Bengals beat rival Ravens, take eight-game winning streak into playoffs

The Bengals stamped their status as the most dangerous team in the AFC heading into the playoffs.

Cincinnati defeated Baltimore 27-16 on Sunday to snap an eight-game winning streak into the postseason, the longest in the AFC. It also ties the 2015 Bengals for the longest winning streak in franchise history.

The division rivals will meet again at Paycor Stadium next week in the wild-card round, with the Bengals (12-4) as the AFC’s third seed and the Ravens (10-7) as the sixth head of series

AFC North champions for the second straight season, the Bengals took control Sunday with defensive dominance. They had four points to take away, including three in the first half that took them to 21 points.

Bengals safety Jessie Bates III essentially sealed the game by forcing a fumble after Sammy Watkins’ 47-yard catch and run, which was recovered by safety Vonn Bell with 2:56 left.

Late in the first half, Bengals Pro Bowl defensive back Trey Hendrickson had a sack fumble that was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown by fellow defensive lineman Joseph Ossai.

Hendrickson had beaten left tackle Ronnie Stanley on the edge to bring down quarterback Anthony Brown, starting with Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley idle, and handballed the ball into the end zone, allowing Ossai to fall on it.

Bates had the first of back-to-back interceptions in the first half. Defensive lineman BJ Hill’s pressure led to the sack on a pass intended for tight end Isaiah Likely.

On the Ravens’ next drive, nickelback Mike Hilton caught a bobble pass from wide receiver DeMarcus Robinson.

Bates’ interception led to an eight-play, 48-yard scoring drive in the first quarter capped by running back Joe Mixon, who had a one-yard touchdown run. He proceeded to troll the NFL with a coin celebration, a nod to the Bengals’ frustrations with the league’s playoff guidelines in the wake of their canceled Week 17 game against the Bills. If Cincinnati fell to Baltimore and the teams were to meet in the wild-card round, the site of the game would be determined by a coin toss.

Bengals star receiver Ja’Marr Chase (eight receptions, 86 yards) surpassed 1,000 yards for the season, marking the second consecutive year he has done so to start his career. He scored a 26-yard touchdown after Hilton’s snap, winning a one-on-one matchup with cornerback Daryl Worley on the sideline.

What stood out most about Cincinnati in Week 18, though? The game of his defense.

Sure, Baltimore had a short offense, without tight end Mark Andrews and down to the third-string quarterback in Brown. But the Bengals have blown a lead in five straight games and have 11 total in that span. This is how you want your defense to play heading into the playoffs.

When you consider how explosive Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ offense can be, that makes for a scary proposition for the rest of the AFC.

“That’s a quarterback’s best friend,” Burrow said in a postgame interview on the field with CBS. “When they can get turnovers, score on defense, it’s going to be hard to beat us if we do that.”

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Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for for three seasons (2018-20) before moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.

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