The Steelers’ seven-point win had a little bit of everything that you’ve come to expect from this rivalry.
You want a potentially dirty hit from Vontaze Burfict? Check.
You want a game that goes down to the wire? Check. Four of the past five games in this series have now been decided by one score.
You want to watch the Bengals have their heart ripped out by a Steelers team that seems to have perfected ripping out hearts in Cincinnati? Check.
For the third year in a row, the Steelers went into Paul Brown Stadium and walked out with a win even though they were trailing in the fourth quarter. In 2016, the Steelers scored nine points in the fourth quarter to pull out a 24-20 win. Last year, the Steelers scored 10 points over the final four minutes of the game and beat the Bengals 23-20.
This time around, the Bengals’ collapse was more dramatic.
After holding Ben Roethlisbeger and Antonio Brown in check for most of the day, the Bengals’ defense disappeared for most of the fourth quarter, including Pittsburgh’s game-winning drive. With the Steelers trailing 21-20, Big Ben and the Steelers offense took over possession on their own 23-yard line with just 1:18 left to play. It was the perfect time for the Bengals to prove that they’re a legitimate threat in the AFC, and it was the perfect time for the Bengals to take command of the AFC North with a much-needed win over a Steelers team that had beaten them in eight of their past nine meetings heading into Sunday, but that’s not what happened.
Instead, fans in Cincinnati could only watch helplessly as Roethlisberger led another game-winning drive by taking the Steelers 77 yards down the field. Roethlisbeger came up big on two plays. First, he found JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 23-yard gain that put the Steelers in a position to hit a potential game-winning field goal. One play later, Roethlisberger went for the jugular with a 31-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Brown.
Going into the fourth quarter, Brown had caught just three passes for 26 yards, but the Bengals had no answer for the Steelers’ star in the game’s final quarter, as he came up with two huge catches for 79 yards. Roethlisberger also did a lot of damage in the fourth quarter, throwing for 148 of his 369 yards over the final nine-and-a-half minutes of the game.
After chasing the Steelers’ receivers around for three quarters, the Bengals defense basically looked tired in the fourth quarter. The Steelers beating the Bengals in dramatic fashion happens so often that Brown was expecting to win after Cincinnati took a one-point lead on a late touchdown pass by Andy Dalton.
“We’ve been in that situation a lot, and I knew we were going to do it,” Brown said.
The Bengals’ fourth-quarter meltdown overshadowed another impressive late drive by Dalton. Two weeks after throwing a touchdown pass with seven seconds left to beat the Falcons, Dalton engineered a 75-yard drive that led to a Joe Mixon touchdown run with just 1:18 left. Of course, in the end that touchdown meant nothing, kind of like the Bengals’ 4-1 start will end up meaning nothing if they can’t win big games.
The Bengals had a chance to get a Steelers-sized monkey off their back on Sunday, but they couldn’t do it, and things aren’t going to get any easier next week when they travel to Kansas City for a Sunday night game. The Bengals are 0-6 over the past 10 years on Sunday Night Football.
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Pittsburgh 28-21 over Cincinnati
Le’Veon Bell might be coming back this week, but the Steelers might not need him with the way James Conner is playing. Conner ran through the Bengals defense for 111 yards and two touchdowns on just 19 carries, and here’s why what’s impressive.
The Steelers also got a big-time performance from a defense that continues to suffocate their opponents’ run game. The Steelers surrendered just 62 yards on the ground in Cincinnati, marking the third time this year that the Steelers have given up less than 65 yards.
The Bengals defense might actually be the team’s biggest problem right now. After giving up 481 yards to the Steelers on Sunday, the Bengals have now surrendered more than 480 yards in two of their past three weeks. The 2014 season and the 2018 season are the only times over the past 20 years that the Bengals have given up more than 480 yards multiple times in a season. The Bengals also didn’t record a sack for the first time this season. Cincy is now 0-3 since the beginning of 2017 when they don’t sack the opposing quarterback a single time. Speaking of sacks, the Bengals’ O-line had some trouble protecting Andy Dalton, who was sacked three times.
Minnesota 27-17 over Arizona
If we were handing out grades for a team’s ability to convert on third down, then the Cardinals would have gotten an “F” in this game. In one of the ugliest showings from any NFL team this season, the Cards went 0 for 10 on third down conversions. Not helping things was the fact that Arizona still can’t get David Johnson going. The running back, who signed a huge extension during the offseason, was held to just 55 yards and still hasn’t even hit the 75-yard mark in any game this season.
Kirk Cousins wasn’t perfect (he threw an interception and lost a fumble that was returned for an Arizona touchdown), but none of that mattered because Latavius Murray went off. With Dalvin Cook inactive due to an injury, Murray exploded for 155 yards and a touchdown on just 24 carries. The Vikings totaled 195 yards on the ground, which marked the first time since December 2015 that they’ve gone over the 190 mark. Although Murray had a big game, he almost got overshadowed by Adam Thielen, who caught 11 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown in the win.
Washington 23-17 over Carolina
D.J. Moore almost single-handedly put the Panthers in a big hole early in the game. In the first quarter, Moore lost a fumble on a punt return that the Redskins recovered on Carolina’s 22-yard line. In the second quarter, Moore lost another fumble after catching a pass from Cam Newton. Those two turnovers led to 10 points for Washington and turned the game into a nightmare for Moore.
After getting benched in Week 5, Josh Norman returned with a vengeance this week to get revenge on his old team. The Redskins forced three turnovers against Carolina, and two of those came courtesy of Norman, who picked off a Cam Newton pass in the second quarter and then followed that up by forcing a fumble on the Panthers’ next offensive possession. The Redskins also continued to reap the benefits of signing Adrian Peterson. The unstoppable 33-year-old averaged an impressive 5.7 yards per carry against the Panthers (17 carries, 97 yards).
Miami 31-28 over Chicago (OT)
For the first month of the season, the bloodthirsty Bears defense was eating opposing quarterbacks alive, but then they ran into a buzzsaw named Brock Osweiler. The Bears had no answer for Osweiler and a Dolphins offense that totaled 541 yards, marking just the third time over the past 35 years that the Bears have surrendered 540 or more yards in a game.
Being forced to play your backup quarterback against the Bears defense is usually a recipe for disaster, but not when that quarterback is Brock Osweiler. With Ryan Tannehill out, Osweiler shredded the Bears defense for 380 yards and three touchdowns, which was especially impressive considering Chicago went into the game with a defense ranked second overall in the NFL. Osweiler probably wishes he could play the Bears every week. The Dolphins quarterback is now 3-0 against the Bears in his career and just 11-12 against all other teams in the NFL. Also, Osweiler didn’t win this game by himself; he also got some serious help from the ageless wonder Frank Gore (15 carries, 101 yards) and the speedy Albert Wilson, who caught six passes for a career-high 155 yards and two touchdowns.
N.Y. Jets 42-34 over Indianapolis
Andrew Luck threw a pick-six on the second play of the game, which was almost fitting, because the Colts basically spent the entire day giving the Jets free points. The Colts turned the ball over four times against New York, which directly led to 20 points for the Jets. Although the pick-six wasn’t Luck’s fault (it went off the hands of Marlon Mack), the Colts quarterback did throw two other interceptions. Of course, Luck was the only reason the Colts were still in this game. The Colts quarterback threw four touchdown passes and kept Indy in the game, despite missing two of his favorite targets (T.Y. Hilton, Jack Doyle).
If the Jets could score touchdowns in the red zone, they might have put up 60 points against the Colts. The Jets got inside Indy’s 20-yard line a total of six times in this game but only came away with one touchdown. Of course, even 42 points is impressive if you’re the Jets. Combined with their 48-point performance in Week 1, the Jets have now scored 40 or more points multiple times in a season for the first time since 2008.
Seattle 27-3 over Oakland
The Seahawks might request to play all their games in London after what they did to the Raiders on Sunday. In their first trip to England, the Seahawks played arguably their best game of the year in a total of thrashing of Oakland. Defensively, they smothered Derek Carr, sacking him six times and forcing two lost fumbles on the Raiders quarterback (Frank Clark had 2.5 of those sacks and one of those forced fumbles). Offensively, we found out what happens when Russell Wilson has plenty of time to throw: He throws touchdowns to everyone. For the second week in a row, Wilson threw threw three touchdown passes, and they went to three difference receivers (Jaron Brown, David Moore, Tyler Lockett).
If we learned one thing from this game, it’s that West Coast teams probably shouldn’t fly to London two days before the game and only give themselves 48 hours to adjust to an eight-hour time difference. The Raiders looked tired and sloppy in this game, and although that’s basically how they’ve looked all season, this was worse. They couldn’t protect Derek Carr (sacked six times), they couldn’t run the ball and even their punter had a horrible day (averaging 31 yards per punt on three punts).
Houston 20-13 over Buffalo
After what happened in Houston, there’s a good chance Bills fans are never going to want to see Nathan Peterman on the field ever again. With the game tied at 13, the Bills quarterback threw an interception on two consecutive possessions, including a pick-six that provided the game-winning points for the Texans. The Bills better hope Josh Allen‘s injury isn’t serious because they won’t be going very far this season with Peterman under center. Peterman’s performance overshadowed a big day from a Bills defense that sacked Deshaun Watson seven times.
The Texans had an ugly day of offense (three turnovers, Deshaun Watson got sacked seven times), but that didn’t matter, because the team’s defense and special teams came through big time. The two units set up 17 of Houston’s points with some impressive play. In the first half, the Texans blocked a punt (that led to a field goal) and recovered a muffed ball from a Bills return (that led to a touchdown). The Texans also got a game-winning pick-six from Jonathan Joseph in the fourth quarter. After starting 0-3, the Texans are now looking like of the scariest teams in the AFC South.
L.A. Chargers 38-14 over Cleveland
The Chargers’ win over the Browns turned into the Melvin Gordon show with a guest appearance from Tyrell Williams. Gordon rushed for 132 yards and scored a career-high three touchdowns as the Chargers steamrolled the Browns for 246 total rushing yards. The rushing total was the Chargers’ highest since 2008. As for Williams, although he only caught three passes, he made the most of them with 118 yards and two touchdowns, including a wild catch that he made while being triple-covered.
After a magical five-week run, the Browns’ season finally came crashing back down to earth on Sunday. Baker Mayfield finally looked like a rookie (two interceptions), although in his defense, he got no help from his offensive line (he was sacked five times) and little help from a receiving corps that dropped multiple passes. The Browns also got trampled by a Chargers ground attack that totaled 246 yards. In the Super Bowl era, the Browns are now 0-25 when surrendering 240 or more rushing yards in a game.
Atlanta 34-29 over Tampa Bay
In his first start of the season, Jameis Winston came out firing with 395 passing yards and four touchdowns. There also seemed to be some rust to shake off as Winston threw two interceptions, including a drive-killing tipped pass that came in the end zone. Of course, the only thing most Bucs fans are going to remember from this game is the fact that Tampa decided to call a quarterback draw with no timeouts on the final play of the game.
It’s a good thing Matt Ryan has been on fire lately, because every game the Falcons play in seems to turn into a shootout, and Sunday’s game against Tampa was no exception. Ryan threw for 354 yards and three touchdowns, marking the third time in four weeks that Ryan has thrown for at least 350 yards and three touchdowns. Of course, the Falcons have needed every single one of those yards and that’s because their defense has been horrible. Against the Bucs, the Falcons surrendered 512 yards of offense, marking the second time this season that Atlanta has given up more than 500 yards in a home game. If you’re wondering how bad that is, the Falcons haven’t given up 500 or more yards in multiple home games in the same season since 1966, which happened to be their expansion season.
L.A. Rams 23-20 over Denver
With snowflakes falling in Denver, the Rams decided to put their passing game on ice and just feed the ball to Todd Gurley as often as possible. That strategy resulted in two touchdowns and a career-high 208 rushing yards for Gurley on 28 carries. Overall, the Rams totaled 270 yards on the ground, which was the team’s highest rushing total since 2001.
It you want to beat the Broncos, it seems that all you have to do is run the ball on them. One week after giving up 219 yards to Isaiah Crowell, the Broncos responded by surrendering 208 yards to Todd Gurley. To that in perspective, only two running backs have hit the 200-yard mark in the NFL since the beginning of the 2017 season, and Gurley and Crowell represent both of those performances. Broncos rookie Bradley Chubb did shine with three of Denver’s five sacks on Jared Goff; of course, that didn’t really matter since no one on the Broncos’ defense could tackle Gurley.
Baltimore 21-0 over Tennessee
This game might end up going down as the best defensive performance by any NFL team this season. Not only did the Ravens set a franchise record by racking up 11 sacks — which was one off the NFL record — but they also held the Titans to just 106 total yards, which was the second-best defensive showing ever for the Ravens. The sack party was led by Za’Darius Smith, who got to Marcus Mariota a total of three times. Patrick Onuaswor also picked up multiple sacks with two. The other six sacks were shared by six different players.
Here’s how bad this game was for the Titans: Tennessee gave up more sacks (11) than Marcus Mariota had completions (10). The Titans offense got spit up and chewed out by a Ravens defense that limited Tennessee to just 106 total yards, the team’s lowest since 2006. This game also marked the first time since 2010 that the Titans have been shut out.
Dallas 40-7 over Jacksonville
If you can run the ball on the Jaguars, there’s a good chance you’re going to beat them. The Jags surrendered a total of 206 yards on the ground in this game, marking just the 18th time since 2000 that the Jags have given up more than 200 rushing yards in a game, and we’re only noting that because the Jags are now 0-18 in those games.
If any team knows how to break out of an offensive drought, it’s the Cowboys. With the NFL’s best defense in town, the Cowboys exploded for their best offensive showing in nearly two years. The Jaguars had no answers for Dak Prescott, who did some serious damage with his legs and his right arm. Not only did he throw for 183 yards and two touchdowns, but he also carried the ball 11 times for 82 yards and a touchdown. The Jaguars defense looked lost trying to stop both Ezekiel Elliott (24 carries, 106 yards, one touchdown) and Cole Beasley (nine catches, 101 yards, two touchdowns). The 40-point outburst marked the first time since December 2016 that the Cowboys have hit the 40-point mark at home.