AFC North: 2011 Week 8 coverage

Wrap-up: 49ers 20, Browns 10

October, 30, 2011
Thoughts on the Cleveland Browns' 20-10 loss at the San Francisco 49ers:

What it means: The Browns lost for the third time in four games, securing their spot in last place in the AFC North. Cleveland (3-4) is the only team in the division with a losing record, falling 2.5 games behind the Steelers. It's the third time the Browns have lost by double digits.

Thumbs down: Middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson. The offense should get a "Thumbs down" for three quarters, but Jackson made the critical error of the game. With the Browns trailing by seven points with under four minutes to go, Jackson stopped Frank Gore on third-and-3. But he grabbed Gore's facemask, which allowed the 49ers to convert the first down and eventually kick the game-clinching field goal.

McCoy watch: Colt McCoy was sacked four times, fumbled once (which set up a 49ers touchdown) and was intercepted when he threw into double coverage. He finished 22-of-34 for 241 yards.

Running on empty: Starting running back Peyton Hillis missed his second straight game with a hamstring injury, and backup Montario Hardesty left with a calf injury in the first half. As a result, the Browns didn't break a run longer than 9 yards.

What's next: The Browns play at the Houston Texans, which wraps up a stretch of three road games in four weeks.
PITTSBURGH -- Thoughts on the Pittsburgh Steelers' 25-17 win over the New England Patriots at Heinz Field:

What it means: The Steelers ended the dominance of the Patriots and Tom Brady and made the statement that they're the team to beat in the AFC. Pittsburgh won its fourth straight game but this was its first against a legitimate playoff contender. The Steelers improved to 6-2 to maintain their slim first-place lead over the Ravens and Bengals (both 5-2).

Roethlisberger outshines Brady: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has had success against New England in the past, but this time it was different because he was the best quarterback on the field for that day. Roethlisberger out-dueled Brady in Brady-like fashion, spreading out the Patriots and flinging the ball around out of the shotgun. He completed 36 of 50 passes for 365 yards and two touchdowns. His biggest mistake was a first-half interception, which set up the Patriots' first touchdown.

Thumbs up: Steelers wide receivers. Pittsburgh didn't need Hines Ward, who was out with an ankle sprain. Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders were quick and elusive, getting open on a consistent basis. Each had at least five catches for over 65 yards. Call it catch by committee.

Swat team: Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel secured the win by stripping Brady in the final seconds, which led to the safety. This came after Keisel had jumped up to knock down a Brady pass earlier in the game.

Woodley's streak: A year after the Steelers failed to sack Brady, LaMarr Woodley took the Patriots quarterback down twice. It's the third straight game that Woodley has recorded at least two sacks. He's really stepped up since James Harrison went down with an eye injury. But Woodley is now injured, too, leaving the game with a left hamstring injury.

What's next: After redeeming themselves against Brady and the Patriots, the Steelers look to avenge a season-opening loss to the Ravens next Sunday. Pittsburgh hosts its AFC North rival in prime time Sunday night.

Wrap-up: Ravens 30, Cardinals 27

October, 30, 2011

Thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 30-27 win over the visiting Arizona Cardinals:

What it means: The Ravens avoided a second straight loss to a one-win team. Baltimore trailed 24-3 late in the second quarter before scoring 24 straight points. The Ravens improve to 5-2 to keep pace in the competitive AFC North.

Game winner: Billy Cundiff's 25-yard field goal as time expired allowed the Ravens to overcome their first-half struggles. The game winner was set up by Joe Flacco's 36-yard pass to rookie Torrey Smith.

Thumbs up: Ray Rice and Anquan Boldin. Rice was involved in the offense again with three touchdowns after eight carries on Monday night. Boldin carried the offense in the second-half rally and finished with 145 yards on seven catches.

Thumbs down: Penalties and pass protection. The Ravens had to sweat this one in the second half because of mistakes. They were flagged 11 times for 99 yards. The biggest problem in the first half was the Ravens' blocking. Flacco had no time in an ever-collapsing pocket.

Flacco watch: Flacco shrugged off a terrible start to go 19-for-28 for 238 yards in the second half. It was his third 300-yard passing performance in his past five games.

What's next: The Ravens play at the Pittsburgh Steelers seven weeks after they beat their AFC North rival 35-7 in the season opener.