AFC North: 2013 Week 2 Upon Further Review AFC

Upon Further Review: Steelers Week 2

September, 17, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- An examination of four hot issues from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 20-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

[+] EnlargeFelix Jones
AP Photo/Tom UhlmanSteelers RB Felix Jones earned praise from coach Mike Tomlin after Monday night's game.
Stuck in neutral: The Steelers’ running game is a mess, and coach Mike Tomlin said no one is above blame for the team's 75 rushing yards in two games and its paltry 2.4 yards per carry average. The offensive line has to win more one-on-one battles, and the running backs have to take better advantage of the creases they do get. Tomlin did not say who will start Sunday at running back against the Chicago Bears, but he strongly indicated that Felix Jones will get the nod. Jones rushed for only 37 yards on 10 carries at Cincinnati, but Tomlin liked the decisions the sixth-year veteran made while running against one of the better front sevens in the NFL. “I was encouraged by some of the things Felix Jones was able to do,” Tomlin said, “and will be able to do moving forward.”

Biding their time: Running back Jonathan Dwyer received just one carry against the Bengals, a team he gashed for 122 rushing yards in the AFC North rivals’ first meeting last season. Rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton also played sparingly on Monday night, and the third-round draft pick is still in search of his first NFL catch. Tomlin said the limited roles had little to do with Dwyer and Wheaton and could be mostly attributed to the Steelers running 55 plays compared to 79 for the Bengals. More than 20 of those plays came when the Steelers ran their no-huddle offense, which doesn’t allow them to substitute. As a result there were very few opportunities left for reserves such as Dwyer and Wheaton. “We’re just not getting enough snaps,” Tomlin said.

Staying within yourself: Free safety Ryan Clark did not sugarcoat the Steelers’ first 0-2 start under Tomlin. On the contrary, Clark said the Steelers won’t win a game this season if they don’t get better. What troubled Clark after the Steelers gave up more than 400 yards of total offense against the Bengals and did not register a sack or force a turnover is that the defense got away from the disciplined approach that has been vital to its success. The concern moving forward is that the offense’s struggles will put even more pressure on the defense and that some players will take it upon themselves to try and make something happen. “Once you start doing that then you get out of position, you leave a gap and they get four yards on first down,” Clark said. “For us it’s about doing what we’re taught no matter the score. We can’t scoreboard watch.” Said Tomlin, “We’re capable of fixing these things. We can’t overreact.”

Not all was bad: Special-teams play, shaky during the preseason, was an unequivocal bright spot for the Steelers in their loss at Cincinnati. Jones and Antonio Brown turned in long kickoff and punt returns, respectively. The Steelers' kick coverage teams, meanwhile, bottled up Brandon Tate and Adam Jones, allowing a total of 44 return yards. Rookie outside linebacker Jarvis Jones has been a beast on special teams. He and the rest of the Steelers' special-teamers will be tested Sunday night. Chicago’s Devin Hester is one of the best kick returners in NFL history.

Upon Further Review: Ravens Week 2

September, 16, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the Baltimore Ravens' 14-6 win over the Cleveland Browns:

[+] EnlargeBrandon Weeden
Brad Mills/USA TODAY SportsTerrell Suggs and the Ravens had Browns QB Brandon Weeden trying to escape pressure for much of Sunday's game.
What a rush: This is what the Ravens had envisioned from their pass rush: 12 quarterback hits and five sacks. Not surprisingly, Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil led the charge, combining for two sacks and six quarterback hits. Haloti Ngata (two quarterback hits) and Arthur Jones (one sack) also contributed, getting through up the middle. The Ravens' sacks were momentum-changers. Three of the sacks ended drives, and Jones' sack came immediately after running back Ray Rice fumbled. Baltimore's eight sacks this season are tied for fifth-most in the NFL.

Struggling going deep: Joe Flacco was 0-for-5 on passes thrown more than 20 yards downfield against the Browns and is 2-for-13 on such throws this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The strong-armed starting quarterback excelled in this area during last season's playoffs, completing 13-of-26 passes of such length with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. While Flacco hasn't been accurate on his deep throws this year, there are other reasons why he hasn't connected downfield more often. The Ravens haven't had one of their top deep threats, Jacoby Jones, who has been sidelined the past six quarters because of a knee injury. And, without an established No. 2 target, receiver Torrey Smith is drawing either the other team's top cornerback or double coverage.

Tight end problems: Through two games, the Ravens can't get the ball in the hands of their tight ends and can't keep it away from the other teams' tight ends. Denver's Julius Thomas and Cleveland's Jordan Cameron have combined for 10 catches for 256 yards and two touchdowns. Dating back to last season's AFC Championship Game, the Ravens have allowed a tight end to record at least 83 yards receiving in four straight games. There has been no such success for the Ravens this year. Against the Browns, Baltimore's tight ends totaled two catches for 26 yards. Ed Dickson dropped Flacco's first pass of the game and wasn't targeted again. It marked the fourth time in Dickson's past 16 games (including playoffs) that he was held without a catch.

Kicking surprise: No one expected Billy Cundiff to be the best kicker on the field Sunday. That's what happened when Ravens kicker Justin Tucker missed wide right on field goals from 50 and 44 yards. Tucker was the second-most accurate rookie kicker in NFL history last season, when he missed only three times on 33 kicks. "I'm not really worried," Tucker said after the game. "The fact of the matter is that I missed two, and I missed two in a row, and that’s uncharacteristic." Tucker had made 11 straight at M&T Bank Stadium before missing his two attempts Sunday.

Upon Further Review: Browns Week 2

September, 16, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the Cleveland Browns' 14-6 loss at the Baltimore Ravens:

[+] EnlargeBrandon Weeden
Doug Kapustin/MCT via Getty ImagesBrandon Weeden struggled Sunday before leaving the game in the fourth quarter.
Another starting quarterback? Brandon Weeden left in the fourth quarter with an injured thumb on his throwing hand and didn't return. Wearing a brace on his hand, Weeden told reporters after the game he wasn't sure whether he could play Sunday at the Minnesota Vikings. If he can't, Jason Campbell would become the 19th starting quarterback for the Browns since they returned to the NFL in 1999. Here's the list of Browns quarterbacks who have made at least one start: Tim Couch, Ty Detmer, Doug Pederson, Spergon Wynn, Kelly Holcomb, Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Ken Dorsey, Bruce Gradkowski, Jake Delhomme, Colt McCoy, Seneca Wallace, Thad Lewis and Weeden.

Failing on third downs: The Browns' defense has improved in most areas except one -- getting offenses off the field. The Ravens converted 8 of 16 third downs on Sunday, including 7-of-11 (63 percent) in the second half. This is becoming a disturbing trend for Cleveland. For the season, the Browns have allowed teams to make first downs on half of their third-down chances. Cornerback Joe Haden gave up his share of completions to Torrey Smith on Sunday, but he's not the biggest problem. The Ravens picked on Chris Owens and Buster Skrine after halftime. Last season, the Browns ranked 16th in third-down defense.

No big plays: The Browns struck downfield with a 53-yard pass to tight end Jordan Cameron on their first offensive play. They didn't complete one past 22 yards on their final 32 passes. This was against a Ravens secondary that gave up nine passes of 23 yards or longer in the season opener. It was a tough day overall for Weeden, whose 26.7 Total QBR gave him his 10th QBR below 30.0 since the start of last season, the most in the league. His QBR of 20.3 this season is third worst in the NFL.

Running in circles: The big storyline last week was getting running back Trent Richardson more involved in the offense. Now, the focus has to be on making him more efficient. The Browns gave the ball to Richardson 18 times, five more than last week, but the results were the same. He averaged 3.2 yards per carry and didn't break a run longer than 9 yards against the Ravens. For the season, Richardson ranks 22nd in the NFL in rushing. Among the top 25 rushers, his 3.4 yards per carry is tied for fourth worst.