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BALTIMORE (Sports Network) – Ray Rice rushed for 77 yards and one touchdown, as the Baltimore Ravens held on for a 13-7 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in the regular-season finale for both teams at M&T Bank Stadium.
Joe Flacco finished 14-of-19 passing for 125 yards with one interception for Baltimore (12-4), which had to settle for the fifth seed in the AFC after Pittsburgh claimed the North Division title following a 41-9 drubbing of Cleveland on Sunday.
The Steelers locked up the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye with their victory. Baltimore will travel to face AFC West champion Kansas City in the early game on Sunday.
“First of all, congratulations to our team for winning the game,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. “I’m proud of our guys. I think we have over time figured out how to win football games and tight football games. We’ve been in a bunch of them, that’s for sure. I like that about our football team.”
Billy Cundiff added a pair of field goals, while Ed Reed led the Baltimore defense with a pair of interceptions, but left in the second half with an undisclosed injury and did not return.
Carson Palmer threw for 305 yards on 32-of-45 passes with one touchdown and two picks for the Bengals (4-12), who had a brief two-game winning streak halted. Jerome Simpson caught 12 passes for 123 yards with a TD, but lost two fumbles in defeat.
“We knew going into this game, you have to take care of the football and you can’t give the Ravens the ball,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “The secret to our success against them is taking care of the football.”
With the hosts clinging to a six-point lead in the third quarter, Simpson’s reception and fumble gave the Ravens the ball on the Bengals’ 28, and Baltimore quickly took advantage. Rice’s seven-yard run up the middle finished off the brief five-play set to make it a 13-0 game with 5:47 remaining in the third.
Cincinnati answered on its next possession when Palmer hit Simpson in the back corner of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown that capped a 13-play, 80-yard drive with 12:24 left to play.
The Bengals had number chances throughout the fourth, but came up empty. Cincinnati was stopped on 4th-and-1 at the Baltimore 26 with 5 1/2 minutes left. After forcing the Ravens to go three-and-out, Palmer fumbled at the Ravens’ 29 while attempting to scramble for a first down at the two-minute warning.
Following another three-and-out by Baltimore, Cincinnati got the ball back with under a minute to play and had success moving the ball. Starting at his own 31, Palmer completed passes of 39, 19 and nine yards to get his squad down to the Ravens’ two-yard line with 22 seconds left.
After Palmer spiked the ball to kill the clock, the signal-caller was off the mark for Andre Caldwell in the end zone. On fourth down, his short pass for Cedric Peerman along the near sidelines sailed over the running back’s head, and Flacco took a knee to run out the clock.
Reed’s interception of Palmer on the third play of the game led to a 25- yard field goal by Cundiff.
Cincinnati then mounted a lengthy drive bridging the first and second quarters, but Clint Stitser’s 29-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right.
After each side turned the ball over early in the second, Baltimore tacked on another three when Cundiff’s 47-yard effort capped a seven-play, 48-yard drive with 4:41 left before halftime. A 24-yard defensive pass interference penalty on third down kept the drive alive, which moved the ball to the Cincinnati 37, but the Ravens’ offense stumbled from there.
Reggie Nelson intercepted Flacco and returned it 56 yards to the Baltimore 37 with under a minute to play in the half. It appeared the Bengals were in ideal position to put points on the board, as they had it on the 13 with 20 seconds left. However, Reed grabbed a deflection off the hands of Jordan Shipley for his second pick of the game, and the Ravens took a 6-0 lead into the break.
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