Well this weekend didn’t exactly shake out well for the Bengals in the AFC North. Not only did Cincinnati lose to Pittsburgh, but the Browns let a huge lead slip away to Baltimore, who are now tied with Pittsburgh for first place in the division. Let’s take a deeper look at how each matchup affected each team.
Baltimore Ravens (2-0) beat Cleveland Browns (0-2): 25-20
I think most of us assumed we’d see all three of Cleveland’s quarterbacks this season, but I doubt anyone had them each starting the first three weeks of the season. After Josh McCown injured his left shoulder, Cody Kessler entered the Week 2 contest for his first NFL action. McCown did return and finished the game, however, it appears everything was not alright as he will miss Week 3, and it hasn’t been determined when he will return.
There is the obvious comical value that comes from the Browns starting three different quarterbacks in three week, but what can’t be joked about is that McCown is one tough player. He stayed in the whole game, and gave them a great shot to win. If not for a questionable taunting call that was a result of Terrelle Pryor tossing a ball that ended up hitting a safety after a catch putting the Browns on the Ravens 10 yard line, the Browns could have ended up winning. Instead, McCown threw an interception on the next play.
McCown was hit early and often and Kessler, the rookie third round pick, isn’t exactly known for his size. The way the Browns’ offensive line has been playing, the prospect of Cleveland having to start a fourth quarterback isn’t insane. They have signed veteran quarterback Charlie Whitehurst to their roster. Whitehurst spent the 2015 season in Indianapolis, with now Browns associate head coach/offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, who was the Colts’ offensive coordinator before being fired in November 2015.
After Corey Coleman scored his second touchdown of the day on Sunday, it gave the Browns a pretty 20 to nothing first quarter lead. The ensuing point after attempt changed everything. Baltimore blocked the extra point and returned it for two points. Not only was that the last time Cleveland scored, but it began a huge comeback for the Ravens.
The real question is: was it more of a meltdown or a comeback? While the Ravens did score 25 unanswered, they never took the lead until the fourth quarter with 11 minutes remaining. That means it is kind of hard to put blame on a defense that isn’t particularly talented. The Browns know they probably won’t win any games if their offense can only score 20 points.
Really this is more of a bad team coming out hyped to play against one of their divisional opponents at home, and the Ravens probably weren’t too concerned with this team going in. After being shocked by the Browns strong start, and sparked by a big special team play that ended up making a huge difference in the final score, the game we all expected finally started playing out.
The Ravens looked past the Browns, and people may point to Cleveland’s strong start and say they were wrong to. Really though, the way Cleveland finished proved they were worthy to be looked past.
The Ravens are 2-0, but they haven’t looked great against less than impressive competition. It is early in the season, but their lack of a running game could hurt them against top tier teams. So far the Ravens only have 163 rushing yards through two games. They have also been played to the wire by teams who don’t have playoff aspirations this year.
It isn’t all bad for Baltimore. Mike Wallace has three touchdowns in two games, and Dennis Pitta had a throwback game against the Browns with nine catches for over 100 yards. Their defense has also played pretty good if you forget about the 20 point outburst early in the Browns game. Yet none of this looks intimidating on the field. I’m not sure anyone is watching the Ravens thinking “man I don’t want my team to play them soon.”
Again it is early, and in the NFL you can’t control who you play, but the Ravens simply aren’t looking good against teams they should look good against, despite winning.
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) beat Cincinnati Bengals (1-1): 24-16
It is frustrating seeing the Steelers replace the production of Le’Veon Bell, who is out the first three games due to suspension, so easily. Through two games Williams has scored three times and racked up over 250 total yards. Sunday the Bengals held Antonio Brown in check with only 38 yards, and you would think the Bengals would probably win that game, but Williams was a reason the Steelers held on. The questionable, at best, refs also helped.
The Steelers only have one more game without Bell, and if they manage to go 3-0 without him, that’ll be a huge achievement for them. It also must be comforting knowing if you’re without your Pro Bowl running back, you can call up a 33-year-old veteran to come in and keep the running game going. Although less than 100 rushing yards on 32 carries isn’t THAT good.
The Steelers won, and there is no changing that. However, the Bengals weren’t as outplayed as the general media keeps playing it out as. This was a close game between two really good teams. What makes the difference in games like that often isn’t much, and it would’ve just taken a few calls going a different way or a ball bouncing a different way, and I’d be sitting here writing about how close the Steelers were to winning instead of the Bengals.
We have all been told the ins and outs of how the refs screwed up on Sunday, but even with their help, the Steelers had a realistic chance of losing. The Bengals were able to get in the red zone several times, but weren’t able to punch it in consistently, and meanwhile, the Steelers did. Even with the Bengals’ only touchdown coming in the fourth quarter, they were within one score of tying it. When in the red zone, the Bengals finished with zero touchdowns on three attempts. Meanwhile, the Steelers scored on both of their red zone trips. The Steelers also lost the turnover battle, but the Bengals had their only turnover at the worst time. It may not have actually been a turnover.
The Bengals could easily play better. Their defense pressured Ben Roethlisberger even with the Pittsburgh offensive line holding early and often. It would be hard to believe that the Steelers get as fortunate with the refs the next time around. It would also be hard to believe the Bengals perform as poorly in the red zone again. Needless to say, Week 15 can’t come quickly enough.