AFC North: 2012 Week 7 coverage

CINCINNATI -- Thoughts on the Pittsburgh Steelers' 24-17 win at the Cincinnati Bengals:

What it means: It was far from perfect, but the Steelers found a way to hold on to a fourth-quarter lead and win their first road game of the season. Overcoming a sloppy start, Pittsburgh (3-3) moved to within 1.5 games of the division-leading Ravens (5-2). The Bengals (3-4) lost their third straight and their ninth in a row in prime time. This marked the Steelers' fifth consecutive win over the Bengals.

Running game resurfaces: Rookie fifth-round pick Chris Rainey made his first touchdown a memorable one. His 11-yard score up the middle of the Bengals' defense put the Steelers ahead 44 seconds into the fourth quarter. Rainey had 15 yards rushing in his first five games. In his first start, Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer rushed for 122 yards on 17 carries.

Dalton struggles: Andy Dalton was wildly inaccurate as he once again struggled against the Steelers. He finished 14-of-28 for 105 yards with one touchdown and one interception. His longest pass was 17 yards. Dalton fell to 0-3 against the Steelers.

Slipping up before halftime: The Bengals had a first down with 1:30 left in the first half and a 14-6 lead. But they went into halftime tied at 14. Dalton, who has been picked off in every game this season, threw a pass off the back of right guard Kevin Zeitler's helmet and was intercepted by Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley. The Steelers converted that into a 9-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller, who also caught the two-point conversion to tie the game.

Steelers drop the ball: The Steelers could've had two touchdowns in the first half if they caught the ball. On a trick play, running back Baron Batch, with no one between him and the end zone, couldn't pull in a pass from wide receiver Antonio Brown. Wide receiver Mike Wallace, who had three drops in the first half, couldn't handle a deflected pass that went to him in the end zone. Wallace dropped his fourth pass, one that was thrown behind him, on third down with 5:38 left in the fourth quarter.

Where did Green go?: One play after Ben Roethlisberger's fumble deep in his own territory, Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green caught an 8-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. It was his sixth straight game with a touchdown. But that was the only catch in the first three quarters for Green, who entered the game as the NFL leader in receiving yards. Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor, who had struggled this season, broke up a third-down pass to Green in the third quarter.

What's next: The Steelers return home to play the Washington Redskins (3-4). The Bengals are on a bye week before playing the Broncos at home on Nov. 4.

Rapid Reaction: Texans 43, Ravens 13

October, 21, 2012

HOUSTON -- On a day of competitive, close early games, this wasn’t one of them. A few thoughts:

What it means: The Ravens and Texans came into this one tied for the best record in the AFC at 5-1. No other AFC team entered the day above .500. But this was truly a one-sided affair. Yes, the Ravens got Terrell Suggs back after a stunning six-month recovery from an Achilles tear. But they still couldn’t make up for the loss of Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb. They gave up 29 unanswered points and 258 yards in the first half to trail 29-3 at halftime. It didn’t get much better in the second half.

What I liked: Not much. Up until midway through the third quarter, Joe Flacco was horrible. He had two passes tipped that resulted in interceptions, one of which Johnathan Joseph returned for a touchdown that gave the Texans a 16-3 lead early in the second quarter. The Ravens abandoned their running game early and lost their starting right tackle, rookie Kelechi Osemele, who was carted off the field in the first half with a leg injury. That meant left tackle Michael Oher moved to right tackle and backup Bryant McKinnie stepped in at left tackle.

What I didn’t like: The defense. Yes, the Ravens have been decimated by injuries. But they gave up 36 points through the first three quarters, the most since allowing 37 to the Indianapolis Colts in 2007, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They got little pressure on Matt Schaub and created no turnovers. Even worse, the offense couldn’t build any momentum to alleviate pressure on the defense after giving up a safety midway through the first quarter.

Suggs was unreal: Seriously, the man is a freak of nature. Sure, he looks like he’s put on a few pounds during his rehabilitation. But no one aside from maybe Suggs himself thought he would be back on the playing field this early. In November, maybe. But Week 7? That was insane. On his seventh play of the game, Suggs sacked Schaub. He played approximately 35 snaps in the first half, and more in the second even though the game was out of hand. We will see how he bounces back following his first game action, but it was an impressive return.

What’s next: A long, quiet flight home to Maryland and then a bye week. Couldn’t come at a better time. The Ravens must regroup. They’re still 5-2. After the bye, they travel to Cleveland in Week 9 to face a Browns team they beat 23-16 in Week 4.

Wrap-up: Colts 17, Browns 13

October, 21, 2012

Thoughts on the Cleveland Browns' 17-13 loss at the Indianapolis Colts:

What it means: It was a disappointing start to the Jimmy Haslam era. The Browns lost their 11th straight road game, which ties the franchise record (1974-76). This road losing streak is the longest active one in the NFL. Cleveland (1-6) becomes the first team to lose six games this season.

Failing to convert in the fourth quarter: The Browns couldn't extend drives in the final quarter. They failed on four third downs and two fourth downs. The biggest blunder on third down was a dropped 41-yard pass by rookie receiver Josh Gordon that would have gone for a touchdown.

Giving up on the run: The expected game plan was attacking the Colts and the 29th-ranked run defense. But the Browns gave up on the run too fast, handing it off 16 times while throwing 40 passes. Rookie running back Trent Richardson (ribs) didn't play in the second half after getting drilled on a third-and-one with four minutes left in the second quarter. Unlike last week, the Browns didn't give the ball to backup Montario Hardesty. Richardson finished with eight yards on eight carries, and quarterback Brandon Weeden finished as the leading rusher (13 yards) after three quarters.

Wasted turnover: Blitzing cornerback Sheldon Brown came on the blind side to hit Andrew Luck, forcing a fumble and recovering it in the fourth quarter. Down 17-13, Cleveland didn't convert as Gordon dropped a deep third-down pass at the goal line. The Browns chose to punt on fourth-and-1 at the Colts' 41 with 6:31 remaining.

Greg Little shows off hands: Little has been rightfully criticized for dropping the ball in his first two seasons in the NFL. But he made the best grab of his career on the Browns' opening possession. Leaping over a Colts defender in the back of the end zone, Little tapped the ball in the air and caught it while getting both feet inbounds.

Not so special teams: The Browns matched the Colts' game-opening touchdown drive with a 16-play, 90-yard series. But Cleveland failed to tie the game because holder Reggie Hodges mishandled the snap on the point-after attempt. Last season, the Browns struggled with the long snaps.

Luck or RG3?: The Browns had to be confused whether they were playing Luck, the draft's top pick, or Robert Griffin III, the No. 2 overall selection. Luck showed off his athleticism by scoring the Colts' first two touchdowns on runs. He reached the end zone on runs of 3 and 5 yards.

Weeden watch: In the first matchup of rookie quarterbacks this season, Weeden more than held his own against Luck. Weeden looked decisive on his throws, completing 25 of 41 passes for 264 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

What's next: The Browns return home to play the San Diego Chargers, who are coming off a bye.