Broncos shrug off injuries, Andy Dalton to beat Bengals

Getty Images

The Broncos were missing a slew of starters for Sunday’s game with the Bengals but it didn’t stop them from finding a way past the Bengals.

It wasn’t easy, though. The Broncos gave back most of a 17-3 lead in the third quarter before Kyle Orton hooked up with Eric Decker on a 52-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. It was Decker’s second touchdown catch of the day and both of them came against Nate Clements who seemed to have trouble picking up what the receiver was trying to do on his routes. Orton’s day wasn’t perfect — he lost a fumble on a sack by Michael Johnson — but his two scoring passes and the 24-22 victory should be enough to quiet some of the Tim Tebow pot-banging that’s been going on in Denver.

Knowshon Moreno might not have as much luck holding off Willis McGahee. McGahee ran for 101 yards and a touchdown in Moreno’s absence and the Broncos were able to establish their running game much more effectively this week than they were against the Raiders. McGahee was particularly effective in close quarters. He also held up well under a heavy (28 carries) workload, something that Moreno hasn’t proven he can do in his Broncos tenure. McGahee kept the chains and clock moving long enough for the defense to hold off Andy Dalton’s second-half charge.

Dalton got off to a slow start with 52 passing yards in the first half, but he found a groove in the final 30 minutes. Dalton completed 19-of-30 passes for 280 yards and two scores in the second half and moved the ball into Broncos territory in the final minute before a Jonathan Wilhite sack sunk the Bengals chances of coming back to win the game. His big half was highlighted by an 84-yard play to Jerome Simpson and touchdown tosses to fellow rookie A.J. Green and Andre Caldwell, but the 17-3 hole the Bengals dug themselves turned out to be too large for them to overcome.

The loss stings, but Dalton’s play is a good sign for the Bengals going forward. The Broncos could find a lot to nitpick about their performance, but they should feel good about winning a game on a day that started with five injured starters and ended with two more — wide receiver Eddie Royal and tight end Julius Thomas — also in the trainer’s room.

Texans hold off Dolphins to go 2-0

Getty Images

Arian Foster’s return didn’t go all that well and the Dolphins mounted a little second half comeback, but the Texans improved to 2-0 nonetheless.

The key play was Andre Johnson’s 23-yard touchdown catch with 10:13 left to play. The score put the Texans up 23-13 and stopped a string of 10 straight Dolphins points after halftime. It also came after Johnson dropped a pass on third down on the previous Houston possession, leading to a punt and a Dolphins field goal that cut the Texans lead to three. There would be no scoring after Johnson’s touchdown, leaving the Texans as the only AFC South with wins in each of their first two games.

Johnson’s score was also the latest sign that the Dolphins secondary has a lot of work to do if Miami is going to turn around from their 0-2 start to make something of their season. The pass rush was good enough to drop Matt Schaub three times, but when Schaub had time to throw he usually made the Dolphins pay. It didn’t help that Miami lost cornerback Vontae Davis to a hamstring injury, although it wasn’t as if they were playing shutdown before Davis left in the fourth. He finished with 230 yards and two touchdowns on a day when the team lost Foster almost as quickly as they got him back.

Foster didn’t play in the second half and the team announced that he reinjured his hamstring while gaining 33 yards on 10 carries. Ben Tate made sure they didn’t miss him, however. Tate gained 82 yards in the second half and ran down the clock single-handedly after Johnson’s touchdown catch.

The question of Foster’s health got cloudier after the game.

Despite the announcement that Foster had reinjured his hamstring, Gary Kubiak said after the game that Foster was merely fatigued and that he was fine. If true, that’s obviously good news for the Texans although Tate gives them reason to feel confident no matter what Foster’s condition.

The Dolphins can’t be feeling too good about anything other than Daniel Thomas. The rookie ran for 107 yards on 18 carries in his NFL debut and relegated Reggie Bush to an observer’s role. Bush had just seven touches days after insisting there wasn’t any part of the running back job he couldn’t handle. The Dolphins seem to disagree and it will be interesting to see what everyone has to say in the next few days.

Equally interesting will be what the Dolphins do about Chad Henne. He had some good moments against the Patriots, but struggled mightily on Sunday. He completed only 12-of-30 passes, threw a pick and consistently failed to get the job done when the Dolphins got the ball into Texans territory. Henne needs to be better in Cleveland next weekend or today’s mass no-show could become a regular happening in South Florida.

Arian Foster reinjures hamstring

Getty Images

Arian Foster’s return to the Texans lineup didn’t last very long.

Foster ran 10 times for 33 yards in first half, but the Texans came back from the break featuring Ben Tate and Steve Slaton as their running backs. The answer for the shift in focus came during the third quarter when the team announced Foster had reinjured his hamstring. He’s being called questionable to return, but the idea that they’d risk a further injury at this point seems very unlikely.

The Texans offense has been much less successful in the second half. They’ve gained just 14 yards and the Dolphins have scored 10 unanswered points to close the gap to 16-13 at the start of the fourth quarter.


Another good first half for the Texans


Maybe the fans down in Miami knew something.

There weren’t a lot of bodies in the seats when the Texans and Dolphins kicked off on Sunday afternoon and there will likely be even fewer when the second half gets underway. The Texans scored four times in the first 30 minutes and lead the Dolphins 16-3 at the half at Sun Life Stadium.

The game actually hasn’t been quite that one-sided. Dan Carpenter had one field goal blocked and missed another one so Miami has had chances that they haven’t been able to convert. It didn’t help that Chad Henne threw a pick and that the Dolphins secondary has looked just as bad as they did on Monday night against Tom Brady.

Matt Schaub completed 16-of-22 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown in the first two quarters and the Texans have reeled off nine plays of 10 or more yards already. That’s enabled the Texans to overcome a sluggish debut from Arian Foster — 10 carries for 33 yards — and get out to their second big first half lead in as many weeks.

Daniel Thomas had 51 yards on 10 carries for the Dolphins.  Reggie Bush got just two carries and left just before the half with a trainer. His status for the rest of the game is unknown (UPDATE: He’s back on the first Dolphins drive of the second half), but it is known that the team could use some big plays from him in the second half if they are going to turn this one around. Settling for field goals, even made field goals, isn’t going to get it done.

Broncos run their way to 10-3 halftime lead


Broncos fans put up billboards asking for more of Tim Tebow this week, but they might have picked the wrong offensive player.

Willis McGahee, forced into the starting lineup by the injury to Knowshon Moreno, had 58 yards and a touchdown in the first half and the Broncos lead the Bengals 10-3 after 30 minutes. Lance Ball and Spencer Larsen added 22 more yards on the ground to give the Broncos 80 rushing yards for the half. That’s 42 yards more than they managed against the Raiders in their Week One loss and a big reason why Denver has a lead with their depleted roster.

They started the game without Moreno, Brandon Lloyd, Elvis Dumervil, Champ Bailey and D.J. Williams and saw Eddie Royal leave the game after a quarter with a groin injury. That’s forced Tebow into action as a wide receiver, but the Broncos have kept the ball on the ground and dominated time of possession as a result.

It has also helped that the Broncos convert their third downs while the Bengals keep coming up short. Cedric Benson was stuffed on two third-and-one running plays and Andy Dalton was incomplete on a third attempt on third-and-one, while the Broncos were able to extend drives five times on third down in the first half. The Bengals couldn’t do it once, which helps explain a big Denver edge in time of possession and goes a long way toward explaining why the Broncos have a lead at the break.

Tim Tebow, wide receiver

Getty Images

Broncos fans wanted more of Tim Tebow this week and they got it.

They just didn’t get it exactly the way they expected. Tebow entered the game as a wide receiver early in the second quarter after Eddie Royal went down with a groin injury. He blocked on a third down run by Lance Ball that failed to move the chains and the Broncos punted. He wasn’t on the field to start the next Broncos possession and Eric Decker fumbled after catching a Kyle Orton pass to give the ball back to the Bengals.

The Broncos were already without Brandon Lloyd and Demaryius Thomas to start the game and Royal’s loss meant they only have Eric Decker and Matthew Willis as active wideouts. If Royal is out for the rest of the game, we could be seeing more of Tebow at receiver the rest of the way.

The Broncos lead 7-3 with just under five minutes to play in the first half at Denver.

Third quarter explosion propels Titans past Ravens


The Ravens proved they could get up for a matchup with the Steelers in Week One, now they have to prove they are capable of giving a strong effort every week.

They weren’t up to the task against the Titans this Sunday and lost 26-13 as a result. They were lucky to escape a sloppy first half with the score tied at 10 and then got their doors blown off in the third quarter by a Titans team that made a ton of big plays through the air. Matt Hasselbeck hit Nate Washington for 42 yards on the second play of the half en route to a Javon Ringer touchdown and wound up throwing for 114 yards during a quarter that ended with the Titans ahead 20-10.

The Ravens’ last best chance to get back into the game went away on their first possession of the fourth quarter when Joe Flacco was picked off by Jason McCourty. The Titans got another field goal and things were never in any doubt for Tennessee after that point. Hasselbeck wound up throwing for 358 yards and passed the 30,000-yard plateau for his career.

He figures to add quite a few yards to that total as long as Kenny Britt remains in the lineup this season. Britt was a beast for the second straight week — nine catches for 135 yards and a touchdown — and is looking like the kind of player that is going to make life miserable for every defensive coordinator he faces this year. As long as Washington keeps holding onto the balls thrown in his direction and the line keeps his uniform as clean as it was at the end of this game, Hasselbeck is going to put up some numbers for the Titans.

Britt might also help Chris Johnson get on track. He finished with 53 yards on 24 carries this week and gave way to Ringer on the scoring drive that turned the game around. Now that the Titans are showing teams they can move the ball in the air, there should be more room for Johnson to operate on the ground.

It was a big step backward for the Ravens defense, which didn’t record a sack and forced just one turnover, but Flacco’s performance serving as the most troubling of the day. He completed less than half his passes, got intercepted twice and threw for 71 of his 197 yards on one drive when the Ravens were already down 13 in the fourth quarter. Throw in a screen pass that Ray Rice took 37 yards for a touchdown in the first half and you’ve got a pretty bleak majority of the day for the Ravens quarterback who never looked comfortable when the Titans applied pressure against an offensive line that was missing Ben Grubbs.

All in all, it was reminiscent of the start of last season when the Ravens followed up an emotionally charged win over the Jets with a loss to the Bengals. That comparison doesn’t extend to the Titans. They look like they will be a lot better than that Bengals group and the way they performed this week makes you wonder how they managed to lose to the Jaguars a week ago.

Steelers right the ship in shutout win

Getty Images

Here’s a quick way of letting you know how one-sided today’s game in Pittsburgh turned out to be: The Seahawks didn’t run their first play in Steelers territory until the fourth quarter.

It was 24-0 by that point and the Seahawks’ big drive would wind up ending on a James Harrison sack of Tarvaris Jackson. That meant the game would end with the same score and it meant the Steelers could take a big step toward putting their Week One loss behind them. It will take a bit more than a win over a wildly overmatched Seattle club, but anyone looking for signs of serious holes in the Pittsburgh armor will have to wait a bit longer to point them out.

The Steelers followed a pretty familiar path to the win. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 298 yards, including a couple of deep balls to Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders. Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman kept the clock moving and first downs coming on the ground. And Sanders even completed a pass on a gadget play to keep the venerable Pittsburgh tradition of wideouts throwing passes alive in the absence of Antwan Randle-El. They also didn’t turn the ball over, a nice change after the comedy of errors against Baltimore in Week One.

And then there was the defense. They did exactly what you expect a good defense to do when faced by an offense quarterbacked by Tarvaris Jackson that that can’t run the ball. They had five sacks, forced eight punts and, as we mentioned previously, spent most of the game nowhere near their own end zone.

In short, it was the kind of game Pittsburgh needed after last week’s debacle.

No Brandon Lloyd for the Broncos


There was some hope on Friday that Brandon Lloyd would be able to play for the Broncos against the Bengals.

That hope died a short time ago when the Broncos handed in their list of inactives for Sunday afternoon’s contest. Lloyd joined the other Broncos listed as questionable this week — cornerback Champ Bailey, defensive end Elvis Dumervil and running back Knowshon Moreno — on the list of players who won’t be seeing any action.

There wasn’t much expectation that any of those other players would be in the lineup, but the loss of Lloyd makes it a particularly painful clean sweep for the Broncos. The wideout was warming up before the game, but the verdict was that his groin injury wasn’t good enough for him to give it a go. When you throw in linebacker D.J. Williams, out for the second straight game, the Broncos will be without five starters as they attempt to avoid an 0-2 start.

Arian Foster is officially back


As expected, the Houston Texans will have Arian Foster back in the lineup against the Dolphins.

Foster is active and in the lineup after missing Week One with a hamstring injury. Coach Gary Kubiak said that we could expect as much earlier this week and made it official when he handed in his inactives a short time ago. Ben Tate will back up Foster with Derrick Ward sitting this one out thanks to an ankle injury.

The Texans will be without wide receiver Kevin Walter, who will miss the contest after hurting his shoulder last week against the Colts. Jacoby Jones will take his place.

On the other side, the Dolphins will be without free safety Chris Clemons for the second straight game and fullback Charles Clay is also inactive for the contest. Reshard Jones will start at safety.

The first half is more difficult for the Ravens this week

Getty Images

The Ravens were up 21-7 after 30 minutes in Week One, but they are lucky to be tied 10-10 after the same amount of time this weekend.

Sloppy play dominated for much of the first half for Baltimore, but they were able to get their act together enough to tie the game at 10 on a Billy Cundiff field goal just before the half. They had to settle for the field goal after Joe Flacco got sacked for the second time in a half that also saw him throw an interception. The drive started with great field position after David Reed, back after serving a one-game suspension, returned a kickoff 77 yards to put the Ravens in business.

The Ravens also turned the ball over on a Ricky Williams fumble and the offense has mostly looked like it is lost without a clue. The one exception was a screen pass that Ray Rice broke for a 37-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Rice broke four tackles on the run and got some terrific downfield blocking from his mates, but Baltimore has gained just 76 other yards so far.

Their defense has been better, although the matchup between Kenny Britt and Ravens corner Cary Williams bears watching the rest of the way. Britt has had his way with Williams, pressed into action thanks to the injury to Jimmy Smith, and then outfought Dominique Foxworth for a touchdown late in the second quarter. That’s four straight games with a touchdown for Britt, who accounted for 80 of the Titans’ 209 yards in the first half.

Chris Johnson, meanwhile, is still looking for the form that got him his big new contract. He ran for 23 yards on 11 carries in the first half and the Titans have relied much more heavily on the passing game as a result.

Steelers rolling despite brief Big Ben scare


The Steelers are rolling over the Seahawks 17-0 just before halftime, but they had a scary moment just before the half

Ben Roethlisberger left the field after taking a shot to the knee from Raheem Brock on a pass to Heath Miller in Seahawks territory. Brock was flagged for roughing the passer on the play, which wound up with the Steelers on the two-yard-line. Roethisberger walked gingerly to the sideline and Charlie Batch took a couple of snaps, but Roethisberger was back in after the two-minute warning. He threw an incompletion and Shaun Suisham hit a field goal to give the Steelers their halftime lead.

Other than that brief scare, it has been very smooth sailing for the Steelers. They had a drive fail on the one on their first possession and then scored the other three times they had the ball. Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman each scored on short touchdown runs and Roethlisberger completed 12-of-15 passes to keep the team moving crisply down the field. That added up to 20 minutes of possession for Pittsburgh, a number that tells you everything you need to know about the Seattle defense’s ability to make enough plays to get off the field.

Their offense hasn’t been much better. They gained just 81 yards on 18 offensive plays and produced only 54 yards on 10 completions by Tarvaris Jackson. The Seattle offense has seemed uninterested in trying to make anything but the most conservative plays when they have the ball, a strategy that is doing them no good against a Steelers defense that is doing its best to make up for last weekend’s debacle against Baltimore.

Darrelle Revis won’t meet Jason Hill Sunday


Darrelle Revis said he didn’t know who Jason Hill was earlier this week and he won’t get a chance to change that on Sunday.

The Jaguars placed Hill on the inactive list for Sunday’s game against the Jets because of a hip injury. That means we won’t get a chance to see how Hill handles the team he called “overhyped” in an interview this week. The wide receiver’s comments about the team and about Revis, in particular, caught the eye of the Jets.

Revis claimed not to know who Hill was when asked about the comments and Rex Ryan expressed surprise that a player listed as doubtful on the injury report was throwing out chatter in the days before the game. The New York tabloids had plenty of fun with Hill’s comments as well and they figure to make a stop near his locker on Sunday even though Hill won’t have anything to do with the outcome of the game.

So Revis will have to settle for acquainting himself with rookie Cecil Shorts, who will get the playing time that normally goes to Hill. The Jaguars offense is also going without tight end Marcedes Lewis in their attempt to move to 2-0 on the season.

Bears down three starters against Saints


Brandon Meriweather didn’t draw too easy an assignment in his first start since joining the Bears.

He’ll be playing free safety against Drew Brees and the Saints because Chris Harris’ hamstring injury won’t allow him to get on the field. Major Wright will move to strong safety for the Bears. Brees will have Lance Moore in the lineup at wide receiver as he tries to exploit Harris’ absence on Sunday afternoon.

Wide receiver Roy Williams and right guard Lance Louis also landed on the inactive list for Week Two. Johnny Knox will start in place of Williams, who left last week’s game with a groin injury, and Chris Spencer will get the start on the offensive line. Marion Barber’s Bears debut is still on hold as the former Cowboys running back will miss his second straight game with a calf injury.

The Saints will be short one starter themselves. Tracy Porter was scratched with a calf injury but Roman Harper, questionable with an ankle injury, will be in the lineup.

Week two early inactives


As the inactives roll in from all the games with early kickoffs, we’ll be adding them to this post. So hit the refresh button or swing back throughout the morning for the latest updates.

Raiders at Bills

Raiders – WR Louis Murphy, WR Jacoby Ford, S Mike Mitchell, T Stephon Heyer, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, TE David Ausberry, TE Kevin Boss

Bills – CB Terrence McGee,  DB Justin Rogers, LB Arthur Moats, RT Sam Young, G Colin Brown, TE Lee Smith, NT Torell Troup.

Packers at Panthers

Packers – LB Frank Zombo, DE Mike Neal, LB Vic So’oto, CB Tramon Williams, CB Davon House, RB Alex Green, OL Derek Sherrod

Panthers – QB Jimmy Clausen, OL Reggie Wells, OL Jeff Otah, WR Kealoha Pilares, CB Josh Thomas, DT Ron Fields, LB Jason Williams Carolina

Chiefs at Lions

Chiefs – WR Jonathan Baldwin, QB Ricky Stanzi, S Kendall Langford, OL Steve Maneri, WR Keary Colbert, DE Brandon Bair, DT Jerrell Powe

Lions – DT Nick Fairley, CB Alphonso Smith, T Jason Fox, QB Drew Stanton, LB Doug Hogue, G Jacques McClendon, WR Maurice Stovall

Browns at Colts

Browns – LB Titus Brown, S Eric Hagg, T Tony Pashos, TE Jordan Cameron, WR Carlton Mitchell, OL Steve Vallos, QB Thaddeus Lewis.

Colts – QB Peyton Manning, LB Gary Brackett, LB Ernie Sims, RB Darren Evans, OL Seth Olsen, CB Kevin Thomas, CB Chris Rucker

Buccaneers at Vikings

Buccaneers – CB Myron Lewis, WR Sammie Stroughter, RB Allen Bradford, S Larry Asante, CB Anthony Gaitor, T Demar Dotson, T James Lee

Vikings – CB Brandon Burton, S Mistral Raymond, C Brandon Fusco, DE Adrian Awasom, T DeMarcus Love, WR Greg Camarillo, DE D’Aundre Reed

Bears at Saints

Bears – WR Roy Williams, S Chris Harris, G Lance Louis, RB Marion Barber, DT Stephen Paea, DE Corey Wootton, QB Nathan Enderle

Saints – K Garrett Hartley, WR Marques Colston, CB Tracy Porter, RB Joique Bell, FB Korey Hall, OL Matt Tennant, DL Tom Johnson.

Jaguars at Jets

Jaguars – CB Derek Cox, DE Aaron Kampman, DL Nate Collins, OL John Estes, WR Jason Hill, CB Rod Issac, TE Marcedes Lewis

Jets – WR Logan Payne, OL Robert Turner, QB Kevin O’Connell, S Emanuel Cook, RB Bilal Powell, G Caleb Schlauderaff, DT Kenrick Ellis

Seahawks at Steelers

Seahawks – WR Sidney Rice,  T Jarriel King, CB Byron Maxwell, RB Michael Robinson, T Tyler Polumbus, QB Josh Portis, LB Malcolm Smith

Steelers – WR Jerricho Cotchery, QB D.Dixon, CB Bryant McFadden, RB Jonathan Dwyer, LB Chris Carter, G Chris Kemoeatu, OT Jamon Meredith

Ravens at Titans

Ravens – CB Chris Carr, CB Jimmy Smith, G Ben Grubbs, WR Tandon Doss, CB Chykie Brown, NT Brandon McKinney, LB Sergio Kindle

Titans – S Chris Hope, QB Rusty Smith, WR Damian Williams, CB Chris Hawkins, C Kevin Matthews, T Byron Stingily, DE William Hayes

Cardinals at Redskins

Cardinals – CB Crezdon Butler, TE Jim Dray, QB John Skelton, CB Korey Lindsey, OT D’Anthony Batiste, LB Daryl Washington RB LaRod Stephens-Howling

Redskins – WR Terrence Austin, S LaRon Landry, LB Keyaron Fox, LB Markus White, OL Willie Smith, WR Leonard Hankerson, DL Darrion Scott