It was another eventful weekend of action in the AFC North, one that saw further shifting in the standings. A week after falling to second place at the hands of the Browns, the Ravens bounced back with a narrow victory over the Steelers, who fell to 1-4 on the season.
Cleveland was thoroughly throttled on Monday night in San Francisco, falling below .500 and ceding first place in the division to Baltimore. The Bengals, who have yet to win a game, remain in last place.
Let’s break it down.
Ravens defeat Steelers: 26-23
For Baltimore, this was far from a polished or impressive victory. While playing in Pittsburgh is never an easy task, the Ravens jumped out to an early 17-7 lead and appeared primed to pull away and coast to a win. However, sloppy offensive play and occasional defensive lapses allowed the Steelers to mount a comeback. Prior to exiting with a head injury, Mason Rudolph found success against the Ravens’ defense, as did backup QB Devin Hodges.
Lamar Jackson had his worst passing performance of the season but was again a catalyst on the ground, rushing 14 times for 70 yards. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey made the play of the game in overtime, poking the ball loose from WR JuJu Smith-Schuster and recovering the fumble to give the Ravens possession. Justin Tucker trotted onto the field a few plays later and nailed a 46-yard field goal to give Baltimore the victory. Overall, it was not exactly an encouraging performance but a win is a win, and the Ravens needed one.
Injury-wise, WR Marquise Brown missed much of the second and third quarters after exiting with an ankle injury but eventually returned. Starting SS Tony Jefferson suffered a torn ACL in the fourth quarter and is set to miss the remainder of this season.
Defining stat: 39:00 (time of possession)
What’s next: vs. Cincinnati Bengals - Sunday, October 13 (1:00 PM)
From the Steelers perspective, this was a missed opportunity to gain control of second place in the division. Instead, they remain a distant third at 1-4 and face quite an uphill climb to be competitive moving forward. If quarterback Mason Rudolph is forced to miss an extended period of time, it’s hard to imagine them crawling back to .500. After scrambling from the pocket and delivering a 13-yard strike to James Washington, Rudolph was sandwiched by Brandon Carr and Earl Thomas. He laid unconscious on the ground for what felt like an eternity, but fortunately walked off the field under his own power.
Defensively, the Steelers forced multiple turnovers for the second consecutive week. Kameron Kelly, Mike Hilton, and Devin Bush each recorded interceptions, and Pittsburgh held the league’s No. 1 offense to just 277 total yards and two touchdowns, in large part due to their ability to pressure the quarterback (5 sacks) and bottle up Mark Ingram (2.3 YPC).
Defining stat: Three forced turnovers
What’s next: @ Los Angeles Chargers - Sunday, October 13 (8:20 PM)
Cardinals defeat Bengals: 26-23
Looking for their first home win of the season, and first victory in general for that matter, the Bengals dropped another close contest to Arizona after their comeback effort fell short. Cincinnati found themselves in a 23-9 hole in the second half but crawled their way back into it courtesy of back-to-back touchdown passes by Andy Dalton. Much like the Bills game, the Cardinals regained possession with two minutes remaining and Kyler Murray led Arizona’s offense into scoring territory. Zane Gonzalez kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired.
The Bengals are now 0-5 on the season, but their losses in Week 1, Week 3, and Week 5 came by a combined eight points. RB Joe Mixon continues to get into a groove and had his best game of the season against Arizona, totaling over 100 yards from scrimmage and averaging 4.9 YPC. Leading receiver Tyler Boyd caught 10/14 targets for 123 yards a touchdown. A.J. Green’s return date is still unknown, but he’s already been ruled out for next week’s matchup against Baltimore.
Defining stat: 370 total yards
What’s next: @ Baltimore Ravens - Sunday, October 13 (1:00 PM)
49ers defeat Browns: 31-3
After defeating the Ravens in Week 4 and scoring 40 points, it appeared the Browns had finally figured out the recipe for success. Their performance in Baltimore was convincing enough for many to jump back on the hype bandwagon. Those who did were in for a rude awakening on Monday night. Facing a well-rested 49ers team on the road, the Browns were outplayed from start to finish and appeared unprepared to play winning football. Following RB Matt Breida’s 83-yard touchdown run, Baker Mayfield threw an interception on the next drive and it was all downhill from there.
The Browns defense was gashed on the ground, as they allowed six different opposing rushers to combine for 275 yards and two touchdowns on 40 attempts (6.9 YPC). The 49ers controlled the tempo and had their way with a defensive unit that had actually performed quite well against the Rams and Ravens in weeks prior. Offensively, Mayfield had the worst statistical performance of his career thus far, completing just 8/22 throws for 100 yards and two interceptions - one of which came after a dropped pass by Antonio Callaway. WR Odell Beckham Jr. had another quite performance, catching two passes for 27 yards. Beckham dropped two passes early and fumbled a punt return late in the fourth quarter.
Defining stat: 3.9 yards per play
What’s next: vs. Seattle Seahawks - Sunday, October 13 (1:00 PM)