Cincinnati Bengals: Defense Leads in Fifth-Straight Win
The Bengals grabbed their fifth-straight win and snapped a five-game losing streak to the Browns in the process Sunday.
While the offense has been hot in Cincinnati, it was the defense that led the way this time in a 23-10 victory.
Quarterback Joe Burrow was 18 of 33 for 239 yards and threw two touchdowns and one interception. Back in action following injury, Joe Mixon ran 14 times for 96 yards. The play that broke the game open was a 45-yard flea-flicker touchdown from Burrow to Trenton Irwin.
"A team win, team ugly win, but we got it done," said Burrow, who beat the Browns for the first time.
"The defense played unbelievable and that really ended up being the deciding factor in the game. And so that's kind of showing the kind of team we're becoming — we're able to win in a lot of different ways. You've seen it over the last couple of weeks on the defensive end and the offensive end and the kicking game. We're just a complete team right now."
The Bengals, who are tied with the Ravens atop the AFC North at 9-4, have road games in Tampa Bay and New England, followed by home games against the Bills and Ravens to close out the schedule.
Cleveland Browns: Deshaun Watson Improves, But Decision-Making Questioned
Deshaun Watson improved in his second game back from suspension, throwing his first touchdown in 707 days and passing for 276 yards.
However, Watson also threw a fourth-quarter interception and had two incompletions on fourth down late in the game when the Browns still had a chance.
"The game is going to continue to speed up," Watson said, via the Associated Press. "Each week is going to get better. Today was another learning lesson. Just need to continue to improve. The progress is always taking one step forward. The biggest ultimate goal is to get the W."
The Browns are 1-for-4 in the red zone with Watson at the helm and 8-of-28 on third down. Head Coach Kevin Stefanski is also taking heat for a fourth-down decision in which he brought in Jacoby Brissett on fourth-and-1 and he overthrew Donovan Peoples-Jones in the end zone.
Brissett is known for his prowess on quarterback sneaks, so the Browns were trying to get an easy completion over the top.
"I think all of that goes with the territory," Stefanski said, via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. "I kind of keep a focus on what I can control and what's going on in our building, those type of things. So I'm always looking for ways to improve, always looking for ways to put our guys in position to succeed that's what I have [done]."
Pittsburgh Steelers: Playoff Hope Lost After Falling to Ravens
The Steelers were clinging to hopes that they could make a late-season playoff run after they scored back-to-back road wins in Indianapolis and Atlanta.
After a 16-14 loss to the Ravens dropped their record to 5-8, those playoff hopes have been dashed.
"They were mirages. The Ravens are legit, and they exposed the Steelers for exactly what they are," wrote Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "A really lousy football team."
The Steelers would have to win out to avoid their first losing season under Head Coach Mike Tomlin.
Also concerning is the health of rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, who left the game with a concussion. He was originally cleared to return to action after his head hit the turf on a Roquan Smith sack. But after one three-and-out series, Pickett didn't return.
According to Cook, that's the second time this season that Pickett has been forced out due to a concussion. It also happened against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers midway through the third quarter. Mitch Tribusky entered the game and lead the Steelers to a 20-18 win, but not this time.
"That 'in the hunt' graphic?" Cook wrote. "The networks can put it away for the Steelers in this lost season."