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What we learned: Ravens take control of sixth seed

  • By Gregg Rosenthal, Dan Hanzus and Marc Sessler
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The Cincinnati Bengals would be wise to watch their backs, because the Ravens are closing in.

Baltimore's 22-20 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thanksgiving night cut Cincy's lead in the AFC North to 1.5 games with plenty of football left to play.

The Ravens (6-6) now sit in the driver's seat for the AFC's sixth playoff seed, but don't count out the defending champs inside the division. Baltimore faces the Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions and New England Patriots over the next three weeks before visiting the Bengals in a regular-season finale that could very well decide who lands at No. 6 -- and who wins the North.

Here's what else we learned Thursday:

Baltimore Ravens 22, Pittsburgh Steelers 20


1. The Ravens came out flinging the ball. Joe Flacco went after Pittsburgh's defense right away with a pair of deep strikes on the opening drive. The first, to Jacoby Jones, fell incomplete. The second, to Torrey Smith, netted a 54-yard gain that led to Baltimore's opening touchdown. Flacco played one of his stronger games of the season, making clutch throws and bringing life to the offense.

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2. Pittsburgh was Pittsburgh, with offensive coordinator Todd Haley initially dialing up a steady diet of runs for Le'Veon Bell before allowing Big Ben to take to the air. We like Bell in the backfield -- he ran with purpose before leaving with a possible concussion -- but this year's Steelers are at their best when Roethlisberger calls his own plays, generating up-tempo havoc for defenses out of the no-huddle. Now it's too late.

3. While Baltimore's defense is heating up, the Steelers can't say the same about Ike Taylor. Pittsburgh's veteran cornerback was fried by Calvin Johnson two weeks ago, deep-cooked by Josh Gordon last Sunday and victimized on Turkey Day by Smith, who burned him on that 54-yarder and caught him off guard on a subsequent 8-yard touchdown catch. Teams are keying on Taylor and it's working.

4. Weirdest moment in a game flooded with oddities? Right here.

Dallas Cowboys 31, Oakland Raiders 24


1. The Cowboys seemed to be onto something using DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar as a tandem out of the backfield, at least until Dunbar suffered a hyperextended knee in the fourth quarter. (Jerry Jones told reporters after the game that the running back could miss a week or two.) The elusive Dunbar was extremely impressive before going down, powering two touchdown drives with 78 yards in the third quarter.

2. Matt McGloin again displayed what Raiders coaches witnessed in practice before pulling the plug on Terrelle Pryor. Against the Texans in Week 10, the former Nittany Lion connected on four strikes of 20-plus yards. He completed seven of those throws against the Cowboys. It wasn't perfect. He went quiet in the second half and tossed a critical pick, but this kid can wing the ball.

3. A flat Cowboys defense made McGloin look like an All-Pro in the first half, but the unit deserves credit for a substantial turnaround in the final two quarters. The game's biggest play came with 10:21 remaining in the fourth quarter, when cornerback Brandon Carr went up in the air and came down with an interception in front of Jacoby Ford. Sweet redemption for Carr, who was picked on in the first half.

Detroit Lions 40, Green Bay Packers 10


1. The yardage differential (435) was the highest in an NFL game this year. Green Bay's offensive line was overwhelmed by Detroit's front four all day and Matt Flynn held the ball too long. Ziggy Ansah has played his best two games of the season the last two weeks.

2. The potential return of Aaron Rodgers doesn't mean the Packers are making the playoffs. Their defense has been an even bigger problem than their quarterback play during the 0-4-1 stretch since Rodgers got hurt. The secondary often looks lost, and the entire defense can't tackle.

3. Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is more willing to run, even on traditional passing downs. It led to 241 yards on the ground between Joique Bell and Reggie Bush. This was one of those games where Detroit's ability to win one-on-one matchups, including guard Larry Warford vs. anyone, just jumps off the screen.

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