AFC North: 2012 Week 6 Rapid Reaction


BALTIMORE -- Thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 31-29 win over the Dallas Cowboys:

What it means: In yet another close win, the Ravens improved to 5-1 and took a two-game lead over the Bengals (3-3), who lost to the previously winless Browns. This extended the Ravens' home win streak to 15 games (including playoffs), the longest current one in the NFL. Baltimore has been winning by the closest of margins. The Ravens have won their past four games by a total of 13 points.

Getting some help: The Ravens got some help from the Cowboys in escaping with this win. After catching a touchdown pass, Dez Bryant let the pass on the two-point conversion go through his hands. That would have tied the game at 31 with 29 seconds remaining. After the Cowboys recovered the onside kick, Dallas' Dan Bailey missed the potential winning 51-yard field goal wide left.

Where's Ray Lewis? When the Cowboys were driving in the red zone to tie the game in the final minutes of the game, Lewis was standing on the sideline and not holding a helmet. After Dallas recovered the onside kick, Lewis still wasn't on the field.

Rice makes major impact: Ray Rice totaled 106 yards from scrimmage and scored two touchdowns. This was the 35th career game in which Rice went over 100 total yards, the most in the NFL since the start of the 2009 season. Rice's 1-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter capped a 10-play, 73-yard drive that put the Ravens up by eight points.

In the history books: Jacoby Jones gave the Ravens a much-needed 11-point cushion in the third quarter (24-13) when he returned a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown, which tied the longest in NFL history (New England's Ellis Hobbs and Green Bay's Randall Cobb both did this previously). Jones was running back kickoffs because Baltimore's primary returner, undrafted rookie Deonte Thompson, fumbled last Sunday in Kansas City.

Run-down run defense: Baltimore gave up 227 yards on the ground, the most ever given up by the Ravens in a game. The Ravens haven't stopped the run the past two weeks and it goes beyond Lewis. This team had trouble tackling even the fourth-string Cowboys running back. This marks the first time in Ravens history that Baltimore has allowed 200 yards rushing in back-to-back games.

Good streak for defense: Ravens cornerback Cary Williams made an interception in his third straight game after not having one in his first four years in the NFL. With the game tied at 10 in the second quarter, the Ravens converted that turnover into a 19-yard touchdown from Joe Flacco to Torrey Smith. Baltimore never relinquished the lead.

Painful loss: Lardarius Webb, the Ravens' top cornerback, left the game late in the first quarter when he knocked knees with Bryant. He couldn't put weight on the sprained knee and needed to be helped off the field. Webb didn't return. Other than the injury to Terrell Suggs, the Ravens have been very healthy this season.

What's next: The Ravens play at the Houston Texans (5-0 before their Sunday night game) in a meeting that could have tiebreaker implications later this season.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Thoughts on the Pittsburgh Steelers' 26-23 loss at the Tennessee Titans:

What it means: The Steelers (2-3) fell two games back of the division-leading Ravens because they fell short on the road again. This marked the second time they started 0-3 on the road in the past 20 years (also 2006, Bill Cowher’s final season). It ended a three-game winning streak against the Titans.

Coming up short: Five days after winning in the final seconds, the Steelers couldn't do it again. Following Shaun Suisham's missed field goal attempt from 54 yards, the Steelers allowed the Titans to win the game on a 40-yard field goal by Rob Bironas. The key play was a 25-yard catch by tight end Jared Cook, who beat linebacker James Harrison in coverage.

Bad night for Ike: Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor extended a fourth-quarter drive with a holding penalty on third down and finished it by allowing a 5-yard touchdown to Kenny Britt. That tied the score at 23. In the first quarter, Taylor had a pass interference penalty and gave up a 31-yard pass, which led to two field goals. Taylor leads the NFL with four pass interference penalties this year.

Running on fumes: The Steelers entered the fourth quarter with their top two running backs hurt. It didn't matter to the Steelers, who gave it to Baron Batch for a 1-yard touchdown on third-and-goal. It put the Steelers up 20-16. It was also noteworthy because this was just the second rushing touchdown of the season for the Steelers. They had been tied for second worst in the league with the Jets, Raiders, Jaguars and Cowboys, all with one touchdown each. Rashard Mendenhall has an Achilles injury, and Isaac Redman hurt his ankle.

Timely turnover: After the Steelers took that fourth-quarter lead, their defense did something rare -- it forced a turnover. Cornerback Cortez Allen blitzed Matt Hasselbeck, who hurried a throw right to linebacker Lawrence Timmons. This was the second interception of the season for the Steelers. Only the Lions and Raiders had fewer. The Steelers converted that into a career-long 52-yard field goal by Suisham.

Suisham no longer perfect: A week after hitting the game winner against the Eagles, Suisham couldn't do it again. With 54 seconds left in a tied game, Suisham's 54-yard field goal attempt fell short. He had converted his first 11 field goals of the season and was named the AFC special-teams player of the week a few days ago. For some reason, the Steelers called timeout before Suisham's kick, which essentially iced him.

Roethlisberger passes Bradshaw: Lost in the Steelers' go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter was Ben Roethlisberger surpassing Terry Bradshaw as the Steelers' all-time leading passer. It came on a critical third down when Roethlisberger stepped up and hit tight end Heath Miller for a 17-yard gain. Roethlisberger needed only 119 games to break the record, 49 fewer than Bradshaw.

Injuries mount on offensive line: The Steelers lost Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey (right leg) in the first quarter and right tackle Marcus Gilbert (right ankle) in the second quarter. Doug Legursky replaced Pouncey and rookie Mike Adams took over for Gilbert as the Steelers had no other healthy backups left. That meant that three projected starters on the offensive line (right guard David DeCastro was hurt in the preseason) were sidelined.

Another impressive mark: Before hurting his ankle, Redman became the first Steelers running back to have more than 100 yards receiving in 42 years. The last to do so was John "Frenchy" Fuqua in 1970. Redman only had 45 yards receiving in his first four games.

Costly mistake on special teams: Ahead 10-6 late in the first quarter, the Steelers had a punt blocked deep in their territory. Ryan Mundy, who didn't start for Troy Polamalu because of costly penalties, missed a Titans player coming up the middle. Tennessee took over at the Pittsburgh 1-yard line and scored a touchdown two plays later.

What's next: The Steelers have their second straight prime-time game, but they'll have more time for this one. Pittsburgh has 10 days until it plays Sunday night at Cincinnati (3-2), which is 5-5 at Paul Brown Stadium since the start of the 2011 season.

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