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Ravens rest, lose to Bengals 23-17

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 30, 2012 at 8:33 pm •  Published: December 30, 2012
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CINCINNATI (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens rested their stars, getting healthy for a first-round playoff game that will have a little more emotion than most.

They're going to be reunited with Chuck Pagano.

Baltimore decided to rest rather than try its best to win a regular season finale that had more of a preseason feel on Sunday.

Carlos Dunlap returned an interception 14 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, sending the Cincinnati Bengals to a 23-17 victory.

The Ravens (10-6) had already clinched their second straight AFC North title and decided to use the final game to get healthier.

They had several stars inactive and pulled quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice after only two series.

They'll host Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts next Sunday at 1 p.m. EST, reuniting them with former defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. The Colts head coach has returned from three rounds of chemotherapy.

"Chuck's like a dad to me," safety Ed Reed said. "He means a lot to me. I would have much rather seen them in the AFC championship game than the first game."

Pagano coached the Ravens' secondary for three seasons and was promoted to coordinator last year. Players and coaches in Baltimore have kept in touch, offering encouragement as he fought through the cancer treatments.

"I love his family, and he's one of my closest personal friends in coaching," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "What he's been through is phenomenal, but we're all competitors so that gets set aside."

The Bengals (10-6) were locked into the sixth seed as the final wild-card team, unsure where they would go to start the playoffs. They will open on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in Houston, where they lost 31-10 in the first round last season.

The Bengals went into preseason mode on a 26-degree afternoon with a wind chill of 16 degrees and got their seventh win in the last eight games.

"I'm glad that's over," coach Marvin Lewis said. "That's a difficult situation to be in. I thought our guys handled it about as well as you can handle it."

Josh Brown kicked three field goals in the second half. Dunlap tipped one of Tyrod Taylor's passes to himself and returned it for a clinching touchdown with 6:06 left, jumping into the stands and sitting there for several seconds while fans smacked his back.

The Bengals headed into the playoffs for the second straight season after beating rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore in back-to-back weeks — a breakthrough for a franchise that had been 0-6 against those top rivals the past two seasons.

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