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AFC North Recap, Week 4: Bengals gain ground as the lone winner

NFL: SEP 29 Dolphins at Bengals Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Bengals kicked off Week 4 with a victory on Thursday night, their second straight after starting the season 0-2. For the rest of the division, it was a losing slate. The Ravens and Browns squandered chances to improve to 3-1, while the Steelers are now below .500 after a second consecutive defeat.

Updated standings:

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

Syndication: The Enquirer Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Cincinnati Bengals

Result: Win over Miami Dolphins, 27-15

In front of their home crowd in a primetime spot, the Bengals took care of business, defeating the then-undefeated Dolphins by 12 points. It wasn’t a flawless wire-to-wire victory, but the Bengals outscored Miami 13-0 in the fourth quarter to pull away.

The Dolphins actually slightly outgained the Bengals in total yardage and had four more first downs on offense. A late interception by Teddy Bridgewater, who replaced the injured Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback, was a pivotal moment. After Vonn Bell’s takeaway, Cincinnati’s offense needed only five plays to go 45 yards and score a game-sealing touchdown.

QB Joe Burrow put together another strong outing, throwing two touchdowns with no interceptions and 287 passing yards. He was sacked only once and hit three times. The Bengals’ star wide receiver duo of Ja’Marr Chase (81 yards) and Tee Higgins (7 catches, 124 yards and a touchdown) gave Miami’s defense issues.

That helped compensate for another porous rushing performance. Joe Mixon was bottled up despite a heavy workload (24 carries, 61 yards). Through four games, the Bengals are now a bottom-10 rushing team averaging only 89.5 yards per game and 3.1 yards per carry.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Browns

Result: Loss to Atlanta Falcons, 20-23

The Browns were unable to overcome a slow start in Atlanta, where they turned the ball over on downs and fumbled on their first two drives of the game. The Falcons scored off both of these miscues to take an early 10-0 lead.

Cleveland quickly came back to even the score by halftime and then lead 20-17 early in the fourth quarter. The Falcons put together consecutive field goal drives, though, and the Browns punted and then Jacoby Brissett was interception to end the game.

This game was a rare occasion where the Browns were outgained on the ground. They rushed for 177 yards as team on 5.1 yards per carry, again led by a 100+ yard outing from Nick Chubb. The Falcons, though, carved up Cleveland’s run defense for 202 yards and two scores on a 5.8 yards per carry clip.

The Browns had no issues shutting down Marcus Mariota and Atlanta’s passing game, but they could not get enough stops on the ground when they needed to. It also did not help that they lost the turnover battle and had seven penalties for 51 yards, compared to just one called on the Falcons.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Ravens

Result: Loss to Buffalo Bills, 20-23

Like the Browns, the Ravens lost their Week 4 matchup by a score of 23-20. The circumstances were much different, though. The Ravens got a quick jump on the Bills at home and were leading 20-3 with a few minutes remaining in the first half. Their defense forced two turnovers in the first quarter.

Then, the Bills put together a touchdown drive to trim their deficit just before halftime and the momentum shifted. Buffalo scored 10 quick points in the third quarter to tie the game. The Ravens’ offense stalled from the end of the second quarter on and were shut out in the second half.

Baltimore had a chance to win the game late but were unsuccessful on a fourth-down conversion in the red zone. They opted to go for a touchdown, needing two yards, instead of kicking a field goal. Lamar Jackson was intercepted and the Bills moved the ball downfield, milked the clock out and kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired.

This is the second time in four games that the Ravens have blown a three-score lead at home. They lost this game despite possessing the ball for roughly 16 more minutes than the Bills overall. Two interceptions in the second half, quick three-and-outs and a handful of penalties were contributing factors.

New York Jets v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers

Result: Loss to New York Jets, 20-24

Similar to the Ravens, the Steelers fell to 0-2 at home on the season with a four-point loss to the Jets. Their offense could get very little going in the first half, scoring two field goals but punting three times and turning it over via an interception.

Mitchell Trubisky was replaced by Kenny Pickett at quarterback in the third quarter, a move many had been anticipating for a couple weeks now. The first-round pick threw three interceptions in his rookie debut, two of which came on back-to-back drives to end the game.

However, Pickett also scored two rushing touchdowns before that and put the Steelers up 20-10 by the start of the fourth quarter. Surprisingly, their defense surrendered consecutive long touchdown drives that each lasted 10+ plays. The Jets scored a go-ahead touchdown with just under 20 seconds remaining in the game.

Putting up less than 300 yards of total offense and turning the ball over four times is not usually conducive to winning, and that didn’t help the Steelers’ chances in this game. Pickett will officially be the starting quarterback moving forward, though, so the dawn of a new era in Pittsburgh is officially here.