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AFC North Recap, Week 6: Things tighten up after Bengals, Steelers wins

Everyone is .500 or below with no more than one game of separation.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Week 6 saw an even split in the AFC North. The Baltimore Ravens suffered a non-conference road defeat to the New York Giants, falling back to .500, while the Cleveland Browns were blown out by the New England Patriots at home.

On the winning side of things, the shorthanded Pittsburgh Steelers pulled off a miraculous upset over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They were underdogs by as many as 10 points entering the game. The Cincinnati Bengals also got back in the win column with a comeback effort in New Orleans against the Saints.

The division has now tightened even further, with only one game separating the Ravens/Bengals and Browns/Steelers. Nobody has a winning record through six games now.

Updated standings:

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

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers

Result: 20-18 win over Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A week after losing by 35 points in Buffalo, the Steelers rallied for a big bounce-back victory against the Buccaneers at home. The Steelers were down a number of key starters on defense and yet held Tom Brady and a potent offense to just 18 points and one touchdown.

Pittsburgh’s run defense limited the Buccaneers’ rushing attack to only 75 yards on 26 carries as a team. The Steelers were outgained in total yardage, had less first downs and ran six less offensive plays — but still won.

Kenny Pickett exited the game with a concussion after 18 pass attempts. In relief, Mitchell Trubisky provided a spark at quarterback off the bench. He completed 9-of-12 throws for 144 yards and a touchdown pass. Pittsburgh’s offense had 11 passing first downs compared to only four gained on the ground.

The Steelers’ ability to get off the field and limit touchdowns was key. They forced four three-and-outs and got 10 stops on third down out of 14 tries by Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers didn’t find the end zone until there was just under five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

New England Patriots v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images

Cleveland Browns

Result: 15-38 loss to New England Patriots

Entering Week 6, all but one of the Browns’ games had been decided by three points or less. Their 12-point win over the Steelers in Week 3 was the only exception. They were on the wrong end of a double-digit result on Sunday, except it was much more than 12 points.

A sloppy first half saw the Browns trail the Patriots 10-6 at halftime. Jacoby Brissett threw an interception on the second play of the game and the Browns turned the ball over on downs two drives later. Unfortunately, the second half was not much kinder, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

The Browns’ deficit quickly ballooned to multiple possessions as the Patriots held a 14-0 advantage in the third quarter. Cleveland’s offense turned the ball over in both second half quarters and failed to convert on fourth down. The Patriots added back-to-back touchdown drives to end the game and finish with 38 points.

The Browns possessed the ball for more than 10 less minutes. Their defense struggled again with nearly 400 yards allowed and 20 first downs. This, combined with losing the turnover battle by a 4:1 ratio, is not a recipe for success. The Browns had their worst rushing performance of the season with just 70 total yards on 18 attempts as a team.

Baltimore Ravens v New York Giants Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Baltimore Ravens

Result: 20-24 loss to New York Giants

The Ravens followed up a victory with a loss on Sunday for the third time this season, a mark of their continued inconsistency. After taking a 20-10 lead early in the fourth quarter, they were outscored 14-0 by the Giants over the final six minutes of play.

Following an errant interception by Lamar Jackson, the Giants needed only three plays and 13 yards to score a go-ahead touchdown. They were aided by a defensive pass interference penalty on Marcus Peters in the end zone, which set up Saquon Barkley for a leaping touchdown dive at the goal line.

Two plays later, Jackson was sacked and fumbled, turning the ball over again. The Giants then ran out the clock. The Ravens’ 10 penalties for 74 yards in this game were a season-high mark. They struggled with false starts, illegal formations and defensive violations, many of which extended drives for the Giants and did the opposite for the Ravens.

The Ravens rushed for a season-best 211 yards as a team, led by Kenyan Drake’s 110-yard output. They outgained the Giants overall 406 to 238 and had five more first downs, but ultimately couldn’t overcome self-inflicted wounds. This was the third time this season the Ravens have blown a double-digit second half lead and lost.

Cincinnati Bengals v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Cincinnati Bengals

Result: Win over New Orleans Saints, 30-26

The Bengals used a late surge to earn a much-needed comeback victory over the Saints in Week 6. After falling behind early and then trailing 23-14 early in the third quarter, they outscored the Saints 17-3 over the final 20 minutes of play.

Cincinnati’s defense has been stout for most of the season but surrendered a season-high in points to an undermanned New Orleans offense. Despite missing their top three wide receivers, the Saints outgained the Bengals in yards, 399 to 349, and had 222 rushing yards with 22 first down conversions. Ultimately, the Bengals tightened up when they needed to, forcing a three-and-out and turnover on downs on the Saints’ final two offensive drives.

Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase rekindled some of their LSU magic in the second half, which the Bengals’ offense badly needed. Chase caught a 15-yard touchdown in the third quarter to make it a two-point game. Then, Burrow found Chase for a long 60-yard, go-ahead score with just under two minutes remaining — which was ultimately the dagger.

The Bengals were a perfect 3-for-3 in the red zone, while the Saints only converted on one of their five tries. After they scored two first-half touchdowns, the Bengals’ defense then held New Orleans to four field goals.