|Ravens eliminated by 34-17 loss to Bengals|
|Sunday, December 29, 2013 9:00 PM|
By JOE KAY
CINCINNATI — Too many field goals. Not enough wins. And for the first time in six years, no place in the playoffs.
The Ravens aren’t used to any of this.
The defending Super Bowl champions were eliminated on Sunday with a 34-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, who took away their AFC North title and pulled away at the end of a game that Baltimore needed to win.
Instead, as the closing minutes ticked down, the Ravens (8-8) started getting ready mentally for an unusually long offseason.
“Not going to the playoffs hurts,” running back Ray Rice said. “I’m not used to having this kind of time on my hands.”
None of them are.
The Ravens 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, 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.”
They’ll have a lot of things to pick over, starting with their record number of field goals.
All too often this season, the Ravens settled for field goals when they got close to the goal line. They did it again on Sunday, managing only three field goals off three of Andy Dalton’s four interceptions.
Justin Tucker was good from 38, 22 and 34 yards, giving him a club record of 38 field goals. The Ravens were among the worst in the NFL at getting touchdowns from inside the 20-yard line.
“It’s been kind of the story of our season, getting the ball in position and not being able to do it,” said Joe Flacco, who threw three interceptions.
Dalton threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as Cincinnati (11-5) took advantage of the Ravens’ inability to get more points out of his four turnovers. The AFC North champions are 8-0 at home.
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.
Most of the focus will be on Dalton, who had two horrid games in the playoffs. He put together one of the best seasons by a Bengals’ quarterback, breaking Carson Palmer’s club records for touchdown passes and yards passing on Sunday.
Dalton threw interceptions on Cincinnati’s first two possessions, then regrouped. He threw a 53-yard pass to A.J. Green, who got behind a defense that went for a fake handoff. Marvin Jones made a one-hand, diving catch in the end zone for a 16-yard score just before halftime.
Dalton’s 33rd TD pass surpassed Palmer’s club record from 2005. He finished 21-of-36 for 281 yards, breaking Palmer’s club record for yards passing in a season with 4,296.
The Ravens took advantage of Shawn Powell’s 10-yard shanked punt and evened it 17-all in the third quarter. Flacco threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Marlon Brown and Rice ran for the 2-point conversion.
Dalton then led a 90-yard touchdown drive that culminated in his 1-yard run. Dre Kirkpatrick had two interceptions in the fourth quarter that sealed it, including a 21-yard return for a touchdown.
Flacco, playing his second game on a sprained ligament in his left knee, was 30-of-50 for 192 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. He added the knee will heal without surgery.
Notes: Flacco threw for a career-high 3,912 yards this season. … Brown’s TD catch tied Torrey Smith’s club record of 7 TDs by a rookie. … Rice set a club record for total yards from scrimmage with 9,214 career. … The Bengals played without TEs Jermaine Gresham (hamstring) and rookie Tyler Eiffert (neck). … The Bengals had to reconfigure their offensive line again when C Kyle Cook suffered a foot injury and tackles Anthony Collins and Whitworth hurt ankles. X-rays on Cook were negative. … The Bengals had two receivers with double-digit TD catches for the first time in their history. Green had 11, Jones 10.