Record 20 of 32 NFL teams are 1-1
The NFL logo is seen in this undated file photo.
Published Saturday, September 22, 2012 9:00AM EDT
A record 20 NFL teams are 1-1, and the paths they took getting there are about as similar as the coaching demeanours of Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin.
Who, by the way, each started out 1-1 this season.
Wild swings have been the norm for that big bunch of teams in the middle of the pack. Should that continue, December will provide one chaotic stretch run.
The most diametrically opposite performances so far have been turned in by the Bears, Packers, Patriots, Cowboys, Colts, Bills, Dolphins and Jets. They've gone from world beaters to patsies, or vice-versa, in the span of a week or less -- and there is no common denominator for such turnarounds.
One of the more worrisome of those inconsistent showings was turned in by Chicago, which manhandled Indianapolis at Soldier Field, then got trampled by the archrival Packers four days later. Not only was Jay Cutler sacked seven times at Lambeau Field, but he looked defeated and disgusted. His body language was as entertaining as it was revealing.
And what it said was: "Get me some protection or get me out of here!"
Bears coach Lovie Smith defended his QB.
"There are some things that happen during the course of every game in the NFL," he said. "If you had a camera there catching it all, there are some things that you would rather not be shown.
"These are just minor things that are going on, believe me. We don't have any issues. Our guys aren't fighting in the locker room and all those things. Believe me -- it's football, things happen."
The last thing Smith or any coach wants to see happen is such highs and lows. Yet many clubs already are on a roller coaster.
The Bills were demolished at the Jets 48-28, then came home and tore apart the Chiefs 35-17. New York went to Pittsburgh and fell 27-10.
Miami was routed at Houston 30-10, then toyed with Oakland 35-13. This week, the Dolphins and Jets face off, both hoping to uncover a positive identity they can carry with them for a while.
How do you find that consistency?
"I think we do a good job of putting the burden on all of us as a team," said Reggie Bush, who has started playing like the star running back people expected when he left Southern Cal with a Heisman Trophy and got picked No. 2 overall in the draft by New Orleans in 2006. "Not just the offence, not just the defence. We know that we have to win in every phase of the game, special teams, offence and defence, and that's going to be the key to us being successful throughout the season.
"I think we do a good job at making sure that we're all doing our part and being held accountable and trying to make sure that we do the right things when we're out there, and that starts from top to bottom."
No NFL coach wants the top-to-bottom results to last. They all insist on stability.
Some of them are getting disorder.
When that happens, they try to stay true to their philosophy and not let their message waver. And they look to team leaders to keep things calm.
"You try to stay level," said Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was awful against the Jets and steady against the Chiefs. "For me, and as a quarterback, you always have to stay upbeat. You always have to stay positive because you know guys are looking for you. Especially in the times of crisis and times that things are not going well, that is something that is as important to this position as being able to go out there and throw touchdowns --being able to handle that adversity.
"A lot of times I internalize things, which might not be the best. Taking everything and putting on that happy face and making sure that everybody stays positive is very important."
Remaining upbeat is tough when you follow a signature victory with a dud. That's precisely what the Cowboys managed, making the one in the loss column look a whole lot bigger than that one W.
"Hey, look, I'm not here to convince y'all or anybody else what this football team is going to be," Jason Witten said. "I believe we got the guys that are going to do it. Ultimately, we laid an egg; we didn't do it. And you don't start the season off and bounce around. We're not worried about that."
Maybe they should be. These Cowboys through two weeks resemble the 2011 version that fell short of the playoffs despite leading the NFC East for much of the schedule. Huge wins and even bigger flops.
"We want to be a team that can go out there and win and be consistent every week," linebacker Sean Lee said. "That's the identity we're working toward: tough, relentless, hard-nosed football team that's going to be there. We didn't do that (at Seattle). We didn't execute and that's why we lost."
Because so many lower playoff seeds have won the Super Bowl recently -- Pittsburgh for the 2005 season, the Giants for 2007 and 2011, Green Bay for 2010 -- the long and winding road isn't exactly the path least travelled. But it's still a tricky way to pursue championships.