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AFC North standings: Steelers dominate in taking control of division

Cincinnati’s offense stalls in the second half.

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers
Joe Mixon
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Bill Lazor has drawn a lot of praise, and deservedly so, for his work with the Cincinnati Bengals’ offense. But one knock that he had as offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins was his tendency to get away from the run when things got tight.

It happened again Sunday afternoon, and it could not have come at a worse time. Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon got off to a hot start with 48 yards on only seven carries in the first half for an average of 6.9 yards per carry, and he added three receptions for 20 yards through the first two periods of play.

Inexplicably, Mixon did not touch the ball again in the second half, and the Pittsburgh Steelers solidified their hold on first place with a dominating 29-14 win over the Bengals at Heinz Field. The Bengals generated no points in the second half and managed only one first down during that time.

Pittsburgh now has a two-game lead over Baltimore, which lost to Minnesota Sunday, and leads the Bengals by 2.5 games.

The Ravens, meanwhile, continued their offensive struggles as they lost their second straight game, and four of the last five, as Minnesota came away with a 24-16 victory. Cleveland finally got close to its first win of the season before falling in overtime to the Tennessee Titans by a final score of 12-9.

Baltimore Quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked five times and completed 26 of 38 passes for only 186 yards and a touchdown. The Ravens got three field goals from Justin Tucker and scored their only touchdown on a 13-yard pass from Flacco to Chris Moore as time expired.

Flacco entered the day as the 31st-rated quarterback in the NFL with a passer rating of 66.1 and was held to under 100 passing until well into the fourth quarter. Baltimore’s offense managed just 208 total yards.

Kai Forbath kicked field goals of 52, 51, 43, 43, 34 and 32 yards for Minnesota. Latavius Murray ran for 113 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that gave the Vikings an 18-6 lead, on just 18 carries for an average of 6.3 yards per carry. Minnesota quarterback Case Keenum finished with 20 completions on 31 attempts for 188 yards and an interception.

DeShone Kizer got the start for the Browns, but was ineffective and was replaced by Cody Kessler in the second half. Kessler led Cleveland on a 10-play, 31-yard drive that resulted in a 54-yard field goal by Zane Gonzalez and tied the score at 9-9 with only 30 seconds left in regulation. But Cleveland could manage nothing in the extra frame, and the Titans finally ended matters with a 47-yard field goal by Ryan Succop.

Kizer finished the day with 12 completions on 20 attempts for 114 yards and two interceptions. Kessler did not do much better, though, completing 10 of 19 attempts for 121 yards and an interception.

The Browns did not give either one of their quarterbacks much help, though, as the running game was all but non-existent on a day where every yard was precious. Isaiah Crowell managed just 35 yards on 17 carries, an average of 2.1 yards per carry, and Duke Johnson added only 26 yards on seven carries, good for only 3.7 yards per carry.

Cleveland iron man Joe Thomas, the Browns’ sturdy left tackle who had not missed a snap since becoming the third overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, saw his 10,363-snap streak come to an end in the third quarter with what appeared to be a triceps injury. Thomas eventually returned to the lineup.

Here’s a look at the updated standings:

1. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2, 3-0 in division, 5-1 in AFC)

2. Baltimore Ravens (3-4, 2-1 in division, 3-2 in AFC)

3. Cincinnati Bengals (2-4, 1-2 in division, 2-3 in AFC)

4. Cleveland Browns (0-7, 0-3 in division, 0-7 in AFC)