The Baltimore Ravens will not be able to defend their Super Bowl crown in the play-offs after a 34-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals eliminated them from the post-season on Sunday.
Andy Dalton overcame four interceptions to throw for two touchdowns and rush for two more for the Bengals, who will go into the play-offs as the AFC North champions.
The AFC South champion Indianapolis Colts kept up their momentum heading into the post-season with a 30-10 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars as Andrew Luck threw for 282 yards and one touchdown.
The Ravens became the 15th Super Bowl champ that failed to reach the playoffs the following season, and the sixth in the last 12 years. Their running game fell apart, the offense had to settle for field goals, and the defense missed Ray Lewis’ inspiration in the big moments.
“That’s it,” coach John Harbaugh said. “That ends it. That stings.”
In Cincinnati, there’s only one thing in mind: win a playoff game for the first time since the 1990 season. The Bengals lost opening-round games in Houston each of the last two seasons, leaving them tied for the seventh-longest stretch of playoff futility in NFL history.
This time, they’ll be playing at home, where they’ve scored 49, 41, 42, 42 and 34 points in their last five games.
“If we have to play next week or we have to play in two weeks, this team is going to carry this swagger and attitude into the playoffs,” offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “If we continue to put up 30-plus points a game and continue playing defense the way we are, we’ll have a chance to make a lot of noise.”
Most of the focus will be on Dalton, who had two horrid games in the playoffs. He put together one of the best seasons by a Bengals quarterback, breaking Carson Palmer’s club records for touchdown passes and yards passing on Sunday.
Dalton threw interceptions on Cincinnati’s first two possessions, then regrouped. He threw a 53-yard pass to A.J. Green, who got behind a defense that went for a fake handoff. Marvin Jones made a one-hand, diving catch in the end zone for a 16-yard score just before halftime.
Dalton’s 33rd TD pass surpassed Palmer’s club record from 2005. He finished 21 of 36 for 281 yards, breaking Palmer’s club record for yards passing in a season with 4,296.
After the Ravens tied it 17-all in the third quarter, Dalton led a 90-yard drive that ended with his 1-yard touchdown run.
“He just keeps being Andy,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “He just keeps playing.”
All too often this season, the Ravens settled for field goals when they got close to the goal line. They did it again on Sunday, managing only three field goals off Dalton’s first three three interceptions. Justin Tucker was good from 38, 22 and 34 yards, giving him a club record of 38 field goals.
The Ravens took advantage of Shawn Powell’s 10-yard shanked punt and evened it 17-all in the third quarter. Flacco threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Marlon Brown, and Ray Rice ran for the 2-point conversion.
Dre Kirkpatrick had two interceptions in the fourth quarter that sealed it, including a 21-yard return for a touchdown.
Flacco, playing his second game on a sprained left knee, was 30 of 50 for 192 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
Notes: Flacco threw for a career-high 3,912 yards this season. … Brown’s TD catch tied Torrey Smith’s club record of 7 TDs by a rookie. … Rice set a club record for total yards from scrimmage with 9,214 career. … The Bengals played without TEs Jermaine Gresham (hamstring) and rookie Tyler Eiffert (neck). … The Bengals had to reconfigure their offensive line again when C Kyle Cook suffered a foot injury and tackles Anthony Collins and Whitworth hurt ankles. X-rays on Cook were negative. … The Bengals had two receivers with double-digit TD catches for the first time in their history. Green had 11, Jones 10.