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Around the AFC North: Jan. 4-5

Posted Dec 31, 2013

Bengals to the playoffs; Ravens can't defend title; Browns fire another coach

CINCINNATI (11-5)
The Bengals advanced into the postseason in record-setting fashion.

QB Andy Dalton’s threw for 281 yards in Cincinnati’s regular season ending 34-17 victory over Baltimore. That pushed Dalton’s season total to 4,296 yards and eclipsed Carson Palmer’s franchise-record total of 4,131 in 2007. Dalton also threw a pair of touchdown passes and set a franchise record in that department with 33, one better than the 32 Palmer had produced in 2005.

Dalton became the fifth NFL quarterback to lead his team into the postseason in each of his first three seasons in the league, joining Pat Haden (Rams, 1976-78), Dan Marino (Dolphins, 1983-85), Bernie Kosar (Browns, 1985-87), and Joe Flacco (Ravens, 2008-10).

The Bengals played without tight ends Jermaine Gresham (hamstring) and Tyler Eifert (neck) and wound up with two receivers producing double-digit reception totals for the first time in franchise history (A.J. Green had 11 catches and Marvin Jones added 10).

Cincinnati is headed to the playoffs for a third consecutive season for the first time in franchise history and for the fifth time in 11 seasons under Coach Marvin Lewis.

The Bengals will host San Diego at 1:05 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 5 having not won a playoff game since the 1990 season. Cincinnati lost in the Wild Card Round to the Texans in Houston in each of the last two seasons.

BALTIMORE (8-8)
The Ravens set the types of records no team endeavors to set in losing to the Bengals and seeing their streak of five consecutive trips to the postseason come to an end.

QB Joe Flacco was sacked twice, and that ran his season total to 48, a record for sacks surrendered by the Ravens. Only Matt Ryan of the Falcons (58) was sacked more often this season than Flacco. Flacco also threw three interceptions and ended 2013 with a Ravens-record 22.

By missing the playoffs Baltimore became the eighth straight defending Super Bowl champion not to win a playoff game the following season. A coin flip will be held to determine if the Ravens or the Dallas Cowboys wind up with the No. 16 overall selection in the draft.

Justin Tucker’s three field goals against Cincinnati pushed his season total to 38, which matched New England’s Stephan Gostkowski for the most in the league this season. Tucker wound up 38-for-41 on field goals (92.6 percent).

CLEVELAND (4-12)
The Browns likewise achieved a dubious distinction by finishing a season with seven straight losses for the first time in franchise history by virtue of their 20-7 loss to the Steelers at Heinz Field. The immediate fallout from that cost first-year Coach Rob Chudzinski his job.

Chudzinski’s eventual replacement will become the Browns’ eighth coach since Cleveland’s franchise resurrection in 1999, and that man will follow in the sideline footsteps of Chris Palmer (1999-00), Butch Davis (2001-04), Terry Robiskie (five games as interim coach in 2004), Romeo Crennel (2005-08), Eric Mangini (2009-10), Pat Shurmur (2011-12), and Chudzinski, who was hired last Jan. 11.

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