First Down, Fourth Down: Reggie Bush and CJ Spiller dominate
First Down, Fourth Down takes a weekly look at the good (First Down) and bad (Fourth Down) from NFL Sunday.
There were so many stellar — and less-than-stellar — performances on Sunday that we don’t even have enough room in our 10 slots here for all of them.
So, you’ll have to forgive the absences of guys like Andrew Luck, who turned in a dramatic late drive to win his home opener; Marshawn Lynch, who bowled his way over Dallas to 122 yards and a TD in Seattle’s win; and the Eagles, who overcame four more turnovers to rally past Baltimore.
And, on the other side of the spectrum, you’re on your own ragging Josh Morgan, the Redskins’ receiver who cost his team a shot at a game-tying field goal with an inexplicable penalty, as well as a few more of Sunday’s goats.
Here are the players and teams that did make the cut:
First Down: Reggie Bush and C.J. Spiller
Two AFC East teams won in Week 2, but maybe not the teams you expected. The Bills blew the reeling Chiefs away, while the Dolphins destroyed the visiting Raiders. How’d previously 0-1 Buffalo and Miami pull the trick?
Well, for both, it started on the ground. With just the Detroit-San Francisco and Denver-Atlanta games left, the leading rushers in Week 2 stood as Miami’s Reggie Bush (26 carries for 172 yards) and Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller (15 carries for 123 yards). Spiller was filling in, again, for injured starter Fred Jackson. The 292 yards he has in two games this season tops his total from all of 2010 (283), and is more than halfway to his 2011 mark (561).
Fourth Down: The New Orleans Saints
Mayday. The Saints may still have what it takes to get to the postseason, but they’re off to an ugly 0-2 start. Without head coach Sean Payton, fill-in head coach Joe Vitt and departed defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, New Orleans has coughed up 75 points in two games — 40 last week to Washington and 35 to Carolina on Sunday (though seven came off a pick-6 from Drew Brees).
The offense, behind 325 yards passing from Brees, put up 27 against the Panthers but had just 13 at halftime and failed to score in the third quarter. New Orleans has three games before its bye: Kansas City and San Diego at home, and a trip to Green Bay. Anything less than a 2-1 record might bury New Orleans for 2012.
First Down: Dante Rosario
With Antonio Gates a surprising scratch on Sunday, Rosario stepped into a much bigger role than expected for the Chargers against Tennessee. Rosario caught four passes … and the first three went for touchdowns. By the time the Titans knew what was hitting them, San Diego had a 24-3 lead and was rolling to a 38-10 victory. Philip Rivers connected on 24 of his 32 passes on the day for 284 yards.
Fourth Down: Blaine Gabbert
Jacksonville had a shot to win in Week 1 at Minnesota. That wasn’t the case Sunday against the Texans. You can blame just about anyone you want for this — the Jacksonville defense couldn’t stop the run, Maurice Jones-Drew had just 67 total yards on 15 touches, and the offensive line coughed up three sacks. But the Jaguars’ issues always seem to come back to Gabbert, and his 7-for-19 line won’t give them a chance any week. He did throw a TD pass to MJD but managed a measly 53 yards through the air before leaving the game with a thigh injury.
First Down: Eli Manning (in the fourth quarter)
Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman threw for 243 yards against the Giants on Sunday. Eli Manning matched him … in the fourth quarter.
Manning had 263 yards over the first three quarters (so the math says he finished with 510 total), but he also tossed three early interceptions, one of which was taken back to the house by Eric Wright. Facing a 27-16 deficit heading into the final 15 minutes, though, Manning took over. He hit Victor Cruz for an 80-yard score with 6:48 left to tie the game at 27 (thanks to a two-point conversion), then put the Giants ahead on a TD toss to Martellus Bennett.
After Tampa Bay responded to tie the game at 34, Manning led one more scoring march, which Andre Brown capped with a 2-yard TD run.
Fourth Down: Tony Romo (in Seattle)
Romo’s botch job against the Seahawks on a 2007 playoff field goal attempt still lives on in Dallas fans’ nightmares. The Cowboys didn’t have a chance to go for the win Sunday in Seattle, as Romo and the Dallas offense took the day off. Romo did throw for 251 yards and a 22-yard TD to Miles Austin. Still, he and his offense struggled to generate anything consistently against the Seahawks’ defense in a 27-7 loss.
First Down: Danny Amendola
All eyes were on Robert Griffin III in St. Louis for his second NFL start. But it was a tremendous performance by Amendola that helped the Rams pump the brakes on the RGIII hype train, as the Rams held on for a 31-28 win. Amendola cost his team points earlier, when he fumbled and Josh Wilson scooped it up for the score. After that, there was no stopping Amendola, who caught 15 balls for 160 yards and a touchdown. Bonus: He also returned four punts for 29 yards.
Fourth Down: Stephen Gostkowski
The Patriots looked lethargic all day against the Cardinals on Sunday. They still looked like they were going to escape with a win when Arizona RB Ryan Williams put a fumble on the deck late. Gostkowski blew New England’s chance at that gift win by hooking a last-second field goal wide left, giving Arizona a stunning road victory.
First Down: Pittsburgh’s defense
The Jets probably set the bar too high on offense last week by dropping 48 on the Bills. That said, you have to tip your cap to the Steelers, who shut down Mark Sanchez and co., despite the absences of defensive stalwarts James Harrison and Troy Polamalu. Perhaps no one stepped up as much as Ike Taylor, who was getting picked on by Sanchez early as New York took a 10-6 lead, then turned things around to help shut out the Jets from there.
Fourth Down: Chris Johnson
We might have to give Johnson a permanent home here. His offensive line continues to let him down, but Johnson’s 2011 slump has carried over to 2012. He averaged 2.1 yards per carry on Sunday (eight carries for 17 yards) and finished with four fewer yards on the ground than QB Jake Locker. Johnson has 21 yards rushing — total — in two games this season.