Ravens 24

(12-4, 4-4 away)

Bengals 16

(9-7, 4-4 home)

Coverage: CBS

4:15 PM ET, January 1, 2012

Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH 

1 2 3 4 T
BAL 10 7 0 724
CIN 3 0 7 616

Top Performers

Passing: A. Dalton (CIN) - 232 YDS

Rushing: R. Rice (BAL) - 24 CAR, 191 YDS, 2 TD

Receiving: J. Gresham (CIN) - 5 REC, 72 YDS

Ravens clinch AFC North, No. 2 seed as Bengals get wild card despite loss

Associated Press

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.

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 in games that ended around the same time. 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 Saturday 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.

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.

Game 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 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

1st Downs1519
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
Total Plays5269
Total Yards347336
Yards per play6.74.9
Total Drives1112
Yards per pass
Interceptions thrown
Sacks-Yards Lost
Rushing Attempts
Yards per rush
Red Zone (Made-Att)1-10-2
Fumbles lost
Interceptions thrown
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00

Passing Leaders


Rushing Leaders


Receiving Leaders


Scoring Summary

balTD13:09Ray Rice 70 Yard Run (Billy Cundiff Kick is Good)
Drive info: 4 plays, 80 yds, 2:02
balFG6:50Billy Cundiff 42 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 7 plays, 54 yds, 4:25
cinFG3:07Mike Nugent 46 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 9 plays, 43 yds, 3:43
balTD0:19Dennis Pitta 9 Yard Pass From Joe Flacco (Billy Cundiff Kick is Good)
Drive info: 11 plays, 80 yds, 4:52
cinTD3:35Bernard Scott 25 Yard Run (Mike Nugent Kick is Good)
Drive info: 5 plays, 48 yds, 1:55
cinFG12:40Mike Nugent 46 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 10 plays, 32 yds, 3:52
balTD5:52Ray Rice 51 Yard Run (Billy Cundiff Kick is Good)
Drive info: 3 plays, 60 yds, 1:34
cinFG2:44Mike Nugent 23 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 9 plays, 75 yds, 3:02

Research Notes

Terrell Suggs had his league-leading seventh forced fumble of the season Sunday against the Bengals, a play that led to the go-ahead touchdown run by Ray Rice at 5:52 of the fourth quarter.
NEXT LEVEL: Joe Flacco is perfect against the Bengals this year when using play action, going 4 for 4 in week 11 and 5 for 5 Sunday. In addition, his combined yards per attempt on such throws against Cincinnati this season is 15.2, almost three times higher than his 5.4 yards per attempt against other teams.

DaltonAndy Dalton loves to throw to fellow rookie A.J. Green, but the Ravens blanketed Green and made it difficult for Cincinnati's dynamic duo to have an impact on Sunday's game.

NEXT LEVEL: With Anquan Boldin out against the Bengals, the Ravens relied on two or more tight end sets. On Sunday the Ravens had two or more tight ends on the field for 73.7 percent of Joe Flacco's pass attempts. In the previous 16 weeks, the Ravens used two or more tight ends on just 32.1 percent of Flacco's attempts.

RiceRay Rice ran for 73 yards and a touchdown between the tackles on the Ravens' opening drive against the Bengals Sunday. Rice finished the game with 191 rushing yards, 175 of which came between the tackles.

Ray Rice has two rush TD today, moving to the top of the Ravens single-season TD list.

ESPN Stats & Information