Entering the final week of the regular season, the Cincinnati Bengals had one mission left to accomplish. By beating the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, the Bengals earn their spot in the postseason, claiming the sixth and final seed and their third ten-win season in seven years. If the Bengals lost on Sunday, they needed help from around the league to, at the very least, back themselves into the playoffs.
And that’s exactly what happened. Miami’s 19-17 win over the New York Jets immensely helped Cincinnati’s playoff scenarios if the Bengals lost to the Ravens. The only thing remaining was a loss by either the Denver Broncos or the Oakland Raiders. Around 7:12 p.m. EST, the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos 7-3 and the Cincinnati Bengals were guaranteed a spot in the 2011 NFL Playoffs.
Let that soak for a moment. The 2011 Cincinnati Bengals have claimed a berth for the 2011 NFL playoffs. It’s like an orgy rolling off the tongue, fireworks exploding in the Queen City as a second New Year party is in store.
That being said you don’t want Cincinnati ending the regular season with a 24-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. After quickly establishing a lead after Ray Rice exploded through the line of scrimmage on a 70-yard touchdown, Cincinnati went three and out. Baltimore put together a 59-yard field goal drive that extended Baltimore’s lead to 10 points. Baltimore eventually built a half-time lead of 17-3 and the Bengals, largely due to self-destruction (and a little help from the officials), appeared dead in the water. But then that’s how these predators trick their pray; unimposing, unthreatening to their enemies as they coil to strike in the second half.
But Cincinnati would fall short.
Thanks to a strong defensive outing to start the third quarter, forcing four straight punts, Cincinnati’s offense made a valiant comeback effort reducing Baltimore’s lead to four points. Andy Dalton and the offense pushed the football to Baltimore’s 43-yard line with 7:26 remaining in the game when Terrell Suggs forces a Jermaine Gresham fumble that was recovered by the Ravens. Three plays later and Ray Rice explodes down for a huge 51-yard touchdown to eventually beat the Bengals 24-16.
The Cincinnati Bengals will head to Houston next weekend for a rematch against the Texans, who won the regular season contest on week 14. Cincinnati held a nine-point lead into the fourth quarter when the Texans put together consecutive possessions of 13 plays to beat the Bengals 20-19.