As has come accustomed here at Ravens101, Thursday's are reserved for reflection on the AFC North's performance during the previous week. Despite a woeful loss, the Baltimore Ravens are still tied for the division lead thanks to an 0-4 week by the AFC North.
In a pretty rare occurrence, every team in the AFC North lost during week one and thus all four teams find themselves in a tie for first place, or last place, whichever way you choose to look at it.
We will of course begin with our Ravens as they traveled to Denver to take on Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the NFL's Thursday Opening Night kickoff and it was a trip Baltimore wishes to forget about, especially the second half. Baltimore was playing extremely well in the first half and held a 17-14 lead at halftime courtesy of a Joe Flacco touchdown pass and a Ray Rice rushing score. The defense was playing respectable, but that would all change in the second half.
Denver proceeded to score 35 second half points that included five of Manning's NFL record tying seven touchdown passes and the Ravens secondary had no answer. Flacco and the Ravens would rally for ten points, but could not complete, what would have been a miraculous comeback.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend came courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers as they were hosting the Tennessee Titans in a game that had the Steelers favored by six points at home. Despite the Pittsburgh defense holding the Titans to 16 points, it was the Tennessee defense that was impressive. The Titans held the Steelers to just 195 total yards, including just 32 rushing yards. Tenessee forced two Pittsburgh turnovers including a fumble and an interception and kept the Steelers from ever really getting going offensively. In addition, Pittsburgh lost three players for the season due to injuries including Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey and linebacker Larry Foote.
Another surprise came courtesy of the favorite to actually win the division. according to the so called NFL "experts," in the Cincinnati Bengals. It was not as if the Bengals had a pushover in playing the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, but Cincinnati led by 11 points in the third quarter and looked poised to start the season on the right foot, but a key fumble by Mohamed Sanu in the fourth quarter began the go ahead drive by the Bears that resulted in a 24-21 victory. Andy Dalton threw for 282 yards with two touchdowns, but also had two costly interceptions.
Lastly, the Cleveland Browns, who come to M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, held their own against the Miami Dolphins at home, but ultimately it was not meant to be. Cleveland held a 7-6 lead at halftime, but the Dolphins scored 17 second half points en route to 24-10 victory. Brandon Weeded continued his inconsistent play from a year ago as the second year quarterback threw for 289 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Wide receiver Jordan Cameron may have emerged as Weeden's best option at wide receiver with Josh Gordon injured as he reeled in nine grabs for 108 yards and a touchdown.
It was not the best of weeks for the division as a whole, but every team in the AFC North could look at it as the best week to lose and none of them lost any ground. It will be a fun week in the division as the Ravens will host the Browns and the Bengals will host the Steelers.
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