The AFC North’s top two teams had the weekend off. Given the nail-biting, wholly-entertaining games that happened around the NFL, perhaps they should do so more often.
Here’s what happened in our beloved division’s less-exciting installments. Enjoy.
Browns 17, Dolphins 39
The Browns managed to disappoint themselves and their fans in returning from their bye week with a complete dud, allowing the Dolphins to run and pass freely all day, with little resistance from their overmatched, ill-prepared defense. Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa continued his improbable MVP campaign by throwing three TD passes to three different receivers while the ground game totaled 195 yards, including 117 from emerging RB Jeff Wilson Jr. “Anemic” may be too kind in describing the Browns’ efforts to slow any of this, as the defense’s biggest star, DE Myles Garrett, registered just two tackles and no sacks.
The offense suffered from similar woes, as head coach Kevin Stefanski continued his puzzling trend of not using RB Nick Chubb when the opportunity calls for it, as it did against a middling Dolphins rush defense. Chubb logged 11 carries for 57 yards and a TD, but had no touches after his early fourth-quarter score. QB Jacoby Brissett was reasonably efficient with a TD pass and no turnovers, but was under duress much of the afternoon due to several miscues and poor play along the offensive line. WR Donovan Peoples-Jones had a solid day with five catches for 99 yards.
Saints 10, Steelers 20
The Steelers welcomed back the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, OLB T.J. Watt, to a suspect team that sorely needs him. While Watt didn’t record much in the way of statistics, his presence dictated the Saints’ accounting for him with extra blockers and attention, and he still managed to harass Saints QB Andy Dalton into a subpar effort (17-27, 174 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT), also benefitting fellow OLB Alex Highsmith (2 sacks). The secondary, missing standout S Minkah Fitzpatrick (appendicitis), played well in his absence, particularly CB Levi Wallace (5 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PD).
Conversely, the Steelers were…okay…on offense. Rookie QB Kenny Pickett absorbed six sacks and numerous other QB hits and managed to not turn the ball over, yet not put it in the end zone either. The ground attack carried the game for the Steelers, whose maneuver to lessen starting RB Najee Harris’ touches still resulted in 20 carries for him, albeit to a 5.0 YPC average; the team collected 217 total rushing yards – easily their season high.
Have a great week!