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AFC North Recap: Week 2

Losses all the way around

Miami Dolphins v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Week 2 was a rare occasion in which all four teams in the AFC North found themselves in the loss column. Adding to the craziness is the fact that all four games were decided by four points or less and came down to the final minutes. The divison was outscored by a combined total of 11 points.

The Steelers, Ravens and Browns came up short in their home openers. The latter two each blew a lead late in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, the Bengals were upset as a seven-point favorite against the Dallas Cowboys on the road. Cincinnati has now lost two games in a row to begin the season.

Updated standings:

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers 1-1
  2. Baltimore Ravens 1-1
  3. Cleveland Browns 1-1
  4. Cincinnati Bengals 0-2

Baltimore Ravens

Result: 42-38 loss vs. Miami Dolphins

It was a tale of two different games for the Ravens in their home opener. They led 28-7 at halftime and 35-14 heading into the fourth quarter. Lamar Jackson was trailblazing the Dolphins with four touchdowns, a perfect passer rating and over 100 rushing yards. It appeared as though a comfortable victory was in-store for Baltimore.

Then, Miami’s offense erased a three-touchdown deficit in just a matter of minutes. The Ravens’ defense had no answers for Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle in the fourth quarter. Hill got loose behind the Ravens’ secondary for scores of 60 and 48 yards, respectively, on consecutive possessions.

Then, leading by a field goal, Baltimore’s defense again could not get a stop late. Tagovailoa marched the Dolphins up the field and connected with Waddle for a game-winning touchdown. In total, the Ravens spotted Miami 547 yards of offense, six touchdowns and 22 first downs. Miami converted 7-of-11 third down attempts and two fourth down conversions.

A late collapse spoiled what was otherwise a tremendous performance from Jackson and company. The Ravens struggled to convert on third down (3-of-10) and especially in a number of short-yardage situations. Their rushing attack was non-existent for a second straight game aside from Jackson’s output (119 yards, including a 79-yard score).

Pittsburgh Steelers

Result: 17-14 loss vs. New England Patriots

The Steelers-Patriots matchup was predictably a bit of a low-scoring slugfest. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, they came out on the losing end. The Steelers could not overcome some offensive shortcomings for a second consecutive week.

They trailed 10-3 at halftime after punting twice and turning the ball over in the first two quarters. They cut an 11-point deficit to three points after a touchdown and successful two-point conversion at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh’s defense pitched a shutout in the final frame but the offense could not muster any additional points.

The Steelers were out-gained by well over 100 yards and averaged a mere 4.2 yards per play. QB Mitchell Trubisky, who completed 21 throws for 168 yards, was sacked three times and intercepted early in the game. Although the Steelers’ defense performed well, they missed the presence of T.J. Watt, as they recorded no sacks and only three QB hits.

The lack of explosive plays was again an issue. Diontae Johnson led the team in receiving yards but had just 57, while leading rusher Najee Harris grinded out 49 yards on 15 carries.

Cleveland Browns

Result: 31-20 loss vs. New York Jets

The Browns found themselves in a back-and-forth affair with the New York Jets for much of Sunday afternoon. After being tied 14-14 at halftime, the Browns defense tightened up in the second half. Two touchdowns in the fourth quarter saw Cleveland’s lead expand to 30-17 with just under two minutes remaining in the game.

Normally, that lead is about as safe as any. Then, the Browns quickly gave up a 66-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Corey Davis. The Jets miraculously recovered an onside kick on the next play, giving them possession trailing by six points. It took them nine plays to march downfield against Cleveland’s defense in one minute, where Flacco delivered a game-winning touchdown pass with 15 seconds left.

It was a stunning turn of events and disappointing finish for the Browns’ defense, much like the final minutes of play for the Ravens. Offensively, scoring 30 points with 184 rushing yards and no turnovers (until the last play of the game) is typically a winning formula.

In this instance, though, it was not. The onside kick gods were on the Jets’ side and the Browns’ defense could not get off the field, leading to a late collapse.

Cincinnati Bengals

Result: 20-17 loss vs. Dallas Cowboys

After a back-breaking defeat in Week 1, the Bengals appeared to be a spot for a bounce-back game against the Cowboys and their backup quarterback Cooper Rush. Instead, they came out flat offensively for a second straight game as their offensive line struggled again.

QB Joe Burrow was sacked six times and the victim of nine quarterback hits, as the Bengals had few answers for OLB Micah Parsons. Cincinnati’s offense mustered just nine points through three quarters and did not consistently sustain drives.

Despite possessing the ball for roughly seven more minutes, they were out-gained by nearly 100 yards and converted 6-of-17 third down attempts. The Bengals tied the game late and had a chance for a go-ahead field goal or touchdown. They went three-and-out with just about a minute left and punted the ball away. Rush moved the Cowboys 33 yards down the field and set up Bill Maher for a 50-yard game-winning kick.

The Bengals’ defense again performed adequately, but the offense was subpar. It starts with the front-five unit, where Cincinnati invested a lot this offseason to revamp their offensive line. Despite an almost entirely new starting group, the results through two games have been anything but positive.