Welcome to Around the NFL, where Cale Berger of Steelers Now will recap early-week action and take a look ahead at some of the most important matchups from the Pittsburgh Steelers perspective.
AROUND THE NFL THIS WEEKEND
Cleveland Browns 37 Cincinnati Bengals 34
Following their beatdown at the hands of the Steelers last week, the Browns got back on track Sunday with another shootout win over the in-state rival Bengals, sweeping the season series.
After rough 0-5 start that included an interception, Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield rebounded to produce the best game of his career, completing 22 of his final 23 passes for 297 yards and five touchdowns. He set a franchise record in the process by completing 21-consecutive passes. Mayfield’s remarkable day was capped off with a game-winning touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones with eleven seconds remaining.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 25, 2020
Browns defensive end Myles Garrett continued his streak of dominance Sunday, sacking Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow twice and forcing a fumble. Garrett entered Week Seven second in the league with seven sacks and three forced fumbles.
Burrow continues to show exactly why he is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1-overall pick, but his stellar play has repeatedly demonstrated just how far Cincinnati’s roster is from being competitive and the amount of help he needs. With 406 yards, three passing touchdowns and a rushing score Sunday afternoon, Burrow is the first rookie quarterback in NFL history with at least 400 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in a single game.
The Bengals will continue the hunt for their second win when they host the Titans, while the Browns will welcome the Raiders to town.
Washington 25 Dallas Cowboys 3
A former WPIAL standout threw his first NFL passes, but the 2020 season went from bad to worse for the Cowboys on Sunday as they were blown out by Washington, suffering their second-straight loss.
Already without star quarterback Dak Prescott of the remainder of the season, Dallas backup Andy Dalton was knocked out of the game in the third quarter on an illegal hit by linebacker Jon Bostic, who was subsequently ejected. Dalton’s injury thrusted former Pine-Richland and Pitt quarterback Ben DiNucci into his first extended NFL action. DiNucci completed two of three passes for 39 yards, including this 32-yard dime to wide receiver Amari Cooper on his first career throw.
— NFL (@NFL) October 25, 2020
Meanwhile, Washington snapped a five-game losing streak yesterday behind a pair of impressive performances from their dynamic, young duo in running back Antonio Gibson and wide receiver Terr McLaurin. A rookie out of Memphis, Gibson rushed for 128 yards and a touchdown, while McLaurin, the second-year star out of Ohio State, caught seven passes for 90 yards and a score.
DiNucci is expected to make his first career start when Dallas travels to Philadelphia next week. Washington hits their bye week before hosting the Giants on Nov. 8.
San Francisco 49ers 33 New England Patriots 6
While Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo did not play as well as he probably would have liked in his return to Foxborough, San Francisco still thumped the Patriots behind a suffocating performance from their defense.
New England quarterback Cam Newton, who looks lost since returning from the Reserve/COVID-19 list a few weeks ago, was a disaster on Sunday, completing just nine of fifteen passes for 98 yards and three interceptions. Newton was a non-factor on the ground as well, carrying just five times for 19 yards. The 49ers defense recorded four interceptions total, also picking off Jarrett Stidham in relief. Cornerback Jamar Taylor had two of the four.
Garoppolo was better, but just slightly. He completed 80% of his passes for 277 yards, but tossed two interceptions of his own and no touchdowns. The ground game was what truly swung the game in San Francisco’s favor. The Niners rushed for 197 yards and four scores as a team, 112 and three of which came from running back Jeff Wilson Jr. Unfortunately, Wilson’s phenomenal day ended abruptly when he was carted off the field with a leg injury in the third quarter that appeared significant.
San Francisco will aim to win their third-straight when they visit Seattle next Sunday. New England goes back to the drawing board ahead of a key divisional matchup against the 5-2, AFC East-leading Bills.
Kansas City Chiefs 43 Denver Broncos 16
Even though the volcanic Chiefs offense was able to sustain its excellence through blizzard-like conditions Sunday, it was the Kansas City defense and special teams that dominated the Denver Broncos.
The Chiefs sacked quarterback Drew Lock three times and forced four Denver turnovers, including a 50-yard pick six by safety Daniel Sorensen. Safety Tyrann Mathieu picked Lock off a second time, and the Kansas City defense forced running back Melvin Gordon to fumble twice. Not to be out done, Chiefs wideout Byron Pringle returned a kickoff 102 yards to the house at the end of the second quarter, an impressive play put over-the-top by the legendary Kevin Harlan.
PRINGLE TO THE CRIB 🏡
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) October 25, 2020
Kansas City Patrick Mahomes was uncharacteristically quiet, throwing for 200 yards and connecting with wide receiver Tyreek Hill for a single touchdown. Hill is off to a tremendous start to the year, having now scored a touchdown in six of seven games this season Former Steelers and Jets running back Le’Veon Bell was used sparingly in his Chiefs debut, carrying the ball six times for 39 yards. His compatriot in the backfield Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed eight times for 46 yards and a score.
Kansas City will host the winless New York Jets at Arrowhead next week, and just as a friendly reminder, the largest margin of victory in history is Chicago 73-0 over Washington back in the 1940 NFL Championship Game. Denver welcomes the Chargers to Mile High.
REST OF THE SCHEDULE
Philadelphia Eagles 22 New York Giants 21
Detroit Lions 23 Atlanta Falcons 22
Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Tennessee Titans 24
Carolina Panthers 27 New Orleans Saints 24
Buffalo Bills 18 New York Jets 10
Green Bay Packers 35 Houston Texans 20
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 45 Las Vegas Raiders 20
Los Angeles Chargers 39 Jacksonville Jaguars 29
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals, 8:20 p.m., WPXI-TV
Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams, Monday, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
NFL Considering Making Roughing the Passer Reviewable
The NFL is considering making roughing the passer calls subject to replay review, according to NFL.com’s Judy Battista.
Battista reports that owners are expected to vote on the potential rule change at the annual league meetings later this month.
There is no denying that roughing the passer calls have become increasingly questionable over recent years, as the league continues to emphasize the protection of its most valuable assets – the quarterbacks.
Still, the concept does conjure painful memories of 2019, when the league tried reviewing pass interference calls. The experiment proved to be an unmitigated disaster, and was scrapped after a single season.
While the new role could remedy some of the infuriating calls the Pittsburgh Steelers defense has been levied with in recent year, the chance could also open up an unintended can of worms.
Reviewing roughing the passer calls is not the only potential rule change the owner will reportedly consider.
According to Battista, owners will also discuss switching overtime back to sudden death, creating an alternative to the onside kick and voting on a rule reportedly proposed by the Buffalo Bills to delay coaching and general manager interviews until the conference championship round.
NFL Insider John Clayton Predicts Steelers Could Cut Joe Haden, Vince Williams
John Clayton, one of the longest tenured NFL Insiders, offered a prediction on how the Steelers will handle their roster in the coming weeks during his weekly appearance on 93.7 The Fan.
When referring to player cuts around the NFL, Clayton said he expects many notable players to be released by their current teams. Clayton proclaimed “it will be a bloodbath around the league” and that could include a couple key veterans being handed their walking papers by the Steelers.
— Andrew Fillipponi (@ThePoniExpress) March 3, 2021
Joe Haden and Vince Williams could both be forced to find new teams as soon as next week, according to Clayton. Haden has spent the past 4 seasons in Pittsburgh after spending his first 7 years with the Browns. Williams has played his entire 8-year NFL career with the Steelers after being drafted in the 6th round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
J.J. Watt Explains Cardinals Signing on Adam Schefter’s Podcast
Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt joined The Adam Schefter Podcast on to discuss his decision to sign with the NFC West’s Arizona Cardinals.
While he had numerous suitors across the league, Watt says he was drawn to Arizona by the promise of young quarterback Kyler Murray and his familiarity with defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.
“All the signs pointed there,” Watt said. “There’s a ton of exciting young talent here. In this league you need a quarterback to have a chance, and they’ve got a very talented young quarterback, who can continue to take the next step. Defense, I’m very familiar with Vance Joseph, who was with me down in Houston with Wade Philips early in my career.”
Watt believes the Cardinals are a team on the cusp of greatness, and that he is the piece to finally put them over the top.
“I think it’s just a team ready to grow and take that next step,” Watt added. “You look at the last three years, they’ve continued to increase win totals every year and are on that trajectory. And I’m looking to help fast track that trajectory.”
Schefter also asked Watt if it was ever realistic he would join his brothers T.J. and Derek with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The star defensive end demonstrated his elusiveness, avoiding addressing the idea head on.
“There was a lot of thought given to every single scenario,” he said. “So we could really sit down and look through all the options and speak with all the teams and gather all the information we possibly could. And there were definitely a lot of great options, there were a lot of opportunities to play. But at the end of the day, I’m very, very excited to be here in Arizona.”
The Cardinals now boast one of the league’s top pass-rushing tandems, pairing Watt alongside elite edge rusher Chandler Jones, who has 97 career sacks.
Arizona had the fourth-most sacks in football last season before Watt’s arrival with 48.
Watt exits Houston as one of the greatest players in franchise history. He was selected to five Pro Bowls, named First-Team All-Pro on five occasions and earned three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards.
A future Hall of Famer, Watt is the Texans’ all-time leader in sacks (101), tackles-for-loss (172) and forced fumbles (25).
Watt recorded 52 total tackles, 14 tackles-for-loss, five sacks, two forced fumbles and returned an interception for a touchdown last season.