NFL Week 2 In Review: the 49ers, Saints, Falcons and Refs
Photo credit: Kelly Bailey
By Evan Zemlin-Kisor
Los Angeles Informer
Buckle up boys and girls. It’s going to be a wild ride of an NFL season. Only two weeks in and a few things have become very apparent. First, the best team by far is the San Francisco 49ers. Second, the New Orleans Saints are going to struggle a little more than I first thought and the Atlanta Falcons are a lot better than I first thought. And finally, these new referees are in for a long season. After the initial excitement of the opening weekend subsided, the league showed fans what they should expect this season: a high level of play mixed with a mediocre level of officiating.
Let us start with the most encouraging aspect, the level of play. Specifically, the level of play of the best team in the NFL, the 49ers. This is a team that last year was a special teams miscue away from earning a spot in the Super Bowl. Led by head coach and hard-nosed ex-NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh, the Niners picked up right where they left off last year. They first went into Lambeau Field and dropped thirty on Green Bay while only giving up two offensive touchdowns to the reigning MVP and his well-oiled machine of an offense. The next week, they hosted a 5,000-yard passer in Matthew Stafford and arguably the best wide receiver in the game in Calvin Johnson as the Detroit Lions came to town. The Niners dominated that game as well, never once relinquishing the lead while running the ball down the throat of one of the most talented defensive lines in the league. Their defense, led by coordinator Vic Fangio, is the fiercest in the league, reminiscent of a Baltimore Ravens defense in the early years of the century that won a Super Bowl. They fly to the ball and tackle with ravenous voracity. The only difference is that instead of being anchored by Ray Lewis, the Niners have their own superstar #52 at linebacker in Patrick Willis. Their offense is fine tuned for success, with a power run offense that is nearly unstoppable and a much-maligned quarterback in Alex Smith who looks to continue his newfound brilliance under Harbaugh. The 49ers will trot out power personnel on the offensive line, dare you to stop them from running the football with Frank Gore, and hit you in the mouth. Then, when you think that all you need to do is load up the box, Alex Smith will lay it up for Vernon Davis or Michael Crabtree. In short, this team, in my opinion, should be the favorite to win the Super Bowl this year because they lack true flaws.
Another aspect of this year that is worth noting is the play of the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints. In my last article, I proclaimed the Saints to be the class of the NFC South division. Well, after watching the first two weeks of the NFL season, I would like to rescind those comments. The Saints couldn’t stop anyone the last two weeks, giving up 40 points to the Washington Redskins and 35 points to the Carolina Panthers en route to an 0-2 start. They also have committed five turnovers already, four of those by way of a Drew Brees interception. On the other hand, the Falcons have yet to turn the ball over, they have not allowed more than 24 points to the Chiefs or the Broncos, and their offense has looked like clockwork. The offensive line looks like they’ve played together for years, Matt Ryan finally has all of his receivers healthy, and the defense looks strong and athletic at all levels, and with young stud linebacker Sean Witherspoon blossoming, the sky is the limit. For the Saints, staying the course is the correct action. Don’t panic yet, allow Brees and that core of leaders to work things out for themselves. Look for them to surprise a lot of people next Sunday in Green Bay. For the Falcons, the one thing they need to continue to do is establish the run. When they can get Michael Turner going, it opens up the passing game even more for Matt Ryan, and with weapons like Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez, this team could potentially win 13 or 14 games.
Which leads me to the newest episode of “The Referees Did What.” In the Monday night game between the Falcons and Broncos, a scuffle ensued between the two teams. Benches cleared, and players and coaches were everywhere. What were the refs doing? Well, they were trying to keep order, but how hard could they have been trying if it took 10 minutes to settle everyone down? But the head referee of that game, Ken Roan, is not the only one to be blamed this week. This week, the replacement refs as a group had their first rough outing. From terrible personal foul calls to incorrectly spotting the ball to having every single decision be a late one, the refs have lost the respect of the players and, therefore, a measure of control. As Los Angeles sports radio personality Vic “The Brick” Jacobs bluntly stated on AM 570, veteran referee Ed Hochuli would have never allowed the players to treat the game like they did this past weekend. Unfortunately for football fans everywhere, there is no change in sight. Change would only happen if people stopped tuning in to watch football on Sunday, and in a society that is starved for the sport, there is no impetus for a return to the regular referees. Once again, money talks the loudest.
On Tuesday, September 18th, longtime head of NFL Films and pioneer of modern football viewing Steve Sabol passed away, losing his battle with brain cancer. And while the NFL and its fans mourn the passing of an icon, we can at least be thankful that Steve didn’t have to have this current NFL as his last real image of football. Commissioner Goodell, the name of Steve Sabol, save our league!
Evan Zemlin-Kisor is a communications major at Santa Monica College. A Campbell Hall High School alumni, Evan has lived in places such as Spain, Tanzania and France, though Los Angeles is where he was born and raised (and where he currently lives). He covers sports for the Informer.