Scully’s NFL notebook: Burrow stars behind makeshift line

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November 3rd, 2020

Pittsburgh is still the NFL's only undefeated team, and the Steelers have now won back-to-back games on the road against playoff teams (Baltimore and Tennessee). Their next major test will come when Baltimore visits on Thanksgiving, and Pittsburgh will travel to Buffalo for a Sunday-night game Dec. 13.

Here are my top three takeaways from Week 8 of the 2020 NFL season.

Defense, special teams lead Miami in Tagovailoa’s debut

In Tua Tagovailoa’s first start, Miami didn’t need him. The Dolphins crushed the Rams with special teams and defense.

The rookie quarterback made mistakes. Tagovailoa fumbled his second snap, which resulted in a Los Angeles touchdown three plays later, and completed only 12 of his 22 passes for 95 yards. But once the Dolphins jumped all over a discombobulated Jared Goff, who helped give the game away with four turnovers in the first half, Miami went to a very limited offense.

Tagovailoa never got into a flow, because Rams miscues basically determined the course of the game. The game was over before halftime, and Miami drained the clock on every second-half possession.

Those factors made it difficult to evaluate Tagovailoa.

With a 4-3 record, Miami has playoff aspirations. The Dolphins will be forced to rely on Tagovailoa in the coming weeks, and we’ll find out whether he is up to the task.

Burrow stars behind makeshift line

Joe Burrow has been everything Cincinnati hoped for in his first season, but deficiencies on the offensive line and on defense were too much to overcome, as they opened 1-5-1.

With 5-1 Tennessee visiting in Week 8, the Bengals appeared up against it, with three offensive-line starters out (right tackle Bobby Hart, center Trey Hopkins, and left tackle Jonah Williams). They were also without starting defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who was traded to Seattle days earlier, and injured running back Joe Mixon.

Burrow put the Bengals on his back. He came out firing, as Cincinnati opened a 17-7 halftime advantage, and he led a couple of fourth-quarter scoring drives to seal the 31-20 win. The rookie completed 26 of his 37 passes, with two touchdowns and no interceptions, and he brought confidence to every situation.

“We were talking about it all week in practice. We don’t feel like a (one-win) football team,” Burrow said after the win. “One or two plays go our way over the last few weeks, and we’re 6-2 right now or 7-1.”

The future is bright with Burrow.

Big-game woes continue for Jackson

Baltimore had its chances to win against Pittsburgh, but the Ravens couldn’t overcome Lamar Jackson’s four turnovers in a 28-24 setback.

The Ravens dominated the first half but led only 17-7 because of a Jackson interception returned for ta touchdown.

Ben Roethlisberger turned it up in the second half. He orchestrated a pair of long touchdown drives, as Pittsburgh outscored Baltimore 21-7 after the break, and the Steelers made a late stop to dictate the final outcome, after Baltimore drove inside their 10-yard line. Jackson then fumbled on Baltimore’s last offensive play of the game.

Jackson's struggles in big games are becoming a troubling trend for the 2019 MVP. He is 0-3 against Kansas City and threw for a career-low 97 yards in an ugly Week 3 loss. He also struggled in passing situations against Pittsburgh and completed only 13 of his 28 throws, with a pair of interceptions.

Baltimore was able to rely on its running game against Pittsburgh, as Jackson gained 65 yards on the ground and rookie J.K. Dobbins had a breakout performance, with 115 rushing yards on 15 carries, but the Ravens lost All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley to a season-ending ankle injury.

The Ravens will need a balanced attack to make a deep postseason playoff run, and Jackson must play better against good teams.

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