AFC North: 2013 Week 8 Upon Further Review

Upon Further Review: Browns Week 8

October, 28, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Cleveland Browns' 23-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs:

[+] EnlargeJosh Gordon
John Rieger/USA TODAY SportsBrowns receiver Josh Gordon, who has been rumored to be on the trading block, celebrates a TD Sunday against the Chiefs.
Calming the waters: Jason Campbell soothed some nerves with the way he played against the Chiefs. Campbell threw for just short of 300 yards and had a passer rating well over 100 in the loss. Rarely has a guy on his fourth team in eight years provided such a soothing presence with one game, but the state of Browns' quarterbacking was such that this game from Campbell was badly needed. And accepted.

Trade talk: Josh Gordon only has to live for one more day with the trade rumors that he’s going to be sent elsewhere. Gordon only enhanced his value against the Chiefs, with five catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. At this point, it’s almost as if his value will never be higher. "There’s really nothing more to be said about it," Gordon said. "I know just as much as all of you guys know. When it happens or if it doesn't happen, we'll know at the same time." The constant rumors have weighed on Gordon, and the team. Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said he can’t wait for the deadline to pass.

Long won’t they run: The Browns continue to struggle to run the ball, as they totaled 57 yards on 15 carries in Kansas City. With Campbell starting his first game in two years, the Browns called 36 passes and 12 runs (three of their runs were scrambles by the quarterback). Coach Rob Chudzinski wants balance, but with Willis McGahee and Fozzy Whittaker the guys to turn to, balance could be difficult to achieve.

Aggressive aproach: Say this for Chudzinski -- he is not afraid to take a chance. He went for the first down for the 17th time on fourth down this season, and made it to set up a touchdown. Add in the trick plays -- the Browns' first touchdown came on a flea-flicker -- and the fake punts, and it’s evident Chudzinski is letting his team know he’s not afraid to take a chance on their behalf. The 17 fourth-down attempts lead the league.

Upon Further Review: Bengals Week 8

October, 28, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Cincinnati Bengals' 49-9 win against the New York Jets:

Sense of nostalgia: Sunday's 40-point blowout was the Bengals' largest margin of victory since their 45-10 win against Chicago in 2009. Very few players in Cincinnati's locker room were there for that one. Veteran cornerback Chris Crocker, who rejoined the team via free agency in September, was among the lucky ones who saw both, though. "These guys weren't even in the locker room. These guys don't even remember that," he said before adding that this season is beginning to feel even better than that one. That year, the blueprint for this recent string of successful seasons was laid. The 2009 season was the second with double-digit victories for coach Marvin Lewis, who arrived in 2003.

[+] EnlargeAndy Dalton
AP Photo/Al BehrmanAndy Dalton continued his recent hot streak with 5 touchdown passes against the Jets.
Defense dominant: As has been the case much of the season, the Bengals' defense once again played a valuable role in a win. For the second time this season, the unit didn't allow a touchdown. Nick Folk's three field goals were the Jets' only offense, much like the Patriots' two field goals were their only points at Paul Brown Stadium three weeks ago. In addition to the lack of scores and the remarkably low 3.7 yards per offensive play the defense allowed, the unit also returned two interceptions for touchdowns. The first of those was Crocker's 32-yard romp. The 33-year-old said his defense was just flat-out better than the Jets' offense. Is that defense better than the other 31 offenses in the NFL? "I think so," Crocker said, as safety Reggie Nelson walked by and gave him a high-five. "But you have to take it. You have to go out there and earn it. We're a good team when we want to be."

Dalton more dominant: As good as the Bengals' defense was, the larger story revolved around Andy Dalton, the third-year quarterback who right now can seemingly do no wrong. Just when it appeared he had hit his ceiling with a 372-yard, three-touchdown outing against the Lions last week, he came out and had yet another 300-yard, three-touchdown game. It was his third consecutive such performance and came in arguably the finest showing of his career. According to ESPN Stats & Info, his 98.9 QBR against the Jets was his best in a single game. Dalton finished with 325 passing yards and five touchdowns. It was only the fifth time in franchise history a quarterback had that many touchdowns. Carson Palmer and Boomer Esiason each accomplished the feat twice.

Still diverse: While Marvin Jones' eight-catch, four-touchdown performance dominated headlines, there was another story to the passing game worth mentioning. The Bengals' passing offense was quite diverse, as seven different players caught passes. It's the third straight game Dalton has hooked up with that many. Five of the seven had multiple receptions, including A.J. Green, who had three catches for 115 yards. Tyler Eifert, Dane Sanzenbacher and Jermaine Gresham each had two receptions.

Upon Further Review: Steelers Week 8

October, 28, 2013
OAKLAND, Calif. -- A review of four hot issues from the Pittsburgh Steelers21-18 loss to the Oakland Raiders.

[+] EnlargeLe'Veon Bell
Ed Szczepanski/USA TODAY SportsRookie running back Le'Veon Bell has impressed the Steelers with his professionalism.
Clock (mis)management: The Steelers had two choices, neither appealing, when they didn’t get a horse-collar call late in the game. They opted for the wrong one. With the play clock winding down following a 7-yard catch by Le'Veon Bell, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger called the Steelers’ first timeout of the half instead of taking a delay of game penalty that would have given Pittsburgh a second-and-8 from Oakland’s 17-yard line. “There was a horse collar on the play,” Roethlisberger said. “The one ref said to the other, 'I was going to call it but I couldn’t tell. What did you see?' We couldn’t tell what he was going to do so we got caught in a bad situation. By the time we got back to the huddle you look up and there's three seconds left on the play clock.” But there were less than two minutes on the game clock, and using a timeout instead of wasting a down when the Steelers had two more to play with cost them dearly. They pulled to within three points after a Bell touchdown run and Emmanuel Sanders’ 2-point conversion, but the Steelers but did not recover the ensuing onside kick, essentially ending the game. “I know timeouts are valuable,” Roethlisberger said, “but for an offense scoring touchdowns, so was 5 yards.”

Out of whack: When Roethlisberger talks about the importance of establishing balance on offense, he isn’t just paying lip service to the notion. The Steelers have thrown the ball 69.8 percent of the time in their five losses compared to 49.5 percent in their two wins. The Steelers ran the ball just 19 times against the Raiders while Roethlisberger threw 45 passes -- and exposed himself to the kind of punishment that the organization wanted to limit when Todd Haley was hired as the offensive coordinator. Game circumstances and injuries along the offensive line compelled the Steelers to get away from running the ball in Oakland, but the ground game regressed after a 141-yard output against the Ravens. And as promising as Bell has looked, he is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry after four games.

The good old days: Once upon a time, the Steelers beat inexperienced quarterbacks as well as veteran but suspect signal-callers. Not this season. Three of their losses have come against quarterbacks who are short on starting experience (Jake Locker and Terrelle Pryor) and a journeyman Matt Cassel, who held onto the No. 1 job in Minnesota for one game after lighting up the Steelers in London. The Steelers' other losses were against Andy Dalton and Jay Cutler, and the two have experienced success but also have just two Pro Bowl appearances between them.

Too little too late: The Steelers’ defense allowed but one first down to the Raiders in the second half. It also yielded just 35 yards of total offense. Not that the players took much consolation in how they clamped down on Oakland after allowing three rushing touchdowns in the first half, including one on Pryor’s 93-yard run. "In fairness to them maybe they didn’t go into their complete playbook in the second half,” Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu said. “Their defense outplayed our defense and their special teams outplayed our special teams.” No argument here.