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NFL Week 2 standouts: John Harbaugh, Baker Mayfield, Geno Smith

Mayfield’s best start ever. In Baker Mayfield’s first five years in the NFL, his accuracy was mediocre (61.4 percent), and he’d taken 79 sacks in his last 26 games. Too many. Now he’s off to the best start in his career. He’s gotten rid of the ball on time (one sack in two games, despite a lot of pressure), and even when he’s had people in his face, he’s had the presence to throw accurately. Per NFL NextGen Stats, Mayfield was 14 of 17 for 223 yards and a TD when pressured by the Bears Sunday in the 27-17 Tampa Bay win. NextGen had this pro-Mayfield factoid: No NFL quarterback has thrown for more yards than Mayfield’s under-pressure 223 in the past four years. “Great decisions by Mayfield,” coach Todd Bowles said. “He has a good feel for the game and what’s around him.” When Tom Brady retired, the Bucs weren’t sure what they had with Mayfield, and thus signed him for a year and $4 million. But Tampa Bay doesn’t have a quarterback of the future, and this spot is shaping up nicely for a guy who’d gotten beat up a lot in his last two seasons. This could be the start of a beautiful relationship.

Harbaugh gets emotional. This is John Harbaugh’s 16th year coaching the Ravens. Entering Sunday’s game at the Bengals, he had 159 victories; only 24 coaches had more. That’s a lot of wins; one was a Super Bowl victory over his brother. But I haven’t seen many wins that produced this much emotion in Harbaugh. He hugged coaches, slapped and shook hands with coaches and players, and wore a grin he just couldn’t wipe off his face. Why such glee? “What a tough question,” Harbaugh said from his office in Paycor Stadium after the 27-24 win. “I think it’s because these players love each other. And this was an important game. Very important. We lost a playoff game here [in January], and people see that and they move on. Not us. We’ve lived with it all offseason. And so today, we win, and you could just feel the joy. In the locker room, I saw euphoria, and I saw love.” Two other points: Baltimore’s not only 2-0, but 2-0 in the AFC, with a two-game edge (plus the tiebreaker) over the favorite to win the division, Cincinnati. And they did it with five starters missing. This could be a brutal division, top to bottom, and this morning, Baltimore’s got the edge.

Geno Smith is the right quarterback for Seattle at this moment in his life—and in this franchise’s existence. Lower in this column, you’ll read about what Pete Carroll learned from Geno Smith. It’s insightful and shows an unselfish person who knows how to lead a team. That’s all well and good—but can the guy play? Sunday’s 37-31 victory in Detroit was Smith’s 20th start in Seattle since taking over for Russell Wilson, and I find it fairly amazing that Smith is every bit the player in his first 20 games that Wilson was in his last 20 in Seattle.

Wilson’s last 20: 11-9, 99.8 rating, .649 completion rate, 4,339 yards, 35 TD, 9 Int.

Smith’s first 20: 10-10, 101.1 rating, .700 completion rate, 4,722 yards, 33 TD, 11 Int.

After a poor season-opening loss to the Rams, Smith said he and Bobby Wagner spoke to the team. Have fun and play with swagger, Wagner said. Stay connected and play for each other, Smith said. Team things. “This is only our second game together, because teams change every year,” Smith said after the game Sunday. “We’re finding out about each other and we’re learning about each other. One of my messages is to keep our composure all the way through the game. Like, my message in the huddle when we get across the 50 and the drive is getting toward the goal line, I tell the guys, ‘Take a deep breath. Calm down. Relax. Just execute.’ I try to be the thermometer in the huddle. Make sure everyone’s cool, so we can get our jobs done. On the [game-winning] drive in overtime, I could feel it—everyone knew we’d score. It’s the confidence you gotta have. That’s super fun, right? You get the ball in your hands at the end of a game. That’s what you live for and you dream about as a kid, the opportunity to go win the game. It’s so much fun.” And that’s the guy you want in your huddle, piloting your team.

Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column.