Another wild week of action across the AFC North saw an overall split of 2-2. The Steelers were upset by Washington on Monday night, giving them their first loss of the year. Cleveland picked up their fifth straight win with an offensive explosion against the Titans.
On the flip side, Cincinnati’s struggles continued and the Bengals lost a fourth consecutive game. On Tuesday night, the Ravens got back on track with a win over the Cowboys.
Scoring just seven points against any NFL team usually won’t be sufficient for a victory, but that’s all the Bengals could muster against the Dolphins in Week 13. It’s hard to expect much more from Cincinnati at the moment, especially against one of the league’s better defenses.
The Bengals have put only 43 points on the board since their bye week in Week 9, as they’ve been held to 10 points or less in three out of the past four games. Against Miami, their offensive struggles were once again magnified on a day where their defense exceeded expectations.
A sloppy start from both teams saw the Bengals jump out to an early lead. After Cincinnati’s defense forced back-to-back punts, QB Brandon Allen found WR Tyler Boyd for a 72-yard touchdown. Unfortunately, from there it was rough sledding. To make matters worse, Boyd was soon after ejected from the game after getting into a scuffle with Dolphins CB Xavien Howard.
The Bengals led 7-6 at halftime but squandered their narrow advantage early in the third quarter. Miami orchestrated a 75-yard touchdown drive in eight plays on their first drive of the second half before scoring field goals on back-to-back possessions after that.
As the Dolphins poured in 13 unanswered points to take a commanding lead, the Bengals punted the ball four straight times and gained a net total of just 30 yards in the second half. Two of their drives in the final two frames of play resulted in negative yardage and their final possession of the game ended with backup QB Ryan Finley being intercepted.
Cincinnati’s defense limited Miami to only a 10% success rate on third down, but the Dolphins outgained the Bengals by more than 200 total yards. The Bengals rushing attack was again a non-factor (17 attempts, 40 yards), which has become a glaring issue since RB Joe Mixon was placed on injured reserve.
Defining stat: 196 yards
What’s next: vs. Cowboys — Sunday, Dec. 13 (1:00 p.m. ET)
Browns defeat Titans: 41-35
If the Browns were in need of a “signature win”, they can certainly scratch off their to-do list after Week 13.
Although the Browns only beat the Titans by six points on Sunday, which suggests a fairly competitive matchup, the game was anything but that. The Browns blitzed the Titans with an offensive onslaught in the first half and put forth a dominant showing.
A dropped pass in the red zone on the Browns first drive forced them to settle for a field goal, but from there they ripped off five straight touchdowns to conclude the first half of play. Four of these five scores were touchdown passes from Baker Mayfield, who connected with Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Jarvis Landry, and Kendall Lamm.
It was quite easily the most impressive stretch of play in Mayfield’s career thus far, as he delivered accurate strikes to open receivers downfield consistently. Mayfield and the Browns cooled off in the second half, but the damage had already been done thanks to a 38-7 advantage at halftime.
Mayfield wound up completing 25-of-33 attempts for 334 passing yards and a near-perfect rating of 147.7. 14 of his 25 completions went to Higgins or Landry, but a total of 10 different receivers caught at least one pass. Tennessee outscored the Browns 28-3 in the final two quarters of play, highlighted by two touchdowns in under two minutes of play late in the fourth quarter. It was too little, too late though.
Cleveland’s defense forced two fumbles and two punts in the first half, as well as a turnover on downs on the Titans first drive of the game. They negated Derrick Henry to only 60 rushing yards on 15 carries, as Tennessee was forced to play from behind and abandon the run game early.
Defining stat: 10.0 yards per pass
What’s next: vs. Baltimore Ravens — Monday, Dec. 14 (8:20 p.m. ET)
Steelers lose to Washington: 23-17
For the first time all season, the Steelers find themselves on the wrong side of the win column in this section. Inconsistent offensive play caught up with Pittsburgh on Monday night and they faltered in the second half against Washington.
The Steelers struck pay dirt first after a scoreless first quarter between the two teams, orchestrating a 14-play, 72-yard drive that resulted in a three-yard touchdown reception by Diontae Johnson. They were in prime position to score again after their defense forced a turnover on downs on Washington’s ensuing possession.
Pittsburgh had five chances at the goal line to punch the ball in but were shutout each time and coughed up possession. It didn’t matter much, though, as James Washington scored a 50-yard touchdown on their next offensive play. The Steelers led 14-3 at halftime and appeared to be heading towards a 12th-straight victory.
Washington opened the third quarter with an 82-yard touchdown drive, though, and continued to hang tough on both sides of the ball. Aside from a 11-play drive ending in a field goal, the Steelers struggled mightily on offense in the second half.
They punted twice and turned the ball over on downs for a second time with 4:53 remaining in the fourth quarter, at which point the game was tied 17-17. Pittsburgh opted to attempt a 4th-&-1 conversion despite being in field goal range and Ben Roethlisberger failed to connect with RB Anthony McFarland Jr.
Washington responded with a field goal to take the lead and sealed their upset victory on the next play. Roethlisberger’s first pass attempt of the next drive was deflected at the line of scrimmage, hung in the air, and was intercepted. Washington ran the clock down and kicked a field goal to lead 23-17, leaving the Steelers with no chance of a miracle.
It marked the second consecutive game in which the Steelers scored less than 20 points.
Defining stat: 1-of-3 in the red zone
What’s next: @ Buffalo Bills — Sunday, Dec. 13 (8:20 p.m. ET)
Ravens defeat Cowboys: 34-17
In another rescheduled game, the Ravens halted a three-game skin with a much needed victory over the Cowboys at M&T Bank Stadium. It was far from the most convincing performance, which contradicts with the 17-point advantage on the scoreboard, but a win is a win — and the Ravens couldn’t afford to escape Week 13 without one.
Baltimore got off to a bit of a slow start but ironed out the kinks along the way. Their first offensive drive lasted just five plays and went 17 plays before Lamar Jackson’s pass attempt to Marquise Brown on a drag attempt was intercepted. The Cowboys added three points before each team traded field goals.
With the Ravens trailing 10-7, Justin Tucker — in rare fashion — misfired on a 36-yard field goal attempt. The defense responded just two plays later, though, as Patrick Queen corralled an interception after Brandon Williams deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage. Jackson found Miles Boykin for a 38-yard touchdown reception on the next play and you could feel the Ravens beginning to seize momentum.
In the second half, the Cowboys missed field goals on back-to-back drives and the Ravens added 10 more unanswered points, giving them a commanding 27-10 lead late in the fourth quarter. Ultimately, the Cowboys wound up winning the time of possession battle, ran 23 more plays on offense, and produced ten more first downs between the two teams.
However, Dallas was unable to finish drives with points and the Ravens rushing attack proved far too dominant. As a team, the Ravens rushed for a whopping 294 yards and averaged 7.9 yards per carry. Gus Edwards, J.K. Dobbins, and Jackson each ripped off runs of 30+ yards as the Ravens consistently tore through the Cowboys second levels.
Defining stat: 7.9 yards per carry
What’s next: @ Cleveland Browns — Monday, Dec. 14 (8:20 p.m. ET)