Cincinnati holds off Ravens to win AFC North


CINCINNATI – The Cincinnati Bengals took advantage of four Baltimore turnovers, and knocked off the Ravens 27-16 on Sunday at Paycor Stadium to clinch the AFC North Division title.

The win sets up a rematch with Baltimore in the first round of the NFL playoffs next weekend.

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow threw for a touchdown and running back Joe Mixon ran for another as Cincinnati won back-to-back division titles for the first time in franchise history.

“That’s AFC North football,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. “Show me a pretty game that anybody’s won in this division and that’ll be the first one I’ve seen. I’m so proud of the way these guys just found a way to get it done by two scores. I thought our defense was excellent taking the ball away and finishing off some drives.”

Cincinnati finished the regular season at 12-4 while the loss put the Ravens, which rested some key players including J.K. Dobbins in the loss, at 10-7.

“You really try to put that out of your mind,” Taylor added. “Because you gotta go play football. We needed this win. There was a lot on the line for us with potentially losing the home field games. There was just too much on the line and we had to block that out and just play whoever they put out there.”

Cincinnati avoided a coin flip to determine the site of its playoff game against Baltimore, which would have come into play had the Ravens won and the Los Angeles Chargers lost later Sunday at Denver.

The Bengals were not happy with the prospect of a coin flip costing them a home playoff game and made fun of the rule change a with a coin-flip celebration after Mixon’s TD.

Cincinnati’s chances at the No. 2 seed in the AFC ended when Buffalo beat New England.

The Bengals scored two first-half touchdowns after intercepting Baltimore QB Anthony Brown, and got another when he fumbled while being sacked in his own end zone.

“Our defense just made plays again today, like we do every week,” Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton said.

“Turnovers win ball games,” Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson said.

On the Ravens’ first play from scrimmage after the Bengals opened with a field goal, Brown was picked off by Cincinnati safety Jessie Bates III.

Burrow led an eight-play drive that featured a pass to Hayden Hurst, who jarred Baltimore defensive back Marcus Williams with a stiff-arm for seven yards.

Two plays later, Mixon plowed into the end zone from a yard out.

Hilton picked off Brown on Baltimore’s next possession, giving the ball to the Bengals at the Ravens 30-yard-line.

Three plays later, Burrow hooked up with Ja’Marr Chase for a 26-yard TD.

Chase passed the 1,000-yard receiving mark on the play, despite missing several games with an injury.

“That’s what I expect from him,” Burrow said about Chase. “He’s going to have 1,000 yards every year that he plays, and he doesn’t miss a ton of time. That’s how good he is.”

Then, with Ravens operating in the shadow of the goal line after a Cincinnati punt, Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson sacked Brown in the end zone.

The ball was jarred out and Joseph Ossai pounced on it for a touchdown with 30 seconds left in the half, pushing the Cincinnati advantage to 24-7 at halftime.

Burrow finished the game with 215 yards passing with one touchdown and completed 25 of 42 passes. but was not happy with his performance.

“Just missed some throws I usually hit. Not usually — always hit,” he said. “I just got to be better.”

Cincinnati will host Baltimore in the AFC Wild Card round this weekend at Paycor Stadium.

Kickoff between the Bengals and Ravens in the Wild Card round is set for Sunday, Jan. 15 at 8:15 p.m.

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