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Tuesday, September 18, 2012
AFC North Game Balls for Week 2

By Jamison Hensley

I apologize for not being around to hand out game balls after the first games of the season, but let's give them out to the standouts in the AFC North for Week 2:

OFFENSE: Trent Richardson, Browns running back. This was a close call over Ben Roethlisberger and Andy Dalton, two quarterbacks who led their teams to wins. It's just hard to overlook the breakout performance by Richardson, who totaled 145 yards and two touchdowns. The way he blew threw the Bengals defense to the end zone on the 23-yard run-after-the-catch is the must-highlight to see in the AFC North.

DEFENSE: Entire Steelers defense. Holding a team to 219 yards and 10 points is impressive alone. When the Steelers did this without two former NFL Defensive Players of the Year, it should be applauded. Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons knocked Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez off his game with a roughing-the-passer penalty, cornerback Ike Taylor shut down Santonio Holmes for the final three quarters and safety Ryan Clark was roaming everywhere like Troy Polamalu to finish with a team-high eight tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Adam Jones, Bengals punt returner. This game ball nearly went to Ravens rookie kicker Justin Tucker, who hit field goals from 56, 51 and 48 yards. But Jones jumpstarted the Bengals to a 34-27 win over the Browns. Dodging seven Cleveland players along the way, Jones scored on an 81-yard punt return in the first quarter before Cincinnati took a snap on offense. Jones' first punt return for a touchdown as a Bengal was just what his team needed to shake a disappointing season-opening loss at Baltimore.