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AFC North Recap, Week 5: Ravens seize first place

Syndication: The Enquirer Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Week 5 was pivotal for early-season implications in the AFC North. With a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday night, combined with the Cleveland Browns’ loss earlier in the day, the Baltimore Ravens are now in sole possession of first place.

The Bengals and Browns are now both 2-3, while the Pittsburgh Steelers are alone in the division’s basement at 1-4 after a blowout loss in Buffalo.

Updated standings:

  1. Baltimore Ravens 3-2
  2. Cleveland Browns 2-3
  3. Cincinnati Bengals 2-3
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers 1-4

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers

Result: Loss to Buffalo Bills, 35-3

The Steelers were a two-touchdown underdog in Kenny Pickett’s first career start at quarterback. They wound up losing by more than four touchdowns, suffering a 32-point defeat at the hands of the No. 1 team in the AFC.

It was not pretty for Pittsburgh from the get-go. The Bills scored a 98-yard touchdown on the third play of the game, a sign of what was to come. Josh Allen carved up the Steelers’ defense for four touchdown passes and over 300 yards in the first half, where the Steelers trailed 28-3.

The Steelers scored a field goal after a 12-play drive on their first offensive possession. From that point on, their drives resulted in three-and-outs, turnover on downs, missed field goals and a turnover. Their struggles running the ball continued (17 carries, 54 yards as a team) and Pickett was forced to throw 52 times in his first start.

Pittsburgh’s defense got zero sacks and only one quarterback hit. They allowed long passes of 98, 41, 31 and 26 (x2) yards, respectively. When the Bills did turn the ball over twice, the Steelers were not able to capitalize with points. It was an ugly performance all-around.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Cleveland Browns Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Browns

Result: Loss to Los Angeles Chargers, 30-28

For the second straight week, the Browns lost a tight-knit contest by a field goal or less. It’s a continuation of a season-long theme now: all but one of the Browns’ games this year have been decided by three or fewer or points. Unfortunately for Cleveland, they’ve lost three of these four close endings.

The Browns got off to a fast start against the Chargers. They scored on their opening drive, forced a turnover on downs and then added another touchdown to go up 14-0 in the first quarter. The Chargers scored on three straight possessions from there, though, and the Browns led 21-17 at halftime.

Cleveland’s offense was less successful in the second half. Aside from an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter, their offensive possessions resulted in a turnover on downs, interception and missed field goal. That missed field goal, a 54-yard try by rookie kicker Cade York, would have won them the game, as they trailed 30-28 at the time.

The Chargers were able to score three straight times again to begin the second half and that was enough points to be the difference. For a second straight game, the Browns were gashed on the ground — just as they did to their opponent. Austin Ekeler ran roughshod for 173 yards on just 16 carries and Los Angeles had 238 rushing yards as a team.

Syndication: The Enquirer Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Cincinnati Bengals

Result: Loss to Baltimore Ravens, 19-17

The Bengals’ offense got off to a dreadful start in Baltimore on Sunday night. They punted on four straight drives to begin the game and went three-and-out all but once. Then, on the ropes trailing 10-0, a Vonn Bell interception injected life into Cincinnati. They quickly scored 10 straight points to tie the game at halftime.

That momentum did not carry over much into the second half, however. Joe Burrow’s first pass attempt of the third quarter was picked off. Then, they squandered a 15-play drive that lasted over eight minutes by turning the ball over on downs at the Ravens’ two yard line.

Joe Burrow led another long drive that resulted in a touchdown in the fourth quarter, at which point the Bengals took their first lead of the game, 17-16. Cincinnati’s defense was unable to prevent a two-minute scoring drive, though, as the Ravens converted three first downs and moved into field goal range.

Syndication: USA TODAY Kareem Elgazzar / USA TODAY NETWORK

Baltimore Ravens

Result: Win over Cincinnati Bengals, 19-17

The Ravens got back in the win column with a two-point victory over the Bengals on Sunday night. Justin Tucker connected on a 43-yard field goal as time expired after Lamar Jackson and the offense executed a two-minute drill. Tucker had four total field goals on the night including a 58-yard connection in the third quarter.

Tucker’s heroics helped compensate for another uneven offensive outing. The Ravens scored twice on their first three drives. Then, to end the second quarter and begin the third quarter, they punted, threw an interception and turned the ball over on downs. That allowed the Bengals to gain some momentum after the Ravens took an early 10-0 lead.

Baltimore’s defense and secondary forced Joe Burrow to beat them underneath and prevented any chunk plays. Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters played starring roles, which was all the more important after Marcus Williams (wrist) exited due to injury early.

The Ravens forced four straight punts to begin the game. Their fourth-down stop in the red zone late in the third quarter was pivotal. Lamar Jackson missed two would-be touchdown throws and tossed an overthrown interception earlier in the game. However, on the Ravens’ final two drives, he completed 7-of-9 passes and converted multiple rushing first downs.