Arguably the two best teams in the NFL faced off in Baltimore on the Sunday, with the home team coming out of the heavyweight matchup victorious. The Ravens and 49ers countered each other’s blows in the first half and the second half was largely a defensive struggle. However, with just a few minutes remaining in the game, Lamar Jackson orchestrated a 12-play drive to put the Ravens in field goal position, which was all that Justin Tucker needed to hit a 49-yarder as time expired to break the 17-17 tie.
The 49ers were without their leading rusher, Matt Breida, but the Ravens still struggled to stop the run. Raheem Mostert churned out a career-high 146 rushing yards, highlighted by a 40-yard touchdown in the first half. However, while the Ravens bent, they ultimately didn’t break in the end and buckled down when they needed to. Baltimore was similarly impressive on the ground, totaling 178 rushing yards. QB Lamar Jackson accounted for 101 of these, which made up for a pedestrian 105 passing yards.
Defining stat: 2/3 on fourth down
What’s next: @ Buffalo Bills - Sunday, Dec. 8 (1:00 p.m. ET)
Inserting Andy Dalton back into the lineup proved to be the right decision for first-year HC Zac Taylor, who finally picked up the first victory of his career on Sunday. Frankly, it was a long time coming. The Bengals have managed to stay competitive in many games this season but have been unable to finish late, resulting in multiple one-possession losses. Against the Jets, though, their defense put them over the finish line.
Led by a dominant performance from Carlos Dunlap, the Bengals rattled Sam Darnold and shut down the Jets rushing attack. Dunlap was unstoppable, posting three sacks, six QB hits and 3.5 TFL. New York gained just 62 yards on the ground with a 3.6 YPC clip. The Bengals struggled even more with their running game, but Dalton injected some life into a passing attack that was non-existent with Ryan Finley at the helm. Dalton completed 22/37 passes for 243 yards and a touchdown.
Defining stat: Nine QB hits
What’s next: @ Cleveland Browns - Sunday, Dec. 8 (1:00 p.m. ET)
Steelers defeat Browns: 20-13
In his first career start, undrafted rookie QB Devlin Hodges did just enough to lead the Steelers to a victory. He completed 14/21 passes for 212 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. For the second consecutive week, Hodges connected with WR James Washington for a huge play and score, this time a 44-yard touchdown. Hodges likely isn’t all that much better than Mason Rudolph, but his ability to throw the deep ball at times makes the Steelers offense less one-dimensional and predictable.
What makes this victory even more impressive is that the Steelers were once again missing their No. 1 running back and wideout - James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster. In their absence, Washington (4 catches, 111 yards) and rookie RB Benny Snell Jr. (63 yards, 1 TD) filled in admirably. Pittsburgh’s defense once again stepped up to the plate, forcing two turnovers and limiting the Browns to just 279 total yards.
Defining stat: Five sacks
What’s next: @ Arizona Cardinals - Sunday, Dec. 8 (4:25 p.m. ET)
For the Browns, this was a gut-wrenching loss. Entering Week 13, Cleveland had been building momentum and increasing their chance at a wild card berth. However, following this defeat, they’re now two games behind Pittsburgh with just four games remaining in the season. The Browns had a great opportunity to take advantage of a shorthanded opponent but fell flat after jumping out to a 10-0 lead.
They simply couldn’t muster enough offense in the second half. QB Baker Mayfield exited the game early with a hand injury but returned, although he had a less than stellar performance. Mayfield completed 18 of 32 throws for 196 passing yards with a touchdown and a game-sealing interception. He also lost a fumble and was sacked five times. WR Odell Beckham Jr. was held in check, catching just three of his six targets for 26 receiving yards.
The team’s head coach, Freddie Kitchens, made headlines for all the wrong reasons after wearing a t-shirt to the game that read “Pittsburgh started it”. This is obviously a reference to the Myles Garrett and Mason Rudolph fiasco two weeks ago on Thursday Night Football.
Defining stat: 4.4 yards per play
What’s next: vs. Cincinnati Bengals - Sunday, Dec 9 (1:00 p.m. ET)