Mort: Week 1 review

Mortensen: 2001 archive

Week 2: Gutsy Fiedler gets it done for Dolphins

Sept. 25
Complete Week 2 Results

Packers 37, Redskins 0: Packers RB Ahman Green gives his team a chance to be special. There aren't many backs in the NFL with his combination of power and speed. It was more than impressive when the Packers decided to just grind on the Redskins in the second half with Green power-running behind an aggressive offensive line. That takes the pressure off Brett Favre, who had an average Favre night -- always entertaining, better than most, but he can be better.

Really, I thought the Redskins were more competitive than in their opener. Defensively, they at least made the Packers work in the first half for everything they got. It looks like rookie CB Fred Smoot is the real deal. (Just ask him). Offensively, Marty Schottenheimer must see that Jeff George has no confidence in what the Redskins are doing. Yank him? Perhaps. Tony Banks is a lot like George, however. He throws a beautiful ball, but can either George or Banks truly manage a game or inspire teammates? Kind of doubtful. The most discouraging part for Schottenheimer had to be seeing his team get physically beat up. There is no question that regardless of how the season plays out, Marty must get a younger team.

Jay Fiedler
Dolphins quarterback Jay Fiedler spikes the ball emphatically on his way to beating the Raiders.
Dolphins 18, Raiders 15: Say all you want about Jay Fiedler. He doesn't look the part. He's average. He throws a bad interception every now and then. Maybe all of that is true, but Fiedler proved Sunday he is one tough hombre who is a winner. Yep, a winner. The Dolphins won an AFC East title and a playoff game with Fiedler at the helm a year ago. Now he has added the Titans and Raiders to his belt to open the 2001 season.

True, Fiedler gave the Raiders their go-ahead score with an interception delivered into the waiting hands of Oakland safety Anthony Dorsett in the fourth quarter. He also took some shots, and was almost knocked out on a scramble with three minutes left. The Dolphins called timeout to give the groggy Fiedler a chance to let his head clear, but his third-down throw was five yards short. When the Dolphins punted, fans groaned, fearing Oakland would run out the clock. But coach Dave Wannstedt watched his defense force the Raiders into a three-and-out series for the fifth time in seven second-half possessions. Of course, the Dolphins had to go 80 yards with 1:41 left and no timeouts.

Where's Dan Marino when you need him? They didn't need him. Fiedler willed his team to victory -- in fact, he looked a lot like the Raiders' Rich Gannon as he led the scrappy, desperate Dolphins downfield. He completed four passes, including a fourth-down conversion. He ran seven yards to get within a sniff. Then he exhibited a nose for the end zone, with a tremendous effort to score the winning TD with only five seconds left.

It was a tough loss for the Raiders, who made the difficult 5-hour trip to play in the stifling south Florida heat. They should have had more to show for their efforts in the first half when they posted just a pair of field goals. Charlie Garner was a huge pain in the rear for the Miami defense, especially as a receiver. Then Garner strangely disappeared, and one wondered whether the Raiders' offense tried to do too much, instead of sticking with what had made them fairly effective. Garner should have been the man from start to finish. Miami's incomparable secondary held Oakland wide receivers to four catches -- three by Tim Brown for 20 yards and one by Jerry Rice for seven yards.

The Dolphins' secondary, and defense, gets the ultimate test Sunday when they travel to St. Louis to play the Rams in the dome. At the very least, it will be a good gauge for the Nov. 11 matchup in Indianapolis, where Peyton Manning and company are displaying a very Rams-esque ability to score points.

Bengals 21, Ravens 10: One thing this game does affirm is that the guys who wear the striped helmets -- formerly known as the Bungles -- are clearly a competitive team. They always had a chance because they have some strong units, not to mention a go-to skill player like Corey Dillon. What we didn't know is if they would continue to find a way to mess it up, and Sunday they didn't against the defending Super Bowl champions. The Bengals played hungry. They stayed after it. And, as Shannon Sharpe noted in the postgame locker room, they knew how to KO their opponent.

Linebacker Takeo Spikes gave a Ray Lewis-type performance in every way possible, from batting an Elvis Grbac pass in the end zone and then finishing off the Ravens with 66-yard interception return. Spikes also battered Grbac (he can expect a fine for at least one hit) and gave the Ravens several doses of their own medicine by rubbing their noses in it. Unsportsmanlike? Probably, but sometimes you have to treat a bully like a bully. The Bengals have displayed an attitude in their 2-0 start. It doesn't hurt to have a quarterback like Jon Kitna, who may not be the most talented guy in the world but Kitna himself has an attitude. He will compete, and he did Sunday.

What about the Ravens? They struggled against the Bears in Week 1, and now they lose in Cincinnati. It's the Super Bowl champ deal. Every game is a Super Bowl for the opponent. The most telling statistic -- a losing one, at that -- was Grbac's 63 pass attempts. You're going to throw three interceptions, as Grbac did, when you drop back that much. This game may have exposed Baltimore's weakness at wide receiver. The Bengals' cornerbacks aren't that good.

Here's the concern, as Steve Young expressed on Sunday NFL Countdown: When you don't have a featured running back, your receivers must be like running backs. They have to move the chains, and they have to occasionally take a short catch and turn it into a long gain. Do they have those kind of receivers? Apparently not. This is what the injury to Jamal Lewis has done to the Ravens. It may be too early to panic, but it's obvious that the defense will need a repeat performance in 2001 if the Ravens are going to repeat their championship run. Now they must go to Denver and see if they can deal with what a healthy Brian Griese has for them.

Bears 17, Vikings 10: My theory on the Vikings is only that -- a theory. I believe they are dealing with the post-trauma syndrome that is normal following the death of Korey Stringer. When Stringer died, the Vikings closed ranks and played a very emotional preseason. Their starters played longer than normal. They played to win. They were the only team to go unbeaten in exhibition play. It is possible that they exhausted themselves. They have looked pretty flat to me in their two defeats to the Panthers and Bears. They also have the practical obstacles to deal with -- no Stringer, no Robert Smith (retired), no Todd Steussie (released). It looks like Daunte Culpepper is carrying a load that perhaps he isn't ready for. We'll certainly know a whole lot in the next five weeks when the Vikings play the Bucs twice, the Saints and the Packers.

Let's also not ignore the Bears. Coach Dick Jauron deserves some recognition. He entered the season as the No. 1 lame duck in the NFL. Yet Jauron and his staff have overcome a lot of negatives and personnel changes and have made the Bears far more respectable than most people imagined. It looks like the return of QB Jim Miller and WR Marcus Robinson has a chance to work good things.

Jaguars 13, Titans 6: Do you notice it? This is a different Jacksonville team. In fact, when the Titans coaching staff reviewed film of the Jaguars' opening win over the Steelers, they overwhelmingly sensed that Tom Coughlin had regained a team he almost lost a year ago. Basically, the Jaguars are playing with great purpose and intensity. And you know what has surprised me? The defense has been physically dominating, which is a tribute to new defensive coordinator Gary Moeller, who I felt was a suspect hire by Coughlin to replace Dom Capers. I should have known better. Coughlin is as thorough as they come when evaluating another coach or player.

The Jags' defense still has a lot to prove -- they can stand toe-to-toe with the Steelers and Titans, but neither one of those teams strike a real balance in their offensive attack. But the more I look at the Jacksonville schedule ... the Jags play in a division (AFC Central) where no team has that pass-run balance. In fact, the only team I see on their schedule that presents that type of challenge is Green Bay (Dec. 3) and maybe Minnesota (Dec. 24), so being physical is the absolute priority for this Jacksonville team. Biggest surprise in Sunday's game was Stacey Mack's productivity (80 yards, 18 carries) in place of injured (again) Fred Taylor.

The Titans are a surprising 0-2. There are reasons for it. The secondary is spotty because of injuries, and they miss their play-making quarterback, Steve McNair. Neil O'Donnell played his usual safe game (no interceptions). Sometimes, safe isn't always good.

Rams 30, 49ers 26: It was close. The Rams blew leads. The 49ers dropped passes. But it was indicative of a healthy division rivalry, and the Rams have reason to feel good about winning two road games to open the season in Philadelphia and San Francisco. Marshall Faulk gave an MVP performance as the Rams broke the 49ers in the final minute. The Rams finally get a home game Sunday, but it won't be all that comfortable because the Dolphins are the opponent.

Peyton Manning leads the Colts against Oakland on ESPN's Sunday Night Football (8:30 p.m. ET).
Colts 42, Bills 26: There is evidence that the Colts' offense is taking the next step up with back-to-back 40-point games against the Jets and Bills. This is what Peyton Manning was shooting for in the offseason -- to develop an offense that is almost Rams-like. The key has been the development of WR Jerome Pathon (nine catches, 168 yards) to complement Pro Bowl WR Marvin Harrison (three TDs). Just wait until top draft pick Reggie Wayne comes into play. Manning prepared hard for this game. The extra motivation? He remembered what Bills coach Gregg Williams did as the Titans' defensive coordinator in 1999 when Tennessee eliminated the Colts from the playoffs. In fact, Manning spent a lot of time studying that two-year-old film, and many of his decisions Sunday were based on his studies.

Giants 13, Chiefs 3: When the NFL schedules came out in the spring, Giants coach Jim Fassel did the normal thing. He saw the Giants had two games early on in two of the toughest places to play -- Denver and Kansas City. But Fassel embraced this road trip because his Giants needed a break from the New York tragedy. It wasn't pretty, but it was enough. The defense did its part again. Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil is probably realizing that his team is good enough to lose close games to good teams.

Jets 10, Patriots 3: These games are always intense, and this was no different. Curtis Martin was good again. No surprise. The Patriots' offense is no good. No surprise. Drew Bledsoe was in the hospital Monday because of the abuse he took. The Patriots are no closer to solving their problems than they were at the end of last season. Average receivers. Average backs. Average line. And that's being kind.

Falcons 24, Panthers 16: When it works, it makes sense. Sunday, the two-quarterback system of Chris Chandler and Michael Vick paid off as Vick delivered a long drive and a field goal, and Chandler delivered some big passes and a victory. Most Atlanta players weren't all that thrilled with the Chandler-Vick rotation in the opener against the 49ers (yes, they love Vick, but they know Chandler gives them their best chance to win). But Dan Reeves has been in this game awhile, and he knows a thing or two. There is no question that opposing defenses have to prepare for two very different type of quarterbacks. Plus, Atlanta fans clearly took it up a notch emotionally when Vick entered the game, which players do enjoy. The Falcons' defense was on its heels more than expected, but give Panthers rookie QB Chris Weinke a lot of credit. He sure had extraordinary poise. He had great pocket presence. He was pretty accurate. They might have something with this guy.

Chargers 32, Cowboys 21: There's nothing about this that really surprises me. Doug Flutie can make plays. He also has one of the NFL's best offensive minds in Norv Turner helping design those plays. Rookie LaDainian Tomlinson is going to be a 1,200-yard rusher. And GM John Butler is no doubt smiling about his insistence that the Falcons include WR-kick returner Tim Dwight in the predraft deal for the No. 1 pick (Michael Vick). On the Dallas side, Anthony Wright won't make anybody forget Troy Aikman, but he at least gave the Cowboys a chance to win with three TD passes. His ability to throw deep also allowed some breathing room for Emmitt Smith (85 yards, 17 carries) to become the NFL's No. 2 all-time leading rusher.

Browns 24, Lions 14: Really, you wouldn't have wished a seven-interception game on, say, Ryan Leaf, so it was very painful to watch good-guy Ty Detmer hit a personal low against his former team. What can you say? Detmer was awful. Marty Mornhinweg made a strong statement by not asking Charlie Batch to relieve Detmer. But it just seemed like the fourth quarter (when the Browns led 24-7) would have been a decent time to play rookie Mike McMahon to give Detmer a break. Browns coach Butch Davis clearly enjoyed his first win. He was never worried about Detmer being familiar with his defense because the Browns did nothing defensively in preseason that resembled what they were going to do in regular season. Good day for RB James Jackson and QB Tim Couch. Oh, yeah, good day for the defense -- at Detmer's expense.

Eagles 24, Seahawks 3: This is what the Eagles were looking for -- WR James Thrash had a breakout game with 165 yards on 10 catches. Give Donovan McNabb a true threat, and the Eagles should made huge steps. Then again, this is still a Seahawks' secondary that is reeling from injuries. The Eagles' defense also was a mismatch for Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck. Philly defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is a master at confusing and attacking young quarterbacks. The youth of Hasselbeck and his receivers painfully showed. Seattle's next three games don't look like much fun, either -- Oakland, Jacksonville and Denver.

Broncos 38, Cardinals 17: Admit it, Denver fans. For almost a half, you wondered about life with Terrell Davis and Ed McCaffrey. And you should wonder, but the train got untracked with Brian Griese, Rod Smith and Olandis Gary, who was more effective than Mike Anderson in replacing Davis. The Cardinals had a chance to put the Broncos in a bigger hole when Griese saw a sure interception dropped by Corey Chavous (would have been an easy TD). But, all in all, the Cards showed some promise. You just wonder whether Dave McGinnis can trick it up enough on defense to compensate for the talent void.

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