Steelers, Bengals fall to inferior opponents

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The Steelers and Bengals totally outplayed their inferior opponents but both lost. In what were supposed to be easy wins against opponents with 2-7 records, both fell short, keeping the AFC North race tight.

The Kansas City Chiefs have struggled all season but were 2-2 in their last four games coming into Sunday’s game against the Steelers. This wasn’t supposed to be a real test, but once again Pittsburgh’s special teams gave up a 97-yard kickoff return by Jamaal Charles for a touchdown that ended up being the difference in the 27-24 overtime defeat.

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FILLING IN—Steeler quarterback Charlie Batch (16) directs the team during overtime against the Kansas City Chiefs, Nov. 22, in Kansas City, Mo. Batch replaced Ben Roethlisberger who was injured on an earlier play.

Even though the special teams were able to hold the Chiefs in check for the rest of the game, the damage had been done. The offense accumulated yardage on the ground and through the air, but penalties and not being able to score in the red zone cost the Steelers the game.

Ben Roethlisberger was 32 of 42 for a whopping 398 yards and three touchdowns and Rashard Mendenhall looked impressive once again with 80 yards on 21 carries. Willie Parker saw more action picking up 24 yards on six carries. Mendenhall also looked impressive as a receiver catching four passes for 35 yards. Hines Ward had a great game catching 10 passes for 128 yards and Santonio Holmes had seven for 86 yards and Heath Miller seven for 95 yards.

Compare these numbers to K.C.’s numbers and it should have been a lopsided victory for the Steelers. Matt Cassel was 15 of 30 for 248 yards and two touchdowns, no interceptions. His primary target was the newly acquired Chris Chambers who had four catches for 119 yards. The Steelers held their running game in check holding Charles to just 58 yards on 17 carries. But the only thing that really matters is the final score. Two costly interceptions killed drives that would have been easy scores; either field goals or touchdowns, which. along with the kickoff return, ended up being the difference in the game.

With the Steelers defeat, all the Cincinnati Bengals had to do was go out and take care of business against the lowly Oakland Raiders, but like the Bengals of old they didn’t get the job done, thus keeping the door open for the Steelers to come back and take the AFC North title.

Much like the Steelers, the Bengals dominated the game but allowed the Raiders to come back from a 17-10 deficit in the final minute for the victory. Brad Gradkowski threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Louis Murphy with 41 seconds left to tie the game, and then Andre Caldwell fumbled the kickoff that led to Sebastian Janikowski’s field goal that won the game. Looking at the numbers it should have been a blowout, but the only thing that matters is the final score.

In other games involving the AFC North, the Cleveland Browns and the Detroit Lions, two 1-8 teams, had the best offensive game of the day with the Lions pulling out a 38-37 victory. The Baltimore Ravens kept it close and exciting but in the end the Indianapolis Colts remained undefeated (10-0) with a 17-15 win.

This week the Bengals face the Browns, and the Steelers play the Ravens in Baltimore. This is a must game for both teams. The Steelers must win to stay close to the Bengals, and the Ravens must win to stay in the race for a playoff birth.

The division leaders are Indianapolis (10-0), New England (7-3), San Diego (7-3) and the Bengals (7-3). This leaves the Steelers (6-4) battling with the Broncos (6-4), and the Jaguars (6-4). The Houston Texans (5-5) were lost to the Tennessee Titans (4-6) Monday night. Teams with outside chances are the Miami Dolphins (5-5) and the Ravens (5-5).

The Bengals are still in the driver’s seat, but they must take care of business against the Browns and the Lions in their next two games to prove that they are not the Bengals of old.

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