Week 3 of the 2021 NFL season is officially in the books. The AFC North appears to be one of the tougher divisions in all of football, although maybe not in the expected fashion so far. Three teams from the AFC North moved to 2-1 on Sunday while another fell to 1-2 with their second straight loss.
Cincinnati Bengals (2-1)
The Bengals rebounded from a Week 2 loss with a 24-10 blowout win over the Steelers.
Quarterback Joe Burrow followed up his three-interception performance last week with a three-touchdown one this week. Rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase continued to impress as he caught four passes for 65 yards and two touchdowns — making it all three weeks that he has found the end zone to start his career.
Cincinnati’s defense made life difficult for Pittsburgh’s offense as they intercepted quarterback Ben Roethlisberger twice and sacked him four times.
Cleveland Browns (2-1)
The Browns' strong start to the season continued on Sunday in a 26-6 bludgeoning of the Chicago Bears.
Cleveland spent the offseason strengthening their defense, and that showed on Sunday. The Browns sacked rookie quarterback Justin Fields nine times in his first start. Defensive end Myles Garrett was the star of the day with 4.5 sacks, earning him AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
#Browns single game sack record & player of the week!— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) September 29, 2021
Chicago finished the game with just 47 total yards after including sacks and only one passing yard.
Offensively, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. made his awaited season debut, catching five passes for 77 yards on nine targets. The running backs continued to be the focal point of the offense, however, as Nick Chubb rushed for 84 yards and Kareem Hunt rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Baker Mayfield was once again efficient through the air, completing 19/31 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown.
Baltimore Ravens (2-1)
Following an exhilarating upset over the Chiefs in Week 2, the Ravens escaped Sunday with a narrow 19-17 victory over the Lions.
The obvious story of this game is Justin Tucker’s game-winning 66-yard field goal.
Tucker now holds the record for the longest field goal in NFL history, and was awarded AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
Baltimore appeared to have a little luck on their side, as it appeared that the officials missed a blatant delay of game penalty on the final play before the field goal. Other than that, the Ravens had little go their way throughout the contest, including multiple potential touchdown drops from wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and a dropped interception and potential walk-in touchdown from outside linebacker Tyus Bowser at the start of the game.
Defensively, the Ravens had trouble containing running back D’Andre Swift in the second half of the game, specifically as a pass-catcher. Baltimore’s inside linebacker woes continue to be an issue on defense.
Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2)
The Steelers fell to 1-2 and last place of the AFC North as they dropped their second game of the season on Sunday in a 24-10 loss to the Bengals.
Pittsburgh’s offense struggled once again on Sunday. The rushing attack remains an issue as first-round running back Najee Harris only rushed for 40 yards on 14 carries. Roethlisberger threw two interceptions through the air and was sacked four times. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster left the game with an injury, joining a long list of injured players now for the Steelers.
Without star outside linebacker T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh’s defense was unable to generate any pressure against Cincinnati’s offensive line, snapping the streak of 75 games in a row with at least one sack — an NFL record.