AFC North: 2013 Week 5 Rapid Reaction
October, 6, 2013
By Jamison Hensley | ESPN.com
MIAMI -- A few thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 26-23 victory over the Miami Dolphins:
What it means: The Ravens (3-2) kept pace in the AFC North and remain tied for first place by beating the Dolphins (3-2). It wasn't pretty, but a shorthanded Ravens offense remained committed to the run (first time Baltimore gained more than 100 yards rushing this season) and their defense continually put pressure on Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill (six sacks). Rebounding after tough losses has been a trend under coach John Harbaugh. Since 2008, the Ravens are 21-7 after losses.
Sweating it out: The Ravens had an impressive 94-yard touchdown drive in the second half, but it was a 34-yard one that won the game for Baltimore. With the score tied at 23, Joe Flacco hit Torrey Smith on a 14-yard pass to put the Ravens in field goal position. Justin Tucker's 44-yard kick put the Ravens ahead 26-23 with 1:46 remaining. It marked the 16th career game-winning drive for Flacco. The Ravens had to sweat out a 57-yard miss by Caleb Sturgis, who went wide left with 33 seconds left.
Stock watch: Rising: Linebacker Terrell Suggs. He continues to look like the NFL Defensive Player of the Year from two years ago. He recorded three sacks, including two on a critical fourth-quarter series. Suggs now has seven sacks this season and at least one in each game thus far.
Redemption for Rice: Running back Ray Rice fumbled once again but also scored two touchdowns. He powered his way for a 2-yard touchdown in the third quarter, tying the game at 13. This made up for a fumble earlier in the game, which had led to a field goal. Dating back to the playoffs, Rice has fumbled five times in eight games.
Another costly turnover: A week after getting picked off a career-worst five times, Flacco had an interception returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that tied the score at 23. But much of the blame can go to left tackle Bryant McKinnie or to the play call. On third-and-22, Flacco threw from his own goal line and was hit from behind by Dion Jordan, who beat McKinnie on the quarterback's blind side. Offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, who was acquired this week in a trade, was inactive after only two full practices with the team.
What's next: The Ravens return home to play the Green Bay Packers. It will be Baltimore's first home game since Sept. 22.
October, 6, 2013
By Coley Harvey | ESPN.com
CINCINNATI -- A few thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals' 13-6 win over the New England Patriots:
What it means: Until the Bengals string together multiple wins, there really is very little that can be gleaned from their performance Sunday afternoon. They have been inconsistent much of the season, trading wins and losses. We'll see whether they can build momentum after the victory over one of the last of the NFL's unbeatens. Otherwise, the win meant Cincinnati did what we already knew it could -- beat a great team.
Stock watch: Rising: BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Four games into the season, many around Cincinnati were questioning Green-Ellis' role in the Bengals' offense and whether or not he should completely take a backseat to rookie Giovani Bernard, whose speed-driven, electrifying style of play has made him an overwhelming fan favorite. Green-Ellis answered the critics Sunday with his best performance of the season, rushing 19 times for 67 yards and one touchdown. The effort came against the team he spent four years with. Ahead of Sunday's contest, the former Patriot had rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns this season, and was among the league's worst with a 2.7-yards-per-carry average.
Identity found? Six days after offensive coordinator Jay Gruden told reporters he felt the Bengals were still seeking their offensive identity, they came out with a more balanced and diverse attack than they showcased in recent games. Cincinnati started the game by running the ball four times on a four-play drive. The Bengals eventually turned the offense over to their tight ends; Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham finished with a combined nine catches. By the middle of the second quarter, on their fifth drive of the game, the Bengals finally got their receivers involved, passing to Marvin Jones and A.J. Green. In all, the Bengals threw the ball 27 times and ran it 39 times.
Defensive pressure: For the first time, the Bengals got a sack from someone other than a defensive lineman, when linebacker Vontaze Burfict came away with a sack on New England's Tom Brady in the third quarter. The sack was for a loss of 10 yards. In all, Cincinnati had four sacks, including two from defensive end Wallace Gilberry, who replaced Michael Johnson (concussion).
What's next: Cincinnati (3-2) travels to Buffalo for its first of two straight road games.
October, 3, 2013
By Pat McManamon | ESPN.com
CLEVELAND -- A few thoughts on the Cleveland Browns' 37-24 win over the Buffalo Bills at FirstEnergy Stadium:
What it means: Brandon Weeden regained the Browns' quarterback job in the worst possible way -- through an injury to Brian Hoyer. Hoyer was injured just more than three minutes into Thursday's victory over the Bills when both his knees caught awkwardly under him as he was attempting to slide at the end of a run. The initial diagnosis was a right-knee injury, and NFL.com reported during the game Hoyer would need an MRI. That put Weeden back in the game. The carousel that has been the Browns quarterback situation since 1999 keeps right on turning, and right now it appears Weeden will be riding the lead pony.
Stock watch: The Browns moved over .500 for the first time since the third game of the 2011 season. That has to help a team trying to find itself. If anyone benefitted from the night, it was Weeden, who missed two games with a thumb injury and seemed to have lost his job. He finished with a quarterback rating of 95.3 and took steps toward re-establishing himself.
Private Benjamin: Browns punt returner Travis Benjamin had as much to do with the result as any player. Benjamin set up Cleveland's first score, Billy Cundiff's 30-yard field goal, with a 57-yard return, then scored its second touchdown with a 79-yard return. By game’s end, Benjamin had broken Eric Metcalf's team record (166 yards in 1993) for punt return yards in a game, finishing with 179. Benjamin is too small to contribute regularly on offense, but his quickness and speed are extremely dangerous in the return game.
Defense does it: With an assist from Jeff Tuel. One thing that can be said is that the Browns' backup quarterback is better than Buffalo’s. Once Tuel got in the game, the Bills got little done. In the final two minutes, the Browns secured the win when T.J. Ward intercepted a Tuel pass and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown.
What’s next: The Browns get a 10-day break before finishing the last of three games in a row at home, with the Detroit Lions visiting Cleveland. The stakes get a little higher, as the Browns go from Tuel with no Stevie Johnson to Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.