Here are seven notes and observations from Week 2 in the AFC North:
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco's mechanics look off. Flacco usually has one of the smoothest throwing motions in the NFL. But his footwork and follow-through were unusually shaky in Sunday's 15-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. It's part of what led to Flacco's career-high four interceptions. With the exception of one touchdown drive in the third quarter, Flacco never looked comfortable in the pocket and often threw off his back foot. That impacts accuracy and velocity, and Flacco, who has a very strong arm, lacked both on many throws. This week, Baltimore's coaching staff should get back to the basics with Flacco and remind the young quarterback of what made him successful.
With Baltimore's offense struggling to score, what's with the disappearing act of Ray Rice? The Pro Bowl running back only has 130 rushing yards in two games. Rice also hasn't been involved much in the passing game, recording just six receptions. Sometimes teams get so enamored with their new weapons on offense that they forget about the dependable mainstays. Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are great additions. But Rice needs more touches for this offense to click and reach its potential.
Credit the Bengals' defense for leaving no big plays on the field. How many games have we seen defenders get their hands on the ball only to drop interception opportunities? The Ravens' secondary did it twice Sunday, but Cincinnati was sure-handed and finished. Linebacker Brandon Johnson, safety Chinedum Ndukwe and cornerbacks Adam Jones and Leon Hall all had interceptions against Baltimore.
This may sound like a broken record, but Cincinnati really needs to clean up its penalties. The Bengals were penalized nine times Sunday, and this has been an issue that dates to last season. The coaching staff probably doesn't mind "effort" penalties such as holding or pass interference. But it's the mental errors like not knowing the snap count that drive coaches crazy. The Bengals also blew a couple timeouts because everyone wasn't on the same page.
Who will be the Pittsburgh Steelers' Week 3 quarterback? Injuries and Ben Roethlisberger's suspension have made this situation very unpredictable. Dennis Dixon's knee injury doesn't look good and Byron Leftwich (knee) will likely be re-signed this week but is still working his way back. Charlie Batch did enough to preserve Sunday's win over the Tennessee Titans. But with the way the Steelers are playing defense, it may not matter who's under center in Week 3 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Pittsburgh's coaching staff is doing a tremendous job of playing to its strengths. The offense didn't score a touchdown against Tennessee, but a tricky kick return jump-started the Steelers and great defense finished the job. On the opening kickoff, Pittsburgh rookie receiver Antonio Brown took a reverse handoff from Mewelde Moore and returned it 89 yards for a touchdown. The Titans didn't see that on any game film. Great coaching by the Steelers.
Speaking of coaches, Cleveland Browns head coach Eric Mangini's job security suffered another blow after Sunday's 16-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Based on new Browns president Mike Holmgren's decision to keep Mangini this year, I don't believe Holmgren has a quick hook. Holmgren should give Mangini a chance to turn things around. But wins will be very hard to come by, with Baltimore, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, New England the New York Jets next on the schedule. The Browns started 1-11 last year under Mangini, and Holmgren probably won't accept a similar record.