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Around the AFC North: Officiating Controversy Near End of Browns, Steelers Victories

Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) rushes around Indianapolis Colts tackle Blake Freeland (73) during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, in Indianapolis.
Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) rushes around Indianapolis Colts tackle Blake Freeland (73) during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, in Indianapolis.

Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett Having Monster Year*,* Deshaun Watson's Struggles Continue

The Browns (4-2) had several controversial calls that went their way and received another herculean effort from All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett to help them win in Week 7.

Garrett had two sacks – both of which forced fumbles – a blocked field goal and nine tackles during Cleveland's 39-38 victory over the Colts. Garrett is the first player with two sacks and two forced fumbles in the same game since 2000.

The Browns also benefitted from two controversial calls that went in their favor during their game-winning drive. With less than a minute to play, the Colts recovered a strip sack, but cornerback Darrell Baker Jr. was called for illegal contact on the play and the strip sack was negated. Later in the drive, Baker was called for pass interference in the end zone, putting the ball on the 1-yard line. Kareem Hunt scored the game-tying touchdown with 19 seconds to play, and the successful extra point won it for Cleveland.

The Browns were fortunate to win, but Garrett was the game's most dominant player and continued to make a strong case for Defensive Player of the Year. Garrett showed his remarkable athletic ability on the blocked field goal, hurdling over the line of scrimmage to put himself in position to make the play.

The Browns have won three of their last four games, even with starting quarterback Deshaun Watson struggling to stay healthy. After missing two straight games (throwing shoulder), Watson started Sunday but left the game late in the first quarter after completing just 1-of-5 passes and throwing an interception. He was evaluated for a concussion after taking a hard hit and was cleared, but Head Coach Kevin Stefanski stuck with P.J. Walker at quarterback.

"I just did not want to put Watson] back out there," Stefanski said [via Jake Trotter of "I wanted to protect our franchise quarterback. That was my decision."

Stefanski said that Watson is "our starter moving forward," including when the Browns visit Seattle in Week 8 if "he's ready to roll."

Pittsburgh Steelers: Questionable Spot and T.J. Watt Help Secure Another Close Win

All four of the Steelers' victories have come by seven points or less, and they've needed second-half comebacks to win their last two games.

In Week 7, Pittsburgh trailed the Rams at halftime, 9-3, but came alive with three second-half touchdowns to beat the Rams, 24-17. The Steelers sealed the win when quarterback Kenny Pickett was given a favorable spot on a fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak near midfield, with Pittsburgh holding its seven-point lead. The Rams felt strongly that Pickett was stopped short, which would've given them the ball back.

The play occurred just prior to the two-minute warning, and the Rams couldn't challenge the call because they were out of timeouts. The Steelers ran out the clock and moved to 4-2. The catalyst for their comeback was reigning Defensive Player of the Year, edge rusher T. J. Watt, who dropped into coverage and made an interception early in the second half to change the game's momentum.

"Eyes on the quarterback, able to see him kind of work his way back to my side of the field and was able to just jump in front and make a play on the ball," Watt said during his postgame press conference. "We understand as a defense we need to bow up in big-time moments and try to change the tide of the game."

The Steelers will host the Jaguars (5-2) in Week 8.

Cincinnati Bengals: Getting Offense Fixed Was Focus of Bye Week

The Bengals (3-3) had a bye in Week 7 and spent plenty of time self-scouting their offense. They are ranked last in the NFL in total offense, averaging 256.3 yards per game, and must improve to win the division for a third straight year.

"Not where we want to be," Burrow said via Ben Baby of "We've had moments. But we just gotta put it all together."

According to ESPN Analytics, the Bengals have an 18.2% chance of making the postseason and are at 5.4% odds to win the AFC North. Cincinnati also has a challenging schedule, which includes a Week 8 trip to San Francisco and remaining games against the Ravens, Bills, and Chiefs.

However, the Bengals overcame a 0-2 start last year to win the division, and know they have the talent to play better. With 11 games remaining, the Bengals are not panicking.

"We haven't scored enough to really take the pressure off our team," Head Coach Zac Taylor said. "We know we're capable enough to do that.

"We put ourselves in a position to continue to control the things we need to control and we don't have to look around and do the standings check and stuff. It's still too early in the season for that."

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