AN AFC NORTH UPDATE: There’s a new gunslinger in the neighborhood

Street Talk AN AFC NORTH UPDATE: There’s a new gunslinger in the neighborhood

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A recap of preseason week 2 action involving teams in the AFC North Follows:


Minnesota  23  




New York
Giants   37   


Buffalo  24   


RAVENS   (1 – 1)

Troy Smith, locked in a duel with Kyle Boller to earn the starting assignment, struggled in his first start of the preseason for the Ravens. The former Heisman Trophy winner went 3-for-5 for 25 yards and an interception in the first half, finishing with a 33.3 quarterback rating. He did, however, gain 35 yards on three carries behind a makeshift offensive line. "Getting out of the pocket and making plays is something we’re going to be doing this year," Smith said. Boller entered in the third quarter and went 8-for-12 for 40 yards. He also threw an interception, his third turnover in two games. Top draft pick Joe Flacco played the final two drives. "I think Troy and Kyle, by the basis of practice so far, have separated themselves from Joe in terms of being ready to line up and win a football game for us at this level," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.


’s opening drive Smith engineered a touchdown drive, but most of the credit belonged to rookie running back Ray Rice. Playing in place of injured Willis McGahee, Rice ran for 42 yards on

‘s second play from scrimmage and finished with a 6-yard TD run.

played without injured defensive starters Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle, Ed Reed and Kelly Gregg. But the Ravens got a touchdown from defensive back Derrick Martin, who picked off a pass by rookie John David Booty and returned it 22 yards to make it 23-15 with 12:11 left.

BENGALS   (1 – 1)

Suddenly, the Cincinnati Bengals need help on offense so much so that they recently re-signed wayward former Bengal Chris Henry. Pro Bowl receiver Chad Johnson strained his left shoulder Sunday night during the Detroit Lions’ 27-10 victory over the Bengals, who now have their top two receivers and their starting tailback limited by injuries. Johnson landed awkwardly on his left side after cornerback Brian Kelly intercepted a pass thrown his way on

‘s first series. He rolled on the field in pain for several seconds then went to the locker room for an examination. He did not return. Coach Marvin Lewis said the shoulder popped out and back into place on the field. Medical tests found no fracture. "I think he should be ready by the opener," Lewis said.

The Bengals already were missing Pro Bowl receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh and running back Rudi Johnson. Both of them have missed the first two preseason games with hamstring injuries. In an ominous sign for the Bengals, Palmer was repeatedly hit as he threw and got sacked once. He was only 6-of-13 for 50 yards with the one costly interception. He led Chad Johnson a bit too much, giving Kelly a chance to knock the ball free and grab it in the air. Palmer was knocked to the ground five times overall. Palmer played until the middle of the second quarter, trying to get the offense moving. In his two preseason games, Palmer is 11-of-22 for 83 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Bengals defensive tackle Pat Sims, a third-round pick, was taken off the field on a cart after spraining a toe on his right foot in the fourth quarter.

BROWNS   (0 – 2)

NY Giants receiver Domenik Hixon returned a free kick 82 yards for a touchdown after a series of

mistakes that included a safety on a punt by Dave Zastudil that he kicked into one of his teammates. After Phil Dawson’s 56-yard field goal on their first drive, the Browns simply self-destructed. Syndric Steptoe returned a kickoff 90 yards to the Giants’ 9 on the last play of the first quarter. Two plays later, Derek Anderson and Jamal Lewis botched a handoff and

New York
‘s James Butler returned it 95 yards for the touchdown that made it 30-3. Anderson, who was 4-of-10 for 20 yards under pressure from the Giants defense, left the game shortly after being sacked by Osi Umenyiora. The team said he had a possible concussion.

It was 30-17 at halftime after Steptoe ran 7 yards for a score and Michael Adams and Eric Wright, combined for a

touchdown —

slamming into Giants QB Anthony Wright as he attempted to pass. Eric Wright grabbed it and took it in from 15 yards. Brady Quinn, who was 7-of-12 for 124 yards, hit Steptoe for a 44-yard TD pass on the first series of the second half to cut it to 30-24. Jason Reda’s 44-yard field goal with 7:07 left in the game made it 37-27. Ken Dorsey’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Lance Leggett with 2:25 left cut it to 37-34. While the Browns reserves made a game of it, the starters left too big of a hole for them to climb out of.

STEELERS   (1 – 1)

The Steelers were inconsistent, lacking finish on both offense and defense in suffering their first loss in four preseason trips north of the border. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a solid outing, going 9-of-11 for 142 yards with a touchdown — a 40-yarder to Santonio Holmes — in three series. More focus was on the Steelers’ backup situation, with newly signed Byron Leftwich making his first appearance after Charlie Batch broke his collarbone in a 16-10 win over

last week. Leftwich completed his first attempt, a 24-yarder over the middle to Nate Washington, but then proved inconsistent, looking like someone who had only three days to pick up the Steelers offense. The former

starter finished 5-of-11 for 41 yards during six series. "I got my feet wet," said Leftwich, who made his first on-field appearance since losing the starting job in

to Joey Harrington following a 31-7 loss to


on Nov. 18. "As comfortable as you can feel with two days (of practice), I think some good things happened, though." Leftwich did acknowledge he had to ask Mendenhall about how a play went. "He sat there and just smiled and we laughed about it. But those things happen," Leftwich said. Coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged he put Leftwich in a tough situation this week. "I think it was a nice start for him. We’ll see where it goes," Tomlin said.

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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   More from Eric Buckner


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