The Ravens and Steelers had their usual physical affair, but offensive execution was severely lacking. It was no different in Cleveland minus of course their opponent who had little to no execution issues
With the recent string of interdivisional losses, the AFC North has now become THAT division. Remember how folks made fun of Seattle for making the playoffs by default at 7-9, or laughing at the entire 2014 NFC South, or mocking last year’s AFC South and NFC East? It might be our turn, folks. The blame rests on the Ravens (O for their last 4 non-AFCN games), Steelers (0 for 2), and Bengals (0 for 2 plus a tie), in that order. When combining this dismal trend with the Browns 0-for-the-season, it adds up to 0-15-1…
The three North teams in action this past Sunday ago didn’t do much for divisional confidence. Their only saving grace was that someone had to win between Pittsburgh and Baltimore, and its fair to say neither team would have won if playing any team outside the division.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens used a solid defensive performance to take an early lead (the Steelers offense and play-calling also had plenty to do with their success), then hung on late as Big Ben discovered his throwing motion halfway through the 4th quarter. Joe Flacco has been missing his the entire season (and beyond) and the proof was on display again this week. For the Steelers, this game was a microcosm of their 2016 season as their Jekyll and Hyde offense was completely inept for 3 quarters, and nearly unstoppable in the 4th.
Again, lowlights would be a much better description when analyzing this sloppy game. The teams combined for 23 penalties (there were additional penalties called that weren’t accepted, but the puzzling phantom penalties called balanced those numbers out and then some). On offense, both quarterbacks looked as if they had just discovered the position. It seemed like a dozen throws were 10+ yards from their respective targets. Concerning Flacco, minus the 7-yard slant to Mike Wallace that the WR caught on his outstretched fingertips and sprinted to a 95-yard TD, the Ravens QB was 17-29 for 146 yards, an INT, and a recovered fumble. Big Ben wasn’t much better as he barely had a passing yard until the 4th quarter when he amassed over 200. His team had just two first downs and 69 total yards before their first TD drive. The two teams also combined to run the ball 45 times for under 2 yards per carry. On the “positive” side, the two teams did not lose a single fumble out of four potential giveaways.
Next up, the Ravens host the 0-9 Browns on a short week in front of a national audience, and the Steelers host the surging Cowboys in what is likely the FOX national broadcast. To top week 10 off, the Bengals travel to New Jersey Monday night to face the Giants, meaning the AFC North will be front and center Thursday through Monday for better, or more likely, for worse.
Dallas Cowboys @ Cleveland Browns
This game went pretty much as expected. The balanced offense and defense of the Cowboys were too much for the Browns and their 3rd string rookie quarterback. The Cowboys scored TDs on five of their first six possessions, and the Browns offense ran just 43 plays in 60 minutes compared to the Cowboys 71.
Its difficult to find a highlight for the Browns, although their rookie QB did not have a horrible game. Also, rookie RB Duke Johnson continues to show promise and has looked much better than the Browns starter Isaiah Crowell for a few weeks running the ball and is at least an equal catching passes out of the backfield. While the Browns have shown a competitive spirit in both close losses and finishing potential blowouts in an offensive flurry, this was not the case Sunday. The Cowboys look like they might be for real. Dak Prescott had just 6 incompletions, and the Cowboys ran 42 times for nearly 170 yards. That’s balance.
Next up, the Browns head to Baltimore with a real shot at their first victory and their best chance to give 0-16 the Heisman.