AFC North: 2013 Week 13 Upon Further Review AFC

Upon Further Review: Bengals Week 13

December, 2, 2013
SAN DIEGO -- An examination of four hot issues from the Cincinnati Bengals' 17-10 win over the Chargers:

Dalton's second half: Paced by a running game that rediscovered itself in the second half, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had his own resurgence of sorts in the final 30 minutes of Sunday's game. After stumbling to a 5-for-10, 41-yard, 21.2-passer rating performance through the first half, he bounced back in the second, completing nine of his final 13 passes and connecting with receivers for 149 yards. He also threw a key third-quarter touchdown and didn't turn the ball over, helping push his end-of-game passer rating to 83.6 -- his highest in five games. His 44.4 QBR also was his best since his career-high 98.9 that came in Cincinnati's 49-9 win over the New York Jets in Week 9. Part of what helped Dalton amass those final numbers was the Bengals' decision to recommit themselves to the run in the last two quarters. Cincinnati rushed for more than 150 yards (164) for the first time since its Week 7 win at Buffalo.

Huber's (healed) left leg: Wednesday, punter Kevin Huber sent a chill through the Bengals' fan base when he appeared on the injury report for the first time this season. He barely practiced the rest of the week after being limited for part of the week by an injury to his left ankle. He kicks with his left leg. Apparently it wasn't feeling too badly. Huber had four punts in the game and sent them an average of 55.5 yards from the line of scrimmage. The first two, 75- and 56-yard blasts, set the tone early. He routinely flipped field position in the game, even pushing the Chargers up against their own goal line with his first one. That subsequent series resulted in San Diego's own need to punt. With the ball in decent field position, the Bengals drove 67 yards for a touchdown on their following possession.

Quiet secondary: It was easy to praise Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict for his strong 13-tackle, play-through-an-injury performance, but he wasn't the only one on the back end of Cincinnati's defense who had a big day. Linebacker Rey Maualuga, who was returning from his own lengthy knee injury, finished with 10 tackles, including a sack. Although he was beaten a couple of times on passes across the middle, he was a run-stopper much of the day, helping plug his share of holes. Along with their linebacker play, the Bengals also had quietly good performances from defensive backs George Iloka and Reggie Nelson, who each forced fumbles. Iloka's ended up preceding the Bengals' final possession of the game -- a nearly five-minute drive that included four first downs and ended with back-to-back kneel-downs.

Winning without Gresham: For the first time this year, the Bengals won a game in which tight end Jermaine Gresham didn't catch a pass. The only other time they even had a game in which Gresham went reception-less, they lost to the Baltimore Ravens. It wasn't as if Cincinnati was trying to completely avoid Gresham, though. He was targeted twice. Since a clear emphasis was being placed on the running game, Gresham ended up factoring in that department instead, helping open holes along the edges for running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard to run right through.

Upon Further Review: Browns Week 13

December, 2, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the Cleveland Browns' 32-28 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars:

Haden’s outburst: CB Joe Haden presented the argument for players not wanting to talk after games. But as he’s been all season, Haden was accountable, and approachable. His emotional statement about being sick of losing and not having anything to say was right on the money. He was upset, mad, disgusted or a combination of some or all the above. He showed it. Because he felt it. There was no reason to be upset about Haden’s statements -- because he showed he cared.

Taking responsibility: Haden also took responsibility for the Jaguars' game-winning TD pass, admitting he fell for the old “Sluggo” route (slant and go). Haden said the Jaguars set the route up by running short all day. Then, in the key situation, they faked short and threw deep. Well ... 20 yards deep. The play came on third-and-9. Haden jumped the slant trying to prevent the first down and hold the Jaguars to a field goal. He got beat. It happens to cornerbacks.

What happened: Longtime Browns watchers could not remember a previous bad snap from Alex Mack, but his first came at a bad time. Mack airmailed a snap over QB Brandon Weeden’s head with the Browns at their 14, and it led to a safety that gave Jacksonville the lead. “My fault 100 percent,” Mack said. “I’m going to be sick to my stomach for quite a while about that one.” Mack said he had some anxiousness about getting off the ball quick, which might have contributed to the bad snap.

Mind-boggling: The Browns have had some bizarre games this season. The second quarter against Cincinnati, the second half against Detroit. But the numbers against Jacksonville may set new standards. The Browns had the lead four times and gave it up each time. Weeden threw for 370 yards. Wide receiver Josh Gordon set NFL and team records. The Browns outgained the Jaguars 439-314. Yet they lost. Go figure.

Upon Further Review: Ravens Week 13

November, 29, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Baltimore Ravens' 22-20 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers:

Chillin' at home: The Ravens improved their record to 14-2 in home games when the temperature at kickoff is below 40 degrees, winning 14 of the past 15 times this has happened. It was 37 degrees at the start of Thursday night's game with the Steelers. The Ravens, who are 5-1 at home this season, have always played their best at M&T Bank Stadium, although not necessarily against their biggest rival. Since 2010, the Ravens are now just 2-2 against Pittsburgh in Baltimore, and 26-2 against the rest of the league (including playoffs) at home.

Pressure doesn't result in picks: Joe Flacco didn't throw an interception for the first time since Week 7 (Oct. 20), which just happened to be the last time the Ravens played the Steelers. Over the past four weeks, Flacco had been picked off six times in 78 passes, an average of one every 13 throws. On Thursday night, he wasn't intercepted on 35 passes. Since 2011, the Ravens are 15-2 in games when Flacco doesn't throw an interception. The key against the Steelers was the improved pass protection, especially against Pittsburgh's blitzes. Flacco was 7-of-10 (70 percent) when the Steelers sent five or more rushers, his highest completion percentage against the blitz this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He had a 52 percent completion rate against additional pressure entering the game, which ranked 31st among 38 qualified quarterbacks.


Fast starts: The Ravens have dominated the first quarter recently, which is quite a turnaround from the first two months of the season. In the past four games, the Ravens have outscored teams 30-3 in the first quarter. Compare this to the first eight games, when the Ravens ranked third in fewest points scored in the first quarter (16). Baltimore marched 71 yards for a touchdown on its opening drive against Pittsburgh, the second time in four weeks the Ravens have reached the end zone on their first possession of a game. The Ravens are now 43-9 (.826) under coach John Harbaugh when scoring first.

Extending the drive: The Ravens punted only once, marking just the fifth time in team history they had one or no punts in a game. The last time the Ravens punted one time in a game was Oct. 31, 2005, when the Ravens played at Pittsburgh. When you take away the drive that ended the first half and the game, the Ravens were able to get inside the Steelers' 31-yard line on six of seven possessions. The Ravens were able to sustain drives by going 10-of-17 on third downs, which was a season-high 58.8 percent success rate for Baltimore. Six Ravens converted third downs, including Torrey Smith, who did it four times. Flacco threw for 118 yards and a touchdown on third down.