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AFC North Roundup: Week 12

A rollercoaster of a week

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Well, the longest week in AFC North history has officially come to a conclusion. After being delayed three times, the Ravens and Steelers finally did battle on Wednesday afternoon, with the latter coming out on top in a 19-14 victory.

Pittsburgh’s win gives them 11 on the season, as their quest for 16-0 remains alive. For the Ravens, they now sit two games behind the Browns in the division — who won their third straight against the Jaguars. Cincinnati lost to the Giants at home.

Updated Standings:

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers 11-0
  2. Cleveland Browns 8-3
  3. Baltimore Ravens 6-5
  4. Cincinnati Bengals 2-8-1

Browns defeat Jaguars: 27-25

The story continues to repeat itself for the Browns, who continue to grind out victories in relatively uninspiring fashion. Nevertheless, after a two-point win over the Jaguars on Sunday, the Browns have now won three straight games and are in good shape heading down the stretch run of the season.

Against the Mike Glennon-led Jaguars, Cleveland trailed by three points at two different points in the first half. However, in each instance they responded with a scoring drive and led by a score of 17-13 at halftime after Jacksonville missed a field goal as time expired in the second quarter.

From there, it was a continuous tug-of-war type battle that both teams seem interested in giving away to the other. After the Browns fumbled on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, the Jaguars needed only six plays to retake the lead with a touchdown. From there, though, Cleveland’s defense buckled down.

The Jaguars’ next two drives resulted in punts, a span in which the Browns scored 10 unanswered points to take a 27-19 lead in the fourth quarter. Jacksonville manufactured an 11-play, 78-yard touchdown drive in just over three minutes but failed to covert on a two-point conversion attempt. Cleveland sealed the deal by running out the clock.

The box score indicates a fairly even-sided battle between these two teams, and that’s pretty much what it was. RB Nick Chubb was once again the key offensive catalyst for the Browns (19 carries, 144 rushing yards), but Baker Mayfield had his best performance under center in several weeks — throwing for 258 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers.

Defining stat: 6.3 yards per carry

What’s next: vs. Tennessee Titans — Sunday, Dec. 6 (1:00 p.m. ET)


Bengals lose to Giants: 17-19

In their first game without injured QB Joe Burrow under center, the Bengals were competitive against a Giants team that had won two straight games heading into Sunday’s showdown. In fact, the Bengals very easily could have won this game — and maybe should have.

It appeared Cincinnati might be in for a long day early when the Giants scored a touchdown on their opening drive. New York marched 76 yards on nine plays and punched in a rushing score at the goal line on fourth down. However, the Bengals responded right away, literally, courtesy of 103-yard kickoff return touchdown by Brandon Wilson.

After 14 combined points just over five minutes into the game, the scoring pace then slowed down significantly on both sides. Four punts and a Giants fumble on the following five possessions gave way to each squad putting a field goal on the board before halftime.

The Bengals never took a lead in the second half but also never trailed by more than six points. A key turning point occurred when QB Brandon Allen, starting in place of Burrow and over sophomore Ryan Finley, tossed an interception just before the end of the third quarter.

New York turned this miscue into three points and did so again just several minutes later, capitalizing on a Drew Sample fumble with 4:19 remaining in the game. A late touchdown drive by Cincinnati saw them cut a nine-point deficit into a 19-17 game, but Allen was sacked and fumbled the ball at midfield with 50 seconds left on the clock.

It was a valiant effort considering the Bengals were without the services of Burrow and RB Joe Mixon, whose absence was once again felt. The Bengals rushed just 15 times for 40 yards as a team — a recurring theme over the past few games.

Defining stat: -3 turnover differential

What’s next: @ Miami Dolphins — Sunday, Dec. 6 (1:00 p.m. ET)


Steelers defeat Ravens: 19-14

Despite entering Wednesday’s game as the far healthier, more-equipped team on both sides of the ball, the Steelers had difficulty closing the door against the Ravens.

It was an ugly start for Pittsburgh’s offense, who began the game with a three-and-out and interception on their first two drives. The interception came on a fourth down attempt at the goal line, on a drive that was facilitated by the Steelers defense forcing a turnover and setting up Ben Roethlisberger and company with great field position.

Just three plays later, though, Pittsburgh’s defense got the Steelers on the board first courtesy of a 14-yard interception by Joe Haden, returned for a touchdown. PR Ray-Ray McCloud muffed a punt after the Ravens went three-and-out and Baltimore took a 7-6 lead after scoring a quick touchdown.

That wound up being the last time the Steelers defense would cede points until late in the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh struck out twice in the red zone before halftime but kicked two field goals to take a 12-7 lead. They were fortunate enough not be trailing at intermission after the Ravens failed to score in the red zone just before the end of the second quarter.

Sloppy offensive play continued from Pittsburgh in the second half. Aside from a 12-play, 61-yard touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter, the Steelers struggled to move the ball consistently. They punted the ball three times and failed to convert on fourth down on their first possession of the third quarter.

Pittsburgh leaned heavily on their passing attack without RB James Conner in the lineup, as they rushed the ball just 20 times overall for 68 yards. Roethlisberger completed 36-of-51 throws for 266 yards, continuing with the season-long theme of getting the ball out quickly and delivering passes to the likes of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson in space.

Defining stat: 1-of-4 in the red zone

What’s next: vs. Washington Football Team — Monday, Dec. 7 (5:00 p.m. ET)


Ravens lose to Steelers: 14-19

Despite missing 18 players due to COVID-19, including QB Lamar Jackson and several other starters on both sides of the ball, the Ravens fought and clawed their way to a competitive showing against an undefeated Steelers team.

It was apparent from the get-go that points were going to be hard to come by for the Ravens offense. Baltimore’s first three drives resulted in a quick three-and-out, fumble, and pick-six. Their lone touchdown came after a Steelers turnover on special teams, which the Ravens used to manufacture a four-play, 16-yard scoring drive late in the first quarter.

The most successful offensive drive of the game for the Ravens was also the most disappointing and perhaps damning. After going 11 plays and 74 yards just before the end of the first half, highlighted by Robert Griffin III’s 39-yard rush on 3rd-&-10, TE Luke Wilson failed to haul in a would-be touchdown reception in the end zone as time expired.

Back-to-back rushing attempts at the goal line were unsuccessful and the Ravens were out of timeouts as the clock continued to tick down — largely thanks to LB Lawrence Timmons lying on top of Gus Edwards for way longer than necessary (delay of game?).

In the second half, the Ravens punted four straight times before Trace McSorley entered the game at quarterback and connected with WR Marquise Brown for a 70-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to trim the deficit to five points. It was too little, too late though, as the Steelers ran out the clock after converting multiple first downs on the final drive.

The Ravens did next-to-nothing offensively for the majority of this game, but the defense stepped up to the plate in a big way. Baltimore limited the Steelers to only 3.4 yards per carry on the ground and an average of 5.2 yards through the air. Their ability to prevent touchdowns in the red zone gave the Ravens a fighting chance late.

Given the dire circumstances, the Ravens played about as well as anyone could have expected. They showed fight and resiliency, two qualities they’ll need to maintain moving forward if they hope to get back out front in the playoff race.

Defining stat: 3-of-13 on third down

What’s next: vs. Dallas Cowboys — Tuesday, Dec. 8 (8:00 p.m. ET)