Shocking finishes are relatively common in the NFL. Fourth-quarter upsets are frequent enough that one seems to happen every week.
The Ravens and Bengals both endured fourth-quarter upsets this week. For the Bengals, it’s a disturbing development.
For the Ravens, who have blown seven second-half leads since the start of the 2022 NFL season, it’s become routine.
Since these teams face each other Thursday night, their resilience will be on full display. Hooray for us in being able to witness it.
Texans 30, Bengals 27
The probable NFL Rookie of the Year, Texans QB C.J. Stroud demonstrated why in driving his team for a late field goal to win against a game-but-hobbled Cincinnati defense. Stroud relied heavily on RB Devin Singletary (30 carries, 150 yards, 1 TD) and their sizable offensive line against a challenged Bengals defensive line; they effectively converted multiple first downs and gave Stroud a comfortable pocket to work in. The Bengals’ starting secondary collectively racked up 32 tackles; they were victimized by Texans WR Noah Brown (7 catches, 172 yards) and TE Dalton Schultz (4 catches, 71 yards) for substantial gains. CB Cam Taylor-Britt added an interception to his team-leading 9 tackles. The Bengals managed just one combined sack (DE Trey Hendrickson and LB Logan Wilson) for the day.
The Bengals showed a meager rushing attack, totaling 66 yards for the afternoon, 46 by RB Joe Mixon on 11 carries. QB Joe Burrow passed for 347 yards and 2 TDs, but his two fourth-quarter interceptions provided the opening for the Texans to steal the win. WRs Ja’Marr Chase (5 catches, 124 yards, 1 TD) and Tyler Boyd (8 catches, 117 yards) supplied most of the offense for the Bengals, who were missing key WR Tee Higgins and got little production from anyone else.
Packers 19, Steelers 23
The Steelers rediscovered a useful and increasingly-elusive aspect of NFL offenses Sunday; their rushing attack finally made a notable appearance and made the difference in another ugly win. RBs Jaylen Warren and Najee Harris produced 183 of the team’s 205 rushing yards, with each also rushing for a TD. QB Kenny Pickett continued his run of mediocrity with only 126 yards passing, with no TDs or turnovers; it’s not a stretch to credit the defense for the bulk of the win, as has been the case in every win for the Steelers in 2023.
In a 2023 weekly refrain, OLB/Edge T.J. Watt continued his reign of terror with a team-leading 8 tackles and a sack, with several QB hits and hurries. Watt is bolstering his case for a defensive MVP this year, as no player has been more valuable to the Steelers’ efforts than he has been. Safeties Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee each snared a late interception; Kazee’s was in the end zone and sealed the win for the Steelers.
Browns 33, Ravens 31
In the day’s other curious finish, Browns QB Deshaun Watson and his offense took advantage of several Ravens defensive miscues in the second half to steal a much-needed road win against a bitter rival.
Watson’s numbers don’t look particularly impressive (20-34, 213 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) until one considers he threw an interception for a TD on his first passing attempt. Watson was 13-13 in the second half, resurrecting an otherwise-miserable afternoon. The Browns’ rushing attack and RB Jerome Ford (17 carries, 107 yards) gave Watson a somewhat-comfortable pocket to work in, although he took his share of lumps (4 sacks) throughout the game, including two in the decisive fourth quarter. WR Amari Cooper continued his under-the-radar excellent season (6 catches, 98 yards) and fellow WR Elijah Moore provided the Browns’ lone TD catch. TE David Njoku added 6 catches and several key first downs.
The Browns’ defense confused Ravens QB Lamar Jackson into two costly interceptions, including a “pick-6” by CB Greg Newsome II. Outside of a couple of first-half eye-popping bursts from RB Keaton Mitchell, the Browns largely held the Ravens’ vaunted rushing attack in check. Jackson managed a long TD pass to WR Odell Beckham Jr. (1 catch, 40 yards, 1 TD), but was wholly unspectacular otherwise. Jackson was chased out of the pocket most of the day and was hit, according to the statistics, 6 times in the backfield; losing LT Ronnie Stanley to a knee sprain only added to that pressure. DE Myles Garrett, much like Pittsburgh counterpart T.J. Watt, is making a legitimate case for a defensive MVP in 2023, adding 1.5 sacks and multiple QB hits and hurries in the second half. It’s hard to imagine where the Browns would be without him.
The Ravens’ defense was uncharacteristically on their proverbial heels after showing relative dominance in the first half. ILB Roquan Smith totaled a remarkable 21 tackles (14 solo) on a busy day; MLB Patrick Queen added 9 tackles of his own as the Ravens struggled to fully contain the Browns’ resurgent rushing attack. The secondary, other than S Kyle Hamilton’s first quarter “pick-6”, was listless and a step behind the Browns’ receivers most of the day and particularly in the fourth quarter. Note to Ravens officials: S Marcus Williams had no business being on the field in any situation; he simply cannot tackle with his current injury. Needless to say, the Browns exploited this obvious weakness by going to TE Njoku when the opportunities presented themselves.
Next week: Divisional games!
See y’all then.