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NFL Week 2 winners and losers: Jon Gruden, Rob Gronkowski are up, Vikings’ kicker Greg Joseph is down

Nick Falato looks at the best and worst of Week 2 in the NFL

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star Christine Tannous/IndyStar via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Week 2 of the NFL season is almost in the books. There are seven undefeated teams through two games: the Raiders and Broncos - both in the AFC West, and the Buccaneers, Panthers, Cardinals, Rams, and 49ers - two in the NFC South, and three in the NFC West. There weren’t as many upsets as Week 1, but there were a few road teams that won impressive matchups against quality opponents.

Several star players were injured in Week 2. Quarterbacks Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor, Tua Tagovailoa, Carson Wentz and wide receiver Jarvis Landry were all injured and failed to return, while Baker Mayfield, Derek Carr, Christian McCaffrey, D.K. Metcalf, Dalvin Cook, Darrell Henderson, and Mike Evans appeared injured, but finished their games. Laviska Shenault Jr. was also injured, among others.

Week 2 last year was also relentless in terms of injuries with star running backs Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley suffering serious ailments, but it was good to see some of these stars return to play. Let’s get into this week’s winners and losers.

Winners

Coffee narrative

If I was ever a talented NFL wide receiver, I would be sure to try and replicate the Los Angeles Rams model of relationship building. The Rams traded for Matt Stafford in the off-season and Stafford quickly started developing a friendship with wide receiver Cooper Kupp.

On Sunday Night Football last week, Al Michaels mentioned that Stafford and Kupp show up to the facilities before the rest of the team to eat breakfast together. Well, there’s something in the Wheaties because Kupp has 16 catches for 271-yards and 3 touchdowns - and was six-inches away from a fourth.

Stafford continues to look for Kupp in key third down situations. The Rams are now 2-0; they’ll prepare to square up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. Make the coffee extra strong this week!

Jon Gruden and Derek Carr

The Gruden and Mike Mayock era has been mocked by many pundits for peculiar roster transactions, draft picks, and a sub-par record. The marriage between Gruden and quarterback Derek Carr has been in question since Gruden took the job in 2018. The Raiders opened their schedule on Monday Night Football against the Baltimore Ravens. Las Vegas trailed 14-0 in that game, and somehow ended up forcing overtime.

The overtime period was an emotional roller coaster where many thought the game was over at one point on a premature Bryan Edwards touchdown that was eventually ruled down at the one-yard line. The Raiders ended up turning the football over on a tipped interception. However, rookie Ravens’ running back Ty’Son Williams blew his pass protection responsibility which led to a Lamar Jackson fumble that the Raiders took advantage of for an eventual score.

The Raiders had to travel, on a short week, to Pittsburgh and play a team that just defeated the Bills in Buffalo. It was a classic let-down game for the Raiders, but they overcame the odds and defeated Pittsburgh 26-17. Through two games, Carr has 817 passing yards for 4 touchdowns and a tipped interception - against the Ravens and Steelers defenses.

The Raiders had one of the toughest starts to their NFL season and they elevated their play to victory in both games - this week without star running back Josh Jacobs. Gruden may be unconventional at times, but his team is 2-0 in one of the toughest divisions in football.

Courtland Sutton

It was great to see Sutton re-establish himself as a top receiving option again. Sutton missed most of last season with a devastating knee injury. He slowly worked his way back into action and just put up an impressive stat line: 9 catches on 12 targets for 159-yards. It was against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but this was still great to see.

Second-year star Jerry Jeudy hurt his ankle against the Giants in Week 1. Jeudy was the primary receiver, but that mantle was passed to Sutton upon his absence. Tim Patrick and K.J. Hamler could be solid fantasy options in the right matchups and game script, but Sutton looks to be the primary receiver with no Jeudy around.

The Derrick Henry effect

There’s no doubting the incredible impact that Derrick Henry has on opposing defenses. He became the eighth running back in history to rush for 2,000 yards last season. Henry is the primary weapon on this Titans offense and the identity of the team revolves around his physical running style.

Critics of a heavy Henry game plan point to his lack of receiving involvement. They also state that early deficits relegate a heavy Henry game plan ineffective - these arguments failed to be true in Week 2. The Henry effect was strong in the second-half - keep feeding the ball to Derrick Henry despite the deficit, as the defense tires out so did their ability to slow him down.

Henry was pedestrian in the first-half, but he had 12 carries for 126-yards and two rushing touchdowns in the second half. He averaged 7.4 yards per carry. The Titans were down 24-9 at halftime, and here’s another interesting analytical piece of information:

After that 13:16 mark, Henry rushed for a 60-yard touchdown. It was evident that Seattle’s defense was tiring down - 41 Derrick Henry touches will do that to you.

Rob Gronkowski

The 32-year-old tight end was significantly involved in the Week 1 victory against the Dallas Cowboys where he had two touchdowns. He followed up that performance by scoring two more touchdowns against the Falcons in Week 2. Gronkowski plays alongside arguably the best trio of wide receivers in the league: Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, and Chris Godwin.

The Buccaneers also have O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate as tight ends, but Gronkowski’s rapport with Brady, and his ability to block, allow him to see the field more than the other two talented tight ends. He may be older, but Gronkowski is still one of the top tight ends in the league. He has 12 catches for 129 yards for 4 touchdowns on the season.

Losers

MIN Kicker Greg Joseph

The Minnesota Vikings lost 34-33 in a fast paced game in Glendale, Az. The Vikings came out swinging; Kirk Cousins found slot receiver K.J. Osbourn for a 64-yard touchdown to open the game on a wheel route. Cousins finished the game 22 of 32 for 244 yards and 3 touchdowns. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray continued to put up impressive stats, but threw two costly interceptions in the second-half - one that was returned for a touchdown by linebacker Nick Vigil.

Late in the fourth-quarter, the Vikings defense forced Arizona to punt. Cousins led the Vikings down the field, chewing the clock to set up a chip shot field goal. Cousins led the Vikings 58 yards in about a minute to get down to the Arizona 19-yard line. That is where Joseph attempted a 37-yard walk off field goal attempt that he sent wide right. Here’s the Vikings’ radio call of the field goal.

Sadly for the Vikings, and Joseph, Arizona’s defensive linemen don’t jump off sides. To Joseph’s credit, he made two 52-yard field goals earlier in the game.

Zach Wilson

The lore around Bill Belichick’s defenses’ perplexing young quarterbacks continued on Sunday against Wilson and the Jets. This game reminded many of the 33-0 “seeing ghosts” game from 2019 where the Patriots confused Sam Darnold so badly that a hot-mic recorded his paranormal observations. Wilson threw 4 interceptions on 33 attempts; he completed 19 passes for 210-yards.

Wilson should be fine, and not all of his interceptions were his fault. Mekhi Becton’s injury really hurts the protection of the Jets - Wilson was sacked 4 times in this game. The Jets are a young team that will take their lumps in the first year with Robert Saleh as their head man. Brighter days should be coming, but probably not next week at Denver.

The DAL vs. LAC officiating crew

The officials in this game called 20 penalties in this game, many of which made a significant impact for both the Cowboys and Los Angeles. The pass interference on Cowboys’ DB Jayron Kearse in the first-half that removed an interception was really questionable. The Chargers ended up scoring a touchdown and converting the two-point attempt.

With about 5:30 left in the game, down by three in a second-and-goal situation, Justin Herbert was ruled sacked after backpedaling and chucking the football.

A sack here is questionable to say the least. Many of the calls in this game were soft. The Seattle/Tennessee officiating crew should be grouped in here as well. The Julio Jones catch was ruled a touchdown and then overturned which seemed wrong, and I don’t know how Russell Wilson wasn’t ruled sacked on the would-be safety play. And you know what, while we’re on the officiating subject - COME ON with these taunting calls. They’re ridiculous; players and fans do not support the No Fun League penalties that take away from the game.

Colts’ goal-line offense

Carson Wentz and the Colts moved the football well against the Rams’ powerful defense. Wentz led an 11-play, 58-yard drive to open the game at home against Los Angeles. The Colts got down to the one-yard line and was subsequently stuffed on three consecutive run plays before Wentz was sacked on fourth down.

Two drives later, the Colts were right back on the goal line and, this time, they threw the football after only one run from the 3-yard-line. They rolled Nyheim Hines into the flat - selling the defense to the right - but the target was a shovel pass to Jack Doyle near the play-side guard. The play was diagnosed well by the Rams and they intercepted the football.

Turnovers within the 5-yard-line are absolute killers. At worst, the Colts come away with six points in those situations; instead, they turn the football over twice and lose the game by a field goal, 27-24.

49ers RB situation

It may not be anything, but the 49ers running back room is really beat up two weeks into the season. Ironically enough, it was Week 2 last year at MetLife Stadium against the Jets where the 49ers lost EDGE Nick Bosa for the year, and RB Raheem Mostert for several weeks. Unfortunately, Mostert was injured last week and his replacements were all dinged up in the 49ers 17-11 win in Philadelphia.

It’s a different type of losing situation than most who make this list. Luckily for the rest of the NFC East, Jimmy Garoppolo and company was able to hold off Jalen Hurts and the Eagles, but this running back situation should be monitored going forwards. The 49ers signed former Lions RB Kerryon Johnson early last week.

*Honorable mention*

Texans situational decision making on this play

It’s a one-off play, but a head scratching mistake in a game that was closer than many anticipated.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire

The second-year running back fumbled the football with 1:25 left in the game while at the Ravens’ 32 yard-line. The Chiefs were going to wind the clock down and kick the go-ahead field goal. Rookie EDGE out of Penn State Odafe Oweh forced the fumble and put the Ravens’ offense in a position to pick up a first down, and win. They failed to pick up said first down on third down, but they were aggressive and ran the football on fourth down with quarterback Lamar Jackson - securing the victory. If Edwards-Helaire held onto the football, the Ravens would more than likely be 0-2.