The Cincinnati Bengals made five straight at home against the Baltimore Ravens, edging their division rival on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium, 27-10.
With no playoff implications attached to this game, both teams saw lengthy injury reports. Jeremy Hill, A.J. Green, and Vontaze Burfict didn’t suit up for Cincinnati, but that wouldn’t stop the Bengals from finishing the 2016 season with a 4-3 record at their home venue.
Fourth-year running back Rex Burkhead got the first start of his career and made the most of it, gashing the Ravens’ number-one ranked run defense for 119 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 27 attempts.
Just like the last time they played at home — Dec. 18th vs. Pittsburgh — the Bengals’ offense scored on each of its first four possessions and put up a 20-point first half.
Andy Dalton completed his first 10 passes and tossed touchdown number 18 on the season in the second quarter to tight end C.J. Uzomah from a yard out. Dalton eclipsed the 4,000-yard mark for the second time in his career, but fell 87 yards shy of his own franchise record of 4,293 yards he posted in 2013.
Burkhead opened the scoring with a five-yard touchdown run (his first rushing score since 2014 at Cleveland) in the first quarter, then capped off the game with a second five-yard score just North of the 2-minute warning.
On defense, the Bengals held Joe Flacco to his lowest passer rating (70.7) since week seven. Cincinnati led, 17-3, late in the first half when Flacco hit five straight to lead Baltimore to a first and goal at the Bengals’ two-yard line. On first and goal, Flacco’s play-action pass was intercepted by a well-aware Shawn Williams to sustain the home team’s 14-point advantage.
On the ensuing drive, Dalton found rookie wide out Cody Core twice for 50 yards to set up Randy Bullock‘s second chip-shot field goal of the half.
Core led the Bengals with a career-high 82 yards on four receptions.
Baltimore finally hit pay dirt early in the fourth quarter. Two plays after Breshad Perriman‘s 40-yard catch and run, Kenneth Dixon pounded into the end zone from a yard out to cut Cincinnati’s lead to 10.
But the game was all but sealed on the Ravens’ next possession, when Pro Bowl alternate Dre Kirkpatrick knocked away a fourth-down heave to Perriman near the Bengals’ sideline. Five plays later, Burkhead found the end zone for the second time to tie a bow on Cincinnati’s sixth victory of the season.
Steve Smith Sr. announced earlier in the week that this would be his final game, ending a 16-year career. In his last go-round, Smith caught three passes for 34 yards.
Replacing the injured Burfict, rookie linebacker Nick Vigil tallied six combined tackles, but his biggest play came in pass coverage. With the Bengals leading 20-3 late in the third quarter and Baltimore driving, Vigil knocked down a pass intended for Dennis Pitta inside the five-yard line to give possession back to Cincinnati.
Pitta led all receivers with 11 catches for 91 yards.
Brandon LaFell, who signed with Cincinnati on a one-year deal in March, needed three catches and only five yards to earn a $500,000 bonus. The first-year Bengal got the necessary incentives in the first half and finished with seven receptions for 67 yards. He also forced a defensive pass interference in the end zone that setup Uzomah’s first career touchdown on the last play of the first quarter.
With Hill out, Burkhead was just the fourth 100-yard rusher allowed by the Ravens’ this season. He was joined by Cedric Peerman, who ran six times for 15 yards, his first ball-carrying action since 2014.
Hill finishes the 2016 season with 839 yards on 222 carries and nine touchdowns, but has seen his yards per carry average dip by 1.4 since his breakout rookie campaign in 2014.
Dalton joined Carson Palmer as the only Bengals to tally multiple 4,000-yard seasons. He threw a career-low eight picks, the only quarterback in franchise history to start every game and throw less than 10 interceptions.
KeiVarae Russell was signed off waivers by the Bengals in early September after being released by the Chiefs, and hauled in an interception off Ryan Mallett on his first professional snap.