CINCINNATI (AP) — Even when Andy Dalton is mixing interceptions and touchdowns, the Bengals somehow find a way to win at home. And that's the best thing the AFC North champions take with them into the postseason.
Their next game will be at Paul Brown Stadium, where the Bengals are still perfect.
Dalton threw for two touchdowns, ran for another and set a pair of Bengals passing records on Sunday, leading Cincinnati to a 34-17 victory that eliminated the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
The Bengals (11-5) are 8-0 at home and will host San Diego in a playoff game next weekend. They beat the Chargers 17-10 in San Diego on Dec. 1. Cincinnati wound up with the No. 3 seed when New England beat Buffalo 34-20 later Sunday to clinch the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.
"We're playing with a lot of confidence right now," said Dalton, who was 21 of 36 for 281 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. "The last couple of years we played on the road. For us to have a home game here, it'll be a great environment.
"We're ready for the playoffs to start."
The Ravens (8-8) lost their last two games, denying them a chance to make the playoffs for a sixth straight season. They couldn't avoid the Super Bowl slump that's so common.
The Ravens became the 15th Super Bowl champ that failed to reach the playoffs the following season, and the sixth in the last 12 years. Their running game fell apart, the offense had to settle for field goals, and the defense missed Ray Lewis' inspiration in the big moments.
"That's it," coach John Harbaugh said. "That ends it. That stings."
In Cincinnati, there's only one thing in mind: win a playoff game for the first time since the 1990 season. The Bengals lost opening-round games in Houston each of the last two seasons, leaving them tied for the seventh-longest stretch of playoff futility in NFL history.
This time, they'll be playing at home, where they've scored 49, 41, 42, 42 and 34 points in their last five games.
"If we have to play next week or we have to play in two weeks, this team is going to carry this swagger and attitude into the playoffs," offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said. "If we continue to put up 30-plus points a game and continue playing defense the way we are, we'll have a chance to make a lot of noise."
Most of the focus will be on Dalton, who had two horrid games in the playoffs. He put together one of the best seasons by a Bengals quarterback, breaking Carson Palmer's club records for touchdown passes and yards passing on Sunday.