AFC NORTH: Let the real games begin

Street Talk AFC NORTH: Let the real games begin

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In the Hood presents this update of the last week of the 2009 pre-season in the AFC North.

Baltimore Ravens

Most of Baltimore’s starters didn’t even bother suiting up. Third-stringer John Beck threw for 232 yards with a pair of touchdown passes, playing the entire game as the Ravens closed out the preseason with a 20-3 victory over the Falcons on Thursday night. "He [Coach John Harbaugh] told me a few days ago that I would play the whole game," said Beck, who got an ill-fated chance to start for Miami as a rookie in 2007 and is trying to get his career back on track. "It was very exciting to get to play the whole game." Beck directed a 14-play drive that culminated with a 5-yard touchdown pass to fullback Jason Cook.

The Ravens took advantage of Atlanta’s suspect defense, especially the cornerbacks. Beck converted a pair of third-down passes against Chris Houston, Brett Grimes was penalized 26 yards for pass interference and Chevis Jackson was beaten on a 19-yard pass that set up the TD.

Beck clinched the lackluster game with just under seven minutes to go, tossing a 15-yard touchdown pass to Eron Riley — a play that was set up by Beck’s 47-yard pass to Riley. Both times, Riley beat rookie cornerback Christopher Owens, a third-round pick who also had a rough night in the secondary. Demetrius Williams hauled in five passes for 77 yards, and Riley accounted for 62 yards on five receptions. Baltimore held the Falcons to 175 yards. Steve Hauschka rounded out Baltimore’s scoring with field goals of 33 and 46 yards.  

Schedule and Results

8/13   Washington         W   23 – 0

8/24   New York Jets      W   24 – 23

8/29   @ Carolina           W   17 – 13

9/3     @ Atlanta              W   20 – 3 

Cincinnati Bengals

Bengals backup quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan played only one series, which ended with his 14-yard touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell against a defense populated by reserves. After that, the game belonged to the guys trying to make the rosters. Defensive right tackle Ed Johnson and linebacker Phillip Wheeler were the only Colts starters who played on Thursday.

Not much competition. "You can’t control who you play against," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "It was good to let our guys break a sweat and get out there and go." Bengals RB Brian Leonard, trying to win a roster spot, had the most impressive play of the game. He was running at full speed and jumped over DB Travis Key, who dived at his legs. RB DeDe Dorsey, also trying to win a spot, blocked a punt and returned it seven yards for a touchdown. WR Chris Henry caught a touchdown pass in each preseason game.

The only question for the Bengals was whether the trainers would allow Palmer to play despite a sprained left ankle. Two hours before the game, he knew he wasn’t going to get the chance. He worked out on an adjacent practice field, just him and a trainer, doing a series of agility drills for the ankle. His gray Bengals shirt was drenched with sweat. Palmer dressed in his uniform for the game — a brace on his left ankle bulged from under his white sock — and watched from the sideline. He’ll be heading into the season opener against Denver without much of a preseason. Palmer suffered a moderate high-ankle sprain in the first preseason game; then sat out the last three. He didn’t return to practice until this week. He threw only 11 passes in the preseason games.

Schedule and Results

8/14   @ New Orleans     L 17 – 7

8/20   @ New England    W 7 – 6

8/27   St. Louis                 L 24 – 21

9/3     Indianapolis          W 38 – 7

Cleveland Browns

Eric Mangini didn’t need another look at his top quarterbacks so he gave them the night off rather than one more audition. And if he has decided on a starter, well, he wasn’t saying. Brett Ratliff started the preseason finale for the Browns and led a touchdown drive after throwing an early interception against Chicago. Robbie Gould kicked two of his four field goals in the fourth quarter, though, leading the Bears past Cleveland 26-23 Thursday in the preseason-finale. Ratliff was intercepted by Zackary Bowman on the game’s first play from scrimmage, leading to a 43-yard field goal by Gould, but made a decent recovery. He threw a touchdown on the next possession and was 8 of 20 overall while playing in the first and fourth quarters.

Richard Bartel played the middle two periods for Cleveland and was 12 of 14 for 137 yards and did not throw a TD nor did he get picked off.

The Browns quickly answered Chicago’s initial field goal, with James Davis breaking off a 21-yard run to put them on the Bears 35 and Ratliff capping the drive with a 7-yarder over the middle to Mohamed Massaquoi. Chris Jennings ran for 59 yards, while Davis finished with 37. Browns Pro-Bowl NT Shaun Rogers, LB David Bowens, LB Titus Brown and OL Rex Hadnot were not in uniform.

Schedule and Results

8/15   @ Green Bay     L 17 – 0

8/22   Detroit                W 27 – 10

8/29   Tennessee        W 23 – 17

9/3     @ Chicago        L 26 – 23

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh’s first team defense forced a three-and-out, Stefan Logan returned a punt for a touchdown, and the Steelers’ second unit made Carolina punt before Ben Roethlisberger hit the field. He threw one swing pass for seven yards on third-and-9 and called it a night. The first-team offense and defense took three snaps apiece, with the defense finishing the preseason without allowing a touchdown despite NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison not even suiting up.  

With Roethlisberger already wearing a baseball cap, rookie running back Isaac Redman may have cemented his spot on the 53-man roster by barreling over Chris Harris, Julius Peppers and others on a 10-yard touchdown run. Coupled with Logan’s 80-yard punt return, Pittsburgh led 14-0 before the barrage of third-stringers entered early in the second quarter. Ryan Mundy returned Matt Moore’s interception 31 yards to give Pittsburgh a 21-7 third-quarter lead.

The Steelers decided not to even put linebacker James Harrison, not listed as being injured, on the field. Receiver Santonio Holmes (back) and running back Willie Parker (hamstring) didn’t dress and linebacker Lawrence Timmons (ankle) didn’t travel.

But with the defense playing well and Roethlisberger coming off a strong game a week earlier against Buffalo, the champs are confident. "Personally I feel great," safety Troy Polamalu said. "The obvious things are especially on special teams. We’re going to make a big change there from last season and I think that will help our offense and defense out."

Schedule and Results

8/13   Arizona                   W 20 – 10

8/22   @ Washington       L 17 – 13

8/29   Buffalo                     W 17 – 0

9/3     @ Carolina             W 21 – 10

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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

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