CINCINNATI — Standing in the raucous Ravens locker room, Dennis Pitta slipped the blue AFC North Champions cap onto his head and tugged it tight.
“The hat fits great,” the tight end decided.
Not just great, but perfect.
Baltimore finished a perfect run through the division on Sunday night, beating the Cincinnati Bengals 24-16 for its third AFC North title behind Ray Rice’s two long touchdown runs.
The Ravens (12-4) ran off the field with helmets raised in celebration, slipped into their championship shirts and caps, then headed home – the only place they want to be at this time of the year.
Baltimore clinched the AFC’s No. 2 seed and a first-round bye, followed by a playoff game at home, where they’re 8-0 this season.
“This is a great achievement, especially when you consider whatever doubters we had,” linebacker Ray Lewis said. “We swept our whole division. Now the world comes to Baltimore.”
Despite the loss, the Bengals (9-7) also got into the playoffs, securing the final wild-card as the Jets and Broncos also lost in games that ended around the same time. It’s Cincinnati’s third playoff appearance in the past 21 years.
Rice had a career-best 70-yard touchdown run on the fourth play of the game and also broke a 51-yard touchdown run on a third-and-1 play with 5:41 to go. He finished with 191 yards on 24 carries and set a club record with his 15th touchdown of the season.