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Around the AFC North: A brutal week for the division

The entire AFC North posted a loss in Week 3, but how did they all get there?

NFL: SEP 22 Steelers at 49ers Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The AFC North didn’t put their best foot forward in Week 3. The division went 0-4 on the week. The Ravens were handed their first loss by one of the best teams in the NFL. The Steelers’ future got started on the wrong foot, and the Browns’ offense continues to struggle.

Baltimore Ravens (2-1) lost to Kansas City Chiefs (3-0): 28-33

This may have been a glimpse into the future of the NFL for the next few years. Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes have looked like two of the more impressive young quarterbacks this season, and both offenses have been humming along this year.

You can’t blame too much blame on the Ravens defense for not being able to do a better job against this Chiefs offense. Teams have to go into games against Kansas City expecting to score over 30 points to even have a chance, and Baltimore even knew that when they went for a two-point conversion after their first touchdown (which failed).

This game came down to the Ravens not being able to quite keep up with the Chiefs in this race. They were down 6-23 at halftime, and they really did have the spirited comeback in the second half, but it is just hard to comeback against a Chiefs offense that can practically move the ball at will.

You can’t help but feel like if Baltimore had been able to get their offense going a little quicker this game could’ve gone a different way. It also feels like these two teams could probably meet in the playoffs down the road as well.

Cleveland Browns (1-2) lost to Los Angeles Rams (3-0): 13-20

First off, the Browns’ defense deserve a ton of credit to holding the Rams to only 20 points. They were short handed in the secondary without Denzel Ward or Greedy Williams, and they did what probably no one thought they could do by keeping Cleveland in the game.

The problem continues to be this Cleveland offense. Something isn’t right. Protection wasn’t great this week again, but even when they had time to throw Baker Mayfield looked hurried and uncomfortable.

Then of course there was the play-calling at crucial times. When Cleveland was down 13-17 and it was fourth-and-nine, they ran a draw play, which feels more like a play you call on a third-and-long type situation just to gain some yards.

Then came the sequence that everyone is talking about. The Browns got the ball on the Rams’ four yard line with first-and-goal, all three timeouts and 45 seconds remaining. It seemed like an ideal situation for the Browns, but they dropped back four times (only once did they even have a running back accompanying Mayfield in the backfield), and they ran plays that just relied on receivers breaking open in their matchups. They didn’t run the ball. They didn’t run any plays that help scheme players open (like rub routes). This looked nothing like the creative offense that took the NFL by storm last season when Mayfield took over.

Maybe this team was better when they were playing to just earn respect rather than looked a as one of the best teams in the NFL coming into the season. Maybe they let people hype them up so much that they even started believing it before they stepped on the field. All I know is if they don’t turn things around soon they will be in the same position as that scrappy team from last year, playing for an outside chance at the playoffs.

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3) lost to San Francisco 49ers (3-0): 20-24

You may look at that score and think this was a tightly fought game, but this really came down to the fact Pittsburgh’s offense couldn’t capitalize on opportunities afforded to them by their defense and San Francisco’s mistakes. The 49ers had five turnovers on the day. They started out with two that gifted the Steelers opportunities in scoring distance, but they could only walk away with six points. The other three occurred when the 49ers were either in the red zone or field goal range.

The Steelers defense did its job to contain what looks to b a very formidable offense this season, but the offense looked horrendous. Aside from JuJu Smith-Schuster turning a simple slant into a 76-yard touchdown, and a deep bomb to rookie wide receiver Dionte Johnson, the Steelers didn’t give quarterback Mason Rudolph enough chances to force the defense to move back. In fact it was actually an almost historically conservative game for Rudolph and the Steelers.

It is a different NFL where teams can get away with running these short passes all game long, but when you aren’t also employing a strong running game (James Conner ran 43 yards and 13 carries), it is hard for that offense to win you many games.

These kinds of loses hurt Pittsburgh so much. They strangely put an enormous amount of pressure on Rudolph to turnaround an 0-2 team by trading away their first round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick last week. Now they have to turn things around in Ben Roethlisberger’s absence, because they don’t even have a first round pick to look forward to.

Next week, they will battle the Bengals on Monday Night Football in order to see who can get out of the basement of the AFC North.