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Bengals send Ravens home early
Cincinnati, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - A new Super Bowl champion will be crowned this season.
Andy Dalton ran for the go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter, and the Cincinnati Bengals closed out the regular season by defeating the Baltimore Ravens 34-17 at Paul Brown Stadium.
The loss, coupled with Pittsburgh's win over Cleveland, eliminated the defending champion Ravens from playoff contention.
Dalton had an uneven performance with two touchdown passes and four interceptions that Baltimore could only turn into a trio of Justin Tucker field goals.
Dalton was 21-of-36 for 281 yards as the Bengals (11-5) posted an unblemished 8-0 record at home for the second time in franchise history. The AFC North champs are the No. 3 seed and will host San Diego in the Wild-Card round on Sunday, Jan. 5 at 1:05 p.m. ET.
Cincinnati scored the final 17 points after squandering a 17-6 halftime lead.
Baltimore's Joe Flacco threw three interceptions, the last of which Dre Kirkpatrick returned 21 yards for the game-sealing touchdown with 4:07 remaining.
Flacco was 30-of-50 for 192 yards and one touchdown for Baltimore (8-8), which will miss the playoffs for the first time in six years under head coach John Harbaugh.
Harbaugh took the blame for the team not reaching the postseason.
"The fact that we weren't good enough this year (to make the playoffs), that's something that we've got to address and that start's with me," he said. "I'm responsible for how good the team is and I'll take responsibility for that 100 percent."
The Ravens' offense was stagnant for much of the first half. Baltimore failed to get a first down on four of its first five drives and Flacco absorbed a handful of hard hits.
Not much was different at the start of the third quarter. The Ravens opened the second half with another three-and-out, but capitalized on a third Dalton giveaway and a shanked punt to erase an 11-point deficit.
Tucker drilled a 34-yard field goal, then Baltimore got the ball back at the Cincinnati 40 after Shawn Powell's 10-yard punt. Flacco hit Marlon Brown in the back of the end zone for an 8-yard TD, and the game was tied following a successful two-point conversion. Ray Rice scored on a stretch run to the left pylon.
Cincinnati responded by producing 10 points in a 70-second span.
The Bengals were driving to begin the fourth quarter and Dalton capped the 12- play, 90-yard march with a short run to make it 24-17.
Chris Crocker then picked off Flacco on the first play of the ensuing drive and the turnover led to a 38-yard Mike Nugent field goal with 12:19 remaining.
"We overcame the turnovers early and did a great job again in the red zone on defense, holding them to field goals early in the game," said Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis. "We got the lead back and then kind of went to work on offense."
The Ravens couldn't have asked for a better start. They picked Dalton off on the Bengals' first two possessions, but the Cincinnati quarterback rebounded from the early miscues to hit a wide-open A.J. Green for a 53-yard touchdown with 17 seconds left in the opening quarter.
On the play, Green got a free release at the line, sprinted through the secondary and caught the pass in stride for a 7-6 Cincinnati lead.
Nugent kicked a 39-yard field goal and Dalton made it 17-6 with a 16-yard TD strike to Marvin Jones with 1:51 to go before halftime. Jones made a juggling catch while falling to the ground in the end zone.
Dalton set a pair of single-season franchise records with 4,296 passing yards and 33 touchdown passes ... The 1988 Bengals also won all eight games as the host ... Flacco finished with a career-high 3,912 passing yards this season ... Tucker broke Matt Stover's single-season team record for field goals made with 38. Stover had 35 in 2000 ... The Bengals were without tight ends Jermaine Gresham (hamstring) and Tyler Eifert (neck).
12/29 22:03:48 ET