Monday, September 18, 2017
So far, so good for Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions. Eli Manning and the New York Giants are heading in the opposite direction.
Stafford threw for two touchdowns, rookie Jamal Agnew broke the game open with an 88-yard punt return and the Lions beat the Giants 24-10 on Monday night.
The Lions (2-0) sacked Eli Manning five times and Stafford put together another big game while sending the Giants (0-2) to a second straight disappointing performance. Star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. returned from a sprained left ankle, but New York still struggled offensively.
"We did a nice job of getting in the end zone early and our defense did what they do," Stafford said.
Stafford found Marvin Jones for a 27-yard touchdown in the first quarter and passed to Eric Ebron for a go-ahead 7-yarder in the second. Matt Prater added a 56-yard field goal just before halftime that bounced off the upright, helping the Lions to a 17-7 lead at the break.
Ezekiel Ansah had three sacks as Detroit joined Atlanta and Carolina as the only unbeaten teams in the NFC through Week 2. The Lions made the playoffs last season, but finished the year with four straight losses.
Beckham, a three-time Pro Bowler who missed the season opener, had four catches for 36 yards in limited action.
Manning threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Evan Engram on the first play of the second quarter, but the rookie tight end was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for a seemingly obscene gesture. It allowed the Lions to get the ball at the Giants 45 after the kickoff went out of bounds and Stafford drove them for a second score.
New York closed to 17-10 on Aldrick Rosas' 25-yard field goal early in the second half, but it wasted a chance for a TD. The Giants had first-and-goal at the 1 and then got pushed back to the 11 on a holding penalty on a first-down run.
"We talked about playing complete, complimentary football. By no stretch of the imagination did we do that tonight," said Ben McAdoo, who led the Giants to their first playoff berth since 2011 last season in his first year as head coach. "We've got to do better. We've dug ourselves in a hole. No one feels sorry for us. We've got to find a way to get better and get better in a hurry."
Agnew then helped clinch the game for Detroit with his big return with 12:56 left, faking out New York punter Brad Wing on his way to the end zone. It was the fifth-longest punt return in team history.
Manning was 22 for 32 for 239 yards for New York, while Stafford was 15 for 21 for 122 yards. The NFL's highest-paid player threw for four touchdowns in Detroit's season-opening victory against Arizona.
Lions SS Tavon Wilson (shoulder) left in the second half. ... The Giants lost starting RT Bobby Hart on the opening series. LG Justin Pugh moved to tackle and Brett Jones replaced him. Giants also played without starters MLB B.J. Goodson (lower leg) and CB Janoris Jenkins (ankle-hand). Backup LB J.T. Thomas (groin) was ruled out early in the second half.
The Giants held a halftime ceremony to honor the 10th anniversary of their 2007 Super Bowl championship team. Coach Tom Coughlin and Hall of Famer Michael Strahan brought the Lombardi Trophy onto the field. New York beat the previously undefeated New England Patriots in the title game.
Lions: host the undefeated Falcons on Sunday afternoon.
Giants: at Philadelphia for Sunday afternoon game.
Sunday, September 17, 2017
New season. New stadium. Same ol' result.
Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons picked up where they left off against the Green Bay Packers, building a big halftime lead on the way to a dominating 34-23 victory Sunday night. The rematch of last season's NFC championship game was essentially a repeat: Ryan threw for 252 yards and a touchdown, Devonta Freeman had a couple of scoring runs, and Desmond Trufant darted to the end zone off an attempted pass by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers that was ruled a fumble.
"We came out aggressive," said Julio Jones, who had five catches for 108 yards. "We did a great job and got after them."
Back in January at the Georgia Dome, Atlanta earned a trip to the Super Bowl by racing to a 31-0 edge early in the third quarter on the way to a 44-21 blowout of the Packers.
In the first regular-season NFL game at $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium - and the first sporting event in which the facility's camera lens-like roof was open - the Falcons put on quite a show to mark the occasion.
They were ahead 24-7 at halftime and 31-7 less than a minute into the third period.
Unlike the Super Bowl , Atlanta (2-0) made sure this lead stood up.
Ryan threw for 201 yards in the first half, getting Jones involved in the offense. Freeman rushed for 84 yards, and Tevin Coleman chipped in with 42 on the ground plus a touchdown catch. Trufant not only scored a defensive touchdown, he came up with a crucial interception near the end of the first half.
"That's when we really come to light," coach Dan Quinn said. "Different weapons. You never know who's going to be the one."
After struggling a bit offensively in a season-opening victory at Chicago that was preserved with a goal-line stand in the closing seconds, the Falcons dominated right from the start in an early showdown for conference supremacy.
"If we get down to a tie-breaker, this game could be a big one," Rodgers said, already looking far down the road.
On the opening possession, Ryan guided a nine-play, 86-yard drive that was reminiscent of the league's highest-scoring team a year ago. Jones hauled in two passes for 53 yards and the Falcons didn't get to third down until they were at the Green Bay 1. Freeman powered in from there to make it 7-0.
The Packers (1-1) responded with a 75-yard drive of their own, capped by Ty Montgomery's 1-yard TD run. But it was downhill from there for Rodgers and his offense, which was missing both of its starting tackles and lost receiver Jordy Nelson early on with a quadriceps injury.
Atlanta led 17-7 after Freeman's second TD run from 2 yards out and Matt Bryant's 51-yard field goal. Then, the game totally got away from Rodgers and the Packers near the end of the first half. Three penalties in four plays - one a disputed offensive pass interference that wiped out a 36-yard gain - pushed Green Bay back to its own 3 before Rodgers lofted a terrible pass down the right sideline that was picked off easily by Trufant at the 36.
Ryan hit Mohamed Sanu with a 21-yard pass, setting up a 3-yard scoring pass to Coleman with 24 seconds remaining .
On the second play of the second half, Trufant turned it into a rout .
Rodgers was plastered by 2016 sack leader Vic Beasley Jr. attempting to throw, the ball wobbling out of his hand for what appeared an incomplete pass. But Trufant wisely scooped it up and scooted into the end zone for what was ruled a 15-yard touchdown. The call stood when the replay didn't show conclusively that the pass went forward.
"A big play by him with the interception at the end of the half," Quinn said, "then a smart play to start the second half on the forced fumble."
The Packers finally showed a bit of life with a couple of fourth-quarter touchdowns, including Rodgers' 300th career scoring pass .
It wasn't nearly enough.
Green Bay: Already short-handed up front, the Packers lost several more players during the game. Nelson was the most prominent injury, but also going down were defensive tackle Mike Daniel (hamstring), receiver Randall Cobb (shoulder) and cornerback Davon House (quad). In addition, backup safety Kentrell Brice was forced out by a groin injury.
Atlanta: On the first touchdown of the night, right tackle Ryan Schraeder was knocked out of the game with a concussion. The Falcons also lost Beasley (hamstring) and defensive lineman Courtney Upshaw (ankle).
Rodgers' first touchdown pass came on a 33-yard, fourth-down pass to Davante Adams, who made a brilliant play to keep his feet inbounds while kicking the pylon. No. 300 for Rodgers was as short as you can get, a little left-handed shovel pass to Montgomery from the 1.
"They all count," Rodgers quipped.
Bryant's first field goal was his 200th since joining the Falcons in 2009, making him the first Atlanta kicker to reach that figure. He also connected in the third quarter from 53 yards.
Green Bay: Return to Lambeau Field to face the Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) next Sunday.
Atlanta: Travel to Detroit to take on the Lions (1-0), who face the New York Giants on Monday night.
After 7 1/2 quarters of offensive inefficiency, the Seattle Seahawks finally broke the seal on the goal line.
It took some more magic from quarterback Russell Wilson to make it happen and avoid an 0-2 start.
Wilson avoided two potential sacks and found Paul Richardson in the front corner of the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown with 7:06 left and the Seahawks held on for an unsightly 12-9 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
It was an offensive nightmare as both teams had combined for 14 total quarters without a touchdown this season before the Seahawks finally broke through. Wilson avoided Arik Armstead in the pocket and got his pass away before DeForest Buckner could pull him down. Seattle (1-1) snapped a streak of more than 112 minutes without a touchdown, despite missing on opportunities twice inside the 49ers' 10-yard line earlier in the game.
"We had to find a way to get into the end zone and capitalize," Wilson said. "We had been down there a few times earlier in the game and missed our opportunities there, so this was all we got. We've got to go make it happen right now."
Wilson was erratic at times and magical at the end. He was 23 of 39 passing for 198 yards. He rushed for another 34 yards, 27 coming on the decisive scoring drive. Wilson was 4 of 5 on the drive and aided by a 20-yard pass interference penalty against Dontae Johnson.
Richardson suffered a dislocated right ring finger in the first quarter that popped through the skin. The finger was put back in place and the skin stitched up so he could return and eventually made the winning catch.
"That was the goal once I got it sewed up, still go win," Richardson said. "I wasn't just trying to get out there, `Oh he's tough, he's finishing out the game.' I wanted to go make a difference."
Blair Walsh added field goals of 25 and 27 yards, but missed the extra point after Richardson's TD that could have given the Seahawks a four-point lead. The 49ers (0-2) only needed a field goal to tie but never got into position to have an opportunity.
San Francisco went three-and-out after the touchdown, punted and never got the ball back.
"I'm not happy at all. I'm extremely disappointed," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. "Anytime you as a team think you put yourself in a position to win the game, you expect to win it. I felt like we had that opportunity and we didn't get it done which is extremely disappointing."
Robbie Gould kicked three field goals to amount for San Francisco's output. Carlos Hyde rushed for 124 yards, including a 61-yard run in the first half, but Brian Hoyer was 15 of 27 for 99 yards passing and an interception.
San Francisco took the lead on Gould's 34-yard field goal with 11:36 to play, but was unable to hold off Seattle's final drive.
Seattle should have found the end zone earlier, but had dropped passes on two drives inside the 49ers' 10 in the first half. C.J. Prosise dropped a potential touchdown near the goal line on Seattle's first drive. Tanner McEvoy was unable to corral a high pass from Wilson in the end zone on the second drive.
For the first time in franchise history, the 49ers have gone the first two weeks of the season without scoring a touchdown. In the two games, the 49ers have had one offensive drive inside the opponents' 10-yard line.
"It's only two games. We have a whole lot of games left," Hyde said.
Rookie Chris Carson rushed for 93 yards, including 58 yards in the fourth quarter. Carson was Seattle's primary option as Thomas Rawls had his amount of carries limited in his first game after suffering a high-ankle sprain in the preseason. Carson had 20 carries, while Rawls had just five.
San Francisco lost safety Eric Reid to a knee injury in the third quarter. Reid appeared to hurt his left knee in the first half and sat the rest of the half before returning in the third quarter. He lasted about five minutes before walking off the field with trainers again.
Seattle running back Eddie Lacy was a healthy scratch for Sunday's game. It was a surprise absence as Lacy had not appeared on any injury reports. Like much of Seattle's offense, Lacy struggled to get going in the opener against Green Bay and was limited to 3 yards on five carries.
49ers: San Francisco has a quick turnaround and will host the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday night.
Seahawks: Seattle will make its second long road trip of the season, traveling to Tennessee next Sunday.