Rivalries were at the forefront of Week 2 in the NFL, with half of Sunday’s 14 games featuring divisional battles. And they did not disappointment.
Aaron Rodgers, who led a stunning Green Bay Packers comeback last week on a gimpy left knee, was well on his way to getting a pivotal win against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North tilt. Then a questionable call, and a couple of missed kicks later, and we got the second tie of the NFL season — one that could have major playoff implications down the road.
In a non-divisional matchup, the Cleveland Browns once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, going from what looked like a shocking win over the Saints to losing for the 32nd time in the Hue Jackson era.
Check out the best and worst moments from a busy Sunday in the NFL:
Best: Eli Manning Face returns!
I’m not clowning Eli but did you see his face?.. I probably would make that face if smoove was coming at me like that— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) September 17, 2018
We can’t blame Manning, either, not when he was sacked six times behind that Giants offensive line, and not when Jaylon Smith is ready to pounce.
Worst: A holding call on the Lions ends their comeback bid
The Lions were down 17 points in the fourth quarter to the 49ers, but unlike last week against the Jets, they didn’t give up. Matthew Stafford drove the Lions down the field for two quick touchdowns to get the Lions back within three points.
Then rookie Tracy Walker picked off Jimmy Garoppolo to get the Lions into the red zone ... but wait, was is that? Oh no, it’s a flag. Quandre Diggs was called for an defensive holding and the pick was negated.
It looks pretty ticky tack, and Diggs was not happy about it:
Here’s the controversial holding call: pic.twitter.com/9t0hwthEO1— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) September 16, 2018
Still, the Lions had another chance to win or tie after that. They got the ball back with a minute left but couldn’t get to midfield, falling 30-27.
Best: The Jaguars kept the heat on the Patriots
Jacksonville got off to a quick start against the Patriots in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game, thanks to two first-quarter touchdowns. One of those scores was from Keelan Cole, but his best highlight might be one of the best catches ever: a one-handed stab on the sideline.
Jacksonville built a 24-3 lead on the Patriots, but New England has had some memorable comebacks of late, as CBS reminded us.
Interesting graphic from CBS: pic.twitter.com/NWx5abHKfa— Pats Pulpit (@patspulpit) September 16, 2018
The Patriots started storming back, cutting the deficit to 24-10 and forcing another Jags turnover. But a Tom Brady fumble was soon followed by Dede Westbrook tiptoeing down the sideline for a long touchdown to put things away.
The Jags learned their lesson from January: Never take your foot off the pedal against the Patriots.
Worst: Derek Carr much more accurate this time around and it didn’t even matter
Derek Carr threw three interceptions in Week 1, including an absolute lollipop that was one of the worst picks in recent memory. This week the Raiders quarterback was much more effective. He completed 22 of his first 23 passes, including a 20-yard touchdown strike to Seth Roberts.
Carr finished 29 of 32, completing 90.6% of his passes, but the Raiders couldn’t hold a 19-7 second half lead. The defense let Case Keenum lead the Broncos down the field for a Brandon McManus game-winning kick as time expired.
The Raiders dropped to 0-2 with a 20-19 road loss to the Broncos.
Best: Rams lose their kicker, but still crush the Cardinals
Rams placekicker Greg Zuerlein suffered a groin injury that sidelined him on Sunday against Arizona, but it didn’t come back to bite Los Angeles. The Rams successfully converted two-point conversions on their first three touchdowns, including a pair of two-point runs from Todd Gurley. They did let punter Johnny Hekker try a field goal from close range, nailing one from 20 yards out for his first career field goal.
Hekker added an extra point in the fourth quarter in a 34-0 win over Arizona.
Worst: The Vikings and Packers tie ... and not without some controversy
With less than two minutes to go in the game and the Vikings down by 8, Kirk Cousins threw an interception, presumably sealing the win for the Packers.
But wait! Clay Matthews was called for a roughing the passer penalty. And oof, that’s an iffy call here:
Do not hit quarterbacks high. Do not hit quarterbacks low. Do not hit them in the midriff. Roughing the passer on Clay Matthews. pic.twitter.com/pFyMnXxqxG— Ollie Connolly (@OllieConnolly) September 16, 2018
Eight plays later, Cousins found Adam Thielen for a terrific touchdown. A two-point conversion tied things up with 30 seconds left.
Mason Crosby missed a game-winning field goal for Green Bay at the end of regulation (after making the first one, which didn’t count because Mike Zimmer called timeout). Vikings kicker Daniel Carlson missed two field goal tries in overtime and since neither team scored in the extra period, the NFL got a tie for a second week in a row. It’s the first time there has been a tie in each of the first two weeks of the season since 1971.
The 29-29 tie is a first in NFL history.
MIN 29 - 29 GB— Scorigami (@NFL_Scorigami) September 16, 2018
That's Scorigami!! It's the 1041st unique final score in NFL history.
Worst: The Browns blew it against the Saints in new and exciting fashion
On the back of their defense, the Browns were on their way to their first win since December 2016. They forced two turnovers against the Saints and eight so far this season.
The offense even scored (and missed the extra point):
But, the Browns have teased us before, and just as they’ve done many, many times before, they blew it. The way they did it was new, though.
Up 12-3, now-unemployed kicker Zane Gonzalez missed a field goal attempt and the Saints scored on a Michael Thomas touchdown. Then Tyrod Taylor threw a pick and we got another Michael Thomas touchdown — and the Saints’ first lead of the game.
But on a fourth-and-5 prayer, Taylor found Antonio Callaway for an unbelievable game-tying touchdown. All they needed for a lead was an extra point ... and Gonzalez missed again.
The Saints drove down the field and got in field goal range, and Wil Lutz nailed the 44-yard attempt. Then the Browns got BACK in field goal range ... and yup, Gonzalez missed again. Not even a tie this time.
Gonzalez missed two field goal attempts and two extra point attempts. The Browns lost by 3. It was not a good day for Gonzalez, or NFL kickers in general, to say the least. To no surprise, the Browns signed a new kicker, Greg Joseph, the next day.
Maybe one day they’ll open that Bud Light fridge. :(
Best: Vontae Davis retired midgame, and the Bills finally scored a touchdown
Well, this is a new one: Bills cornerback Vontae Davis refused to take the field in the second half against the Chargers, opting instead to retire. He said, physically, he just wasn’t up to the task anymore, which is a legitimate reason to end your playing career — even if doing it in the middle of the game didn’t sit right with his teammates.
After that, though, something good happened to the Bills. Down 28-6 to the Chargers in the third quarter, the Bills finally got their first touchdown of the season. A horse collar penalty on the Chargers got the Bills to first-and-goal at the 1, and Chris Ivory ran it in.
Then something not good happened: the world’s strangest — and most painful — touchback.
Then something good again: Josh Allen threw his first NFL touchdown, giving the Bills two whole touchdowns this season
Then something not good again: the Bills are 0-2.
Best: Patrick Mahomes can throw it real pretty, huh?
Mahomes is so much fun to watch. Just look how nice this touchdown throw is (unless you’re the Steelers):
Mahomes to Conley. Chiefs ain’t scared. pic.twitter.com/XdDwc0lFj7— Jeff Rosen (@jeff_rosen88) September 16, 2018
The next drive, he did it again, this time with a 19-yard touchdown to Travis Kelce:
And then again on the next drive.
So for those keeping score at home, Mahomes finished the first quarter going 6 of 7 for 106 yards and three touchdowns — with a perfect passer rating.
He added three more touchdowns in the second half of the shootout, including this one that held up on review:
Back across the body like Favre. Mahomes is headed to the HOF. pic.twitter.com/ecOnjIrhQh— Clay Wendler (@ClayWendler) September 16, 2018
That’s an NFL record for most touchdown passes (10) for the first two weeks of the season.
Since 1950, only three QBs have thrown for 4 pass TD in each of his team’s first 2 games:— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) September 16, 2018
• NE Drew Bledsoe (1997)
• KC Patrick Mahomes (2018)
• TB Ryan Fitzpatrick (2018)
Best: Big Ben was also dealin’
The Steelers were down 21-0 after one quarter. After two quarters, they tied it up at 21-21.
Nine months ago, Jesse James’ game-winning touchdown catch against the Patriots was controversially overturned — and helped spur a new catch rule. Against the Chiefs, he got a bit of (late) redemption:
Ben Roethlisberger, who has had alllllll day to throw, also connected with JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington for touchdowns in the second quarter.
The one to Washington was a little iffy — did Big Ben cross the line of scrimmage here?
The refs reviewed it and the play stood. A two-point conversion to James Conner tied the game up at halftime.
Roethlisberger was dealing with an elbow injury all week. He threw 35 passes for nearly 300 yards in the first half alone. The Steelers couldn’t quite keep up with the Chiefs’ high-flying offense, losing 42-37. But Big Ben certainly tried, ending the day with 452 yards passing and unlike last week when he had five, no turnovers.
Worst: Yiiiiikes, this hit on Cam Newton
Falcons safety Damontae Kazee, filling in for Keanu Neal who is out for the rest of the season, was ejected for this hit on Cam Newton — as he should’ve been.
Newton returned to the game and promptly led the Panthers on a touchdown drive, though the Falcons came out on top, 31-24.
Best: Trick play Sunday!
Well, this is one way to overcome “Blaine Gabbert starting quarterback.” The Titans embarrassed the Texans with this fake punt:
Good call from the Titans. Terrible special teams effort from the Texans.
And this is one way to overcome a limited Aaron Rodgers:
JOSH JACKSON BLOCKED PUNT pic.twitter.com/UttAK3vjKX— Nathan Marzion (@natemar3i0n) September 16, 2018
Worst: Blaine Gabbert caught his own pass and then tried to illegally side-arm it forward
Gabbert said it was on purpose, but we just dunno:
On the other hand, Gabbert is 1-0 as a starting quarterback this year, so who are we to argue?
Worst: Deshaun Watson holds on to the football for 84 years
The Texans were down 20-17 with 17 seconds left and a chance for at least a game-tying field goal.
Instead, Watson danced around for years and years and years, before finally throwing to DeAndre Hopkins. Just in time for the clock to run out and the Titans to win:
THROW IT AWAY THROW IT AWAY THROW IT AWAY THROW IT AWAY THROW IT AWAY THROW IT AWAY THROW IT AWAY THROW IT AWAY THROW IT AWAY THROW IT AWAY THROW IT AWAY THROW IT AWAY THROW IT AWAY THROW IT AWAY THROW IT AWAY THROW IT AWAY THROW IT AWAY THROW IT AWAY pic.twitter.com/Bg10kwPoGi— James Brady (@JamesBradySBN) September 16, 2018
Best: Fitzmagic is back again!
The first play of the game, Ryan Fitzpatrick picked up right where he left off, with a long touchdown to DeSean Jackson:
And another one!
At halftime, Fitzpatrick had completed 14 of 19 passes for 271 yards, three touchdowns, and a pick. He added his fourth in the third quarter and finished with over 400 yards again as the Bucs took down the defending Super Bowl champs.
If Fitzpatrick takes Jameis Winston’s job, we don’t think Jackson isn’t going to object:
DeSean Jackson has caught 5 TD from Ryan Fitzpatrick since joining the Buccaneers.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 16, 2018
He has 1 TD from Jameis Winston.
Such a start to the season would give any quarterback confidence:
Here’s how all 14 games shook out Sunday:
Week 2 Sunday scores
Atlanta Falcons 31, Carolina Panthers 24
Indianapolis Colts 21, Washington 9
Tennessee Titans 20, Houston Texans 17
Minnesota Vikings 29, Green Bay Packers 29
New Orleans Saints 21, Cleveland Browns 18
Jacksonville Jaguars 31, New England Patriots 20
Dallas Cowboys 20, New York Giants 13