Sunday was a wild start in the AFC North on opening weekend of the 2018 NFL regular season. While the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals handled their opponents for a mark in the win column respectively, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns went head-to-head in a game the ended in a tie after both teams failed to score during overtime in a rare draw.
Ravens, 47 - Buffalo Bills, 3
Baltimore may have been socked-in with rain, but the Ravens couldn't have hosted a better game for their hometown crowd than what they put together on Sunday. Not only did they handily beat the Bills, but they came out of the game healthy and with renewed confidence.
While the Bills generated just 33 yards of offense and 71 yards of penalties in the first half, Joe Flacco looked great as he commanded the Ravens offense, finding a way to spread passes to his receivers. The Ravens were up 26-0 at the halfway mark.
Flacco was more accurate and mobile, completing 25-of-34 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns. While the run game never got rolling, Flacco remained sharp and focused. Credit Marty Mornhinweg for creating a plan that also inserted rookie Lamar Jackson into the mix - as a rusher, receiver and quarterback - to give the Bills defense a nightmare match-up.
The Ravens defense was brutal on the Bills and quarterback Nathan Peterman. Attempting to establish the run game with LeSean McCoy and the short, quick passes, Buffalo was stuffed by great play from Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, and Brandon Williams. Peterman (5-of-18 for 24 yards passing and two interceptions) was pulled in the third quarter and replaced by Josh Allen (6-of-15 for 74 yards passing). McCoy was held to just 22 yards on seven carries. Kicker Steven Hauschka was successful once in two field goal tries for the only Bills points on the day.
Bengals, 34 - Indianapolis Colts, 23
The Bengals had an early setback when safety Shawn Williams was ejected due to a blow to the helmet of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (the first NFL player penalized for the new rule with disqualification). Cincinnati would earn three additional personal foul penalties (eight total penalties in the game) and struggled until Clayton Fejedelem delivered a nice hit on Colts tight end Jack Doyle, knocking the ball free, recovering the ball and scampering into the end zone for the winning touchdown.
Indianapolis had a 23-10 lead in the third quarter but Andrew Luck's 39-of-53 passes for 319 yards and two touchdowns in his first regular season game since a shoulder injury that required surgery (Jan. 2017) was not enough to get the Colts over the top. That was due, in part, to an opening drive interception, two allowed sacks by the offensive line and a defense that fell apart. Add on three defensive penalties and a rare missed field goal from Adam Vinatieri, and it equaled disaster. Indianapolis gave up 24 points in the final 20 minutes of the game.
Neither offense found great success in the run game. The Colts leaned on rookie rushers Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins in the duo's NFL debut. Hines had five carries for 19 yards; seven catches for 33. Wilkens had 14 touches for 49 yards. The Bengals got Joe Mixon the ball 17 times for 95 rushing yards , but the only added three other rushing attempts on offense and finished the game with 101 rushing yards.
Andy Dalton completed 21-of-28 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns; threw one interception and was brought down by the Colts defense for two sacks.
Steelers, 21 - Browns, 21
In a game many analysts predicted would be won by the Browns, they were nearly proven correct. In a turnover-laden game, the Steelers kept giving the Browns opportunities. Pittsburgh gave up a two-score lead to be forced into overtime. While both offenses were denied during the overtime period, Steelers kicker Chris Boswell missed a winning field goal shot and then the Browns watched their potential game-winning field goal blocked. The result was a draw at 21 points apiece.
Tyrod Taylor did not get a ton of help until the middle of the game, but completed 15-of-40 pass attempts for one touchdown (on a QB option run) and one interception. He was sacked seven times; four times by T.J. Watt (who also blocked the field goal that could have given Cleveland the win).
Steelers running back James Conner ran for 135 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries, earning his first and second NFL scores in a game that may have seen him earn a third if there hadn't been a penalty on the offensive line.
Antonio Brown accounted for a receiving touchdown while Juju Smith-Schuster led the team with 119 yards receiving on five catches.