AFC North: 2013 Week 10 Upon Further Review

Upon Further Review: Bengals Week 10

November, 11, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the Cincinnati Bengals' 20-17 overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens:

[+] EnlargeVincent Rey
Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY SportsBengals LB Vincent Rey, No. 57, had a career performance against the Ravens on Sunday.
Defense stands tall: Lost in much of the chatter about Cincinnati's defeat Sunday was the fact that its defense, all things considered, had a rather impressive game. Penalties were a problem all afternoon for the Bengals, who were charged with seven infractions on defense alone. The first one, a pass interference charged to safety Reggie Nelson on a flea-flicker that came on the Ravens' fifth play of the game, set an ugly tone for the Bengals' defensive unit. When they weren't whistled for fouls, the Bengals made life difficult for Baltimore's offense. They allowed the Ravens to gain only 189 yards of total offense, and limited them to a 3-for-19 showing on third down. Interceptions from Terence Newman and Vincent Rey and a fumble recovery from James Harrison were key turnovers for the at-times-beleaguered unit.

Green goes off: Receiver A.J. Green didn't really want to discuss his 51-yard touchdown reception off a Hail Mary as time expired in regulation. "It would have been a greater play if we had won," he said. Still, as great as that play itself was -- win, lose or tie -- it was only one piece in what ended up being a historic day for the wideout. Targeted 15 times, Green caught eight passes for 151 yards and that lone touchdown. It marked the fifth straight time he had more than 100 yards in a single game. No other Bengals receiver has accomplished that feat in franchise history. After struggling with getting his yards early in the season, Green has suddenly hit his stride and has a strong connection with quarterback Andy Dalton, even as Dalton has struggled in recent weeks.

King Rey: With Rey Maualuga still out with a knee injury, the Bengals have been relying the past two weeks on backup Vincent Rey to keep things stable until Maualuga can make his return. The starting middle linebacker is expected to miss possibly one more game as he recovers from an MCL sprain. In relief, Rey hasn't only kept the defense stabilized. He's taken over. Along with his five tackles in last week's loss at Miami, Rey had 15 against the Ravens on a day that was full of personal milestones. Not only were the 15 tackles a career high, but so were his three sacks. His second-quarter interception also was the first of his career.

Wind a factor? If you ask Dalton or Green if the winds affected their play, they will quickly shake their heads no. Of course, few players would admit that. That's just a case of someone not making excuses. But if we're to be honest, it did appear the wind, which had gusts upward of 20 mph, was a factor for both quarterbacks, and at least the Bengals' kickers. Mike Nugent missed his fourth field goal of the year when he kicked into a tough crosswind that yanked the ball wide left, and Kevin Huber had two punts that barely traveled any distance. He averaged 34.3 net yards on his six punts. Dalton, who often missed throws high, was 24-for-51 passing.

Upon Further Review: Steelers Week 10

November, 11, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- A review of four hot issues from the Pittsburgh Steelers23-10 win over the Buffalo Bills:

[+] EnlargeJerricho Cotchery
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsSteelers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery catches a touchdown behind Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore during the second quarter of their Week 10 game.
It's a start: The Steelers improved to 17-2 against rookie quarterbacks since 2004, and EJ Manuel averaged less than four yards per passing attempt. Manuel's inexperience and the fact he was playing in his first game in five weeks because of a knee injury precluded the Steelers' players from saying the defense is back after giving up 610 total yards the previous week at New England. “No offense [to the Bills], but they have a quarterback who hasn’t had the opportunity to play in awhile,” Steelers free safety Ryan Clark said. “I think they played extremely vanilla and didn't allow him to do much so we needed to stop the run and that was the first step toward getting back, but we have a long way to go.”

Sleeper hold: Jerricho Cotchery tied his career high for touchdown receptions in a season when the 10th-year veteran hauled in his sixth scoring catch late in the second quarter. Running what he called a “fall-asleep fade,” Cotchery delayed his release and caught Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore peeking into the backfield. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger put enough touch on the pass for the touchdown that snapped a 3-3 tie. “It was a great call by [offensive coordinator Todd] Haley," Cotchery said. "He went into the archives for that one and pulled it out at the right time.” According to Cotchery, it was a play Haley had used when he coached the wide receivers for the Bears from 2001 to '03. "It's something that we’ve been working on," Cotchery said. "We executed it well."

Key to victories: Roethlisberger always talks about how important balance is to the Steelers' offense, and the math backs him up. In the Steelers’ three wins, they have run the ball 51.1 percent of the time. In six losses they have run the ball just 30.5 percent of the time. The Steelers established the run early against the Bills and rushed for 136 yards on 4.1 yards per carry. Roethlisberger, meanwhile, had fewer passing attempts (30) than Steelers rushing attempts (33). "I thought we were able to find a rhythm and establish the running game and convert on some third downs," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.

OL sustains another injury: The Steelers lost another offensive lineman to injury when left guard Ramon Foster hobbled off the field early in the third quarter after hurting his ankle. Safety Shamarko Thomas (ankle) and outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (calf) also left the game with injuries and did not return. Tomlin said all three were evaluated after the game but he did not have any information beyond that. Woodley said his injury was not serious. "I'll be good to go," he said.

Upon Further Review: Ravens Week 10

November, 11, 2013
BALTIMORE -- A review of four hot issues from the Baltimore Ravens' 20-17 overtime win over the Cincinnati Bengals:

[+] EnlargeBaltimore's James Ihedigbo
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyJames Ihedigbo had two interceptions and tied for a team high with nine tackles.
Constant pressure: Baltimore held Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to a 52.2 passer rating, the second worst of his career. This was the result of constant pressure on Dalton (five sacks and nine quarterback hits). Elvis Dumervil led the Ravens with 2 1/2 sacks, the most of his brief Ravens career. The Ravens have recorded at least two sacks in 17 straight games, the NFL's longest such streak. Baltimore now has 67 sacks at home dating back to 2011, an average of 3.4 sacks per game. This year, the Ravens have recorded 16 sacks in four home games.

Rare miscues at home: Joe Flacco led his 17th game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime, but it was hardly a stellar performance. His 140 yards passing were a season low, and no one had fewer yards passing in a win Sunday. Flacco's three turnovers (two interceptions and one fumble) were his second most in a game this year. This was the first time Flacco has been picked off at home this season, ending a streak of five straight without an interception at M&T Bank Stadium (a span of 176 passes). Flacco hadn't thrown multiple interceptions in a home game since Oct. 11, 2009, which also came against the Bengals. The Ravens improved to 3-7 in games when Flacco turns the ball over at least three times.

Pick party: The Ravens nearly matched their interception total for the season Sunday when they picked off Dalton three times. Baltimore had only four interceptions in its first eight games of the season and hadn't picked off a pass since Oct. 13. Safety James Ihedigbo came up with the first two interceptions of his career after going 77 games without one. Cornerback Lardarius Webb wrestled an interception away from Bengals receiver Marvin Jones, which was his first since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament last October. Under coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens are 18-5 when they force at least three turnovers.

Clutch kicker: Justin Tucker's 46-yard field goal in overtime was the fifth game winner of his 29-game career and his third in overtime. He has now converted a career-best 16 straight field goals and hasn't missed since Week 2. During his streak, Tucker has hit half of those field goals from 40 yards or longer. His career success rate (including playoffs) is 91.2 percent. Only three kickers -- Jacksonville's Josh Scobee, Seattle's Steven Hauschka (a former Raven) and Dallas' Dan Bailey -- have been more accurate since the start of the 2012 season.