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John Eisenberg: The Ravens needed help near the end of this game. They were desperate. The Bengals had them on the run and were in danger of pulling off a crushing rally. But on a team with seven Pro Bowlers, two of the Ravens’ biggest came through when the team really needed it. Terrell Suggs forced a fumble to halt Cincinnati’s momentum, and Ray Rice broke a long touchdown run. That was enough to give the Ravens one of their biggest-ever regular season wins, delivering a division title, first-round playoff bye and at least one home playoff game. Early on, the Ravens did all the things they needed to take control; all the things they had failed to do in their earlier road losses. They scored early, took the crowd out of the game, forced the Bengals to play catch-up and didn’t make mistakes to give it away. Then they just held on in the end. Not pretty, but enough to make their dreams come true.
Ryan Mink: What a game. These two playoff teams battled it out from start to finish in a game that will be remembered in Baltimore for a long, long time. The Ravens have been the best team in the AFC North all season long and deserved to be the champions. They went out and proved it on Sunday, beating a very good team on the road that was fighting for its playoff life. Baltimore now gets much-needed rest and will go into the playoffs as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Garrett Downing: The Ravens showed up on the biggest stage of the season and now are heading into the postseason in a position that they have been trying to reach for the last few years. Baltimore will have a first-round bye and home playoff game for the first time since 2006. The Ravens built up an early lead and then survived a late Cincinnati rally, completing a season sweep of the AFC North and putting them in prime position for the postseason.
Sarah Ellison: The Ravens ring in the New Year with a critical win that earns them an undefeated record in the division and all the prizes that come with it: the No. 2 seed, a first-round bye and a home playoff game. That’s an especially impressive feat considering the AFC North is arguably the best division in the NFL. Give the Bengals credit, each time the Ravens punched them in them mouth, they kept coming back. But it was Ray Rice who delivered the knockout blow with a 51-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter (after a forced fumble by Terrell Suggs) and his overall 191-yard rushing day. Dennis Pitta became the answer for the Ravens’ passing game with Anquan Boldin missing and Lee Evans struggling to come alive. And the playoffs start … now.