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Losing Bengals earn final AFC wild card berth

Cincinnati Bengals tight end Jermain Gresham is tackled by Baltimore Ravens' Jarret Johnson (during the first half of play in their NFL foot
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Jermain Gresham is tackled by Baltimore Ravens' Jarret Johnson (during the first half of play in their NFL foot

(Reuters) - The Cincinnati Bengals clinched the final AFC wild card spot and punched their ticket to the postseason despite closing out the National Football League's regular season with a loss on Sunday.

The Bengals (9-7), in the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, fell 24-16 to the Baltimore Ravens but advanced to the postseason due to losses by the New York Jets (8-8) and Denver Broncos (8-8).

The Ravens (12-4) are also on their way to the playoffs, clinching the AFC's second seed and a first-round bye and will begin their postseason with a game at home, where they went undefeated all season.

The Bengals will open the post-season on January 7 when they travel to Houston to face the AFC South champion Texans.

"We are obviously really very disappointed in the outcome today," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis told reporters.

"The number one goal was to get an opportunity to be world champions we still have that ahead of us and we've got to keep playing better obviously in order to do that so that's a good thing."

Trailing 17-3 at the half, the Bengals bared their teeth in the second half when Bernard Scott raced 25-yards for a touchdown and Mike Nugent added a 46-yard field goal to chop the Baltimore lead to four points.

But Ray Rice, who rushed for 191-yards on 24 carries, broke free for his second long touchdown run on the day, rumbling 51-yards to give the Ravens an insurmountable 11-point lead with a little more than five minutes remaining.

Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco hit Dennis Pitta with a nine-yard pass late in the second quarter for the Ravens' other touchdown.

"We got the fight part right, we know how to do that," Lewis said. "There is no quit but we need to get the smart part right for the first part of the game and not put ourselves behind."

(Reporting by Steve Keating in East Rutherford, New Jersey; Editing by John O'Brien; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)