Sunday, January 1, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Ravens 24, Bengals 16
By Jamison Hensley
CINCINNATI -- Thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals game:
What it means: The Ravens (12-4) got a much-needed road win to secure their first home playoff game in five years. Baltimore clinched the AFC's second seed, the AFC North title and a first-round bye. This was the first time that the Ravens went undefeated in the AFC North. The Bengals (9-7) lost but they backed into the playoffs because the Jets and the Broncos both lost. Cincinnati got the sixth and final seed in the playoffs and will travel to Houston in the first round. The Bengals finished 1-7 against teams that currently have winning records.
Suggs steps up: Terrell Suggs once again showed why the Ravens linebacker is a strong candidate for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. At a time when the Bengals had closed to within a touchdown and were driving in Ravens' territory, Suggs punched the ball out of tight end Jermaine Gresham's grasp in the fourth quarter. It was his seventh forced fumble of the season and led to a Ravens touchdown.
Running with Rice: Ravens running back Ray Rice started and finished strong. He scored a 70-yard touchdown on the game's fourth play from scrimmage and then ran 51 yards for another score in the fourth quarter. Rice finished with 191 yards on 24 carries.
Help before halftime: The Ravens took a 17-3 halftime lead with a final drive that was helped by three Bengals penalties. Cincinnati was flagged three times for 25 yards on a series that ended with Joe Flacco hitting Dennis Pitta for a 9-yard touchdown. It was Cincinnati's only penalties of the first half, but they came at a costly time.
Missed opportunities: The Bengals squandered some chances in the first half that hurt them in the second half. Andy Dalton threw too high to tight end Donald Lee on a third-down pass in the red zone, and kicker Mike Nugent sliced a 36-yard field goal wide right.
What's next: The Ravens receive a first-round bye for the first time since 2006. The Bengals go to Houston to play the third-seeded Texans in the first round.