What We Learned From Week 2 of the N.F.L. Season

No more Week 1 rust, no more excuses. Fifteen teams entered Week 2 looking to prevent starting the season in an 0-2 hole. That desperation sparked collapses in Baltimore in Cleveland OR chest-thumping finishes for Miami and the Jets. Depends on your vantage point.

Tua Tagovailoa took full advantage of the Ravens’ ravaged secondary.

Heading into the fourth quarter, the Ravens had the Dolphins dead to rights. Up 35-14, Lamar Jackson was putting together an M.V.P.-level performance, throwing for over 10 yards per pass and rushing for 119 yards and a score on just nine carries. The Dolphins’ offense could only get short bursts of yardage, mostly thanks to Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle gaining ground after their catches.

Baltimore took a three score lead into the final period and surely thought it would be enough to win. But the Ravens’ secondary has been a monstrosity since 2021, when four cornerbacks finished the season on injured reserve and the team allowed the most pass yards of any defense in the league.

With Marcus Peters playing his first game since tearing his A.C.L. last season and Kyle Fuller out having sustained the same injury in Week 1, the Ravens’ secondary blew coverage after coverage, allowing both Hill and Waddle to get 10 yards behind them on multiple occasions. Tua Tagovailoa had no issue finding the Dolphins’ two track stars running wind sprints past the Ravens’ safeties. He threw three touchdowns within the first 10 minutes of the fourth quarter to tie the game, 35-35.

Baltimore responded with a 51-yard field goal to go ahead, giving Miami the ball back with just over 2 minutes remaining. Last season, that would have been a safe bet. With aggressive first-year head coach Mike McDaniel and a newly stocked receiver corps, not so much.

Tagovailoa found Hill and Waddle with a string of quick throws to drive to the Ravens’ 7-yard line with 23 seconds left. After a first-down incompletion, Miami’s quarterback made his best play of the day, dancing out of a sack to his left to thread a pass just over Damarion Williams’s fingertips for Waddle in the middle of the end zone.

The scrappy heart of the Lions is its offensive line.

Lions Coach Dan Campbell once told everyone that his team would bite kneecaps off, but instead they’re looking like the fun, scrappy charmer of the N.F.L. It’s a respite from the weekly heartbreak of the 2021 season, when Detroit would go for it on fourth downs to get an edge and still lose because the Lions just didn’t have the horses.

Detroit took it to a solid Washington team on Sunday, getting a 36-27 win at home. Through the first 30 minutes of the game the Lions (1-1) dominated, going up 22-0.

Jared Goff put up a better-than-solid performance, throwing for 256 yards and four touchdowns on 20 of 34 passing, but the heart of this effort was Detroit’s reserve offensive line. Down all three of their Week 1 starting interior offensive linemen, the Lions’ bigs still ran through Washington’s front. With no Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow or Logan Stenberg in the lineup, the offensive line ground out consistent gains and cleared a few highway-sized rushing lanes for D’Andre Swift to rip off explosive runs. There are few tests of a coaching staff like being able to keep backup offensive linemen ready and Detroit’s line coach, Hank Fraley, has kept that unit at the top of the league through three seasons in the role.

Commanders (1-1) quarterback Carson Wentz (30 of 46, 337 yards, 3 TDs) dug deep into his bag of bizarre tricks, throwing touchdown passes on four of his first five possessions of the second half. But Lions defensive end John Cominsky came up with a huge sack on Wentz on fourth-and-4 at the Commanders’ 39-yard line to end their final drive.

Rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger reached for a third-quarter touchdown that pulled the Giants to a 13-13 tie with the Panthers.Credit…Brad Penner/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

The Giants offense is still looking for ways to stretch.

After years of ineffective offense, the Giants’ first-year head coach Brian Daboll crafted a game plan in Week 1 that both unleashed Saquon Barkley on pulling plays to the outside and gave Daniel Jones a healthy buffet of open targets. But in the first three quarters of Sunday’s game against the Panthers, the Giants turned the clock back to 2021.

The Giants (2-0) recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff, getting the ball on the Panthers’ 22-yard line. Daboll opted for screens and quick passes on three plays from scrimmage instead of trying for the end zone, eventually accepting three points on a 36-yard field goal.

The Panthers (0-2) fumbled again on the next drive, gifting the Giants another short field. Taking over on the Carolina 40-yard line, Daboll again dinked and dunked down to the 5-yard line before Jones took back-to-back sacks to force another field goal. Carolina kept pace with field goals, sending the game to a 6-6 tie at halftime.

It wasn’t until the second half that Daboll got back to what worked in Week 1. The coach opened with a number of horizontal stretches in the passing game that gave Jones easy targets in the 10- to 20-yard range. Jones capped off a touchdown drive on the Giants’ second possession with a pass on a slide route into the flat area to rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger off a play-action fake to bring the game back to a tie at 13-13.

Carolina’s secondary tightened up again after that, forcing the Giants to punt on their next two drives, but not enough to stave off a pair of field-goal drives. And the Giants walked out of their home stadium with a two-game win streak.

Around the N.F.L.

Garrett Wilson caught the second of two Jets touchdowns in the final 90 seconds of a win over the Browns.Credit…Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Dolphins 42, Ravens 38: It turns out chasing Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle around for 60 minutes is no easy task. After a fine, but uninspiring first three quarters, the Dolphins (2-0) offense erupted with a 28-point fourth quarter to stage this season’s best comeback so far.

Jets 31, Browns 30: Cleveland surrendered four touchdowns — two of which came in the game’s final 90 seconds — to a Joe Flacco-led team and that’s going to prompt a new level of angst among Browns fans. First Flacco found Corey Davis down the right sideline for a 66-yard score on a broken coverage. The Jets then recovered the onside kick, and went on a 9-play march that ended with a 15-yard touchdown connection over the middle between Flacco and rookie Garrett Wilson.

Patriots 17, Steelers 14: It’s one thing to have a defensive battle; it’s another thing to have two offenses trade punts like a bottom-tier Big Ten game. New England’s offense clawed their way to 17 points, thanks in part to a muffed punt in the third quarter that led to a quick touchdown run from Damien Harris. Had the Steeler defense hadn’t dropped a couple of interceptions, things could have gone very differently.

Giants 19, Panthers 16: Neither offense gained more than 5.2 yards per pass, Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield completed less than half of his 29 passes, and the two teams combined for 13 penalties. It was an ugly game of slow-building drives that sometimes ended in field goals. The Giants came away with a 2-0 start to the season and Matt Rhule may want to get his LinkedIn profile together.

Buccaneers 20, Saints 10: After a sloppy Week 1, Dennis Allen’s Saints defense came out swinging against the Bucs, a common occurrence since Tom Brady showed up in Tampa Bay. Tied 3-3 heading into the fourth quarter, the game turned on a fight between Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore and Bucs receiver Mike Evans that resulted in both being ejected. Brady found Breshad Perriman for a touchdown on the next drive and Jameis Winston threw three picks, including a fourth quarter pick-6.

Lions 36, Commanders 27: The roar is being restored. Not only did the Lions stick to their grind-it-out style on offense, but Detroit came away with a few special plays. Amon-Ra St. Brown ripped off a 58-yard run on a jet sweep, No. 2 pick Aidan Hutchinson had his breakout game with three sacks, and even Jared Goff made a tough throw under pressure in the red zone to find St. Brown for a score.

Jaguars 24, Colts 0: Trevor Lawrence has a new coach in Doug Pederson and a few new teammates to throw to, and he used them both to dominate the Colts. A No. 1 overall pick in 2021, Lawrence was just as effective on intermediate and deep passes as he was taking the quick underneath options, showing crucial development in his second season. His near-perfect stat line (25 of 30 passing, 235 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs) could have improved if Jamal Agnew had not dropped a would-be touchdown on a deep crossing route late in the second quarter, but here’s a guess that Jacksonville won’t quibble about it.

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