Four and out: Surprises from the NFL in Week 2

Much of Week 2 in the NFL went according to script, but there were still quite a few surprises.

In Week 1, the Detroit Lions looked like a real football team; the vast majority of key players stayed healthy, and there weren’t many absurd upsets. Week 2 was similarly smooth, but there were still some unexpected occurrences.

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest surprises in Week 2 of the NFL regular season.

4. Heads are already rolling.

Mid-season personnel changes are inevitable in the instant-gratification-oriented NFL, but it was a bit of a surprise that Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman found himself without a job after the team’s Week 2, 37-31 loss to the New York Jets.

More: NFL Week 3, Odds for each game 

According to reports, everyone from the owners to the players were disgruntled with Roman’s offense. Though the 2015 offense struggled to convert on third-down and the team failed to make the postseason, the Bills did have the best rushing offense in the league last year.

One unsurprising aspect of this story is the drama that follows Rex Ryan wherever he goes. In the wake of the termination, the Buffalo News reported that Roman had called Rex Ryan a “buffoon” and worried that working for Ryan would harm his career.

Assistant head coach and running backs coach Anthony Lynn was promoted to replace Roman as offensive coordinator.

Jan 9, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) against the Pittsburgh Steelers during a AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 9, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) against the Pittsburgh Steelers during a AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

3. The Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers stayed cordial

The last time the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers met, Antonio Brown was knocked out cold after a head-to-head hit by Vontaze Burfict, and the Bengals self-destructed, transforming a near-victory into a humiliating loss to a division rival. After the fact, Adam “Pacman” Jones accused Antonio Brown of malingering. It turned out Brown wasn’t faking. He missed the next playoff game against the Denver Broncos.

From the way the teams trash-talked each other after that epic matchup, it was a near-guarantee that the Week 2 battle between the two rivals would be volatile and nasty.

Instead, the game was so calm that analysts Dan Fouts and Ian Engle were left chatting about the weather between plays. Instead of, “Wow! Did offensive line coach Mike Munchak just pull Reggie Nelson’s hair?” Fouts and Engle made comments like, “It sure is raining” and “Look at that rain coming down. The field is wet.”

Going into the game, Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams referenced the two teams’ professional hatred, but there was definitely more professionalism than hatred on display Sunday.

While the sportsmanship may have been surprising, the final score was not. After a terrific performance in Week 1 against the Washington Redskins, the Steelers’ on-fire offense and increasingly efficient defense pulled out a 24-16 victory over their division rivals.

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 30: Referee Mike Carey

ST. LOUIS, MO – SEPTEMBER 30: Referee Mike Carey

2. Officiating was horrendous

What could make NFL fans long for the days of replacement referees? Week 2 officiating was so horrendous that the league should consider bringing in replacement refs. At least then fans can say to themselves, “Officiating sucks because these aren’t the real guys.” Instead, the NFL professional referees bungled call after call after call after call… ad infinitum.

During the Bengals’ game against the Steelers, the referees denied the Bengals a clear touchdown, and then made several erroneous pass interference calls against the Steelers. Later, Antonio Brown “lost his footing,” according to announcers. “Lost his footing” was code language for “knocked down on purpose by the defender.” While he was sitting on the ground he was unable to catch what would have been a touchdown pass. The Bengals had a slew of other equally valid complaints about bad calls made against them throughout the game.

Fans of other teams had similar frustrations. Check out this bizarre taunting call on the Cleveland Browns from their game against the Baltimore Ravens.

The Detroit Lions’ game against the Tennessee Titans was also a flag-fest.

The NFL admitted that officials botched a few calls in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ game against the Green Bay Packers in Week 1. After their loss, Jaguars representatives complained about missed calls including a defensive holding call and four pass interference calls.

Also in Week 1, Cam Newton suffered several helmet-to-helmet hits which went unpunished by referees. With the league’s alleged emphasis on player safety and concussion prevention, those incidents went beyond sloppy officiating.

It’s not a total surprise that officiating was bad, but it is disappointing that it seems to get worse and worse each season.

Sep 18, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) celebrates his touchdown with wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) during the third quarter against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Packers 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 18, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) celebrates his touchdown with wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) during the third quarter against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Packers 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

1. Minnesota can beat Green Bay

Sunday night the Minnesota Vikings played their home opener in their brand new stadium. Though the team lost Teddy Bridgewater in the preseason to a gruesome knee injury and Adrian Peterson to a torn meniscus early in the game, the Vikings were able to beat the Green Bay Packers, 17-14.

Going into Week 1, ESPN power rankings had the Vikings at No. 12. The Green Bay Packers were ranked at No. 6. Going into Week 2, ESPN put the Green Bay Packers in their top spot, while the Vikings remained steady at No. 12.

The Vikings scored two defensive touchdowns and no offensive touchdowns in Week 1, causing analysts to worry about the overall strength of their squad, especially in the absence of Bridgewater. The Vikings put those concerns to rest  in Week 2 en route to their victory over Green Bay. Oft-maligned quarterback Sam Bradford completed 22 of 31 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns. He outperformed Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers who completed 20 of 36 passes for 213 and a single touchdown.

Wide receiver Stefon Diggs had nine receptions for an astounding 182 yards. Diggs could be a standalone surprise from Week 2, judging from the number of fantasy team owners regretting their decisions to keep him on the bench.

Currently, the Vikings are the only undefeated team in the NFC North going into Week 3. While Vikings fans always have Super Bowl aspirations (sometimes delusions, depending on the year), it has been surprising to see the Vikings play so well after the huge setback they suffered after Bridgewater’s unlucky knee injury before the season even started.

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