BALTIMORE – As they prepare for their third straight trip to the playoffs, the Baltimore Ravens will have to settle for momentum instead of a first-round bye.
Despite the victory, the Ravens (12-4) failed to get the help necessary to win the AFC North. Baltimore needed Pittsburgh to lose to Cleveland, but the Steelers won 41-9 to make the Ravens a wild-card entrant.
Baltimore will enter the playoffs with a four-game winning streak.
Ray Rice scored on a 7-yard run and Billy Cundiff kicked two field goals for the Ravens, who gave up 395 yards but forced five turnovers. Baltimore had lost three straight to Cincinnati — including a 15-10 decision in Week 2 that proved decisive in the tiebreaking system that enabled Pittsburgh to win the division.
Sunday's victory was not assured until Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer threw an incompletion on a fourth-down play from the Baltimore 2 with 10 seconds left.
The defeat marked the end of a disappointing season for the defending AFC North champion Bengals (4-12), who endured a 10-game losing streak and went 1-7 on the road. After an eight-year run in which he's had only two winning seasons, Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis will meet with owner Mike Brown on Monday to discuss the team's plans.
Palmer went 32 for 45 for 305 yards but was intercepted twice and lost a fumble. Jerome Simpson caught 12 passes for 123 yards and a score for the Bengals, who were without injured receivers Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco.
After being held to a pair of field goals in the first half, Baltimore went up 13-0 on Rice's TD run with 5:47 left in the third quarter.
The Bengals then mounted an 80-yard drive that included an encroachment call against Ravens tackle Kelly Gregg on a fourth-and-1 from the Baltimore 40. That led to an 11-yard touchdown pass from Palmer to Simpson with 12:24 remaining.
Cincinnati got the ball back and moved to the Baltimore 26, where Cedric Peerman was stuffed for no gain on a fourth-and-1 with 5:30 left.
The Bengals' next chance came minutes later, and typical of Cincinnati's season, the drive ended when Palmer fumbled at the Baltimore 29 after scrambling for a first down immediately after the two-minute warning.
Reed's second consecutive two-interception game gave him eight picks for the season — in only 10 games. His two returns totaled 48 yards, lifting him past Darren Sharper for second place on the NFL career list with 1,438. Rod Woodson is the record-holder with 1,483.
Reed's first interception ended Cincinnati's first possession, and the Ravens used a 37-yard pass from Joe Flacco to tight end Todd Heap to set up a 25-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
After their first two drives failed to produce a first down, the Bengals moved 65 yards before Clint Stitser pulled a 29-yard field goal try to the right — his first miss in eight attempts since signing Nov. 30.
Baltimore went up 6-0 when Cundiff kicked a 47-yard field goal shortly after a pass interference call against Brandon Johnson.
Late in the half, Cincinnati's Reggie Nelson took an interception 56 yards to the Baltimore 33. After the Bengals moved to the 13, Reed picked off a pass in the end zone to end the threat.