The NFL spent the first part of Sunday proving why it's America's game. Fantastic finishes, epic blunders and logic-defying comebacks were the order of the day. Thoughts after a wild slate of early games on the second NFL Sunday of 2012:
Eli Manning is the Man in Second Half
How good was Eli Manning in the second half of the New York Giants' 41-34 win over Tampa Bay? More to the point, how bad are the Bucs defensive backs?
Overcoming an abysmal three-interception first half, Manning threw for a career-high 510 yards, enhancing his rep as a closer by pitching two fourth-quarter touchdowns and erasing a 27-13 deficit. Hakeem Nicks (10 catches, 199 yards, 1 TD) and Victor Cruz (11 catches, 179 yards, 1 TD) made Bucs DBs Aqib Talib and Brandon McDonald look like Washington Generals trying to guard Globetrotters, flailing and grasping at air. And the Giants escaped an 0-2 hole that, as we all know, spells doom for playoff chances. Under the current playoff format, only 12 percent of teams starting 0-2 have recovered to make the playoffs. Sigh of relief for the defending champs.
Panic Time for Drew Brees, Saints
Speaking of 0-2, that's where the New Orleans Saints find themselves. The Carolina Panthers piled up 463 yards against a Saints defense that is suddenly leakier than a Lake Pontchartrain levee. Cam Newton threw for 253 yards and rushed for a career-high 71 as the Panthers piled up 219 yards on the ground and averaged 5.3 yards per rush. New Orleans has now allowed 924 yards and 75 points in two games. This one was a little bit personal for Carolina, which was still smarting from Drew Brees' five-touchdown game in Week 17 last season, when he was chasing NFL records. Today, Brees threw a single TD and was picked off twice.
Arizona Cardinals Shock Tom Brady, New England Patriots
It looked like the Arizona Cardinals had Cardinal'ed the bed and Cardinal'ed away the lead when Ryan Williams fumbled at his own 30 with Arizona clinging to a 20-18 lead against the Patriots. But after having a touchdown called back by a penalty, the Patriots saw Steven Gostkowski's 42-yard potential game-winner sail wide. Tom Brady lost to Kevin Kolb. As someone Tweeted, maybe the Mayans were right. The end of the world is nigh.
• Philly shocked Baltimore 24-23 with a Michael Vick TD run inside two minutes. The Eagles now have consecutive wins despite four turnovers in both games. They ain't the Dream Team, but they're doing something right, in spite of themselves.
• Statistical stars:
Eli Manning — 31-of-51, 510 yards, 3 TDs (we'll cut him a break and not mention his three interceptions and pick-6)
Buffalo's C.J. Spiller — 15 carries, 123 yards rushing, 47 yards receiving, 2 TDs in the Bills' 35-17 win over the Chiefs
Indianapolis' Andrew Luck — 224 yards passing, 2 TDs and the first game-winning drive of his career in the Colts' 23-20 win over the Vikings
Cincy's Andy Dalton — 318 yards, 3 TDs in the Bengals' 34-27 win over Cleveland. Brandon Weeden also redeemed himself with a 114.9 passer rating and no
Miami's Reggie Bush - 172 rushing yards in Miami's 35-13 win over Oakland