King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Lessons of NFL Week 2. The Browns can score! And: We don't know much, but we know Cincy, San Diego, Denver and the whole NFC don't look like much.


King Kaufman
September 17, 2007 3:00PM (UTC)

That was a preposterous game they played in Cleveland Sunday, the Browns beating the Cincinnati Bengals 51-45. Football. They were playing football. Not basketball.

That 51 by the Browns has to be one of the all-time improbable scores, even though it was hung on the Bengals, who have not exactly been voted least likely to give up 51 any time lately. Remember, the Browns are the team that benched their quarterback in the first quarter of the first game last week, then traded him. Then covered their ears and went "La la la!" whenever you said his name.

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This was the guy who won the job. Sunday, the guy who lost that job lined up under center.

And hung a 51 on a team that figured to be in the thick of the AFC playoff race. His name, for you completists, is Derek Anderson, out of Oregon State, and now that he has torched an NFL defense for 328 yards -- 9.9 per throw -- five touchdowns and one interception, he's firmly established in the job.

The job of keeping the chair warm for Brady Quinn.

Hell of a game for the Browns, for the whole franchise, for the city of Cleveland, for anyone who watched it, really for all of humanity. But most significant for non-Browns fans is that the Bengals can't be taken seriously as a contender in the NFL's major conference.

I don't care which way the wind's blowing or the ball's bouncing: Give up 51 points to pretty much anybody and you have to be rethinking your January plans. No offense to the Browns, but if you give up 51 to the Browns, you have to be rethinking everything.

OK, I can see how that would be offensive to the Browns.

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But this is good. We know a little more than we did on Saturday. Week 2 is when the patterns of an NFL season just barely start to peek out, or at least some of them do. So the 2007 NFL season is simpler by this much: Don't worry about Cincinnati. The Bengals can get back in the conversation later in the year, but until then, see you around campus. Write if you learn how to defend.

The San Diego Chargers, who handled the Chicago Bears last week, had their hats handed to them by the New England Insert Your Video Spying Reference Here Patriots, who -- I'll put it here -- didn't need any spies to dominate from the opening kickoff. That two-week sequence might be an indication of the difference between the AFC and the NFL's mid-major conference, the NFC. Then again, either of those games could have been just one of those games. But I lean toward the former interpretation.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have outscored their two opponents 60-10 after their 26-3 thrashing of the Buffalo Bills Sunday. They abused the Browns 34-7 last week, and yeah you can look at the opposition, but again, I don't care who you're playing: This is the NFL and 60-10 ought to at least serve notice that the Steelers might be on to something.

It's early to say this, but I don't think it's outrageous to say it: The big three in the AFC might be New England, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh, not New England, Indianapolis and San Diego.

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And what did it mean that the Colts had so much trouble against the Tennessee Titans, squeezing out a 22-20 nail-biter? Teams get a lot of credit for winning the close ones, but the really good teams pound their opponents into the dirt. The Colts got away with winning a bunch of close ones last year. Are they going to do that again or is it going to catch up to them?

Or was that just one of those games?

Houston's also 2-0, having pounded Kansas City at home and now Carolina on the road. The Texans look like they're pretty good. We'll know more in a week after they play at the Colts, but after that they get to play at the Atlanta Falcons, who are awful, home against the Miami Dolphins, who look awful, and at the Jacksonville Jaguars, who just struggled to beat the Falcons. The Texans could lay an egg in Indy and still easily go 4-1.

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And the Broncos, speaking of winning the close ones. They've escaped with their lives twice now, against the Bills and the Oakland Raiders, and it took coach Mike Shanahan's intrepid timeout call to beat the Raiders. Oakland is resembling an actual football club so far this year, but at what point does Denver start looking like a good team? They'd better by Week 4, when they'll start a three-game stretch at Indy and home to San Diego and Pittsburgh.

The Baltimore Ravens were just about everybody's choice to win the AFC North, but they're already as banged up as most teams will be around Week 14, and they lost to the Bengals and struggled against a lousy New York Jets team. They're not looking like a playoff team, though they'd go 12-4 in the NFC.

What do we know about the junior conference? We know the Seattle Seahawks aren't any better than the Arizona Cardinals, who aren't any better than the San Francisco 49ers, who squeaked by the St. Louis Rams, who got slugged by the Carolina Panthers, who got smoked by Houston, remember? In other words: Blech.

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I think we know not to put too much stock in the Detroit Lions' 2-0 record, maybe a little more but still not much in those of the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers.

We know the New Orleans Saints have looked terrible twice now, which leaves the door open for the Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles to take charge of the conference. Their combined record is 1-2 and they have yet to play a good game, with Philly hosting Washington Monday.

We'll have to unlearn most of this stuff by Week 4, when a whole new set of patterns will have emerged. The way it stands now, the Week 6 prime-time games are looking positively canine: New Orleans at Seattle and the New York Giants at Atlanta. Then again, the way it stood two days ago, it would have taken the Cleveland Browns until Week 6 to score 51 points.

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Brady flattened -- almost [PERMALINK]

The Chargers and Patriots don't like each other, but if the Patriots go far this year, they might send a thank-you card to San Diego defensive back Drayton Florence.

Clinton Hart of the Chargers intercepted a Tom Brady pass at the very end of the first half with New England leading 24-0. Hart started up the right side of the field from his own 10, then swung left and crossed the field between the 20- and 25-yard lines with Brady giving chase, running parallel to Hart about five yards downfield.

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Florence had just bumped Wes Welker and when he turned around and looked up he had a perfect angle to level Brady, who was looking at Hart, not Florence. Brady saw Florence at the last second and stepped around him to the right, but Florence was stepping out of Brady's way too. I think that if Florence had wanted to, he could have lowered the boom on Brady.

At least Brady had his head up, unlike Chad Clifton, the Green Bay lineman who got blown up by Warren Sapp, then of Tampa Bay, on a famous similar play in 2002.

Not only did Florence not lower the boom, he even gave Brady a little "go on through" pat on the butt as Brady dodged around him.

A meaningless play in the middle of a rout, but it could have been a season changer.

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And, just by the way, what was Brady doing running laterally to try to make a tackle -- an incredibly dangerous play for an inexperienced defender -- in a 24-0 game?

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  • King Kaufman

    King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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