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AFC North Recap, Week 1: Bengals and Steelers shellacked

A breakdown of what unfolded within the division during Week 1

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

The regular season officially kicked off on Sunday, with all four AFC North teams beginning their opening games in the early afternoon window. The Ravens and Browns each got into the win column in Week 1, while the Bengals and Steelers found themselves on the wrong end of blowout losses.

Updated standings:

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

Let’s break down all the action in the division from the opening weekend.

NFL: Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Ravens

Result: 25-9 win over Houston Texans

The Ravens worked through some offensive growing pains in Week 1 and secured a 16-point victory, stood up by a stout defensive showing. Facing rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud and a young Texans’ offense, the Ravens did not allow a single touchdown, racked up five sacks, and had a forced fumble.

Inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen had a dominant game as a duo, while the team’s front-seven came on strong in the second half. The Ravens were actually narrowly out-gained on offense and had the same number of first downs as Houston (18), although they did run 14 less plays overall.

Rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers was the team’s sole bright spot on offense with 11 total touches and 87 scrimmage yards. Lamar Jackson was efficient (17-of-22) but turned the ball over twice. All three of the team’s touchdowns were scored by running backs from four yards out or less.

The biggest storyline, unfortunately, was again injury concerns. J.K. Dobbins tore his Achilles and will miss the entire season. Marcus Williams is feared to have suffered a torn pectoral injury, while offensive lineman Tyler Linderbaum and Ronnie Stanley exited in the second half with leg injuries. MRIs for all three will confirm the extend of their ailments.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Pittsburgh Steelers Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers

Result: 30-7 loss to San Francisco 49ers

Following an impressive preseason performance, the Steelers were a trendy upset pick in Week 1 against the 49ers. The sense of confidence many had proved to be false, as the Steelers were thoroughly defeated at home.

It wasn’t until the final drive of the second quarter that the Steelers had a drive last more than three plays and result in points. Their first five offensive possessions ended with four punts and an interception. During that span, their defense surrendered two touchdowns and 20 points total, putting the Steelers in a big hole early.

They tightened up more defensively later in the second half but the putrid performance on offense persisted: another punt and interception with two turnover on downs. The Steelers averaged 3.9 yards per play and had just 12 non-penalty gifted first downs.

Kenny Pickett’s momentum from the preseason did not carry over into the regular season opener. To make matters worse, starting wide receiver Diontae Johnson exited early and did not return after suffering a hamstring injury.

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

Cincinnati Bengals

Result: 24-3 loss to Cleveland Browns

The Bengals’ struggles against the Browns and in season openers continued on Sunday, as they fell flat in a 21-point defeat. Cincinnati has not lost all but one Week 1 game since 2019 and during that same span, they’ve defeated the Browns only twice. Joe Burrow has yet to beat the Browns on the road in his career.

Cincinnati’s defense had a strong first half showing, not allowing a touchdown until the final minute of the second quarter. They forced four punts and a fumble but unfortunately were not able to capitalize offensively. The Bengals punted on every possession during that time.

They finally got on the board with a field goal to start the third quarter which made it a 10-3 game. Then, they followed it up with a missed field goal attempt on the next possession and a punt and turnover on downs. Their defense surrendered three straight scoring drives in the middle of the second half.

It was about as putrid of an offensive performance imaginable from one of the league’s most high-powered offenses: six total first downs, 3-of-15 on third down, 142 total yards, and 2.6 yards per play.

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

Cleveland Browns

Result: 24-3 win over Cincinnati Bengals

On the flip side of the lone AFC North showdown this weekend, the Browns earned a convincing victory to begin the season. Their success over the Bengals recently, specifically at home, has officially developed into a legitimate trend.

The Browns more than doubled the Bengals in total yardage, had 15 more first downs, and scored on two of three chances in the red zone. It wasn’t a flawless performance from Cleveland but anytime your defense plays at the level they did, its more than enough to compensate for any offensive issues.

They only sacked Burrow two times on the day but the pressure was consistent, led by Myles Garett and Za’Darius Smith’s eight combined quarterback hits. They held the league’s top wide receiver trio to a combined seven catches and 49 yards while blanking Tee Higgins for zeros across the board.

Deshaun Watson misfired on some passes and threw an interception, but did account for two touchdowns overall. Nick Chubb was unsurprisingly the team’s offensive catalyst with an efficient 106 rushing yards and another 21 yards through the air on four catches.