Steel City Underground's AFC North Report wraps up the result of each game played by rivals in the division and how the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, and Cleveland Browns fared against their opponents each week during the NFL regular season.
Week 1 was unkind to every team in the AFC North except the Ravens. To put things into perspective, however, the Ravens faced a decimated and dismantled Miami Dolphins team that may not earn one win this season. That isn't to take anything away from Baltimore, though. The Browns played a much tougher Tennessee Titans team that many believed would show up. The Bengals went toe-to-toe with the Seattle Seahawks. The Steelers were on the road to face the 2018 NFL Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. Three of the four games weren't close. The Bengals played well enough to fall by just one point.
Ravens (59) - Dolphins (10)
Quarterback Lamar Jackson had a phenomenal game on Sunday. He ran the Ravens offense effectively, finishing the game with 17 completions in 20 attempts through the air for 324 yards and five touchdowns before Robert Griffen III came in to wrap things up (6/6, 55 yards, one touchdown). Jackson added six yards on the ground in three carries, showing that he can be more than just a one-trick pony and has the ability to be a passer, not just a quarterback with legs.
Just hours after the loss, reports came out that players on the Miami roster were contacting their agents to attempt to engineer trades that would get them onto another NFL roster. Per Pro Football Talk, the Dolphins organization did not confirm the reports and said that they had not heard from agents or players on the matter.
Bengals (20) - Seahawks (21)
The Bengals had a promising start in their road game in Seattle. Joe Mixon, who was a player the Seahawks were honing in on, was held to just ten yards on six carries before he suffered a right ankle injury that forced him from the game. Not thought to be serious, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, Mixon will be a player to watch in practice reports this week. In his absence, Giovani Bernard took over the bulk of the rushing duties and gained just 21 yards on seven carries but gave the Bengals offense a boost when he took two screen passes for a total of 42 yards and helped as an extra blocker for Andy Dalton.
Dalton, forced into gunslinger mode due to a very stingy Seattle run defense, completed 35-of-51 attempts for 418 yards and two touchdowns. In the third quarter, Dalton had a bad fumble that the Seahawks were unable to turn into points.
Thanks to play from Sam Hubbard and Carlos Dunlap, the Bengals did not let Seattle's offense intimidate them. The duo recorded ten solo tackles, four tackles for loss and three sacks, giving Russell Wilson problems all game. Preston Brown forced a fumble to open the second half of the game and showed the type of improvement in run defense and finishing plays that Cincinnati has been wanting.
Dre Kirkpatrick had a personal foul penalty that allowed the Seahawks to grab their second touchdown of the game and a missed tackle that gave Seattle another touchdown just four plays later. With Kirkpatrick not playing up to expectation, it didn't help that Jessie Bates III got blown out in poor coverage on a 44-yard touchdown from Wilson to Tyler Lockett. The mistake led to Seattle grabbing the momentum and the one-point win.
Browns (13) - Titans (43)
With all the hype surrounding how well Cleveland was going to do in 2019, with talk going so far as to predict them as the next Super Bowl champs, things went horribly wrong on Sunday. Quarterback Baker Mayfield had a rough outing, completing just 25-of-38 passes for 285 yards and a lone touchdown to three interceptions.
Behind an offensive line that was a sieve, Mayfield was harried by the Titans defense who also sacked him five times. One of Mayfield's interception resulted in a pick-six by Malcolm Butler late in the game. Although the second-year signal-caller was forced to have x-rays after he was sacked for a safety in the first half of the game by Cameron Wake, Mayfield told reporters after the game that he'd "be all right" and that the x-rays were negative for a serious injury.
With the Titans defense holding Mayfield in check, Odell Beckham Jr. was limited to just seven receptions in the game and David Njoku made the lone receiving touchdown. The passing game wasn't helped out by the lack of offensive production in the run game as four separate rushers earned just over 100 yards (Nick Chubb, D'Ernest Johnson, Jarvis Landry, and Dontrell Hilliard). Hilliard scored the lone rushing touchdown for the Browns.
Myles Garrett had a nice game with two sacks, but the story of the game may have been the penalties and break down of discipline. As a team, Cleveland was penalized 18 times for a loss of 182 yards. It was only five penalties short of the NFL record set by the Oakland Raiders in a single game (2016). Left tackle Greg Robinson was ejected after he kicked Titans safety Kenny Vacarro in the head at the end of a play and that created havoc in general. With Robinson's replacement, Kendall Lamm, suffering a game-ending knee injury (the play that resulted in a sack of Mayfield for a safety), the Browns had to move Chris Hubbard and Justin McCray out of their normal positions to create bookends. Tennessee took advantage.