)
Matched up mostly with Cowboys ex-UDFA right tackle Terence Steele Sunday, Joey Bosa did not register a sack or a quarterback hit. Their ace's inability cost the Chargers (1-1), but the Cowboys' rushing attack played a role in Bosa's thin stat line. Dallas amassed 198 rushing yards, with potential 2022 starting back Tony Pollard slicing through the Bolts defense for 109 yards at 8.4 a pop. A Pollard 23-yard run set up the Cowboys' game-tying field goal and interfered with the second of Herbert's impressive passing exhibitions resulting in a win this season.
CHARGERS GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: at Chiefs (Sun.)
Sutton's 31-snap 2020 crushed Denver's passing attack, and the 6-foot-4 wideout exited Week 1 with one catch. The post-ACL-surgery weapon's first-half exit appeared an ominous sign for a team that has run into rough injury luck under Vic Fangio. But Sutton's return helped Teddy Bridgewater slice up the Jaguars. The Broncos (2-0) used the boundary threat in myriad capacities, and Sutton's nine-catch, 159-yard day displayed versatility as he compiled a career-high yardage total. With midrange target Jerry Jeudy out, the Broncos need Sutton to reprise his WR1 role from 2019. That worked out well Sunday.
BRONCOS GRADE: A | NEXT: vs. Jets (Sun.)
Trevor Lawrence delivered a strong opening drive, continuing to build chemistry with Marvin Jones and guiding the Jaguars (0-2) downfield for a touchdown. Jacksonville's offense sputtered the rest of the way. At one point in the second half, the prized QB prospect completed 2 of 13 passes against a Denver defense missing Bradley Chubb and Ronald Darby. Lawrence threw two interceptions, running his season total to five, and ended the day with a 42% completion rate. With Urban Meyer's staff eschewing rookie record-setter James Robinson, much is falling on Lawrence's shoulders.
JAGUARS GRADE: D-plus | NEXT: vs. Cardinals (Sun.)
The Patriots' defense rendered the Jets a non-threat quickly Sunday, intercepting Zach Wilson four times. Two of those INTs came on Wilson's first two throws, and J.C. Jackson was responsible for two of the four thefts. Jackson now has 11 picks over the past two seasons and 19 as a pro. Since Jackson came into the league as a 2018 UDFA, no NFLer's INT total tops that. Besides Xavien Howard (also 19 since 2018), no one else has more than 14 picks in that span. With Stephon Gilmore on the PUP list and looking set to play elsewhere in 2022, the Pats (1-1) have an interesting backup plan in Jackson, who is in a contract year.
PATRIOTS GRADE: A-plus | NEXT: vs. Saints (Sun.)
Ditching Sam Darnold after three seasons, the Jets saw an eerily similar outing unfold. Zach Wilson matched Darnold's four interceptions against the Patriots in New Jersey, from the 2019 "I'm seeing ghosts" game , and two of them came on the rookie's first two throws. No QB had done that since Tarvaris Jackson 10 years ago. Wilson followed Darnold and Mark Sanchez as Jets first-rounders to post four-INT games as rookies. The Jets have given Wilson a better setup than Darnold enjoyed, though left tackle Mekhi Becton's absence is a notable concern. Exiting their 11th straight loss to the Patriots, the Jets are in for another long road.
JETS GRADE: F | NEXT: at Broncos (Sun.)
The Falcons (0-2) slashed the Buccaneers' 18-point halftime lead to three entering the fourth quarter, with Matt Ryan and Co. threatening to destroy numerous eliminator-pool entries. Atlanta's now-ex-punter, Cameron Nizialek, giving the Bucs a short field and backup Bucs safety Mike Edwards channeling ex-Tampa corner Dwight Smith's Super Bowl XXXVII closeout -- with two pick-sixes -- restored order in the NFC South matchup. The Bucs pressured Ryan on both INTs, with one coming on a tipped ball. The 36-year-old QB playing out the string would be a depressing end to his Atlanta run, but this team has considerable work to do.
FALCONS GRADE: D-plus | NEXT: at Giants (Sun.)
Brady's five-touchdown pass display gives him a two-TD lead on the field after two games. The 44-year-old icon's nine after Week 2 ranks second all-time (Patrick Mahomes, 10, 2018), and Brady's Bucs have surpassed an obscure scoring standard previously held by Brady-led Patriot squads. Tampa Bay (2-0) eclipsed 30 points for the ninth straight game (counting playoffs), breaking a tie with the 2007 Pats and the 2010-11 editions, per ESPN Stats and Info. The Rams will provide a better test for Brady's unmatched weaponry, but the four-Pro Bowler/two-future Hall of Famer (at least) crew appears in superior form compared to last year's Super Bowl run.
BUCCANEERS GRADE: A | NEXT: at Rams (Sun.)
Days after ex-Jerry Rice and Tim Brown coach Jon Gruden called Waller the best player he's coached, the Steelers did better than the Ravens to contain him. Hyperbole aside, Gruden dialed up successful plays for his tight end's support staff in Pittsburgh. Most notably, Henry Ruggs blazed past Ahkello Witherspoon for a 61-yard touchdown that lifted the Raiders to 2-0. Derek Carr's 382-yard day also featured a Foster Moreau touchdown and two other non-Waller contributors -- Hunter Renfrow and Kenyan Drake -- enjoy five-catch days. The Raiders are 2-0 for a second straight year.
RAIDERS GRADE: A | NEXT: vs. Dolphins (Sun.)
Pittsburgh's optimal defensive lineup includes six Pro Bowlers plus standout defensive end Stephon Tuitt and ex-top-10 pick Devin Bush. They ended Sunday's game down five starters, including T.J. Watt, Tuitt, and Bush, and the Raiders took advantage. Joe Haden's absence depleted an already-thin cornerback corps, with the Steelers having cut Steven Nelson and let Mike Hilton sign with the Bengals. Carr performed far better than Josh Allen against the Steelers' top-tier defense, calling into question the unit's near-future viability absent half its starters. In a deep AFC, Pittsburgh needs favorable injury prognoses.
STEELERS GRADE: C | NEXT: vs. Bengals (Sun.)
Pitching their first shutout since the Jimmy Garoppolo-less Deflategate game five years ago, the Bills were undeterred by a more polished Jacoby Brissett this time around. Five years after a rookie Brissett struggled against Buffalo, he played behind an O-line ill-equipped to keep him protected. The Bills (1-1) pressured Brissett and Tua Tagovailoa on 33 of 57 pass attempts and recorded six sacks, with early blitzes getting home and setting the tone for a rough Dolphins day. First-rounder Gregory Rousseau dropped Brissett twice, allowing Buffalo's suddenly non-explosive passing attack more than enough margin for error.
BILLS GRADE: A | NEXT: vs. Washington (Sun.)
The Dolphins (1-1) stood behind Tua Tagovailoa this offseason, as Deshaun Watson rumors swirled. But as Justin Herbert keeps building into a potential MVP candidate, the player picked just before he is threatening to hijack Miami's rebuilding effort. Tagovailoa's rib injury forcing more missed snaps will certainly threaten the Dolphins' playoff hopes, even though Brissett is a higher-end backup. Over the weekend, Front Office Sports reported one team remains interested in acquiring Watson even before his criminal case concludes. Smoke has certainly engulfed the Dolphins on this front, and their QB future is still murky.
DOLPHINS GRADE: F | NEXT: at Raiders (Sun.)
Joe Burrow nearly made it 200 straight passes without throwing an interception, but after he threw three on three consecutive tosses, the Bengals essentially handed the Bears a win. Perhaps more alarming than Burrow's three-INT day: the Bears dropping him for four sacks, running the second-year QB's season total to nine. Each of Chicago's sacks came before the fourth-quarter INT montage, the third of the picks featuring inside pressure on Burrow. Cincinnati's ACL rehab participant will not last much longer at this rate. The Bengals (1-1) not acting more aggressively upfront this offseason may soon prove costly.
BENGALS GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: at Steelers (Sun.)
With four 30-something starters on their front seven, the Bears (1-1) can be tagged with the "aging" label on defense. Thankfully, they do have a 24-year-old standout inside linebacker. Roquan Smith tilted Sunday's home opener, coming on a blitz to sack Burrow and completing an impressive journey to complete a pick-six effort later. Smith is vital to the Bears' current defensive nucleus supporting Justin Fields and should represent the team's next front-seven anchor after the team's Khalil Mack-Akiem Hicks-Robert Quinn era ends. With Darius Leonard and Fred Warner setting the ILB market, Smith will not come cheap on a likely 2022 extension.
BEARS GRADE: B | NEXT: at Browns (Sun.)
The 49ers (2-0) kept Trey Lance in the garage and saw more running back injury trouble commence. Their defense made sure few points would be required. After Javon Kinlaw's blocked field goal, safety Jaquiski Tartt ran down Quez Watkins to stop a would-be 97-yard TD. This short-field possession ended grimly for the Eagles, who saw their modified "Philly Special" play end in a Greg Ward fourth-down throwaway to close that drive with no points. With Nick Bosa now up to three sacks, San Francisco's defense is in much better shape than it was exiting last year's east coast Week 2 trip -- a season-changing injury bloodbath.
49ERS GRADE: B | NEXT: vs. Packers (Sun.)
Regardless of Jalen Hurts' trajectory, the Eagles entered the season caught between a rebuild and contention. Their lines remained filled with Super Bowl bastions. Two of those veterans -- Pro Bowl defensive end Brandon Graham and Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks -- went down Sunday, with one of them (Graham) done for the year. Graham's torn Achilles pauses a celebrated Philly defender's career. The 12th-year veteran, best known for the sack-strip of Tom Brady late in Super Bowl LII, has maintained his upper-crust form into his mid-30s. While the Eagles (1-1) have D-end depth, in Derek Barnett and the recently extended Josh Sweat, this strips the team of a rusher surplus.
EAGLES GRADE: C | NEXT: at Cowboys (Mon.)
The Texans (1-1) have shown themselves to be a surprisingly pesky squad with Tyrod Taylor, who had them playing even with one of his former employers Sunday. Taylor's latest September absence, this time because of a hamstring injury, is set to summon Mills to the forefront (barring an unrealistic Deshaun Watson return cameo). Houston's variety of veteran backs and receivers makes sense with Taylor, and while they might prop up Mills, his rookie season stands to unfold almost exclusively with skill players who will be gone by 2022 or 2023 at the latest. That is, of course, if the third-round pick proves remotely viable as a starter.
TEXANS GRADE: C | NEXT: vs. Panthers (Thu.)
Although the Texans are not exactly staunch opposition, the Browns were down Jarvis Landry for three-plus quarters after scratching Odell Beckham Jr. yet again. Mayfield's 19-for-21 day came despite nary a contribution from a wide receiver, with the fourth-year QB repeatedly finding tight ends Austin Hooper and Harrison Bryant. Mayfield making plays with his legs, most notably a 5-yard TD run, aided Cleveland's shorthanded effort as well. The Browns (1-1) need their receivers back, but Mayfield keeping an opponent at bay without them is certainly a positive sign as he matures in Kevin Stefanski's offense.
BROWNS GRADE: B-plus | NEXT: vs. Bears (Sun.)
Going from plus-35 against a Super Bowl contender to minus-19 against a team still mid-rebuild, the Saints present quite the puzzle entering Week 3. Sunday's setback is understandable, at least. COVID-19 protocols prevented eight Saints assistants from coaching, and New Orleans played without Michael Thomas, Marshon Lattimore, Erik McCoy, Marcus Davenport, Kwon Alexander, and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. Still, Jameis Winston going from five touchdown passes to presiding over the worst single-game yardage total (128) of Sean Payton's 15-plus-year tenure is eye-opening.
SAINTS GRADE: F | NEXT: at Patriots (Sun.)
In addition to limiting Alvin Kamara to five rushing yards, the Panthers (2-0) hounded Winston by beating a better offensive line than they did in Week 1. After they dropped Zach Wilson six times, the Panthers got to Winston on four plays and pressured him frequently. Haason Reddick collected two of the sacks, with Carolina's other two lead edge rushers -- Brian Burns and Morgan Fox -- combining for 10 QB pressures and five hits. Panther pressure contributed to the first of Winston's two INTs, and eight Carolina cogs have factored into the team's sack total thus far. DC Phil Snow's unit appears to have made strides.
PANTHERS GRADE: A-plus | NEXT: at Texans (Thu.)
Nick Gates' gruesome injury stripped the Giants (0-2) of a second starting offensive lineman. With guard Shane Lemieux on IR and not looking likely to return soon, the Giants center Billy Price and guard Ben Bredeson -- both acquired just before the roster-cutdown deadline -- set for extensive auditions. In Price's case, this will be a second chance. The former Bengals first-round pick proved so ineffective as a rookie in 2018 the team benched him to start his second season. Bredeson's 100 2021 snaps more than double his rookie-year workload in Baltimore. These two will now have a key say in Daniel Jones' effort to prove he is the Giants' long-term QB.
GIANTS GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: vs. Falcons (Sun.)
J.D. McKissic's 2020 Washington signing ignited his career. A four-year backup and special-teamer in Seattle and Detroit, McKissic has kept hold of his role as Washington's passing-down back. The former Arkansas State wide receiver caught five passes for 83 yards to help Washington (1-1) escape with a win Thursday. McKissic now has 85 receptions in 18 Washington games. His status as a thorn in the side of Antonio Gibson fantasy GMs aside, the versatile 28-year-old has shown he will be a factor as Taylor Heinicke attempts to take hold of Washington's QB job in the coming weeks.
WASHINGTON GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: at Bills (Sun.)
For the second time in his past three games, Goff lost an increasingly one-sided contest at Lambeau Field. The former No. 1 pick experienced issues in cold weather as a Ram, and the California native lost his grip on Monday's effort as rain fell. After the Lions (0-2) played even for two quarters, Goff second-half miscues -- two of which fumbles in the downpour -- doomed their upset cause as Aaron Rodgers' MVP version re-emerged. Goff's forced relocation can be looked at positively -- his $33.5 million-per-year contract remains -- and negatively. Leading a rebuilding team on national TV skews negative.
LIONS GRADE: D-plus | NEXT: vs. Ravens (Sun.)
Stingy with their franchise tag, having not used it since 2010 (Ryan Pickett), the Packers had both Jones and All-Pro center Corey Linsley on the cusp of free agency after the March tag deadline. They let Linsley walk and extended Jones two days before free agency's legal tampering period. Jones' four-year, $48 million deal is essentially a two-year pact, and it aided Green Bay's Week 2 bounce back. Jones continues to be one of the NFL's premier dual threats, as his second career four-touchdown game showed. The fantasy hero/villain of the moment is vital to the Packers (1-1) salvaging the rest of the Rodgers era.
PACKERS GRADE: A | NEXT: at 49ers (Sun.)
Sam Robinson is a Kansas City, Mo.-based writer who mostly writes about the NFL. He has covered sports for nearly 10 years. Boxing, the Royals and Pandora stations featuring female rock protagonists are some of his go-tos. Occasionally interesting tweets @SRobinson25.