5 things to know after Bengals beat Ravens 34-17

The preliminaries are over for the AFC North champions. The

Bengals know their season will be judged almost entirely on what

happens in the next game.

Fair enough.

Andy Dalton threw for two touchdowns, ran for another and set a

couple of club passing records Sunday in a 34-17 victory that

eliminated the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.

The Bengals (11-5) have been focused on the playoffs since long

before the opening game. They got bounced from the postseason in

the first round each of the last two seasons, losing in Houston

both times.

Cincinnati hasn’t won a playoff game since 1990, tied for the

seventh-longest streak of futility in NFL history. The Bengals will

host the Chargers next weekend at Paul Brown Stadium, where they’re

8-0 this season. They beat the Chargers 17-10 in San Diego on Dec.

1.

”I feel really good going into the playoffs this time,” safety

Chris Crocker said. ”Different team, different type of feeling. We

have the momentum, and that’s the big thing. And we play at

home.”

The Ravens (8-8) aren’t used to heading into the offseason so

early. They were the only team to reach the playoffs each of the

last five seasons. This one ended with back-to-back losses, and

quarterback Joe Flacco playing despite a sprained ligament in his

left knee.

”It’s tough,” Flacco said. ”It’s disappointing. But we’re an

8-8 football team. We don’t deserve to be there.”

Flacco threw for a career-high 3,912 yards but also had 22

interceptions this season. He said after the game his injury will

heal without surgery.

There will be plenty of time for healing.

”Not going to the playoffs hurts,” running back Ray Rice said.

”I’m not used to having this kind of time on my hands.”

Five things to know from the Bengals’ latest lopsided win at

home:

COULDN’T BE MORE PERFECT: The Bengals are a different team at

home, where they’ve scored 49, 41, 42, 42 and 34 points in their

last five games. They went 8-0 at home for the second time in

franchise history. The other time was 1988, when they also won two

home playoff games on their way to their second Super Bowl loss to

San Francisco. They’re guaranteed only one home game this time, but

it puts them in good position to break that playoff drought. They

ran for 164 yards while beating the Chargers in San Diego a month

ago.

DALTON’S RESILIENCE: One of his best traits is his ability to

overcome big mistakes. Dalton threw four interceptions Sunday,

matching his career high, but also threw for two touchdowns and ran

for another. He finished one of the finest regular seasons by a

Bengals quarterback, breaking Carson Palmer’s club records with 33

touchdown passes and 4,296 yards.

ABOUT THAT PLAYOFF DROUGHT: The Bengals are 0-4 in the playoffs

under coach Marvin Lewis, who is in his 11th season. They’re tied

with the New York Giants (1959-80) and Los Angeles Rams (1952-73)

for the seventh-longest drought in the playoffs.

”This is the time,” Dalton said. ”What you’ve done in the

regular season doesn’t matter anymore. It’s all about what you’re

doing now.”

TOUGH TO REPEAT: The Ravens became the 15th Super Bowl champion

that failed to reach the playoffs the following season, and the

sixth in the last 12 years. Those Super Bowl swoons are tough to

avoid. The Ravens had a lot of turnover on defense, and the offense

was inconsistent all season.

”We’re the champions,” cornerback Lardarius Webb said. ”The

targets were on our backs. Everybody was coming to knock down the

world champions.”

A LOT TO FIX: The Ravens couldn’t run the ball consistently all

season, creating major problems. Baltimore was one of the worst

teams at scoring touchdowns from inside the opponent’s 20-yard

line, an issue that showed up again Sunday. The Ravens managed only

three field goals off Dalton’s first three interceptions. Justin

Tucker set a club record with 38 field goals.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org