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Around the NFL: Mayfield Leads Browns to Late Win; DiNucci Fills In for Dallas

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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.

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.

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.

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

NFL Still Considering Bubble for Playoffs

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The situation with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Week 12 game against the Baltimore Ravens nearly reached comical proportions on Monday, with the game being rescheduled for a third time, to be played as the NFL’s first mid-season Wednesday game in modern history, with an obscure 3:40 p.m. kickoff time.

While it appears that the Steelers and Ravens will be able get their game in, either on Wednesday, or at the worst, during an added week at the end of the season.

But what if a team were to suffer a Ravens-like outbreak during the NFL postseason, when even pushing back one game would mess with the entire schedule and create competitive imbalances for teams coming off short weeks, during a time period when that is frowned upon?

That’s led many to suggest that the NFL needs a bubble for the postseason, and the league’s chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills acknowledged that it’s under consideration.

“We’ve said throughout that all options remain on the table,” Sills said in an interview on Today last week. “We’re going to look at whatever the most appropriate decision is, based on the data and the science. We’ve been in regular communication with those other pro sports leagues.

“I’ll just say there are some pros and there are some cons. There is some risk and benefits to each model. And right now, we’re doubling down on our intensive protocols for each team. We made some additional protocol changes this week. We have a lot of confidence in those steps, and we’ll be monitoring the data very carefully over the next few weeks to see what makes the most sense come January.”

The NBA, WNBA, NHL and MLB all utilized bubbles for at least a portion of their 2020 seasons, with the NBA, WNBA and NHL putting all competitions in bubbles and MLB moving to a bubble concept for the postseason after playing its regular season in home stadiums.

As one of the top seeds in the AFC, moving to a bubble would mean the Steelers would lose their home-field advantage for the postseason, but with no fans expected at Heinz Field for the remainder of the 2020 season, that might not make much of a difference.

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NFL

Around the NFL: Mahomes, Chiefs Make Statement at Tampa Bay, Keep Pace with Steelers

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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

Kansas City Chiefs 27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24

In a duel of past and present faces of the NFL, the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes outclassed the Bucs’ Tom Brady through the air, leading Kansas City to their sixth-straight win and keeping pace with the unbeaten Steelers.

Mahomes was exceptional Sunday, as he continues to make the incredible look ordinary. The one-time MVP connected on 37 of 49 attempts for 462 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the first player with at least 30 completions and over 300 yards in four-straight games in league history. Still, Mahomes was not satified with just one record, also joining Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino as the only other quarterback with five career games with over 400 passing yards and three scores.

As he has been all season, speedy wideout Tyreek Hill could not be guarded and was the chief beneficiary against the subpar Buccaneers defense with 13 catches for 269 yards and three touchdowns, all career-highs. “Cheetah” has now scored 14 touchdowns this season, and scored in every game except one. 

While Kansas City may have only won by a field goal in the end, Brady and the Bucs were thoroughly outmatched for most of the afternoon. Brady tossed for 345 yards and three scores, but also threw a pair of costly interceptions. Still, the six-time champ did record his 18th career season with at least 3,000 passing yards, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre for the most in NFL history. Running back Ronald Jones was another bright spot for Tampa Bay, rushing for 66 yards on nine carries and catching a 37-yard touchdown.

Kansas City looks to keep their six-game unbeaten run alive next week against the Broncos on Sunday Night Football. Tampa Bay enters the bye week licking their wounds, and will attempt to avoid a three-game skid when they host Minnesota on Dec. 13.

Buffalo Bills 27 Los Angeles Chargers 17

Bills quarterback Josh Allen added to his dual-threat résumé Sunday, recording his 15th career game with both a passing and rushing scores in their victory over the Chargers. Allen joins Patriots quarterback Cam Newton as the only other player with at least 15 such games in league history, completing 18 of 24 passes with 189 total yards and the two scores. 

Still, Allen was not the only Bill with a touchdown pass on the ledger, as wide receiver Cole Beasley joined the fun on a trick play in the second quarter, finding fellow wideout Gabriel Davis from 20 yards out.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert added to his Rookie of the Year candidacy Sunday, albeit in a losing effort. The No. 6 pick completed 31 of 52 passes for 316 yards and a touchdown with an interception. Herbert now has six 300-yard passing performances this season, which tied former Colt Andrew Luck for the most by a rookie quarterback in NFL history. 

Defensive end Joey Bosa was dominant in the loss, recording a career-high three sacks and six tackles-for-loss. He is just the sixth player over the last 20 years to post six TFLs in a single contest.

Looking ahead to Week 13, Buffalo makes the cross country trek to battle San Francisco on Monday Night Football, while the Chargers face another long flight to New England. 

New York Giants 19 Cincinnati Bengals 17

Even though New York lost quarterback Daniel Jones to a what appears to be a significant hamstring injury, the Giants defense and ground game stepped up in a big way to lead them to their third-consecutive win.

The Giants tormented Cincinnati sans Joe Burrow on Sunday, holding them to just 155 total yards and recording three turnovers (two fumbles, an interception) and a pair of sacks on the afternoon. Offensively, running back Wayne Gallman gave the Giants a spark on the ground, rushing for 94 yards and a score. New York tight end Evan Engram also paced the G-Men through the air with six receptions for 129 yards.

Sunday’s loss to the Giants is likely a harbinger of life without Burrow for the foreseeable future in Cincinnati. The Bengals posted their lowest yardage total in four years with quarterback Brandon Allen making his fourth career start. The former Razorback passed for 115 yards and a touchdown with a pick and a fumble. Also without running back Joe Mixon, his counterpart Giovanni Bernard mustered just 32 rushing yards. Safety Brandon Williams was able to return a kickoff for a touchdown.

After starting the season 0-5, the Giants have quietly won four of their last six. They will look to keep the train rolling at Seattle next weekend. Cincinnati visits Miami, as they try to snap their three-game losing streak.

REST OF THE SCHEDULE

  • Houston Texans 41 Detroit Lions 25
  • Atlanta Falcons 43 Las Vegas Raiders 6
  • Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts, 1:00 p.m., CBS Regional
  • Carolina Panthers at Minnesota Vikings, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional
  • Arizona Cardinals at New England Patriots, 1:00 p.m., WPGH-TV
  • Miami Dolphins at New York Jets, 1:00 p.m., CBS Regional
  • Cleveland Browns at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1:00 p.m., KDKA-TV
  • New Orleans Saints at Denver Broncos, 4:05 p.m., FOX Regional
  • San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams, 4:05 p.m., FOX Regional
  • Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers, 8:20 p.m., WPXI-TV
  • Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
  • Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:00 p.m., WPXI-TV
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NFL

Around the NFL: Mahomes Battles Brady, Washington on a Roll Coming to Pittsburgh

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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. 

THANKSGIVING FEAST

Washington 41 Dallas Cowboys 16

Winners of three of their last five, Washington took hold of first place in the NFC East on Thanksgiving night with their trouncing of the Cowboys in Dallas.

Rookie running back Antonio Gibson was the star for Washington, rushing for 115 yards and three touchdowns. Gibson joined elite company in the process, becoming the first rookie with three scores on Turkey Day since Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss in 1998. Gibson now has 402 yards and eight touchdowns the last five weeks.

Continuing to add to his already impressive Comeback Player of the Year candidacy, quarterback Alex Smith passed for 149 yards and a touchdown with a single interception. Adding to the tremendous story, the victory comes nearly two years to the date of the infection that almost took his life.

Not to be out done, the Washington defense feasted as well Thursday, sacking Dallas quarterback Andy Dalton three times and intercepting him once, a pick-six by defensive end Montez Sweat. Rookie defensive end Chase Young had himself a day, sacking Dalton once and posting a pair of tackles-for-loss. He leads all first-year players with 4.5 sacks this season. Defensive tackle Jonathan Allen also recovered a fumble off running back Ezekiel Elliot, capping off a monster day for the Football Team’s defensive line.

Washington visits Pittsburgh next week seeking their third-straight win, while Dallas is still set to travel to Baltimore on Thursday night, but the game is likely to be postponed due to the on-going COVID-19 outbreak among the Ravens.

AROUND THE NFL THIS WEEKEND

Los Angeles Chargers at Buffalo Bills, 1:00 p.m., CBS Regional

Two of the NFL’s brightest young passer will go head-to-head Sunday when the Chargers visit the Bills.

The front runner for Rookie of the Year, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert has been exceptional in his first season out of Oregon. The No. 6 pick has already passed for 2,699 yards and 22 touchdowns, and became the first rookie in NFL history to post five games with three touchdowns passes last week against the Jets.

Facing a Bills defense that has allowed just 15 touchdowns passes and recorded 27 sacks, the pressure will be on Herbert to preform through the air with running back Kalen Ballage likely with an ankle injury.

Across the field, Buffalo’s Josh Allen has also excelled in 2020 with 2,871 yards and 22 scores, while rushing for another five. Allen has been especially strong at home, where he has score 15 touchdowns and only tossed three picks.

No. 17 should keep rolling Sunday, opposing a Charger defense that has produced the second-fewest takeaways in football, and surrendered 20 passing scores.

With all the makings of a potential shootout, this game could be decided by the offense that scores last, and the defense that musters a single stop.

New York Giants at Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional

Entering their first full game without sidelined rookie phenom Joe Burrow, the Bengals host the Giants in a “Battle of the Basement” that could have major NFL Draft implications come April.

With Burrow done for the season with a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee, Cincinnati now turns to backup passer Ryan Finley, who has thrown two touchdowns and two picks in three-career starts, but only completed 47.1% of his passes in those contests. As running back Joe Mixon remains on injured reserve, Finley will have to return to another reliable weapon in wideout Tyler Boyd. The former Pitt standout is on pace for his third-straight 1,000-yard season, while having already caught 69 passes and three scores. He should find separation easily in a Giants secondary that is 21st in the league.

As for New York, they are seeking their first three-game win streak since 2016, and will require another commendable showing from quarterback Daniel Jones to do so. Though he has been plagued by turnovers his entire career, even committing at least one in nine-consecutive games, he has none the last two weeks.

Opposing a Bengals defense with only ten takeaways and 13 sacks all year, Jones should be able to keep clean and put up another winning performance.

Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4:25 p.m., KDKA-TV

As undefeated Pittsburgh continues to chase the No. 1 seed, Steeler fans will be keeping a constant eye on 9-1 Kansas City over the coming weeks, who have star-studded matchup with Tampa Bay.

It will be old school versus new school Sunday, as the 43-year-old Tom Brady opposes the 25-year-old Patrick Mahomes. While they have split their two previous meetings, the youngster has had the statistical edge, passing for 635 yards and five touchdowns. The one-time MVP has been dominant in 2020, pacing the NFL with 3,035 yards and tossing 27 touchdowns with just two interceptions, which is good enough for the best ratio in the league.

Brady has been good since heading south, but has hit a wall over the last few weeks. Losing two of his last three, the six-time Super Bowl winner has five touchdowns and five interceptions. He had only tossed four picks through the first eight games. Brady faces another stiff test in a Chiefs defense that ranks eighth against the pass.

If you prefer pass catchers to the passers themselves, four of the most productive receivers over the last decade will all be on the Raymond-James Stadium turf Sunday. Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans and Antonio Brown and Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce have combined for 2,275 receptions, 31,471 yards and 218 touchdowns over their careers. At least one is guaranteed to dominate Sunday.

Even with Tampa Bay’s recent struggles, this cross-conference clash pits two of the NFL’s most explosive offenses against each other, providing all the ingredients for an all-timer.

REST OF THE SCHEDULE

  • Houston Texans 41 Detroit Lions 25
  • Las Vegas Raiders at Atlanta Falcons, 1:00 p.m., CBS Regional
  • Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts, 1:00 p.m., CBS Regional
  • Carolina Panthers at Minnesota Vikings, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional
  • Arizona Cardinals at New England Patriots, 1:00 p.m., WPGH-TV
  • Miami Dolphins at New York Jets, 1:00 p.m., CBS Regional
  • Cleveland Browns at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1:00 p.m., KDKA-TV
  • New Orleans Saints at Denver Broncos, 4:05 p.m., FOX Regional
  • San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams, 4:05 p.m., FOX Regional
  • Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers, 8:20 p.m., WPXI-TV
  • Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
  • Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:00 p.m., WPXI-TV
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