Bengals’ rocky season ends with win


CINCINNATI (AP) — Steve Smith wanted to go out with another huge game. Instead, he settled for a mundane one and a chance to start thinking about his family and ice cream — Rocky Road, of course.

Smith caught only three passes while the Cincinnati Bengals beat Baltimore 27-10 on Sunday. Both teams had been eliminated from playoff contention, so the spotlight was on one of the game’s all-time greats.

What was Smith thinking about at the end?

“The pressure I have now is getting the kids to school on time,” said Smith, still dressed in his silver and purple cleats and uniform pants long after the game ended. “Do I eat a pint of ice cream or a gallon of ice cream?”

The Ravens (8-8) had an emotional hangover from a last-minute loss in Pittsburgh a week earlier that had eliminated them from contention.

“For whatever reason — it’s hard to put your finger on it — our emotional level was not where it’s been in the past, and I think it has a lot to do with what happened last week,” coach John Harbaugh said. “It was definitely our worst game of the year as far as the way we played.”

The Bengals (6-9-1) also were officially eliminated by the Steelers two weeks ago. For them, it was more about having a good final moment to a bad season, the first time they’ve failed to reach the playoffs in six years.

“It’s weird sitting up here after winning the last game and not going to the playoffs,” said Andy Dalton , who had made the postseason in each of his first five seasons.

Some takeaways from the final game:

RAVENS’ WOES IN CINCY: Baltimore hasn’t won a game at Paul Brown Stadium since 2011. Their game on Sunday was the sixth time in the past seven seasons that they’ve finished the regular season against Cincinnati. The Bengals have won the past four such games, all of them in Cincinnati.

MISSING OFENSE: Running back Jeremy Hill was held out of the final game with a knee injury, another blow to an already depleted offense. The Bengals also were missing receiver A.J. Green, tight end Tyler Eifert, running back Giovani Bernard, tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and guard Clint Boling.

DALTON’S SEASON: Dalton completed his first 10 passes, one of them for a touchdown, as Cincinnati took control with a 20-3 halftime lead. Despite leading an offense diminished by so many injuries, Dalton finished the season throwing for 4,206 yards — his second-best total — with only eight interceptions.

“To me, he has had his best season,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “Unfortunately, as a team we haven’t.”

BURKHEAD’S BIG GAME: Rex Burkhead got a chance to start because of Hill’s injuries, and he had by far his best game. Burkhead carried 27 times for 119 yards and a pair of touchdowns, his biggest game since the Bengals drafted him from Nebraska in 2013. Burkhead is one of 15 Bengals who could become free agents. The running back hopes he turned some heads.

“It’s huge,” he said. “I’m not going to back down from that and say it’s not. I like Cincinnati. I love it here. We’ll see what happens.”


Baltimore’s Justin Tucker had a 30-yard field goal, his 38th of the season, matching his club record. Only two kickers have made 40 field goals in a season — David Akers and Neil Rackers. … Joe Flacco was 32 of 49 for 267 yards with an interception in the end zone. He finished with 4,276 yards, topping Vinny Testaverde’s club record of 4,177 yards in 1996. Asked if the record meant anything to him, Flacco said, “Not really.”


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Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton passes during the second half of the team’s NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers) Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton passes during the second half of the team’s NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)

By Joe Kay

AP Sports Writer

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