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Question of the Day
CINCINNATI — Andy Dalton set some records and kept the Bengals perfect at home heading into the postseason.
Dalton threw for two touchdowns, ran for another and set a pair of Bengals passing records on Sunday, leading Cincinnati to a 34-17 victory that eliminated the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
It was an erratic performance by the third-year quarterback, who also threw four interceptions in a game Cincinnati (11-5) wanted to win for playoff seeding. The Bengals (11-5) to head into the postseason as AFC North champions.
The Ravens (8-8) 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.
Baltimore’s streak of five seasons with a playoff appearance was the longest in the NFL. This is the first time the Ravens haven’t qualified for the postseason under coach John Harbaugh.
In Cincinnati, there’s only one thing in mind: finally win a playoff game. The Bengals haven’t done that since the 1990 season, tied for the seventh-longest streak of futility in NFL history. They lost opening-round games in Houston each of the last two seasons as wild cards.
This time, they get a playoff game at home, where they’re 8-0. They’ve scored 49, 41, 42, 42 and 34 points in their last five games at Paul Brown Stadium.
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.
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 Dalton’s first three three interceptions. Justin Tucker was good from 38, 22 and 34 yards, giving him a club record of 38 field goals.
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 Ray Rice ran for the 2-point conversion.
Dalton responded by leading the 90-yard touchdown drive culminating in his run after a faked handoff. Dre Kirkpatrick had two interceptions in the fourth quarter that sealed it, including a 21-yard return for a touchdown.
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