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AFC North: Does Big Ben Have a New Deep Threat?

August 29th, 2011 at 8:49 AM
By Chuck Chapman

While the Cincinnati Bengals were dismantling the Carolina Panthers, the rest of the AFC North was also tuning up for the regular season. In "dress rehearsal" game three of the preseason, the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers brought home victories while the Cleveland Browns returned to earth.

The Ravens played their annual preseason rivalry game with the Washington Redskins this weekend, winning a shootout 34-31. The Ravens trailed at the half, however, 21-14, thanks in part to a DeAngelo Hall return of a Joe Flacco interception on the Ravens' first series. After that, Flacco settled in, completing 17 or 27 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns. Flacco was sacked three times in the first half, accentuating Baltimore's concern over their offensive line and pass protection. They are considering moving Michael Oher to right tackle in response. Ray Rice carried 13 times for 72 yards and a touchdown, and Flacco's new deep threat, Lee Evans, caught a touchdown among his three catches for 60 yards. 

In Pittsburgh, it was an aerial assault from both the Steelers and Atlanta Falcons in the first half. The Falcons' Matt Ryan aired it out 42 times in the first half, completing 22 for 220 yards, a touchdown and an interception. For his part, Ben Roethlisberger matched Ryan's production if not his workload. Big Ben threw only 16 times, completing 11 passes for 214 yards and two TDs. Roethlisberger may have found a new weapon in Antonio Brown, a sixth round pick out of Central Michigan. Brown caught four balls for 137 yards and both of Big Ben's touchdowns. The Steelers still have to be concerned about their line. Center Maurkice Pouncey left with an injury and the line allowed Roethlisberger to go down two more times. The running game was ineffective as well as Rashard Mendenhall managed just eight yards on seven carries. And although Atlanta threw the ball all over Heinz Field, they still managed to rush for over 100 yards, making them the second of three preseason opponents to do so against the Steelers vaunted run defense.

The Cleveland Browns, everyone's preseason Cinderella darlings, hit the ground with a thud thanks to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles jumped out to a 17-0 first half advantage on the way to a 24-14 victory. Colt McCoy was a pedestrian nine of 18 passing for just 89 yards. He was picked once by the Eagles and they sacked him three times in the first half. The Browns also surrendered 147 yards to the Eagles on the ground, allowing them to control the clock.

Tags: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Football, NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers

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