Bengals eliminate defending champions
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton runs past Ravens inside linebacker Jameel McClain for a 1-yard touchdown run in the second half of Sunday’s game.
Even when Andy Dalton is mixing interceptions and touchdowns, the Bengals somehow find a way to win at home.
And that’s the best thing the AFC North champions take with them into the postseason.
Their next game will be at Paul Brown Stadium, where the Bengals are still perfect.
Dalton threw for two touchdowns, ran for another and set a pair of Bengals passing records on Sunday, leading Cincinnati to a 34-17 victory that eliminated the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
The Bengals (11-5) are 8-0 at home and get to host a playoff game next weekend. They got the No. 3 seed when New England beat Buffalo 34-20 later Sunday to clinch the No. 2 seed and a bye.
“We’re playing with a lot of confidence right now,” said Dalton, who was 21 of 36 for 281 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. “The last couple of years we played on the road. For us to have a home game here, it’ll be a great environment.
“We’re ready for the playoffs to start.”
The Ravens (8-8) lost their last two games, denying them a chance to make the playoffs for a sixth straight season. They couldn’t avoid the Super Bowl slump that’s so common.
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.”
Tennessee 16, Texas 10: Chris Johnson ran for 127 yards and a touchdown in what might be his last game with the Titans, who beat the Houston Texans 16-10 for a win that may help coach Mike Munchak’s argument to stay on the job in 2014.
Minnesota 14, Detroit 13: Rookie Cordarrelle Patterson scored two more touchdowns, including the go-ahead catch in the end zone in the fourth quarter, and the Minnesota Vikings beat the Detroit Lions 14-13 in the final game at the Metrodome after 32 seasons.
Carolina 21, Atlanta 20: Cam Newton threw two touchdown passes, Greg Hardy had a team- record four sacks and the Carolina Panthers clinched the NFC South title by beating the Atlanta Falcons 21-20.
N.Y. Giants 20, Washington 16: Jerrel Jerigan caught a 24-yard touchdown pass and ran 49 yards for another to lead the New York Giants to a 20-6 victory over Washington in what might be Mike Shanahan’s final game as the Redskins’ coach.
Indianapolis 30, Jacksonville 10: Andrew Luck threw for 282 yards and one touchdown, Robert Mathis reclaimed the NFL sacks lead and Adam Vinatieri joined the 2,000-point club as the Colts routed Jacksonville 30-10.
N.Y. Jets 20, Miami 7: The Miami Dolphins were eliminated from the scramble for the AFC’s final wild-card berth by the New York Jets, who thrived in the role of spoilers against their archrivals and won 20-7.
Denver 34, Oakland 14: Peyton Manning set the NFL single-season yards record and threw four touchdown passes to clinch the top seed in the AFC playoffs for the Denver Broncos with a 34-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders.
San Diego 27, Kansas City 24: Nick Novak kicked a 36-yard field goal with 5:30 left in overtime and the San Diego Chargers, who trailed by 10 points in the fourth quarter, beat the Kansas Chiefs 27-24 to claim the AFC’s final playoff spot.
San Francisco 23, Arizona 20: Phil Dawson kicked a 40-yard field goal as the game ended to lift San Francisco to a 23-20 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, giving the 49ers the NFC’s No. 5 playoff seed.
Green Bay 33, Chicago 28: Aaron Rodgers fired a 48-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb in the final minute, and the Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears 33-28 to capture the NFC North championship.
New Orleans 42, Tampa Bay 17: Drew Brees passed for four touchdowns and ran for another score, and New Orleans clinched a wild card spot with a 42-17 victory over Tampa Bay.
New England 34, Buffalo 20: LeGarrette Blount ran for a career-high 189 yards and two touchdowns and had two long kickoff returns as the New England Patriots clinched a first-round AFC bye with a 34-20 win over the Buffalo Bills on a rainy Sunday.