BALTIMORE (Ticker) -- It wasn't easy, but the Baltimore Ravens will get a chance to defend their Super Bowl title.
The Ravens (10-6) will be the AFC's fifth seed and travel to Miami next Sunday to meet the Dolphins (11-5) in the wild card round. With the win, Baltimore eliminated the Seattle Seahawks and former teammate Trent Dilfer from playoff contention.
"The best part about getting there is we didn't have to rely on anyone. We did it all ourselves. We controlled our destiny," Allen said.
"Everyone has to fight to get to the playoffs no matter what your record," said Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis, the MVP of Super Bowl XXXV. "Once you're in, you're in. It's a whole new season now."
Signed after the Ravens lost Jamal Lewis to a season-ending knee injury in training camp, Allen responded with his best effort of the campaign against his former team. The 33-year-old back carried 23 times for 133 yards, helping offset an ineffective performance by quarterback Elvis Grbac.
It also was big night for the Ravens' defense, which finally resembled the unit that set an NFL record for fewest points (165) allowed in a 16-game season last year.
On Monday, the Ravens hounded third-string quarterback Spergon Wynn and limited Minnesota to 179 total yards and 10 first downs.
"The defense as a whole was incredible," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "When you can shut down a Randy Moss and a Cris Carter, that's something. The last three weeks our defense is showing its return to the form as we did last year."
Linebacker Jamie Sharper put a stamp on the defensive performance, picking up a fumble by Wynn and returning it eight yards for a touchdown with under two minutes remaining. It was the Ravens' first fumble return for a score in team history.
Matt Stover kicked four field goals for the Ravens, who split their last four games following an 8-4 start that had them in contention for the Central title.
Grbac signed with the Ravens in the offseason to replace Dilfer, who led the Ravens to the title last season. Grbac came under criticism from teammates and fans this season and was the target of boos Monday after completing 10-of-27 passes for 160 yards.
It was a bitter ending to disappointing season for the Vikings (5-11), who played the game with offensive assistant Mike Tice serving as coach. Dennis Green stepped down as Vikings coach and vice president of football operations Friday after enduring his first losing season in 10 years at the helm.
"I was more of a cheerleader than normal," Tice said. "I didn't yell as much. We couldn't make the plays in the passing game that we needed to make. The guys battled hard and played well. We'll just have see how it (offseason) goes from here."
The Vikings went 0-8 on the road this season and have lost 11 straight overall away from the Metrodome.
Minnesota's turbulent season began with the tragic death of Pro Bowl offensive tackle Korey Stringer during training camp.
"It's been a lot of chaos in the Minnesota Vikings," Moss said. "From training camp to the end of January, it's been frustrating. Hopefully, the offseason will breeze by and we can get back to football because I'm still anxious to play."
Baltimore struggled early on, and the Vikings actually jumped on top in the the first quarter.
Moss higlighted the drive, using his arm to find Carter with a 29-yard pass to the Baltimore 23. It was the 1,000th career catch for Carter, the NFL's second all-time leading receiver.
Wynn found Carter for 15 yards to the 8. But the drive stalled and veteran Gary Anderson kicked a 26-yard field goal with 5:50 left in the quarter.
Carter, a free agent who has indicated that he may want to continue his illustrious career elswhere next season, finished with five catches for 60 yards.
"I know I want to play football. That's my No. 1 priority," Carter said. "I'm going to be a free agent and I think I'm going to play for a team that could win. I'm not ruling out the Vikings. They have the first opportunity, but they are really rebuilding. I'll just wait and see."
The Ravens were able to answer that drive, going 77 yards in 11 plays. Grbac had a key 20-yard completion to Qadry Ismail on a 3rd-and-2 play and Allen broke off a 20-yard run to the Minnesota 12.
On 3rd-and-1 from the Minnesota 3, Jason Brookins was stopped for no gain. That brought on Stover, who kicked a 21-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter.
Baltimore took the lead for good later in the second quarter, going 43 yards in 11 plays. But that drive ended with boos raining down from the PSINet crowd.
With a 1st-and-goal at the 1, Grbac threw an incompletion before Brookins was stopped on consecutive plays. After Brookins was stuffed on third down, television replays captured Ravens coach Brian Billick yelling at offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh on the sidelines.
Billick opted for a field goal and Stover converted from 20 yards, giving Baltimore a 6-3 lead with 6:29 left before intermission.
The contest served as reunion for Billick, who spent seven seasons with the Vikings, the final five as offensive coordinator before coming to Baltimore in 1999.
A special teams gaffe gave the Vikings a chance to take the lead with under four minutes left in the half.
Having to punt from deep in their own territory, the Ravens watched as punter Kyle Richardson could not handle a bad snap by recently signed long snapper Dale Hellestrae. Minnesota took over at the Ravens 10.
But on the next play, Wynn underthrew his pass intended for Moss in the end zone and cornerback Chris McAlister came up with an interception. Wynn finished just 13-of-29 for 86 yards and two interceptions.
Baltimore looked as though it was going to run out the clock in the half and take a 6-3 lead to the locker room. But on 3rd-and-3 from their own 27, Grbac found Brandon Stokley over the middle for 46 yards to the Minnesota 27.
Stover kicked 38-yard field goal with seven seconds left in the half for a 9-3 lead.
The Ravens went three-and-out on their first possesion of the third quarter before going 85 yards in 10 plays the next time they got the ball in their most impressive drive of the night.
However, the Ravens came up inches short of a first down just inside the Minnesota 3, and Stover converted a 20-yard field goal to make it 12-3.
Minnesota, which failed to move across midfield in the fourth quarter, committed its final blunder with under two minutes remaining.
Peter Boulware sacked and stripped Wynn of the ball. Sharper picked up the loose ball and ran untouched into the end zone for the eight-yard TD that made it 19-3 with 1:47 left.
Shifted to defensive end from linebacker in November, when Michael McCrary suffered a season-ending knee injury, Boulware had four sacks on Monday, tying McCrary's single-game team record. With his effort, he finished with an AFC-leading 15 sacks this season.