John Harbaugh, Derek Carr, Derrick Henry headline NFL statement-makers in Week 2

Another Sunday, another fascinating football slate.

Kyler Murray continued to play like an MVP in the Cardinals’ narrow win over the Vikings. The Bills bounced back from a Week 1 home loss, blanking and bludgeoning the Dolphins in Miami. Shame on you if you didn’t believe in Sean McDermott’s team — a 35-0 road win speaks LOUDLY in the parity-driven NFL. But Kyler and the Bills weren’t the only ones making noise on Sunday.

Allow me to spotlight the biggest statements from Week 2, Schein Nine style.

1) John Harbaugh goes for the kill

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Fourth-and-1. The Ravens are clinging to a one-point lead over the Chiefs with the ball at their own 43-yard line.

If you punt the ball to Patrick Mahomes there, you know the deal. Everyone does. John Harbaugh doesn’t need to consult Nostradamus to know how that movie ends. And so, despite having an injury-riddled backfield and a reshuffled offensive line, the Ravens coach had only one choice. But before he officially gave the go-ahead, Harbaugh asked Lamar Jackson if he wanted to go for it. It was an awesome moment captured by NBC cameras. After the star quarterback predictably answered affirmatively, Baltimore lined up and ended the game with a shotgun QB draw.

This is why Harbaugh is one of the best coaches in the NFL. He wisely employs analytics, but also relies on his best players to just make plays. Harbaugh trusted Lamar, who bedeviled Kansas City with a breathtaking second-half performance, and the former league MVP delivered. The end result: A one-point win over the two-time defending AFC champions in prime time. About as significant a Week 2 victory as you can have. It also marked Mahomes’ first-ever September loss, and first head-to-head defeat to Jackson. Big and bigger.

What a statement by the banged-up Ravens on a short week, immediately following a crushing overtime loss to the Raiders on Monday Night Football. That’s amazing culture and coaching. That’s John Harbaugh football.

2) Derek Carr sticks it to the haters (again)

Derek Carr is great! Say it out loud. Repeat it. Live it.

This is a sentiment I’ve been shouting to the mountaintops for years, but the Raiders’ overall ineptitude has prevented the quarterback from getting the credit he deserves. That needs to change. NOW.

Fresh off a pulsating Week 1 triumph over the Ravens in which Carr threw for 435 yards while providing a game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter and a game-winning touchdown pass in overtime, the Raiders quarterback hit the road on a short week and shredded the hyped Steelers defense in a 26-17 win. Completing nearly 76 percent of his throws with nary a pick, Carr finished with 382 yards, two touchdowns and a sparkling 126.2 passer rating. The fourth-quarter bomb to Henry Ruggs III was majestic — and a backbreaking touchdown to Mike Tomlin’s squad.

The Raiders are 2-0, and hey, Carr’s actually getting a little help from his friends. Just before the season kicked off, I had the Las Vegas quarterback on the Adam Schein Podcast. He was thrilled about the veteran pickups on defense, citing that the unit had fewer “green bananas.” Las Vegas’ D limited Ben Roethlisberger and Co. to just seven points in the first three quarters on Sunday, allowing the Raiders to build a lead they wouldn’t give up. Real, live complementary football? What a luxury for Mr. Carr!

3) Derrick Henry’s workload knows no bounds

Leading 24-9 at halftime, Seattle appeared to be taking care of business against Tennessee in the home opener. After all, the Seahawks had won 52 consecutive home games when leading by 15-plus points. But ultimately, there would be no celebration for the 12s, as that streak ran into the human freight train known as “King Henry.”

Tennessee’s All-Pro back had begun the season in inauspicious form. After a 58-yard effort in a blowout loss to Arizona, he managed just 35 yards on 13 carries (2.7 yards per attempt) in the first half on Sunday, adding one catch for 15 yards. Six quarters into the season, the “Henry’s workload HAS to catch up with him” crowd felt validated. Leave it to the 6-foot-3, 247-pounder to blow up that narrative once again.

Mike Vrabel’s squad showed its true heart and talent by storming back to win in overtime, 33-30. And of course, Tennessee’s inspired effort was spearheaded by Henry’s unreal blend of power and speed. The 27-year-old force of nature was not losing that game. He simply wouldn’t allow the Titans to fall to 0-2. In the second half and overtime, Henry rushed for 147 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries (6.7 yards a pop), adding five catches for 40 yards for good measure. The guy willed his team to victory. It was an impressive, unique, special display. So basically, just another day at the office for the best running back in the NFL.

4) Dallas Cowboys show some … heart?!

The Cowboys were missing four defensive starters on Sunday. They were short a key receiver and a key offensive lineman. And they were on the road, facing an elite young quarterback in Justin Herbert.

Long story short, Dallas was destined to do what Dallas does: Come up short.

But no! Showing moxie and toughness — two words not often associated with this franchise — the Cowboys prevailed, 20-17, over a talented Chargers team. Sure, Dallas survived some, um, interesting game and clock management from Mike McCarthy down the stretch — Greg Zuerlein picked up his coach by nailing a 56-yard game-winner — but let’s concentrate on stuff we didn’t expect from the Cowboys. Namely, inspired play in a big spot.

Dallas’ defense was tough and made incredibly key plays. No Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory? No problem! The Cowboys moved dynamic rookie linebacker Micah Parsons to defensive end, and the No. 12 overall pick was a consistent menace off the edge, logging a gargantuan sack late in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Dallas’ offense displayed the kind of balance that was missing in Week 1, piling up a whopping 198 yards on the ground.

Dallas is now in a three-way tie atop the NFC East at 1-1, but the way the Cowboys won on Sunday is just more proof that they’re going to take the division by multiple games.

5) Sam Darnold looks like a new quarterback

Rough day for Darnold detractors. Still just 24 years old, the first-year Panthers QB is flanked by elite coaching and explosive playmakers, things he sorely lacked on the Jets. And what do you know, he’s 2-0 with a triple-digit passer rating.

Facing a well-coached, strong Saints team that was coming off a 38-3 dismantling of the Packers, Carolina beat the brakes off New Orleans, 26-7. The Panthers’ emerging defense was excellent. And surprise, surprise: So was Christian McCaffrey. But it was the team’s new signal-caller who really caught my eye.

This past offseason, Darnold needed a fresh start, and the Panthers needed a fresh quarterback. So far, so good! Darnold threw for 305 yards and two touchdowns against a defense that just flummoxed reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers. That’s significant.

After starting the last two seasons at 0-2, the Panthers are 2-0. They can keep this going, too, because they have a quarterback. Matt Rhule and Co. are building something in Charlotte.

6) New England Patriots’ D looks like its old self

News flash: Bill Belichick owns rookie quarterbacks. The Patriots head coach is 21-6 vs. first-year signal-callers, holding them to a 61.6 passer rating and 21:41 touchdown-to-interception ratio. So with that as the backdrop, it’s not entirely surprising that Jets newbie Zach Wilson threw four interceptions in his home debut, a 25-6 loss to New England. But don’t let that distract from the fact that New England’s defense looks much more stout than last year’s unit.

Wilson was dazed and confused from the jump on Sunday, throwing picks on his first two pass attempts. The Patriots’ defense — which has Dont'a Hightower back as the man in the middle after the linebacker opted out last season — was swarming. J.C. Jackson, who had two of New England’s four picks, continues to establish himself as one of the league’s best young cornerbacks. Meanwhile, Josh Uche looks like he’s breaking out in Year 2, with three sacks in two games.

This Patriots D is legit. Add that to the ball-control offense and spectacular coaching, and I expect New England to return to the playoffs this winter.

7) Tom Brady doesn’t look human

He’s 44 years old and just tossed five touchdown passes in a division game. This coming one week after he opened the 2021 season by ripping out the Cowboys’ hearts with some last-minute heroics. The man is a fine wine: He just gets better with age. There are zero signs of him slowing down.

Over the last 10 games (including the playoffs), Brady is 10-0 while averaging 304.9 passing yards per game with a 31:6 TD-to-INT ratio and a 112.6 passer rating. THIS. ISN’T. NORMAL. Celebrate it. Appreciate it.

8) Teddy Bridgewater’s playing like a true QB1

Denver entered this season with legit talent — playoff talent — across the roster … but a question mark at the game’s most important position. Well, Teddy is off to a great start, and inherently, so are the 2-0 Broncos.

In Sunday’s 23-13 road win at Jacksonville, Bridgewater posted his second straight start with 250-plus passing yards, a completion percentage north of 75, a pair of TD strikes and ZERO interceptions. In the past quarter-century, according to NFL Research, just two other quarterbacks have accomplished that in the first two games of a season: Drew Brees in 2018 and Aaron Rodgers in 2015. Not bad company, eh?

9) Cooper Kupp’s playing like a true WR1

Scratch that. He is a true WR1.

We know the Rams have the most dominant defensive player in the NFL. We know Matthew Stafford is a star who makes Los Angeles a legit Super Bowl team. And I loved how the Rams won a game in Indy while dealing with adversity — this was one they would’ve lost last season. But Kupp is overflowing with goodness to start this season.

The former third-round pick had nine catches for 163 yards and two huge touchdowns on Sunday. And you thought his 7/108/1 line from Week 1 was nice. He’s the first Rams player ever with 100-plus receiving yards and a TD in each of the first two weeks of the season. (Think about the Rams’ history at receiver!) Kupp’s rapport with Stafford is tasty. L.A. has a great receiver group that also includes the talented Robert Woods, but Kupp is the guy.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter.

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