With or without the first team offense the Cincinnati Bengals relied on their defense to take over in Sunday’s 23-17 victory against the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Bengals (10-6) accumulated four sacks and got a clutch interception by Carlos Dunlap that he returned 14 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The Ravens and the Bengals played their reserves on offense in the second half and some key players on defense as they both had already clinched playoff spots.
With the victory and a loss by the Texans, the Bengals will travel to Houston for the second year in a row to open the playoffs. Last year the Texans won 31-10. The Ravens will host the Indianapolis Colts in their Wild Card matchup.
The first quarter of Sunday’s contest was relatively quiet as both teams failed to score until the Ravens struck first with 17 seconds left on a Anthony Allen two yard run. The score was Allen’s first in his brief two-year career.
The second quarter played out the same way, but it was the Bengals who got on the scoreboard with just 39 seconds left in the half on a 11-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to Marvin Jones. That would be Dalton’s last throw of the game as Bruce Gradkowski took over in the second half. Joe Flacco attempted only eight passing attempts for Baltimore and was taken out late in the first quarter and replaced by Tyrod Taylor.
After a punt on his first drive of the second half, Gradkowski led the Bengals to two straight scoring drives, both capped by Josh Brown field goals to take a 13-7 lead with 2:24 in the third quarter.
The Ravens would take the lead back early in the fourth quarter when Taylor scrambled for his first career touchdown to make it 14-13. On the day Taylor finished with 65 yards on nine carries. Baltimore had a chance to add to that lead on its next drive by Justin Tucker missed a 45-yard field goal.
The Bengals struck after the missed field goal as Gradkowski found Brandon Tate for a 53-yard completion that would lead to another field goal by Brown and a 16-14 advantage.
On a third and seven on the Ravens ensuing possession the second year quarterback was picked by Dunlap who returned it for the score and a 23-14 lead. With the return, it marked the third straight game in which the Bengals defense has found the endzone.
Baltimore responded with a 49-yard field goal to cut the lead to 23-17, but it failed to recover an onside kick allowing the Bengals to run out the clock.
Cincinnati finished 4-4 at home this season and won seven of its final eight games to break into the playoffs. The Bengals will look to erase their postseason woes that have held them winless in the playoffs since 1991. That year the Bengals thrashed the Houston Oilers, but were ousted by the Los Angeles Raiders in the next game to start the losing streak.
The game is set to be played on Saturday, Jan. 5 at 4:30 P.M.
Passing: CIN-Dalton (10-15, 78 yards, TD) BAL-Taylor (15-25, 149 yards TD(rush), INT)
Rushing: CIN-Brian Leonard (10 carries, 34 yards) BAL-Bernard Pierce (22 carries, 89 yards)
Receiving: CIN-Tate (3 catches, 53 yards) BAL-Ed Dickson (6 catches, 64 yards)
Tackles: CIN-Vontaze Burfict (18) BAL-Josh Bynes (9)
Turnovers: CIN-0 BAL-1
Sacks for: CIN-4 BAL-2