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Bengals crush Ravens playoff hopes

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The Cincinnati Bengals overcame four turnovers to remain perfect at home and eliminated the Baltimore Ravens from playoff contention with a 34-17 victory on Sunday.

The Bengals (11-5) will be the No. 3 seed in the AFC Playoffs after New England (12-4) secured the No. 2 seed with a victory over Buffalo on Sunday. The Ravens (8-8) were eliminated along with the Steelers (8-8) and Dolphins (8-8). That allowed San Diego to sneak in after a 27-24 victory in overtime against Kansas City. The Bengals will host the Chargers (9-7) next Sunday at 1:05 p.m.

The game started out poorly for Andy Dalton as he threw on the very first play of the game. That led to a Justin Tucker 38-yard field goal to put Baltimore on the board first. Dalton was picked off again on the Bengals' next drive, which led to another field goal for a 6-0 Ravens advantage. Dalton finally got it right on the next drive when he found a wide open A.J. Green 53 yard down the field to give the Bengals their first lead of the game.

The next few drives featured the punters before Mike Nugent added a 39-yard field goal to extend the lead to 10-6. Cincinnati caught a break on its next drive as Alex Smith fumbled, but Andrew Whitworth was there to pounce on the loose ball. Four plays later Marvin Jones was made a circus catch in the end zone to give the Bengals a 17-7 lead going into halftime.

It was deja vu for Dalton in the second half as he was picked off once again which also led to a Tucker field goal. The Ravens tied it on their next drive when Joe Flacco found Marlon Brown in the back of the end zone. Ray Rice ran in for the two point conversion to make it 17 all.

Cincinnati responded with a lengthy 12 play drive that ate up the rest of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth. The big play came when Giovani Bernard took a short pass and ran for 27 yards to the Baltimore 25. After a defensive pass interference call placed the ball at the one, Dalton executed the read option to perfection and walked into the end zone for his second rushing touchdown of the season.

Chris Crocker abruptly ended the Ravens next drive when he picked off Flacco. That set up a Nugent field goal to bring the Bengals lead back to ten. Cincinnati had a chance to put the finishing touches on the game, but Dalton was picked for the fourth time, when Jimmy Smith wrestled the ball out of Green's arms in the end zone.

The Bengals defense tried to help Baltimore when Vontaze Burfict was called for an unnecessary roughness and Adam Jones was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Dre Kirkpatrick ended the drive on fourth and ten when he picked off Flacco. After a Bengals punt, Kirkpatrick was at it again as he intercepted Flacco on consecutive passes, but this time he returned it all the way for the touchdown and a 34-17 lead.

Baltimore was stopped on fourth and goal to allow Dalton to take a knee and send the Ravens home packing. It is the second year in a row that the defending Super Bowl champ did not make the playoffs.

Stat Leaders:

Passing: CIN-Dalton (21-36, 2 TD, 4 INT, 1 rush TD) BAL-Flacco (30-50, TD, 3 INT)

Rushing: CIN-BenJarvus Green-Ellis (11 carries, 66 yards) BAL-Bernard Pierce (5 carries, 28 yards)

Receiving: CIN-Andrew Hawkins (3 catches, 74 yards) BAL-Dennis Pitta (8 catches, 63 yards)

Tackles: BAL-Matt Elam (10) CIN-Burfict (14)

Sacks: BAL-0 CIN-2

Turnovers: BAL-3 CIN-4

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