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Instant analysis: Ravens run over Bengals to clinch playoff berth, will face Titans in wild-card round

At the end of a dramatic regular season, the Ravens kept things simple on their way to a third straight postseason appearance.

With a franchise-record 404-yard rushing attack powering a 38-3 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens clinched a wild-card berth Sunday. The Buffalo Bills’ comfortable win over the Miami Dolphins handed the Ravens the No. 5 seed in the AFC.

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The Ravens (11-5), who haven’t won a playoff game since 2014, will face the AFC South champion Tennessee Titans (11-5) in the wild-card round next weekend. The Titans (10-5), who stunned the top-seeded Ravens in the divisional round last season, clinched the No. 4 seed with a win over the Houston Texans (4-11) on a last-second field goal, 41-38. The Indianapolis Colts, who beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, 28-14, claimed the No. 7 seed and final playoff spot ahead of the Dolphins (10-6).

After a disappointing Week 5 performance in Baltimore in their first meeting, the Ravens offense had an easy afternoon in Cincinnati. In his fifth straight win since returning from a coronavirus bout, quarterback Lamar Jackson finished 10-for-18 for 113 yards and three touchdowns, plus an interception after a tipped ball. He added 11 carries for 97 yards as he became the fastest quarterback in NFL history to 30 wins (37 starts) and the first with multiple seasons with 1,000 rushing yards.

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Running back J.K. Dobbins had 13 carries for 160 yards and two scores, including a 72-yard touchdown run. Gus Edwards rushed 12 times for 60 yards, while Mark Ingram II and Justice Hill added 11 attempts for a combined 60 yards.

The Ravens became just the seventh team since 1933 to finish a game with 400 rushing yards, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Bengals’ 407 yards against the Denver Broncos in 2000 are the most in the Super Bowl era (since 1970).

On defense, the Ravens held Bengals to 195 total yards, and Cincinnati quarterback Brandon Allen (6-for-21, 48 yards and two interceptions) finished with a passer rating of 0.0.

Kicker Justin Tucker opened the scoring Sunday with a 34-yard field goal on the game’s opening drive, and wide receiver Miles Boykin turned the game into a runaway with a 43-yard touchdown catch four minutes later. When wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown caught his second score, the Ravens led 31-3 in the third quarter.

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So overwhelming was their lead that Jackson didn’t even need to take the field in the fourth quarter. After a season marred by injuries, stunning losses and one of the biggest COVID-19 outbreaks in sports, the Ravens were going back to the playoffs. And they didn’t need to worry very long.

Instant analysis

Daniel Oyefusi, reporter: The Ravens brought in the new year with a playoff-clinching performance that resembled their 2019 form. Locked into the No. 5 seed, the Ravens will play the AFC South champion and must feel comfortable with a rematch against the Tennessee Titans. A year ago, the Ravens rested several starters in Week 17 and then faced questions about whether it was the right decision after flaming out in the divisional round. This time around, the Ravens are red-hot, and they might be even better poised for a playoff run this season.

Jonas Shaffer, reporter: The Ravens took the drama out of this game like a deflating balloon. They dominated Cincinnati’s depleted defense. Their defense allowed next to nothing through the air. Their special teams didn’t miss a beat without punter Sam Koch. They might not be entering the playoffs on the high that they did last year, but the Ravens are a team that no one wants to face. John Harbaugh hasn’t won a playoff game since 2014, and this team looks well positioned to advance to the divisional round.

Childs Walker, reporter: The Ravens finished off a five-game run of offensive dominance with the best rushing performance in franchise history. They showed off all the weapons, tactical and personnel, that make them a unique force in the modern NFL. Lamar Jackson continued his astonishing form as a runner and red-zone finisher. Now, he and his teammates are set up to answer the question that’s haunted them for a year: Can they do it in the playoffs? The Ravens will have their chance against the very team that dumped them from the postseason last January, the Tennessee Titans. The Ravens will move the ball against Tennessee’s porous defense, but can they hold up for four quarters against Derrick Henry’s mighty outside-zone runs and Ryan Tannehill’s play-action shots? They couldn’t in Week 11 as the Titans rallied from a 21-10 deficit. But the Ravens could not ask for a tastier scenario to demonstrate their growth.

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