AFC NORTH ROUNDUP: ‘I was just embarrassed’

Street Talk AFC NORTH ROUNDUP: ‘I was just embarrassed’

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Baltimore Ravens

"That was probably one of the greatest plays of my career because of my team, because of what we did as a team," said Ray Lewis, a former Super Bowl MVP, a 10-time Pro Bowler and two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year following his crushing tackle of Darren Sproles on a 4th and 2 play that ultimately ended the Chargers attempt at a game-winning touchdown. 

Ray Lewis shot the gap and met Darren Sproles head-on on fourth-and-2 in the closing seconds, with brute strength winning out over speed and shiftiness. A game that seemingly was going to be decided by Philip Rivers instead was sealed by Lewis, whose big play saved a 31-26 win for the Baltimore Ravens over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. The Chargers needed a touchdown to win and had the ball on Baltimore’s 15 with 33 seconds left. Lewis came in unblocked and slammed the little running back to the ground for a 5-yard loss, and the Ravens ran out the clock.

A week after amassing a franchise-record 501 yards in a win against Kansas City, the Ravens couldn’t quite put away the Chargers. San Diego was missing running back LaDainian Tomlinson, center Nick Hardwick and right guard Louis Vasquez due to injuries, and on Saturday put defensive tackle Jamal Williams on injured reserve, meaning his season is over. Baltimore’s Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes and Willis McGahee ran for two more. A week after throwing for a career-high 307 yards, Flacco was 17 of 26 for 190 yards.

The killer for the Chargers was their inability to score touchdowns. Give the Ravens credit for playing excellent red zone defense when pressed to the goal line.

Cincinnati Bengals

"We didn’t do enough to win the game last week and you get what you deserve," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "Today, we were able to make one or two more plays and win the football game and that’s what counts. I think our football team understands that."

One week after a gut-wrenching last-minute loss to Denver on a deflected pass that went for a touchdown in their opener, the Bengals nearly outdid themselves by blowing a 10-point lead in the final minute Sunday. The Packers (1-1) kicked a late field goal to cut the lead to a touchdown; then recovered an onside kick. Rodgers then marched the Packers to the Cincinnati 10-yard line with the clock running down, but Green Bay was called for the false start to end the game.

The Bengals were cruising to a win until then, breaking a 21-all tie when Chad Ochocinco caught a 13-yard TD pass from Carson Palmer in the third quarter and delivered on his promise to perform a "Lambeau leap." Defensive end Antwan Odom tied a single-game team mark with five sacks, four of which came after Packers left tackle Chad Clifton injured his ankle and was carted off early in the third quarter. Cedric Benson rushed for 141 yards for the Bengals. Palmer was 15 of 23 for 185 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, both by Green Bay’s Charles Woodson. Woodson returned one 37 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Palmer blamed himself for the interceptions, and said he had confidence in the defense in the final minute. "I kind of felt like it couldn’t happen again," Palmer said. "It wasn’t a feeling of ‘here we go again’ at all. I know our defense is too good. They have too much pride and weren’t going to let that happen again."

Cleveland Browns

"You are reaching for him but he can get his hands on you first and he’s got leverage and he can get underneath you and just push you back to the quarterback," Broncos Coach Josh McDaniels said of LB Elvis Dumervil who had 4 sacks in the victory over the Browns. "His skill set is pretty much alone in this league." 
 

Pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil tied a franchise record with four sacks — all in the second half — and linebacker Andra Davis had 10 tackles against his old team in leading Denver to a 27-6 win Sunday. Dumervil also forced a fumble as the Broncos caused three turnovers and bottled up Brady Quinn. Quinn finished 18 of 31 for 161 yards and an interception on his final toss. "They’re tough," Quinn said. "Across the board they have a lot of talent. Schematically, they do a good job game-planning." Jamal Lewis turned in a paltry 38 yards on 14 rushes.

Asked if he was tempted to bench Quinn, who’s been sacked nine times already, in favor of Derek Anderson, Mangini said: "What I’m looking to do is play better across the board." "The offense had nothing to do with the two long defensive plays," Mangini said of Jabar Gaffney’s big 49-yard catch and Correll Buckhalter’s big 45 yard touchdown run. "That’s a risk you take when you blitz."

When the Browns didn’t make him an offer, Davis signed a two-year deal with the Broncos, who spent the offseason revamping a deplorable defense that ranked at or near the bottom in every major category last season and surrendered 448 points. Davis recorded seven solo tackles and two assists in the first half.

Pittsburgh Steelers

"I’m just embarrassed, you know, because these guys fight their tails off to win the game," Steelers kicker Jeff Reed said after missing 2 fourth quarter field goal attempts in the loss to the Bears. "If there is one player that can single-handedly lose the game, I’ll take credit for it."

Both teams were missing their defensive stars, with Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher out for the rest of the season with a dislocated right wrist and Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu out three to six weeks with a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee. After Jeff Reed missed his second field-goal attempt of the fourth quarter — a 43-yarder – Bears QB Jay Cutler helped set up Robbie Gould’s winning kick with a 5-yard pass to Devin Hester on third-and-4 at the Steelers’ 39 to keep the winning drive going. That was enough to beat the defending Super Bowl champions and offset solid performances by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Santonio Holmes.

Roethlisberger threw for 221 yards, and Holmes caught five passes for 83 yards, yet Reed’s problems in the fourth quarter gave the Bears the opening they needed. Roethlisberger gave the Steelers a 14-7 lead midway through the third quarter when he ran it in from the 2, leaping over a lunging Danieal Manning, after Skokie native and Illinois product Rashard Mendenhall broke off a 39-yard run. The Bears quickly responded. Cutler hit tight end Greg Olsen on a 29-yard pass to put the ball on the Pittsburgh 23 and finished the drive with a 7-yarder to Johnny Knox, who beat Polamalu’s fill-in, Tyrone Carter, to tie the score at 14 with 6:21 left. After holding the Steelers at bay, Cutler was able to set up the game winning opportunity for Gould to cash-in on.

AFC North

Team

W

L

T

PCT

PF

PA

Home

Road

DIV

PCT

AFC

PCT

NFC

Streak

Baltimore

2

0

0

1.000

69

50

1-0

1-0

0-0

.000

2-0

1.000

0-0

Won 2

Cincinnati

1

1

0

.500

38

36

0-1

1-0

0-0

.000

0-1

.000

1-0

Won 1

Pittsburgh

1

1

0

.500

27

27

1-0

0-1

0-0

.000

1-0

1.000

0-1

Lost 1

Cleveland

0

2

0

.000

26

61

0-1

0-1

0-0

.000

0-1

.000

0-1

Lost 2


 


Week #2 Scores

Baltimore   31          San Diego   26

Cincinnati   31          Green Bay   24

Denver       27          Cleveland     6

Chicago     17          Pittsburgh   14 
 

Week #3 Match-ups and ITH Predictions 

Baltimore (2–0) vs. Cleveland (0–2)

The odds-makers have installed the Ravens as a 13 ½ point favorite in the opening line. The Browns have managed only one offensive touchdown so far in 2009. Brady Quinn has been inconsistent in his 2 starts and Jamal Lewis was no factor in the loss against the Broncos. It shouldn’t be long before rookie James Davis emerges as the starting back. The Ravens offense has averaged 34.5 points in its first 2 games and is surprisingly emerging as the strength of the team. In replacing Chris McAlister, the Ravens are banking on speed to offset physical size, but that hasn’t worked outside of the red zone. The Browns will surely try to get the ball to Braylon Edwards to take advantage of his superior size, but not having Kellen Winslow around makes it easier for opposing defenses to focus on taking Edwards out of the game. Josh Cribbs is the best player on the Browns roster and has had recent success versus the Ravens.

The Ravens should roll in their first divisional contest of 2009. The Browns, with their season on the line will play hard and try to keep it close, but they just don’t have the horses to win and can only stay in it if the Ravens allow them to via turnovers.

Baltimore   27     Cleveland   13

Cincinnati (1–1) vs. Pittsburgh (1–1)

Another division battle in the AFC North pits the Bengals and Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals have shown improvement on defense and Carson Palmer looked much more like the Palmer of old against the Packers than he did against the Broncos in week 1. Cedric Benson has played extremely well since the end of the 2008 campaign. The key to this game could boil down to Cincinnati’s ability to keep Palmer clean. If given time and some minimal ground support from Benson, Palmer can exploit the Steelers secondary sans Troy Polamalu.

Ben Roethlisberger will find the going tougher against this defensive version of the Bengals. The Steelers need their ground attack to come to life and it probably needs to happen this week. This is Cincinnati’s chance to prove that they are potentially playoff worthy and ITH expects them to give their best effort on Sunday. That said; ITH is concerned that the Bengals O-Line isn’t quite ready for primetime. This one could see-saw back and forth, but the Steelers find enough balance in their attack to give them the win; barely.

Pittsburgh   21     Cincinnati   20 

Record Week #2 (YTD) 

 2 – 2 (5 – 3)

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Eric Buckner

About Eric Buckner

Eric Buckner is a native of Baltimore and has lived in the area his entire life. A graduate of Towson University , Eric has been a student of professional football since the day he wept in his grandfather's bedroom after the Baltimore Colts were upset by the New York Jets in Super Bowl III. A loyal fan of the Colts and subsequently the Ravens, Eric's passion for the NFL is unwavering as evidenced by his near flawless attendance record at Ravens' games. He's missed only one preseason game -- back in 2005. We'll cut him some slack since he was on his honeymoon. You won't find Eric slacking when it comes to covering the AFC North for ProFootball24x7.com.   More from Eric Buckner

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