Baltimore at Cincinnati

Rice, Ravens trip up Bengals to secure bye week; Cincy in playoffs anyway

CBSSports.com wire reports
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CINCINNATI -- Standing in the raucous Ravens locker room, Dennis Pitta slipped the blue AFC North Champions cap onto his head and tugged it tight.

"The hat fits great," the tight end decided.

Not just great, but perfect.

Baltimore finished a perfect run through the division on Sunday night, beating the Cincinnati Bengals 24-16 for its third AFC North title behind Ray Rice's two long touchdown runs.

The Ravens (12-4) ran off the field with helmets raised in celebration, slipped into their championship shirts and caps, then headed home -- the only place they want to be at this time of the year.

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Behind Rice's big day, Baltimore clinched the AFC's No. 2 seed and a first-round bye, followed by a playoff game at home, where they're 8-0 this season.

"This is a great achievement, especially when you consider whatever doubters we had," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "We swept our whole division. Now the world comes to Baltimore."

Despite the loss, the Bengals (9-7) also got into the playoffs, securing the final wild card as the Jets and Broncos also lost. It's Cincinnati's third playoff appearance in the last 21 years.

No hats or shirts for the Bengals, though. They exchanged congratulatory hand slaps with a few fans as they left the field, and that was it for the celebration.

"It's kind of weird," said rookie quarterback Andy Dalton, who was 22 of 44 for 232 yards with no interceptions or touchdowns. "Obviously we didn't get it done today, but we still have a chance."

Cincinnati will play next weekend at Houston, which donned caps and shirts in celebration of the AFC South title after beating the Bengals 20-19 at Paul Brown Stadium on Dec. 11. Dalton is 3-0 at Reliant Stadium, where he played two games in high school and one at TCU.

With Paul Brown Stadium packed with Bengals fans for the first time all season, Rice made the biggest plays on a blustery afternoon that made it tough to throw. He had a career-best 70-yard touchdown run on the fourth play.

Rice also broke a 51-yard touchdown run on a third-and-1 play with 5:41 to go, essentially finishing Cincinnati's chances of yet another big comeback. Rice finished with 191 yards on 24 carries and set a club record with his 15th touchdown of the season.

Baltimore's defense had a big hand in it, too. Linebacker Terrell Suggs hit tight end Jermaine Gresham after a catch, jarring the ball loose. Three plays later, Rice went 51 yards to put the Ravens on the verge of a title.

CBSSports.com Grades
Baltimore
Baltimore Ravens
A-
Baltimore made big plays when needed, thanks to Ray Rice's two long touchdowns runs (70, 51). They didn't need to be much more, though, with QB Joe Flacco not making the mistakes that have traditionally doomed him against the Bengals. In the end, Baltimore didn't turn the ball over in a conservative approach and that was the difference in the game.
Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals
B
The Bengals inability to put together a complete game continues to doom them as they finish the regular season 1-7 against teams with winning records. However, at the end of the day, none of what happened at Paul Brown Stadium mattered as Cincinnati made the playoffs anyway. Regardless of how, for the youngest team in the AFC that opened the year with zero expectations to be playing in the postseason overshadows any disappointment on Sunday.
By Paul Dehner
RapidReports Correspondent

Suggs sacked Dalton, forcing the Bengals to settle for a field goal on their next possession. Cincinnati got the ball back at its 20 with 1:05 to go and no timeouts left. The game ended with Dalton's desperation pass into the end zone.

"This feels good," Suggs said. "You just have to take it in."

During that final, futile drive, the Broncos' score was shown on the videoboard, drawing a loud cheer from the crowd of 63,439. The Bengals sold out their stadium by offering two-for-one ticket deals.

Ravens players raised their arms in triumph as they ran off the field after Dalton's final pass. They made home-field advantage for the playoffs an overriding goal after having to play on the road each of their last three years in the postseason.

It was sweet to get it.

"I'll leave the eloquence up to you guys, but we all felt it in the pit of our stomach," coach John Harbaugh said.

Wind gusts of over 30 mph toyed with long passes and kicks, forcing teams to go conservative. The Ravens got the better of it behind their multifaceted running back.

Rice found a huge hole behind Marshal Yanda's block and outran Cincinnati's secondary only 2 minutes into the game.

Cincinnati's defense got sloppy and helped the Ravens drive for a touchdown and a 17-3 lead at the half. Penalties for holding, illegal contact and a high hit moved the ball to the Cincinnati 9-yard line with 19 seconds left. The Ravens used their final timeout to set up Joe Flacco's touchdown pass to Pitta in the far corner of the end zone.

Flacco went 15 of 19 for 130 yards without an interception.

The Bengals stayed in playoff contention by pulling off comebacks, overcoming double-digit deficits in the second half three times. They put themselves in position for another one when Bernard Scott broke a 25-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter. Mike Nugent's 46-yard field goal cut it to 17-13 early in the fourth quarter, but that was all they managed.

The Bengals reached the playoffs despite losing all seven of their games against playoff contenders this season. They lost five of their last eight games, but got the wild card with the help of the Jets' late-season collapse.

Notes

  • The Ravens also won the division in 2003 and 2006.
  • Rice joined Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk as the only players with 1,000 yards rushing and 700 receiving in more than one season.
  • Suggs has a career-high 14 sacks, one shy of Peter Boulware's club record from 2001.
  • Ricky Williams carried six times for 28 yards and became the 26th player in NFL history to run for 10,000 career.
  • K Billy Cundiff was back after missing one game with a sore left calf. He made a 42-yard field goal into the wind.
  • It's the third time in the last four years that an AFC North team went 6-0 in the division -- Pittsburgh did it in 2008 and Cincinnati in 2009.
  • Bengals K Mike Nugent made three field goals, giving him a team-record 33 for the season.
  • The Bengals haven't won a playoff game since 1990.
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Sun. Jan. 1Final
Baltimore
(12-4)
1070724
307616
RavensBengals
Pass: J. Flacco (15-19, 130) A. Dalton (22-44, 232)
Rush: R. Rice (24-191) C. Benson (13-51)
Rec: D. Pitta (6-62) J. Gresham (5-72)
Scoring Summary
1ST QUARTER
TDRay Rice, 70 Yd run (Billy Cundiff kick is good), 12:58. Drive: 4 plays, 80 yards in 2:02.
FGBilly Cundiff, 42 Yd, 6:45. Drive: 7 plays, 54 yards in 4:26.
FGMike Nugent, 46 Yd, 3:02. Drive: 9 plays, 43 yards in 3:43.
2ND QUARTER
TDDennis Pitta, 9 Yd pass from Joe Flacco (Billy Cundiff kick is good), 0:11. Drive: 11 plays, 80 yards in 4:52.
3RD QUARTER
TDBernard Scott, 25 Yd run (Mike Nugent kick is good), 3:26. Drive: 5 plays, 48 yards in 1:55.
4TH QUARTER
FGMike Nugent, 46 Yd, 12:35. Drive: 10 plays, 32 yards in 3:52.
TDRay Rice, 51 Yd run (Billy Cundiff kick is good), 5:41. Drive: 3 plays, 60 yards in 1:34.
FGMike Nugent, 23 Yd, 2:39. Drive: 9 plays, 75 yards in 3:02.
Players of the Game
Cincinnati

A. Dalton
Att 44
Comp 22
Yds 232
TD 0
Baltimore

R. Rice
Rush 24
Yds 191
Avg 8.0
TD 2
 
Baltimore
PassingCP/ATYDSTDINT
J. Flacco15/1913010
RushingATTYDSTDLG
R. Rice24191270
R. Williams628010
J. Flacco1101
V. Leach1101
ReceivingRECYDSTDLG
D. Pitta662139
T. Smith533013
E. Dickson120020
R. Rice2805
V. Leach1707
Cincinnati
PassingCP/ATYDSTDINT
A. Dalton22/4423200
RushingATTYDSTDLG
C. Benson1351012
B. Scott634125
A. Dalton417013
A. Hawkins1303
ReceivingRECYDSTDLG
J. Gresham572031
J. Simpson554023
A. Hawkins334026
A. Green226018
B. Leonard219016
C. Benson21006
D. Lee2906
B. Scott1808
Complete Player Stats
Other Games
TB 24 Final
ATL 45
PIT 13 Final
CLE 9
DET 41 Final
GB 45
TEN 23 Final
HOU 22
IND 13 Final
JAC 19
NYJ 17 Final
MIA 19
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BUF 21 Final
NE 49
CAR 17 Final
NO 45
DAL 14 Final
NYG 31
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SF 34 Final
STL 27
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ARI 23
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