AFC North: 2012 Week 11 coverage
November, 18, 2012
PITTSBURGH -- My thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 13-10 win at the Pittsburgh Steelers:
What it means: The Ravens (8-2) took control of the AFC North, moving two games ahead of the Steelers (6-4). This was Baltimore's 12th straight win in the division, which ties the Colts for the longest in the league since the division realignment in 2002. The Steelers had won seven straight games at Heinz Field. But this marked the Ravens' third win in Pittsburgh in their past four trips.
Ravens defense steps up: After giving up a touchdown 43 seconds into the game, the banged-up Ravens defense held the Steelers to a field goal the rest of the way. Baltimore disrupted Byron Leftwich, who was replacing Ben Roethlisberger, into 17-of-38 passing for 201 yards and stopped the Steelers on 8 of 11 third downs. The Ravens forced two turnovers, which led to six points.
Happy returns: Jacoby Jones gave the Ravens their first lead of the game late in the first quarter, when he returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown. It was his third return for a touchdown in the past five weeks. Jones is the first Ravens player to post three combined return touchdowns in a season.
Costly fumble: Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace has had a problem with dropped passes but he didn't show great hands when he was stripped of the ball by Chris Johnson, who had been signed by the Ravens this week. The first-quarter turnover deep in Steelers territory led to a Justin Tucker 26-yard field goal. It was Wallace's first lost fumble in 17 games.
Elusive Leftwich: Not known for his mobility, Leftwich ran for a 31-yard touchdown on the third snap of the game. He outran Terrell Suggs to get to the outside and broke through an arm tackle by Bernard Pollard before reaching the end zone. It was Leftwich's first rushing touchdown since the end of the 2008 season. His previous long run was 18 yards and that came in 2003, Leftwich's rookie season.
Get feet down: Down 13-7 in the third quarter, the Steelers drove to the Ravens' 4-yard line where Leftwich made a nice throw to the right side of the end zone. But Wallace didn't get both feet down inbounds. Instead of taking the lead, the Steelers settled for a field goal to pull to within 13-10.
What's next: The Ravens go on a cross-country trip to play at San Diego (4-6), which has lost two straight. The Steelers stay in the division and play at the Browns (2-8), who are coming off an overtime loss in Dallas.
November, 18, 2012
Thoughts on the Cleveland Browns' 23-20 overtime loss at the Dallas Cowboys:
What it means: It's the same old story for the Browns, who continue to fail to finish off games. Cleveland couldn't hold a 13-0 halftime lead, or a 20-17 lead with 67 seconds remaining in regulation, extending its misery on the road. The Browns have now lost a franchise-record 12 straight games on the road, which is also the longest active streak in the NFL. The loss also drops the Browns to 2-8 and clinches their 12th non-winning season in 14 years since returning to the league.
Special teams lapse: The Cowboys' winning field goal was set up by a mistake by the Browns' punt team. Johnson Bademosi's missed tackle allowed Dwayne Harris to break a 20-yard return to the Cleveland 48-yard line. Six plays later, Dan Bailey hit a 38-yard field goal in overtime.
Secondary blowup: A Browns secondary that was playing without cornerback Joe Haden was exposed in the second half. Sheldon Brown was beaten by Dez Bryant on a 28-yard touchdown pass that gave the Cowboys their first lead (17-13) with 6:46 left in the game. A pass interference penalty on Buster Skrine, who replaced Haden, set up that score. Skrine was responsible for three of the seven penalties on the Cleveland defensive backfield. Brown's 35-yard pass interference penalty led to Dallas' game-tying field goal late in regulation. Skrine left the game late with a head injury.
Weeden delivers late in regulation: After throwing a poor pass that resulted in an incompletion on fourth-and-goal, Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden bounced right back and hit tight end Ben Watson on a 17-yard touchdown pass on his very next throw. It put the Browns back ahead 20-17 with 1:07 left in the game, a lead that the Cleveland defense was unable to hold. Weeden struggled with his accuracy and finished 20-of-35 for 210 yards. He also had a fumble in the fourth quarter.
Mr. Perfect: Phil Dawson continues to have a Pro Bowl-type season. He converted from 51 and 47 yards to remain perfect on the season. Dawson has connected on his past 25 field goals.
End of red zone drought: The Browns jumped out to a 7-0 lead by ending a streak of five straight trips in the red zone without a first down. Watson pulled down a high pass from Weeden in the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown. It was set up by Chris Ogbonnaya's run that allowed the Browns to convert on third-and-1, a trouble spot all year.
Mixed results for defense: The Browns shut out the Cowboys for the game's first 40 minutes. Cleveland limited Dallas to 68 yards of total offense in the first half. It was the fewest first-half yards for the Cowboys since December 2007. After halftime, Tony Romo took advantage of the Browns' soft coverage, going 25-of-33 for 239 yards.
What's next: The Browns play host to the Steelers (6-3) on Sunday.
November, 18, 2012
My thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals' 28-6 win at the Kansas City Chiefs:
What it means: The Bengals (5-5) continue their push toward the postseason with a decisive win over the one-win Chiefs. Cincinnati has won back-to-back games after losing four straight. The Bengals improved to 3-2 on the road.
Return of the running game: It took 11 weeks, but BenJarvus Green-Ellis picked up his first 100-yard rushing game for the Bengals. He ran for 101 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries (4.0-yard average). The Bengals ran for 189 yards against the NFL's 23rd-ranked run defense and controlled the clock for 35 minutes, 22 seconds.
Finishing on fourth down: The Bengals continue to have problems on third down, converting on 4 of 14 chances. But Cincinnati nearly had as many conversions on fourth down. The Bengals were 3-for-3 on fourth downs, including two that led to their first touchdown of the game. Cedric Peerman ran for 32 yards on a fake punt (a gutsy call for fourth-and-3 from the Bengals' 29-yard line), and Andy Dalton scrambled for 11 yards on fourth-and-7. That led to a 4-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green.
Green streak: Speaking of Green, he caught a touchdown pass in his ninth straight game. That's the second-longest streak in Bengals history. (Carl Pickens had one in 10 consecutive games, but that was over two seasons, 1994-95.) Green becomes the first player with a receiving touchdown in nine straight games in the same season since Jerry Rice, who caught one in 12 straight games in 1987, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Shut-down defense: The Bengals held a team out of the end zone for the first time since December 2008, when they didn't allow a touchdown to the Browns. Cincinnati limited the Chiefs to 284 total yards and stopped them on 10 of 11 third downs.
Dalton watch: Dalton didn't throw an interception for his second straight game after having one in his first eight. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for another. Dalton finished 18-of-29 for 230 yards.
What's next: The Bengals return home to play Carson Palmer and the Raiders, who are 1-4 on the road this season.