Ravens eliminated by 34-17 loss to Bengals

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, and 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 said 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.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org