No longer the death knell it once was, starting 0-2 remains sound the alarm territory.
A turnaround isn’t impossible. See the Cincinnati Bengals U-turn from 0-2 to 12-4 — and ending the regular season with an eight-game win streak — in 2022.
But in some cases, it’s time to pound the panic button.
Here are the three such scenarios where ejection seems inevitable, and making a move could inspire an about face this season:
–Los Angeles Chargers
No team in NFL history has put up 50 points and zero turnovers in the first two weeks of the regular season and gone 0-2.
New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore appears to be a perfect fit for franchise quarterback Justin Herbert. If only the Chargers’ defense could get off the field.
Head coach Brandon Staley, previously defensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams, cannot get the yarn back on the spool unraveled by the heartbreaking loss in the wild-card playoffs at Jacksonville last year, when a 27-0 lead dissolved into a 31-30 loss. It’s a carryover he doesn’t want to address, of course.
“I’m not worried about the Jacksonville loss,” Staley said. “The Jacksonville loss hasn’t carried on to this season whatsoever. If you’ve seen our training camp, or you’ve seen the way we’ve played in the first two games, it hasn’t had an impact on our team whatsoever. Our team is connected, our team has played its heart out the last two games and we’ve lost two tough games, but it has nothing to do with the Jacksonville game. And that’s just the truth.”
The truth, from outside linebacker Khalil Mack, on falling to 0-2 with an overtime loss to the Titans on Sunday on the mood of the team: “Pissed off. We know we should be winning these games.”
Head coach Matt Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles being summoned to the principal’s offense in September was warranted. The uninspired effort at Tampa Bay that dropped Chicago to 0-2 might prove even more problematic.
Eberflus and Poles are 3-16 and the offseason moves heralded as visionary appear to be vile instead. Quarterback Justin Fields, in a staged prove-it year during which his GM will measure whether the 2021 first-rounder can develop as a pro passer, hasn’t even had time to take the next step.
Fields has been sacked 10 times and thrown three interceptions. Chicago’s defense is doing Eberflus, whose background is on that side of the ball, no favors with 65 points allowed to the Packers and Buccaneers.
It gets worse: the Bears flew home from Florida to begin prep for a trip to Kansas City, where Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy gets a grand stage to flex against his replacement.
Does Joe Burrow need time to heal in order to effectively lead the offense?
Burrow plans to give his ailing calf “a couple of nights, a couple of sleeps” before determining next steps, but the quarterback is 0-2 to start the season and Cincinnati hasn’t shown the same life it did rebounding from this same two-week slumber last season.
Burrow has one completion over 20 yards — a 32-yarder to running back Joe Mixon — and is averaging 4.2 yards per pass attempt, down from 7.4 last season.
The Bengals get an extra day to prepare for “Monday Night Football” and the Los Angeles Rams (1-1).
“This is exactly where we were last year, and this team is only going to get better with every game that passes,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said Sunday. “When you stumble early, you have to learn from it. So many years in the past, we’ve learned from early-season losses that have propelled us in November and December. This will be no different. I’m very confident in that.”
Before their Week 7 bye, the Bengals host the Rams then travel to play the Titans and Cardinals before a Week 6 matchup with the Seahawks.