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AFC North Roundup: Week 14

One up, three down

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Quite a weekend of football in the AFC North.

On Sunday, the Bengals dropped their 10th game of the season as their woes continued versus the Cowboys. The Steelers offensive struggles again were an issue against the Bills on SNF and Pittsburgh lost their second straight game.

Luckily for the Steelers, they still retain a two-game advantage in the division over the Browns, thanks to the Ravens. Baltimore secured a series sweep over the Browns with a miraculous victory on Monday night. With it, the Ravens not sit just a game behind Cleveland for second place with three games remaining.

Buckle up.

Updated Standings:

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers 11-2
  2. Cleveland Browns 9-4
  3. Baltimore Ravens 8-5
  4. Cincinnati Bengals 2-10-1

Bengals lose to Cowboys: 30-7

Another week, another loss for the Bengals — who are in the midst of a serious offensive drought that has now lasted several games in a row. For the second consecutive game, the Bengals scored only seven points. Last week, those seven points came via special teams.

Cincinnati found themselves behind the eight ball early on Sunday. On just the second play from scrimmage, RB Giovani Bernard fumbled in Bengals territory and put the Cowboys just 32 yards away from the end zone. Dallas added a field goal onto the scoreboard before capitalizing on another Bengals turnover on the next drive.

After driving eight plays and 53 yards, Trayveon Williams took his turn coughing up the football. Cowboys DE Aldon Smith scooped up the loose fumble and ran 78 yards the other way — giving Dallas a quick 10-0 lead with six minutes still remaining in the first quarter.

Two possessions later, the Bengals put together an impressive 16-play drive capped off by a five-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Allen to A.J. Green. This inspired some confidence despite a 10-point deficit at halftime, but any optimism quickly subsided.

It was all Cowboys in the second half as the Bengals struggled to move the ball. Dallas opened the third quarter with a field goal, both teams traded consecutive punts, and the Cowboys then added an additional 10 points in the fourth quarter. During this stretch, the Bengals turned the ball over on downs on back-to-back possessions.

The Bengals wound up finishing with two more first downs than Dallas, ran 20 more plays, and outgained them in total yardage 309 to 272. It did not manifest in the scoreboard, though, as Cincinnati’s yards-per-play average of 4.4 and 25% success rate on fourth down proved too much to overcome.

Defining stat: -3 turnover differential

What’s next: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers — Sunday, Dec. 20 (1:00 p.m. ET)

Steelers lose to Bills: 26-15

After dropping their first game of the season to Washington in Week 13, the Steelers were seeking to bounce back against the Bills on Sunday night. Instead, Pittsburgh’s offensive struggles continued and they lost by a season-high margin of 11 points.

This had all the making of a sloppy, defensive battle in the early going. Neither team sustained a drive of more than 30 yards in the first quarter. The Steelers punted on their first five possessions of the game. However, they appeared to turn a corner just a few minutes into the second quarter.

Mike Hilton forced the ball loose from Bills TE Dawson Knox and the fumble was recovered by Cameron Sutton. Just three plays later, Ben Roethlisberger found James Washington for a 19-yard touchdown to give the Steelers a 7-0 lead. The feel of this sequence was quite similar to that of last week against Washington.

Momentum swung in the Bills favor just before halftime. Buffalo added a field goal to trim the deficit and took the lead after Roethlisberger was intercepted by Tyron Johnson, who returned the interception for a 51-yard touchdown return. From this point on, the Steelers were on the ropes.

Pittsburgh’s undermanned defense ceded touchdowns on back-to-back drives to begin the third quarter. The Steelers had no answers for Stefon Diggs in the passing game, who carved them up for 10 receptions and 130 yards.

The Steelers added another touchdown to make things interesting late, Roethlisberger was intercepted for a second time late in the fourth quarter on a deep pass attempt for Washington — which closed the door shut on any comeback attempt.

Two recurring issues continue to plague the Steelers offensively: dropped passes and an inability to run the ball. Diontae Johnson, the league leader in drops, saw two more passes slip through his hands in the first quarter. Eric Ebron also dropped another pass for the third straight game.

Any hopes that the return of James Conner would ignite the Steelers rushing attack proved to be false hope. Conner re-entered the starting lineup after missing the past two games but turned 10 carries into just 18 yards. As a team, the Steelers rushed for only 47 yards.

Defining stat: 1-for-10 on third down

What’s next: @ Cincinnati Bengals — Sunday, Dec. 20 (1:00 p.m. ET)

Browns lose to Ravens: 42-47

In a high stakes matchup, the Browns came up just short in the final minutes against the Ravens on Monday night. It was a game that easily could of gone their way but instead the Browns are now licking their wounds — but are still in good shape overall.

The Browns jumped out to quick 7-0 lead after an opening drive of 11 plays and 81 yards in the first 5:54 of the game. Only one other drive in the first half resulted in points for Cleveland, though, as they missed a field goal and punted multiple times.

They were outscored 13-6 in the third quarter and trailed by 14 points at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Baker Mayfield and company flipped the script, though, scoring 15 unanswered points to take a one-point lead with just a few minutes remaining.

Cleveland’s defense saw Lamar Jackson re-enter the game after exiting with cramps and pull the Ravens ahead with a quick 44-yard touchdown with two minutes left. Had the Browns stopped the Ravens on 4th-&-5, they get the ball back and likely win the game.

Instead, they tied the game at 42-42 courtesy of a quick four-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in just 75 seconds. The Ravens responded by moving downfield in a hurry and kicking a game-winning field goal with just a few seconds on the clock.

The Browns were efficient on the ground, per usual, rushing 28 times for 138 yards as a team with two touchdowns from Nick Chubb. Kareem Hunt scored twice as well, both through the air and on the ground. Unfortunately, Cleveland’s defense couldn’t stop the run themselves, ceding 231 rushing yards and 7.2 YPC to the Ravens.

Baker Mayfield attempted 47 passes, completing 28 of them for 343 yards and two touchdowns. Aside from a costly interception in the third quarter and a few misfires, Mayfield made a handful of impressive throws to bring the Browns back late and did a nice job of extending plays and eluding pressure.

The Browns wound up running almost 20 more plays than the Ravens and outgained them by more than 100 yards. However, it did not manifest in a victory.

Defining stat: Missed field goal and missed extra point

What’s next: @ New York Giants — Sunday, Dec. 20 (8:20 p.m. ET)

Ravens defeat Browns: 47-42

On the winning side of the Monday night showdown was the Ravens, who needed every bit of heroics and drama to emerge with a victory.

After falling behind early, the Ravens responded by scoring 14 unanswered points on the strength of their rushing attack. Baltimore found success running the ball early with the likes of J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, but Lamar Jackson paved the way.

Jackson’s athleticism and scrambling ability were on display all night, as he turned nine rushing attempts into 124 rushing yards and two scores. The yardage total were the most ever by a quarterback in the history of Monday night football. Prior to the fourth quarter, Jackson had completed just 6-of-11 passes for less than 100 passing yards.

With 4:32 remaining in the third quarter, Tyus Bowser intercepted Baker Mayfield and came up just one yard short of scoring. Dobbins punched in a one-yard score, giving the Ravens a 34-20 advantage heading into the fourth quarter. However, momentum quickly swung in the opposite direction.

Lamar Jackson exited the game with cramps and the Browns scored 15 straight points to take a lead in the fourth quarter. With just over two minutes left in the game, backup QB Trace McSorley suffered a leg injury and set the Ravens up with a bleak scenario: needing to convert a fourth down to keep their hopes (and season) alive, with no quarterback available.

Right on cue, Jackson returned from the locker room and saved the day. Jackson found Marquise Brown for a 44-yard touchdown and Dobbins scampered into the end zone to convert a crucial two-point conversion. The Browns again responded with a 75-yard scoring drive in just 75 seconds to tie the game, leaving just over a minute remaining on the clock.

Jackson connected on four straight passes to move the Ravens into Browns territory, setting up Justin Tucker with a 55-yard field goal attempt to win the game. The rest is history.

The Ravens defense had a forgettable performance, ceding nearly 500 yards of total offense and six touchdowns. The Ravens had a 14-point lead twice in the second half and still needed a last-second field goal to win . . . and what a win it was.

Defining stat: 7.2 yards per carry

What’s next: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars — Sunday, Dec. 20 (1:00 p.m. ET)