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Late interception return lifts Bengals over Ravens
Cincinnati, OH (Sports Network) - Josh Brown kicked three second-half field goals and Carlos Dunlap returned an interception for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter as the Cincinnati Bengals closed out the regular season with a 23-17 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
Andy Dalton completed 10-of-15 passes for 78 yards and a touchdown before getting removed in favor of Bruce Gradkowski in the second half for the Bengals (10-6), who had already locked up the sixth seed in the playoffs and will face the Houston Texans in the first round of the playoffs.
"The biggest thing is we wanted to get the win and we got that done," said Dalton. "We're 10-6 but all that doesn't matter anymore. It's playoff time and records don't matter."
Marvin Jones recorded Cincinnati's lone offensive touchdown while catching five balls for 45 yards.
Joe Flacco started the game for the Ravens (10-6) but was removed after just two offensive series.
Tyrod Taylor replaced him and threw for 149 yards with the interception on 15- for-25 efficiency while also adding 65 yards and a score on nine carries.
Bernard Pierce carried the ball 22 times for 89 yards for Baltimore, which rested most of its starters as they already had the AFC's fourth seed locked up entering the game.
The Ravens had a chance to move up to the third seed with a win, but will now play the Indianapolis Colts in the opening round of the playoffs.
"I thought our young guys executed very well," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "The goal was two-fold, to put ourselves in the best position possible going forward into the playoffs and to win the game. We obviously didn't win the game. We're disappointed in that, but we feel like we are in the best position we could have been going forward into the playoffs now and that's all that really matters."
Gradkowski entered the game with the score tied at 7-7 and a roughing the passer penalty on his second possession moved the Bengals past midfield to set up Brown's 47-yard field goal with 6:15 remaining in the third quarter.
Cincinnati regained the ball at the Baltimore 40 after the Ravens were forced to punt from deep inside their own zone, and a defensive pass interference penalty on the Ravens' Jimmy Smith advanced the ball to the 15.
The Bengals would not be able to punch the ball into the end zone, though, and a 32-yard kick by Brown gave the Bengals a 13-7 advantage late in the third.
Baltimore was then aided by a pass interference penalty to regain the lead on its next touch as Nate Clements was whistled for the infraction on an incomplete pass on a 3rd-and-7 at the Ravens 22.
The penalty moved the ball near midfield and Taylor later converted a long third down with an 11-yard strike to Ed Dickson before finishing off the 11-play, 81-yard trek with a 1-yard touchdown run on a bootleg to the left, giving Baltimore a 14-13 edge with 12:50 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Ravens failed to add some cushion to their lead on their next possession when Justin Tucker missed a 45-yard field goal wide left, and Gradkowski found Brandon Tate deep down the right sideline for a 44-yard gain on the next play to move Cincinnati down to the Baltimore 21.
But the Bengals would manage just one more yard and Brown split the uprights from 38 yards out to regain a 16-14 lead with 7:16 to play.
Three plays into the Ravens' ensuing drive, Dunlap tipped a short Taylor pass to himself and returned it 14 yards for a touchdown, giving Cincinnati an eight-point edge.
Ravens punter Sam Koch kept Baltimore's next drive alive by converting a 4th- and-1 with a 10-yard run on a fake punt and Taylor later converted a pair of third downs on the march, but the Ravens opted to kick a 49-yard field goal on a 4th-and-6 at the Cincinnati 31 with 1:26 left in the game instead of going for the tie.
The Bengals recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the victory.
Baltimore received the ball first and converted a 4th-and-1 at the Cincinnati 33 with a 3-yard run by Pierce during a lengthy drive, but the Ravens would go backwards from there and an unnecessary roughness penalty on Ray Rice knocked them out of field-goal range, forcing Baltimore to punt.
Flacco played one more series for the Ravens before Taylor took over under center for the Ravens.
On Taylor's first offensive drive, the second-year quarterback reeled off a 28-yard scramble on his only passing attempt of a 7-play, 80-yard scoring drive Anthony Allen capped with a 2-yard rumble across the goal line with 17 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Bengals were later able to get on the board after starting a drive at the Baltimore 42-yard line with 2:07 left in the half following a Koch punt from deep inside his own end zone.
Dalton then found A.J. Green for gains of 17 and 9 yards before Jones caught a short pass, avoided two defenders and raced into the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown, making it a 7-7 game at the break.
The Bengals had managed just 63 yards of offense and three first downs in the first half prior to that drive.
Allen and Jones each recorded their first career touchdowns ... The Bengals have scored a defensive touchdown in three straight games ... Cincinnati snapped a four-game losing streak against Baltimore, but still trails the all- time series, 19-15 ... Green finished with two receptions for 26 yards ... Gradkowski completed 5-of-11 passes for 65 yards ... The Bengals' defense recorded four sacks in the game and finished the season with a franchise- best 51 sacks ... Baltimore held a 352-189 advantage in total offense.
12/30 19:35:10 ET
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