The Baltimore Ravens' much-vaunted defence smothered Miami as the Dolphins' Cinderella season ended with a 27-9 defeat in their AFC wildcard clash.
|Lookin' mean: Flacco [GALLO/GETTY]
The Ravens intercepted Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington four times and forced a Miami fumble before cruising into the upcoming divisional playoffs at Tennessee.
"Our defences gave us a bunch of chances today," Ravens rookie quarterback Joe Flacco said on Sunday after Baltimore secured their 10th win in 12 games.
"We can't wait to get down to Tennessee and see them again," he said of the Titans, who beat the Ravens 13-10 during the regular season.
Ed Reed had two of Baltimore's interceptions, returning one for a game-changing 64-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
His second interception halted a third-quarter drive by the Dolphins, who had won five consecutive games and nine of their last 10 in the regular season after going 1-15 last year.
"That (first interception) was a great play by Ed Reed, over the shoulder. Not too many safeties make that," Pennington said.
Of the four interceptions, three of those I felt really good about," Pennington said.
Forcing it down
Pennington, who became the Dolphins' leader after being released by the New York Jets in August to make way for Brett Favre, said it was hard to stomach the defeat.
"It has been a special year," he said. "That's why it (the loss) hurt so much."
Baltimore also took advantage of a Miami fumble for a third-quarter touchdown as they scored 20 consecutive points after the Dolphins had taken a 3-0 lead.
Miami finally found the end zone on Ronnie Brown's fingertip grab of a two-yard pass from Pennington early in the fourth quarter.
That ended 11 postseason quarters without a touchdown for the Dolphins, who were playing in their first playoff game in seven seasons.
But the frustration continued when the extra point attempt was blocked.
In the day's other wildcard playoff Philadelphia's Brian Westbrook took a short pass 71 yards for the game-clinching touchdown as the Eagles beat hosts Minnesota 26-14 in the NFC.
Westbrook put the Eagles out of sight with the long run from quarterback Donovan McNabb's screen pass in the fourth quarter.
Philadelphia advanced to the divisional playoff round and will travel to East Rutherford, New Jersey, to meet defending Super Bowl champions New York Giants next Sunday.
"Donovan got rid of the ball fast and I was there and had big guys downfield blocking for me," running back Westbrook said.
"We weren't able to establish a run (running game) like we needed to but that (play) came just in time."
NFC East rivals New York and Philadelphia split their regular-season meetings, the Giants winning at Philadelphia in November and the Eagles taking a 20-14 December victory at Giants Stadium to keep their playoff hopes alive.
"It's going to be a tough game up there," said Westbrook of the Giants, who had a first round-bye.
"You know those guys are rested."