The Baltimore Ravens captured the AFC North division title and secured the second seed in the AFC playoffs after edging the Cincinnati Bengals, 24-16, Jan. 1 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The victory gave Baltimore a 12-4 overall regular season record and a 6-0 AFC North record, marking the first time in team history the Ravens finished undefeated within their division. The Ravens will have a bye week during the first week of the AFC playoffs, and will play at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore during the second round of the postseason.

The Ravens Clinched the Win When:
Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton tossed a desperate deep pass into the end zone, but Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb knocked it down as time expired. If a Bengals receiver would have caught the pass, Cincinnati would have had a final chance at tying the game to go into overtime. Instead, Baltimore held on for its 12th win of the year, the fourth time the Ravens recorded 12 or more wins in the franchise’s 16-year history.

Most Outstanding Player of the Game:
Ravens running back Ray Rice ran all over the Bengals, recording 191 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. Rice broke a 70-yard touchdown run on Baltimore’s first possession of the game and never slowed down. He dashed for a 51-yard touchdown run to extend the Ravens’ lead late in the fourth quarter. Rice completed the regular season with 1,365 total rushing yards, along with 704 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns, the second straight season Rice recorded more than 2,000 total yards from scrimmage.

Unsung Player(s) of the Game:
Ray Rice had huge running lanes to rush through thanks to the lead blocks of Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach. Right tackle Michael Oher also helped pave the way for Rice, making a key block that sprung Rice loose on the 70-yard score. Oher played left tackle last season, but switched to right tackle just a week before the season started. The switch turned out to be a great move for Baltimore as Rice has broke loose on several long runs this year behind Oher and the right side of the offensive line.

More Game Notes:
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had a decent game, completing 15-of-19 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. Flacco has established good chemistry with tight-end Dennis Pitta, who hauled in six passes for 62 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals.

Ravens cornerback Cary Williams led the team with eight tackles, while Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs followed with six tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.

The Ravens will rest during the first round of the playoffs while waiting to face the winner of the AFC Wild-Card round.


Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor