It's been their way during one breakthrough win after another.
"It's a situation where both teams have gotten in the playoffs and you really want to look forward to next week having people fresh and ready and not have any injuries."
With little at stake, both playoff-bound teams rested a lot of their starters to get ready for their first-round games.
They went into preseason mode on a 26-degree afternoon with a wind chill of 16 and got their seventh win in the last eight games.
"I'm glad that's over," coach Marvin Lewis said. "That's a difficult situation to be in. I thought our guys handled it about as well as you can handle it."
"I wanted it to be a highlight to remember," Dunlap said.
The Bengals headed into the playoffs for the second consecutive season after beating rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore in back-to-back weeks -- a breakthrough for a franchise that had been 0-6 against those top rivals the past two seasons.
The defense has led the way, scoring more touchdowns than the offense over the past two weeks. Cornerback Leon Hall returned an interception for the only touchdown against Pittsburgh, and Dunlap clinched the win on Sunday with his return.
"I think we've found ways to win games, and that's the thing we needed to learn as a young team," Whitworth said. "This young team has learned how to win games."
NOTES: The crowd of 61,565 gave Cincinnati six sellouts in eight home games. The Bengals sold out only two games last season on their way to the playoffs. ... Baltimore's Justin Tucker missed a 45-yard field goal try and made one from 49 yards, leaving him 30 of 33 for the season. His 90.9 percent success rate set an NFL record for a rookie. ... The Bengals had four sacks, giving them a franchise-record 51 for the season. ... S Chris Crocker hurt his right thigh while trying to make a tackle in the first quarter and didn't return. He said the injury wasn't serious.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press