BALTIMORE: Jackson off to running start while making history for Ravens
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — In the wake of a history-making performance, Lamar Jackson was satisfied only in that he helped the Baltimore Ravens win a second straight game.
Deftly throwing the ball downfield and making calculated runs through the Arizona defense on Sunday, Jackson became the first player in NFL history with at least 250 yards passing yards and 120 rushing yards in a single outing.
Afterward, the second-year quarterback lamented being sacked twice and wished he could have made a few throws differently.
"I could have been better," said Jackson, now 8-1 as a starter in the regular season.
It's hard to imagine Jackson, or the Ravens' offense being any sharper over the first two weeks. Jackson threw five touchdown passes in a 59-10 rout of Miami before piercing the Cardinals for 272 yards passing and 120 on the ground in a 23-17 victory.
There is a profound difference between Jackson as a rookie — when he had one 200-yard passing game — and now.
"He's better at everything," coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "But what I like about Lamar is that he doesn't dwell on the positives too much. He dwells on areas of improvement."
Jackson threw five passes for at least 20 yards, including a perfectly thrown 41-yarder to rookie Marquise Brown on a third-and-11 with 3 minutes left.
"There's no quarterback that's making any better throw than that. Ever," Harbaugh declared.
Jackson also had runs of 19, 19 and 18 yards while averaging 7.5 yards per attempt.
So what's a defense to do when it can't predict whether a quarterback is going to run or throw?
"It's just going to be a real conundrum for them," Harbaugh said. "It's going to be a real challenge for them to figure that out."
WHAT'S NEEDS HELP
The Ravens yielded 349 yards passing to rookie Kyler Murray. That does not bode well for a unit that this Sunday will go up against Kansas Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes, who threw for 443 yards and four scores in Week 2 against Oakland.
"There's some plays where we could have (been) in better position, communicated better," safety Tony Jefferson said. "Those are things that you look back on and get fixed."
Harbaugh said: "We can be way better than we were. We're not real pleased the way we played a couple of those zone coverages in there."
Baltimore's defensive front limited Arizona to 20 yards rushing on 11 carries, an average of a paltry 1.8 yards per carry.
"I know they wanted to run the ball more," Harbaugh said. "It's a credit to our defense to make them one-dimensional."
Arizona's longest run was 7 yards, on a scramble by Murray.
With Brown being targeted 13 times, the other two wide receivers, Willie Snead and Miles Boykin, saw minimal action.
Boykin had three passes thrown in his direction and finished with one catch for 11 yards. Snead was targeted once, catching a 5-yarder.
"They've gotten open," Harbaugh said. "The ball will be coming their way, I promise you."
Safety Brynden Trawick hurt his left arm during a punt return Sunday and is questionable for next Sunday.
"It's an elbow/arm issue," Harbaugh said. "It's not going to be a long-term deal, but whether he can go this week or not will be based on how he can deal with it and how he can operate with it."
16 — That's how many times Jackson carried in reaching a career high in yards rushing. The last two of those carries were kneel-downs at the end of the game, but he far exceeded his three attempts (for 6 yards) at Miami.
Then again, Jackson exceeded 16 carries in four of his seven starts last season.
Jackson's only defeat as a starter during the regular season came at Kansas City, when he was outdone by Mahomes in a 27-24 overtime defeat.
Baltimore is the lone unbeaten team in the AFC North and Kansas City (2-0) stands alone atop the AFC West.
At least the Ravens know what it's like to play the Chiefs on the road.
"Our guys have been in the stadium, they've been in that tiny little locker room before, they've been on that field," Harbaugh said. "We played a good game but we didn't win, and that's motivation, also."
-- By David Ginsburg, AP
CINCINNATI: Home opener brings Bengals back to earth
CINCINNATI — Call it a reality check.
Buoyed by their strong showing in a close, season-opening loss at Seattle, the Bengals looked forward to winning back fans and stamping themselves as a turnaround team at Paul Brown Stadium under new head coach Zac Taylor. It couldn't have gone any worse.
Every part of the team contributed to a 41-17 meltdown against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, the most points they've allowed in a home opener.
So, which is more indicative of where things stand early in Taylor's first season? They're clearly not as good as they looked in Seattle during a 21-20 loss , when Andy Dalton threw for a career high in yards. And they won't likely have another performance as dreadful overall as they did against the 49ers .
"We see how close we are," Taylor said Monday. "We're not there yet."
What really matters, though, is they're 0-2 for the second time in three years with three road games ahead in the next four weeks, starting at Buffalo on Sunday, followed by a Monday night game at Pittsburgh.
Nothing worked against San Francisco, which was the most disturbing part of it all. The defense was repeatedly caught out of position and missed tackles while allowing 572 yards, including 259 rushing. The offense self-destructed and took more hits to an already depleted line. Randy Bullock missed another field goal. Many of the 50,666 fans hit the escalators at the start of the fourth quarter.
Given a chance to make a good first impression, they looked like the old Bengals.
"At the end of the day, we didn't come to play," running back Joe Mixon said.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The offensive line is a mess. The Bengals thought they'd improved their main trouble spot when they drafted left tackle Jonah Williams in the first round. Williams got hurt during workouts and needed shoulder surgery. Cordy Glenn returned to left tackle, but has missed the first two games while recovering from a concussion. Andre Smith moved to left tackle but had a groin injury in the first half Sunday. Rookie left guard Michael Jordan suffered a left knee injury and will be out for at least one game. The line hasn't been able to open holes for running backs in the first two games; Cincinnati is averaging 29.5 yards rushing per game. On Sunday, the Bengals ran 19 times for 25 yards. Given the injuries, it's difficult to see the situation improving significantly in the next few weeks.
Tyler Boyd caught all 10 passes thrown his way for 122 yards, including a 47-yarder that set up Cincinnati's first touchdown. John Ross III had four catches for 112 yards, including a 66-yard touchdown — his second straight game with more than 100 yards receiving. He also dropped a pass.
Start with the coaching staff. The Bengals unveiled new offensive and defensive schemes in Seattle, and they looked good the first time around. The 49ers took note and came up with plans that picked holes in the schemes. The defense was a particular problem, getting disoriented by San Francisco's misdirection plays. A line that dominated in Seattle didn't get much pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo — he wasn't sacked — and got pushed around by the 49ers' run game.
Taylor said Monday there's a chance that Smith could be back at left tackle for the game in Buffalo. Glenn remains in concussion protocol. Jordan's knee injury doesn't appear to be serious.
1.3. — That's how many yards the Bengals averaged per carry against the Niners. Mixon had a run of 9 yards and managed only 8 yards on his other 10 carries. Giovani Bernard had 6 yards on six carries. Dalton scrambled twice for 2 yards.
They need to get the offensive line squared away somehow. In addition to the nonexistent running game, Dalton was sacked four times on Sunday and threw an interception while on the run.
-- By Joe Kay, AP
PITTSBURGH: Post-Roethlisberger life begins for Steelers, Rudolph
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers have been 0-2 before. They've struggled on offense before. They've had issues on defense before. They've been blown out by the Patriots before. They've lost close games at home before.
Yet for the last 15 years, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has served as the steadying force. The voice that cuts through the noise. The one constant as the faces around him changed. The foundation of a team that hasn't endured a losing season since the day he took the job in 2004.
And now he's gone. At least for now. Done in by an elbow injury that cut short his 16th season after just six quarters of work, leaving the Steelers to find a way to move forward without him.
No pressure Mason Rudolph. All you have to do is take over for a guy with two Super Bowl rings and a reputation as one of the NFL's fiercest competitors. An alpha dog among alpha dogs. It's a challenge Rudolph insists he's ready for.
"You've got to react to adversity," Rudolph said Monday shortly after the team placed Roethlisberger on injured reserve "And I'm getting to play football and getting to fulfill a dream and continue this at this level, and I am excited to do that."
Rudolph didn't look overcome by the moment after stepping in for Roethlisberger in the second half on Sunday against Seattle, throwing for 112 yards with two touchdowns and an interception that only materialized after wide receiver Donte Moncrief let a pass go through his hands before smacking off his facemask. The 24-year-old played with energy and confidence. The Steelers lost 28-26 , but may have found a new identity — perhaps temporary, perhaps not — in the process.
"He gets fired up," running back Jaylen Samuels said. "He got something about him when he's doing something good, it gets everybody going. He has something about him."
Good, because Pittsburgh could certainly use a spark. A week after getting torched by the Patriots, the Steelers returned home to lose both their captain and the game. The defense let Russell Wilson do what he wanted over the final three quarters, and while Rudolph looked solid, the running game sputtered outside of a 23-yard first-quarter burst by rookie Benny Snell Jr.
"Everyone has to just play for each other, all as one," wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said. "Yes (Roethlisberger) is a huge factor in our offense, in our game plan. He makes our offense go. So there's no doubt about that. But that being said, having (Rudolph) back there, it's not going to change. We're just going to play like the way we play and go hard every day."
Tight end Vance McDonald was an afterthought in Week 1. He responded by getting the first two-touchdown game of his career , scoring on a pair of fourth-quarter tosses from Rudolph. It was a promising sign for a passing game that is still looking for a volunteer to take some of the focus off Smith-Schuster.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
When guard Ramon Foster walked past defensive end Cam Heyward's locker late Sunday afternoon, Heyward told his longtime teammate Pittsburgh's problem isn't the offense but the defense. Heyward isn't exactly wrong. Though the Steelers did sack Wilson four times and create two turnovers that resulted in touchdowns, it also couldn't get off the field in the final minutes. Seattle drained the final 5:34 off the clock to preserve a two-point lead.
"They converted a fourth-and-1, which is unacceptable as a defense," said Heyward, who called his play "disappointing."
Rudolph. The Steelers had a first-round grade on Rudolph following his record-setting career at Oklahoma State, the main reason they took him with the 76th overall pick in 2018 even with Roethlisberger adamant he was going to play well into his late-30s. Rudolph has the arm strength to make the big-time throws and the legs to make something happen on the move.
Moncrief. After a forgettable debut in New England in which he only caught three of the 10 passes Roethlisberger threw his way, Moncrief was even worse against Seattle. He didn't see the field after setting up Seattle's interception and could be sliding down the depth chart.
Linebacker Anthony Chickillo's right leg remained in a walking boot on Monday as he deals with plantar fasciitis. Running back James Conner (knee) and safety Sean Davis (shoulder) appear to be shorter-term concerns.
1999 — The last time the Steelers won a road game against San Francisco. Pittsburgh heads west to face the unbeaten 49ers (2-0) on Sunday.
Making sure Rudolph, a self-professed "football nerd," is up to speed before his first NFL start, and trying to figure out things in the secondary after Wilson completed 29 of 35 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns.
-- By Will Graves, AP