Week 2 was a good one for the majority of the AFC North, as three of four teams found themselves in the win column come Sunday evening.
The lone team that didn’t, the Bengals, scored 30 points against Cleveland on Thursday night but came up just short. The Browns bounced back after a dismal Week 1 performance and the Ravens and Steelers both remained in the win column with double-digit victories.
Browns defeat Bengals: 35-30
After a dismal season opener in Baltimore, the Browns returned home and bounced back with an impressive offensive performance against the Bengals.
Cleveland jumped out to early 14-3 lead in the first half and maintained an advantage for the remainder of the game, despite some aggressive comeback efforts from Cincinnati. On the strength of their rushing attack and much-improved quarterback play from Baker Mayfield, the Browns looked like a far different team than the one that lost 38-6 in Week 1.
Mayfield completed 16/23 passes for 219 yards and tossed two touchdowns, including a 43-yard strike to WR Odell Beckham Jr. in the first quarter. Beckham had 74 receiving yards on the night after catching just three passes for 22 yards in Week 1.
Aside from an interception in the fourth quarter, Mayfield looked comfortable and played efficient football. It was once again the Browns’ running game that led the way, though. HC Kevin Stefanski featured his dynamic running back duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt early and often — a strategy that proved effective.
Chubb ripped off 124 rushing yards on 22 carries and found the end zone twice, while Hunt had 86 rushing yards of his own on just 10 attempts. Hunt picked up steam as the game progressed after a quiet start and scored two touchdowns of his own — one via rushing and the other through the air.
Defensively, the Browns did a solid job containing the run and limiting big plays down the field, thanks in large part due to consistent pass rush. DE Myles Garrett was a terror all night, racking up nine pressures, three QB hits and a sack.
Cleveland did struggle to consistently get stops in the second half, though, and gave up 30 total first downs — 20 of which came through the air. It’s largely why they were unable to put the Bengals away until late in the fourth quarter despite having double-digit leads at multiple points in the game.
Ultimately, though, the Browns are in the win column — and that’s all that matters.
Defining stat: 6.1 yards per carry
What’s next: vs. Washington Football Team — Sunday, Sep. 27 (1:00 p.m. ET)
Bengals lose to Browns: 30-35
After a heartbreaking defeat at the hands of the Chargers in Week 1, the Bengals once again gave themselves a chance to win late but ultimately dropped a one-possession game for the second consecutive contest.
It was another valiant effort from rookie QB Joe Burrow, though, who showed a lot of promise in his first primetime start. Burrow threw a whopping 61 passes and completed 37 of them for 316 passing yards. He also tossed three touchdowns — two in the second half.
Whenever the Browns began to pull away, Burrow made a handful of timely passes and orchestrated scoring drives to keep Cincinnati within striking distance. It certainly didn’t help his cause that the Bengals’ offensive line struggled in pass protection and created very few holes in the running game. RB Joe Mixon mustered just 46 rushing yards on 19 carries.
Burrow completed passes to eight different pass-catchers, with WR Tyler Boyd leading the way with seven receptions for 72 yards and a late-game touchdown. A.J. Green was targeted 13 (!) times but was the victim of tight coverage by CB Denzel Ward, as Green caught just three balls for 29 yards on the night.
The Bengals’ defense was once again gashed on the ground. They allowed 215 total rushing yards and gave up 6.1 YPC. Stopping the Browns’ rushing attack is no easy task for any team, but Cincinnati had no answers for Hunt or Chubb all night long. They also failed to get any pressure on Baker Mayfield, too, recording zero sacks and no QB hits.
Unless the Bengals begin winning more at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, it will likely remain difficult for them to pull out victories. However, while they’re now 0-2 on the season, they’ve only been outscored by a combined eight points — so there’s reason for optimism moving forward (see Joe Burrow).
Defining stat: 4.0 yards per play
What’s next: @ Cincinnati Bengals — Sunday, Sep. 27 (1:00 p.m. ET)
Steelers defeat Broncos: 26-21
After a 10-point victory over the Giants in Week 1, the Steelers scored 26 points on the dot for the second consecutive game — and once again it was enough for a victory.
Pittsburgh opened up a 17-3 lead in the first half against the Broncos, who lost starting QB Drew Lock to injury after just five passing attempts. His backup, Jeff Driskel, made enough plays in the second half to chip away at the Steelers’ advantage, but ultimately Pittsburgh was able to hang on thanks to a 9-7 advantage in the fourth quarter.
The Steelers were a measly 2/12 on third down attempts but outgained the Broncos by nearly 100 more total yards despite running eight less plays. Pittsburgh had a decisive advantage in the passing game, to be expected, and their large chunks of yardage helped overcome losing 89 yards via 10 penalties.
QB Ben Roethlisberger threw multiple touchdowns for the second straight game while also completing 29/41 throws for 311 passing yards. James Conner bounced back with a strong performance on the ground, totaling 106 rushing yards and a touchdown. Conner iced the game with a huge 59-yard gain in the fourth quarter.
WR Diontae Johnson shined as well, leading all Steelers’ pass-catchers in receptions (8) and receiving yards (92), while also adding a touchdown and making an impact on special teams.
The Steelers’ defense forced three fumbles, recovering two, and intercepted Driskel late in the second quarter. OLB T.J. Watt was once again a game-wrecker, racking up 2.5 sacks, four QB hits and two TFL. SS Mike Hilton led the team with eight tackles and two TFL of his own, as well as a sack and two QB hits.
Defining stat: 7.2 yards per play
What’s next: vs. Houston Texans — Sunday, Sep. 27 (1:00 p.m. ET)
Ravens defeat Texans: 33-16
On the heels of a dominating performance in Week 1, the Ravens grinded out a road victory in Houston to improve to 2-0 as well.
The Ravens scored just 27 of their 33 total points in the second and fourth quarters, led by a tireless rushing attack and another efficient game for QB Lamar Jackson. Jackson completed 18/24 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown, while adding another 54 yards on the ground.
Jackson was only the third-leading rusher on the roster, though. Like he did last season, Gus Edwards had his way with the Texans defense, particualry late in the game. On the Ravens’ final scoring drive of the game, Edwards ripped off consecutive runs of seven, 15, and 22 yards and finished with 73 rushing yards on just 10 carries.
Mark Ingram added an efficient 54 yards of his own, highlighted by a 30-yard scamper on 4th-&-1 that closed the door on any potential Texans’ comeback. As a team, the Ravens rushed for 230 yards and averaged 6.2 YPC.
Baltimore’s defense allowed a few chunk plays in the air and were on the receiving end of some long drives by Houston, but it resulted in just 16 points allowed. Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters stood out with key turnovers in the second quarter, and L.J. Fort scored the first touchdown of his career on a scoop-and-score for 21 yards.
The Ravens’ pass-rush came alive in the second half, as the defense posted four sacks and 13 QB hits. DE Calais Campbell had a sack and three QB hits of his own, while Tyus Bowser and DeShon Elliott also stood out. Baltimore’s starting slot CB Tavon Young suffered a knee injury and is expected to miss the remainder of the season.
Defining stat: 6.2 yards per carry
What’s next: vs. Kansas City Chiefs — Monday, Sep. 28 (8:20 p.m. ET)