(John David Mercer/US Presswire)
You can follow Charles Robinson on Twitter at @YahooSportsNFL.
OK, it's too early to point out that Saints quarterback Drew Brees is on pace for 96 touchdowns this season. Or that he'd probably reach that total if only he faced the Lions once or twice more this season.
Brees doesn't, but it's worth noting his ridiculous two-year stat line against Detroit: two games, 56-of-74 passing (a 74-percent completion rate), 709 yards, eight touchdown passes. The Battle of the Little Bighorn wasn't that lopsided.
That makes Brees this weekend's biggest winner, with all apologies due to Minnesota's Adrian Peterson. Indeed, it was how Brees did it that was so impressive. Eight players caught a pass from Brees, but only one surpassed 100 yards – wideout Devery Henderson(notes) with 103. Brees' six touchdowns went to five different players, including one to promising young talent Robert Meachem(notes).
That diversity makes Brees more frightening than he was a season ago, when he came within 16 yards of breaking Dan Marino's single-season mark of 5,084 passing yards. The 2008 run was done partially without No. 1 receiver Marques Colston(notes) and top tight end Jeremy Shockey(notes), who are both finally healthy. And it was done with little contribution from Meachem, a former first-round pick who may have found his niche this season. Indeed, you could argue that with his current set of weapons, Brees has four wideouts (Colston, Henderson, Meachem and Lance Moore(notes)) that would be No. 1 or No. 2 on another team's depth chart. Add in Shockey and the receiving acumen of running back Reggie Bush(notes), and it shapes up as an absurd amount of offensive talent.
With that cast, it may not be a matter of if Brees re-writes the single-season passing records this season, but how much higher he can push some of the numbers.
Here is a look at some of this week's other winners and losers:
(Sam Sharpe/US Presswire)
• The Philadelphia Eagles
The defense (five sacks, seven turnovers) was fast and created chaos, looking a lot like what we saw down the stretch last season. That's a huge relief for a unit that had some question marks. The 31 straight points showed why this team is scary when healthy. But there's the rub: a great performance is severely hampered by Donovan McNabb's(notes) rib injury.
• The Denver Broncos defense
For a team that was supposed to make huge offensive strides under new coach Josh McDaniels, it was the defense that carried the day against Cincinnati. Say what you want about the Bengals, but the Broncos have talent at the skill positions and should score some points. But Denver kept Carson Palmer(notes) from getting comfortable, sacking him three times and pressuring him into bad decisions.
• The Green Bay Packers' 3-4 defense
Yes, Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings won Sunday night's game, but it was the 3-4 defense that saved the much hyped offense from a bumbling start. While the Packers' new scheme produced only two sacks, it kept enough pressure on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in quarters 1, 2 and 4 to make the difference. And make no mistake, Cutler's four turnovers are the real prize earned by the move to the 3-4. It will be the turnovers, not the sack totals, that make Green Bay's offseason change worth all the roster pain and uncertainty.
• The Atlanta Falcons
They started exactly the way they wanted: with a strong defensive effort and an efficient, mistake-free offense. The Matt Ryan(notes) and Tony Gonzalez(notes) connection gave us exactly what we thought it would provide. But how about that defense? It flew around and hit hard. John Abraham(notes) continues to be one of the best defensive ends in the game, and Mike Peterson(notes) is already paying off among the linebackers. Impressive overall.
• Joe Flacco(notes) and the Baltimore Ravens offense
The balance was superb. Ray Rice(notes) showed that the preseason was no fluke, and his pairing with Willis McGahee(notes) is looking potent. Todd Heap's(notes) re-emergence in the offense is huge. He's the key to unlocking the rest of the machine that tallied a team record 501 total yards. If he gets back to a Pro Bowl level, quarterback Joe Flacco will be no stranger to 300-yard passing games.
Adrian Peterson rushed for three touchdowns and 180 yards against the Browns.
(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
• Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings offense
What more can you say about Peterson? As long as he's healthy, he'll consistently be in the NFL MVP conversation. His 64-yard touchdown showed devastating speed and power. Moreover, the win over Cleveland was a prime example of how this team can be great this season: keep the offensive load off of Brett Favre(notes), tire out the opposition and control the game's pace.
• The New York Jets defense
It went on the road and held what should be a potent Houston offense to only 183 total yards. There's not much more that needs to be said. Texans quarterback Matt Schaub(notes) never looked in sync, while wideout Andre Johnson(notes) and running back Steve Slaton(notes) combined for 87 total yards and zero touchdowns. Jets coach Rex Ryan has already transplanted some of that Ravens heart into the Jets.
• Indianapolis Colts WR Reggie Wayne(notes)
Seeing his 10 catches for 162 yards makes me want to call Giants general manager Jerry Reese, who blanched this offseason when I suggested to him that Wayne was an elite No. 1 wideout. When he's healthy, Wayne is elite – period.
• The Seattle Seahawks offense
People should be slightly measured here, because Seattle played a terrible defense. But it's clear that as long as that offensive line keeps quarterback Matt Hasselbeck(notes) from getting knocked around, Seattle is going to score points. And to keep Hasselbeck untouched without left tackle Walter Jones(notes) – against any team – is encouaging. All that hype about John Carlson(notes) being an elite tight end sure looks justified.
• Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Carnell Williams(notes)
Seeing "Cadillac" Williams go for 97 yards and a touchdown on only 13 carries was a great sight. It's hard not to root for a guy who has pushed so hard to come back from two significant knee injuries, especially when he plays with the kind of hard-charging physical abandon that Williams showed in Sunday's loss to Dallas.
• The Dallas Cowboys offense
It had to have a good showing to prove that the unit wasn't all about Terrell Owens(notes), and the group more than accomplished it. Quarterback Tony Romo(notes) was fantastic, throwing for 353 yards and three touchdowns – one each to his top three wideouts. In case anyone was wondering, Dallas never threw touchdowns to each of the top three wide receivers on the depth chart when Owens played in a game.
• The San Francisco 49ers defense
Kurt Warner(notes) was sacked only three times, but the 49ers pressured him a great deal more. Warner looked off and frustrated all day, and it rippled through Arizona's offense. It's amazing how quickly San Francisco has gone from a team that always loses close games to a team that grits out those wins. Tip your hat to Mike Singletary. He's done a masterful job.
• The New York Giants defense
If it wasn't for a meaningless late touchdown, the Giants would have held Washington to only 10 points. Defensive ends Justin Tuck(notes) and Osi Umenyiora(notes) are right back to being the league's best defensive end tandem. More amazing, this unit isn't at 100-percent health yet. But we can already see that it'll be everything people hoped for in the preseason.
(Al Behrman/AP Photo)
• The Cincinnati Bengals' luck
Losing in the final seconds on an 87-yard touchdown off a deflected pass is beyond brutal. And it masks the real upside of a respectable defensive effort. Cincinnati's front seven has some nastiness. And linebacker Keith Rivers(notes) is going to play in a Pro Bowl sooner than later. But you have to wonder on that tip, why wasn't there additional deep coverage in that situation?
• Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler
Bears fans got a taste of what drove people insane about Cutler in Denver: his inconsistent mix of highlight and lowlight decisions. Cutler's great arm often gives him too much confidence. And until the Bears have the receiving talent to compensate (as the Broncos did) he'll have the occasional awful multi-interception game like Sunday night's four-pick effort.
• Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme(notes)
That five-year contract extension with $20 million in guaranteed money is looking dicey about now. Delhomme's five turnovers (four interceptions and one fumble) were horrible. Go back to the playoff collapse against Arizona and Delhomme has nine picks in his last two games. He said in the preseason he had problems seeing the entire field against the Cards. Apparently that issue hasn't gone away.
• Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton(notes)
Yeah, the Broncos won the game, but it took a miraculous pass deflection and reaction by Brandon Stokley. Bottom line, Orton played poorly overall. He was slow getting the ball out on a few occasions, and his ball placement was often not good. Orton got Brandon Marshall(notes) hammered on one completion, and got Eddie Royal(notes) hurt by telegraphing another in tight space. He must make quicker decisions and protect his guys.
• The Miami Dolphins offense and tackle Jake Long(notes)
The Wildcat appears to have lost the ability to surprise, and I don't see a lot of playmakers. As for Long, he gave up two sacks in Sunday's loss, which nearly equals the 2½ he gave up all of last season. On one play, he got blasted by Atlanta's Abraham, who pancaked Long into the backfield on his way to quarterback Chad Pennington(notes).
• The Kansas City Chiefs offensive line
If the Chiefs can't run and control the game's tempo, they can't win. And right now, they can't do either of those things. Larry Johnson(notes) has yet to show he's got that old pop back. The Chiefs get the benefit of the doubt this week because it was Baltimore. But that offensive line has to get much, much better.
• Overhyped rookie running backs
No need to mention names (cough, James Davis … cough, Knowshon Moreno(notes) … cough, Chris Wells), but opening week showed us that we need to be patient with this season's crop of talented rookie runners. What happened last season with guys like Chris Johnson and Matt Forte(notes) was an aberration. Moreno, Davis and "Beanie" Wells will all get their opportunities, but they aren't going to be anything like the immediate bloomers of 2008.
• The Houston Texans defense
New defensive coordinator, offseason upgrades, and same inconsistent results. The Jets dropped 462 yards on the Texans and handled them in every phase. It's one thing when rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez(notes) throws for 272 yards. It's another when he does it without being sacked. Sanchez could have hosted a tea party in his backfield with all the time he had.
• The Detroit Lions
I won't go overboard, since it's already looking like another loooooong season. But that defense is awful (more on that later). The offense would function better if the line could get a push inside the red zone.
• Washington Redskins wideout Santana Moss(notes)
After his early-game fisticuffs with Corey Webster(notes), Moss looked like he mentally checked out of the game. Two receptions for six yards once again shows that Moss can be an inconsistent, frustrating player. Webster is a solid corner, but shouldn't be good enough to erase Moss from an entire game.
• The Arizona Cardinals offense
You can see the frustration in the unit. Everyone keeps talking about the loss of offensive coordinator Todd Haley, and I think the players are starting to let it get into their heads. This team is too talented to score one touchdown – against any opponent. The running game still isn't there, either.
• The St. Louis Rams
This still looks like a bad, bad, bad team. The defense is awful up front. You can expect that unit to give up a few big plays every game. And it's probably time to admit that Marc Bulger's(notes) days as a starter in the NFL ran out two years ago. As long as that passing game is limited, Steven Jackson isn't going to return to being an elite running back.
(FIVE THINGS I LOVED AND FIVE THINGS I LOATHED)
Loved: ESPN's Sunday headlines feature with Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter. Quick, informative and newsy. Mort's contention that Mike Shanahan intended to cut Brandon Marshall this offseason was a bombshell. It did get awkward when the camera shot practically zoomed up Schefter's nostril's at one point. Not something I want to see.
Loathed: Whoever thought up the idea of using techno/electronica music during ESPN's "Tip Drill" needs to be fired. What, is Paul Oakenfold on retainer? I can just imagine how that development meeting went: "Hmmmm. Let's mix Chris Berman with some pulse pounding beats!"
Loved: ESPN's Brett Favre-centric feature on why sports legends can't seem to hang it up. Good perspective on how Favre isn't the only diva who feels the need to be needed.
Falcons defensive end John Abraham sacked the Dolphins' Chad Pennington twice.
(Al Behrman/AP Photo)
Loathed: The amount of hot air on the NFL Network's studio show. Marshall Faulk(notes), Warren Sapp(notes), Michael Irvin and Steve Mariucci? Move over, Fox. You've lost the heavyweight title of bluster.
Loved: Watching Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams hit his fifth gear on his first-quarter touchdown run against Philadelphia. When he gets to the edge, it's over. Williams is hugely underrated in the "best NFL running back" conversation.
Loathed: Seeing Brandon Marshall come off the field on third-and-9 during Denver's first series Sunday. Yes, Marshall had just dropped a screen pass, but if you're going to play the guy, how does it make sense taking him off the field on a vital passing down?
Loved: Watching Falcons lineman Abraham's first-quarter sack against Miami. Find the clip if you can. Abraham pancakes Dolphins left tackle Jake Long on the play. Fantastic power move.
Loathed: Carolina's offensive line play against the Eagles. What was one of the NFL's best units last season looked confused and overwhelmed against Philadelphia's defensive front seven.
Loved: Flacco's pocket movement on his first-quarter touchdown pass to Willis McGahee. He pretzeled Kansas City's defensive line. Remember when people said his feet were too heavy coming into the NFL draft? Pleeeeeeease!
Loathed: Seeing the Lions defense look predictably awful against New Orleans. New coach Jim Schwartz has his work cut out for him. You have to wonder how the Lions will be feeling in a few weeks about spending both first-round draft picks on offensive positions.