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AFC North Recap, Week 7: Ravens and Bengals create separation

Cleveland Browns v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Week 7 saw a divide emerge between the top two and bottom two in the division. With Ravens and Bengals victories, they both improved to 4-3. Meanwhile the Browns and Steelers both dropped to 2-5 with losses.

The Browns have not lost four games in a row after a nice start to the season. Cincinnati’s two-game win streak is the longest in the division.

Updated standings:

  1. Baltimore Ravens 4-3
  2. Cincinnati Bengals 4-3
  3. Cleveland Browns 2-5
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers 2-5

Atlanta Falcons v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Cincinnati Bengals

Result: Win over Atlanta Falcons, 35-17

In a game that saw 52 total points and just one field goal, the Bengals earned a decisive victory at home. They more than covered the 6.5-point spread in their favor. Cincinnati’s offense came out firing on all cylinders, scoring touchdowns on each of their first four possessions to take a 28-7 lead.

The Falcons made a mini 10-0 run late in the second quarter but it mattered little. Although they scored only seven points in the second half, the Bengals’ defense pitched a shutout and shut down Atlanta’s offensive attack.

The Bengals had 29 first downs (22 passing) compared to just 13 for the Falcons. They outgained Atlanta by a whopping 537 to 214 advantage in total yards. Given these numbers, it’s surprising they only won by 18 points.

Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ passing attack continued to round into form with a season-best performance. Burrow threw for 481 yards and three touchdowns. Ja’Marr Chase had 130 receiving yards and two scores, while Tyler Boyd put up a team-high 155 yardage mark.

Cleveland Browns v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Baltimore Ravens

Result: Win over Cleveland Browns, 23-20

The Ravens emerged on the winning end of a divisional slugfest against the Browns. They leaned on their defense and special teams to overcome an uneven offensive performance in which they had just 254 yards of total offense.

Baltimore overcame a rare early deficit to score 17 straight points and take a 20-10 lead in the third quarter. Whereas last week they held that exact same advantage and lost, this time they closed the deal — but it wasn’t flawless.

Justice Hill fumbled late in the fourth quarter on a potential game-sealing drive, which gave the Browns possession down three points. A minute later, Malik Harrison blocked a would-be game-tying field goal attempt by Cade York with two minutes remaining. That all but sealed the final result.

In Gus Edwards’ season debut, the Ravens ran the ball 44 times compared to only 16 pass attempts. They made a concentrated effort to keep the ball on the ground and avoid mistakes. Defensively, Justin Houston’s return to the lineup saw the Ravens sack Jacoby Brissett five times, record five quarterback hits, and a number of other pressures/hurries.

Cleveland Browns v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Cleveland Browns

Result: Loss to Baltimore Ravens, 20-23

For the fourth time this season, the Browns lost by three points or less. This was the second game they lost by an exact score of 23-20. After scoring on their first two drives of the game, the Browns couldn’t put together enough offensive consistency.

They punted on three consecutive drives in the second quarter, which saw their 10-3 lead turn into a three-point deficit at halftime. Then, a Jacoby Brissett fumble in the third quarter turned into a Ravens touchdown, ballooning their deficit to two possessions.

Cleveland’s defense, which ranked near the bottom of the league in most metrics entering this game, had maybe their best performance of the season. The Browns were not able to sustain drives for most of the game, though, as evidenced by their 18% success rate on third down.

In contrast, despite limiting the Ravens’ offense to a low yardage output, they did struggle a bit on the “money” downs. The Browns gave up seven third down conversions and two fourth down conversions, and one of the latter was a touchdown.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Miami Dolphins Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers

Result: Loss to Miami Dolphins, 10-16

After an upset victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 6, the Steelers were unable to replicate similar success on Sunday night in Miami.

The Steelers fell behind 13-0 in the first quarter as the Dolphins scored on three straight possessions. Meanwhile the Steelers punted and turned it over on their second drive, as Kenny Pickett was intercepted. They responded with 10 quick points, however, and trailed by only six at halftime.

The second half wasn’t pretty for either team. Pittsburgh’s defense stepped up the challenge against a talented Dolphins’ offense, forcing a turnover on downs followed by five straight punts. Unfortunately, the Steelers could not generate enough offense and were doomed by late turnovers.

Like the Dolphins, the Steelers too punted five consecutive times. Then, two 10+ play, 50+ yard drives were ended by Pickett interceptions. That cost the Steelers any chance of a go-ahead touchdown.