Watching the 2014 NFL preseason isn't much different from navigating through highway construction. The ride is frustrating.
The league's emphasis on penalizing defenders for downfield contact has slowed the action of the game. Officials also seem to be emphasizing more hands-to-the-face penalties. Penalty flags are up to 23.4 per game during this preseason of penalties (10 more per game than the start of the past preseason).
One experiment is coming to an end this week. The two-week practice of having extra points from the 15-yard line will end following the Washington-Cleveland game Monday night. The league wanted more drama on extra points, which had become an almost automatic play. Eight extra points (more than in the entire 2013 regular season) were missed in the first 30 preseason games, and Friday's Oakland-Detroit matchup provided an example of the impact of a missed 33-yard extra point.
Lions kicker Nate Freese missed an extra point in the first quarter. That ultimately allowed the Raiders to win in the final six seconds by getting a touchdown and the elongated extra point, which prevented overtime in a 27-26 Raiders win in a game that lasted 3:26 and had 18 penalties marched off.
Here is what we learned in the second full week of preseason games:
The champs mean business: The Seattle Seahawks looked ready to defend their title with a 41-14 victory over San Diego. They rushed for 243 yards. Russell Wilson was efficient, completed 11 of 13 passes and ran for two touchdowns. The Seahawks' crowd was loud and in midseason form. The defense flew to the football.
Bradford, Romo are back: St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford looked sharp coming off ACL surgery. He was 9-for-12 against Green Bay, his passes were crisp, and he seemed to have firm control of the offense. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who is returning from back surgery, completed four of five passes for 80 yards against Baltimore, including three tosses to Dez Bryant for 59 yards. The fact that Romo could get the ball downfield to Bryant offers hope for the offense. As for the defense, well, that remains a negative story.
Big Ben seems to be on same page as his offensive coordinator: The no-huddle looks natural for Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. It gives him the ability to call some of his own plays. Watching him complete eight of 11 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns against Buffalo was a treat. He looked like he was having fun in Todd Haley's offense.
Jets better worry about their pass defense: Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was 8-for-8 for 144 yards against the cornerback-strapped New York Jets defense. The Jets' front office has taken plenty of criticism for not being more aggressive finding veteran corners. Now, because of injuries, safety Antonio Allen is playing corner. The front half of the season is loaded with games against some of the best quarterbacks in football, led by Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Philip Rivers. Rex Ryan knows how to put together great defensive plans, but his hands are tied if his corners aren't good enough.