We round up Week 5 in the AFC North with the biggest highlights and news.
Baltimore Ravens: Lost to Cleveland Browns 30-33
Exactly what the Ravens didn't need, more injuries, has now occured. Will Davis is added to an already long list of players on the injured reserve. It's getting to the point where the Ravens IR would make a pretty impressive team. That thinned out defense struggled on Sunday.
First off, the Ravens lost in what could be considered heart breaking fashion, as Gary Barnidge caught a crucial touchdown between his legs as he was laying on the ground. However, even after that the Ravens had a chance to win the game. Set up by a big catch and run by Forsett, who was unfortunately hurt on the play, the Ravens managed to get in the red zone with under a minute down by 3. The Ravens failed to get the ball in the endzone, but with the weapons around Joe Flacco is anyone really surprised? Without Forsett on the field and so little time left, the Browns knew the game rested squarely on Flacco's, arguably overpaid shoulders. Flacco needs weapons to produce at a high level. That is by no means a knock on Flacco. There may be a handful of guys in the NFL capable of that, but it comes into play when Flacco has to make a play and the biggest offensive threat on the field is Kamar Aiken.
The bigger disappointment in this game has to be the defense though. A huge turning point was in the first half was when the Ravens were up 14-3, and Lardarius Webb picked off Josh McCown. The play was called back because of a boneheaded roughing the passer. From there they allowed the game to turn into a shootout which can't happen with this Ravens offense. Josh McCown has been surprising this year, but there is no excuse for letting him go up and down the field on your team.
With the list of injured players getting longer and longer, so does their list of players stepping into bigger positions. Unfortunately for them, the list of disappointments keeps getting longer as well. Lets start with the good though. Aiken has been serviceable in the absence of Steve Smith Sr., Breshad Perriman, and Michael Campanaro. He has had four catches each of the last two games and surpassed the 70 yard mark in both games. Javorius Allen, the Ravens' backup running back, took advantage of his opportunities against a poor Cleveland run defense with 58 yards on eight carries. If Justin Forsett misses time he will have to continue producing to keep this Ravens offense moving.
Now let's get to the bad. While Aiken has produced, Marlon Brown has withered. The past two games, when they've needed him most, has only recorded 3 receptions for nine yards. Pretty much unacceptable given their situation at wide receiver. Most of the disappointments, to no one's surprise, are on the defensive side. Players like Courtney Upshaw, Timmy Jernigan, and Kendrick Lewis who were expected to produce in place of Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and Matt Elam, respectively have failed to come close. Upshaw has yet to record his first sack of the season, Jernigan hasn't worked his way onto the field yet, and Kendrick Lewis is regularly picked on by opposing offenses.
Cleveland Browns: Beat the Baltimore Ravens 33-30
Josh McCown torched the Ravens' defense Sunday. Proof of that can be easily seen by the numbers he put up. He was 36 of 51, provided 3 total touchdowns, and had 457 yards passing which is the most by any Brown's quarterback in a single game. The previous high was 444 yards by Brian Sipes in 1981. It was also the first time a Browns' quarterback has thrown for 300+ yards in three straight games. Needless to say this went how the Browns wanted it to go after halftime. They kept the pressure on the Ravens' offense to score, and eventually the Browns offense was able to take a lead.
The turning point was after the Justin Forsett catch and run to put the Ravens in scoring position near the end of regulation. After the play the thought seemed to be "here we go again" with this Browns defense. Another drive where they can't stop the opposing team from taking the lead at the end of the game, but whether it was because Forsett was injured on the play, or something in that defense woke up, they managed to hold Baltimore to a field goal. Then in overtime forced the Ravens into a three and out. Two well-timed stands by that defense that allowed McCown to go win the game. Those two parties deserve most of the credit for this win.
After a win like that for the Browns it is vital they look at the areas that they struggled and continue to get better in those areas, if they hope to keep winning. One of the most notable areas that struggled on the day is the Browns' running game. Josh McCown obviously covered up for this, but there will come a day McCown won't throw for over 400 yards and they'll need the running backs to produce more than 3.3 yards per carry.
An easy improvement, you would think, are their penalties. Plenty of inexcusable penalties on the day. Two delay of games and two personal foul penalties on rookie Danny Shelton, one that provided great field position for the Ravens and another that gave the Ravens a new set of downs on the Browns' one yard line.
The Browns, however, can hang their hat on their amount of chunk plays, a play that gains 20 yards or more. In Week 5 the Browns managed nine such plays, and they are clearly a big reason they got the win over the Ravens. The plays were spread throughout several players through the air. Travis Benjamin, the usual suspect this season, had two of them.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Beat the San Diego Chargers 24-20
It's easy to admit when guys correct their mistakes and that is exactly what Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley did at the end of the Steelers game on Monday night by putting the ball in the hands of their best player, Le'Veon Bell. Bell had a stellar night with 111 yards on 21 carries including the game winning run for a touchdown.
Tomlin and Haley aren't the only coaches who deserve credit though. Keith Butler, defensive coordinator for the Steelers has that defense playing much better than they started the season and probably beyond expectations for the team this season. Aside from the two touchdowns for Antonio Gates, the Chargers struggled most of the night. The Steelers even forced a pick six on on Philip Rivers. Young guys like Jarvis Jones, and Cameron Heyward continue to shine at putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
According to ESPN, 3-2 teams have a 50 percent chance of making it to the playoffs; 2-3 teams only have a 21- percent chance of reaching that same achievement. Needless to say Bengals fans aren't happy with that. There are still 1-4 games where Ben Roethlisberger will likely be out of the starting lineup for the Steelers, so they could dig themselves a hole with a tough schedule coming up, but a year with the Bengals as the only playoff representative in the AFC North just became a little less likely.