Bengals top Ravens to avoid coin-flip scenario for playoffs

 

Joe Burrow threw for a touchdown and Joe Mixon ran for another as the Cincinnati Bengals took advantage of four Baltimore turnovers to beat the Ravens 27-16 on Sunday and set up a rematch in the first round of the playoffs next week.

The AFC North champion Bengals (12-4) — playing on the same field where Buffalo’s Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest in a horrifying scene six days ago — beat a Ravens team that rested some key players ahead of the postseason.

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 unhappy with the prospect of a coin flip costing them a home playoff game and mocked the rule change with a coin-flip celebration after Mixon’s TD.

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Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (10) misses a catch I the end zone in front of Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt (29) in the second half of an NFL football game in Cincinnati, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023.
(AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

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

The Ravens (10-7) fought gamely behind rookie third-stringer Anthony Brown, who got the start after throwing just five passes all season. But rather than go all-out for the slim chance of getting a home playoff game, Ravens coach John Harbaugh ensured the Bengals will see a somewhat different team when sixth-seeded Baltimore returns to Paycor Stadium next weekend.

Baltimore was without its two top quarterbacks. Lamar Jackson hasn’t practiced since his knee injury in a Dec. 4 game against the Broncos, and it’s unclear whether he will be available for the playoffs. Backup Tyler Huntley has also been banged up and was inactive on Sunday. The Ravens also rested two of their biggest offensive weapons, Mark Andrews and J.K. Dobbins.

Cincinnati scored two first-half touchdowns after intercepting Brown and got another when he fumbled while being sacked in his own end zone.

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon, center, celebrates a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens in the first half of an NFL football game in Cincinnati, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023.
(AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Brown went 19 of 44 for 286 yards in his first NFL start.

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Kenyan Drake scored for Ravens on a 4-yard run in the first half. Justin Tucker kicked three field goals.

On the Ravens’ first play from scrimmage after the Bengals opened with a field goal, Brown lofted a long pass into the arms of Cincinnati safety Jessie Bates III. Burrow then went 7 for 11 on a drive capped by Mixon’s 1-yard plunge.

Cornerback Mike Hilton picked off Brown on Baltimore’s next possession, giving the ball to the Bengals at the Ravens 30. Three plays later, Burrow hooked up with Ja’Marr Chase for a 26-yard TD.

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 squirted out Joseph Ossai fell on it for a touchdown 30 seconds left in the half, pushing the Cincinnati lead to 24-7 at halftime.

Brown completed a 47-yard catch-and-run to Sammy Watkins late in the game, but Bates ripped it free while making the tackle and safety Vonn Bell recovered the fumble.

Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Joseph Ossai (58) celebrates after recovering a fumble for a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens in the first half of an NFL football game in Cincinnati, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023.
(AP Photo/Joshua A. Bickel)

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INJURIES

Ravens: RB Gus Edwards left the game in the first half with a possible head injury and entered the NFL’s concussion protocol.

Bengals: LG Alex Cappa departed with a left ankle injury in the third quarter.