AFC North Week 1 Recap

AFC North Week 1 Recap
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The Ravens offense executes like preseason game one, but the defense steps up. A win is a win…
By the end of Monday night’s game, the AFC North went 3-1 outside of the division, with the only hiccup being the blowout loss the Browns suffered in Philly. The Steelers looked impressive, and the Ravens and Bengals wins may not have looked pretty, but they “just won, baby”.
Buffalo Bills @ Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens used a solid defensive performance to take an early lead, then hung on late to squeak out a win at home despite horrible offensive communication from linemen to quarterback to wide receiver.
Actually, lowlights were more of the norm for the Ravens offense. They had four pre-snap penalties, a pre-snap snap that smacked Joe Flacco in the chest, pre and post-snap misreads between receiver and quarterback, and an overall sub-par game from what was supposed to be the steady part of the offensive line. Joe Flacco looked fine early, but seemed to slow down, especially in the 2nd half when he didn’t seem to make an effort to run out of the pocket. The only good news is that he took sacks and didn’t throw INTs.
Luckily there were some highlights mixed in with the low. The Ravens started two rookies on the left side of their line, which was the first time in 21 years any NFL team has done this. The two performed extremely well. Dennis Pitta is back after back-to-back hip surgeries, and looked like the 2013 version, minus the fact that he was used sparingly. The Ravens showed much more speed at WR with Wallace and Perriman, although Steve Smith may have lost a step. And finally, they look to be much faster and more physical on defense. Its difficult to see where Buffalo is offensively after just one game so I wouldn’t get too high on the effort, but their defensive front looked much quicker and more powerful, as did the defensive backfield. The DBs actually made plays against the pass and run, which was a rarity last season.
Next up, the Ravens head to Cleveland to face Josh McCown and the Browns.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Washington Redskins
This game may have been the most difficult to gauge. How good are the Steelers vs how bad are the Skins? It seemed as though the game could have gone either way early, and then the Skins collapsed while the Steelers executed, especially on 3rd and 4th down, and ran the ball at-will. One thing is certain: Antonio Brown is a beast. The combination of his ability to separate and go after the ball is something to watch.
Washington failed to capitalize early with unforced penalties and curious coaching decisions on offense (punting on 4th and 1 from the Steelers 40, yet going for it on 4th and 6 from the Steelers 38, the latter giving the Pitt their first taste of momentum, which was all they would need). This was followed by curious coaching decisions on defense as the Redskins went with the “definition of insanity” alignment in short yardage situations (or the same alignment that didn’t work the first time), giving up multiple big plays throughout the game including a 4th and 1 29-yard TD pass for a 7-6 lead, followed by a 4th and 1 19-yard pass setting up TD #2. In fairness, the Steelers coaches called a great game, and the players executed perfectly.
It was all Pittsburgh from there. Sure they had some help from the opponent, and from the football Gods (fumbles and near fumbles stayed with the Steelers, ricochet touchdowns, etc.), but the Steelers ran the ball whenever they wanted, and they were able to extend drives in 11 out of 14 opportunities (they were 9 of 14 on 3rd, and converted two missed 3rd down conversions on 4th down).
Next up, the Steelers head to Cincinnati for what should be the NFL’s most anticipated matchup of the week.
Cleveland Browns @ Philadelphia Eagles

Seriously??? Well, that didn’t take long. RGIII showed flashes of his old self with his arm and legs, but in the end… he showed flashes of his old self by getting injured, then continuing to play to the detriment of the team. When all said and done, it was a 29-10 loss for the Browns, a game many thought they could win.
For the Browns, despite running four plays or fewer in 10 of 13 drives (although two ended halves), they were within striking distance 5 minutes into the 2nd half until an errant snap from their own 15 ended up as a safety. Philly then took the ensuing free kick and marched in for a TD. A 13-10 game quickly became 22-10. After that, RGIII could only muster one first down until the game’s last minute.
More curious was a 4th down play-call with the Browns on their own 41. A direct snap to Duke Johnson resulted in a 6-yard loss, and eventually an Eagles field goal. The Eagles converted their 4th down and 5 attempt, however it was on the Browns 40, which was converted and led to the post safety TD one play later.
Next up for the Browns is a home game against the Ravens.
Cincinnati Bengals @ New York Jets

The Jets’ sack Andy Dalton 7 times, but struggle mightily in the red zone giving the Bengals a shot to win with a last minute 47-yard field goal. A win is a win, especially on the road, especially when the Bengals were oh for their last nine in New Jersey.
Anytime a player goes for 180 against a hall of famer its noteworthy, and that’s what AJ Green did to Derelle Revis. In the end, his plays were the difference, and the fact that Dalton dusted himself off and hit on 23 of 30 passes for 366. 12 yards per attempt ain’t bad.
Despite the big numbers, the Bengals needed “a little help” from their friends in NY. The Jets settled for field goals with drives stalling at the Bengals 3, 5, and 6 yardlines. Not only did the Jets potentially leave 4 points on the table at each of those failures, they also dropped another 4 points with a blocked 22-yard field goal and a missed extra point. A TD on any of those drives, a made 22 yard field goal, or even a made extra point could have changed the outcome of this one.
Next up for the Bengals is that intense home game against the Steelers.

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