KANSAS CITY — The Baltimore Ravens, the No. 5 seed in the AFC Playoffs, punched their ticket for Pittsburgh today with a convincing 30-7 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs before an Arrowhead Stadium crowd of 72,190.
The Ravens will next face the second-seeded Steelers in the divisional round at Heinz Field.
It set a pair of tantalizing divisional rematches — Call it AFC Rivalry Weekend — in which archrivals from the AFC North (Ravens-Steelers) and AFC East (Jets-Patriots) will meet for the right to advance to the AFC Championship game.
“It would’ve been great if we had gotten the job done and beaten Pittsburgh and gotten them at home, but we didn’t,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “I’m sure the Jets feel the same way about New England, but those two teams earned the bye, they earned the home-field advantage by the way they played all year and they’ll have an edge because of that.
“But for us to be playing the Steelers and for the Patriots to be playing the Jets, it’s kind of poetic justice,” Harbaugh said. “It’s probably the way it should be.”
Joe Flacco completed 25 of 34 passes for 265 yards and a pair of touchdowns while the Ravens’ vaunted defense held the Chiefs’ to a mere seven points and 161 yards total offense while forcing five turnovers, including three interceptions of Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel (9 of 18, 70 yards).
Baltimore dedicated the game ball to safety Ed Reed, who suited up and played after fighting through a personal family ordeal. Friday, Reed’s brother, Brian, was declared missing when he jumped into the Mississippi River while evading the New Orleans police. The search for his body ended Saturday.
“I think what Ed’s family is going through, what the Reed family is going through, is a big part of this victory,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “That’s what will be remembered by our players. We’re a family, and the Reed family si part of the Raven family. And the Raven family is part of the Reed family. That’s the way it works with our team, our organization.
“For Ed to do what he did under the circumstances and to play the way he played, to lead the way he led, that’s just an incredible thing.”
Looking for their first playoff victory at home since 1993, the Chiefs took a 7-3 lead on Jamaal Charles’ 41-yard touchdown run with 2:09 left in the first half. It answered a 19-yard field goal by Baltimore’s Billy Cundiff that gave the Ravens a 3-0 lead after a 14-play, 69-yard drive stalled at the Kansas City 1.
“The crowd was really into it today,” said Flacco, who helped silence the Arrowhead Stadium crowd of 72,190, when he completed TD passes of 9 yards to Ray Rice for a 10-7 halftime lead and 4 yards to Anquan Boldin for a 23-7 third-quarter lead. “But it’s a lot of fun to come on the road in places like this and just be confident in your teammates, that you’re going to come and get a job done. that’s really how we feel. We don’t have any doubt that we are going to come in here and win the football game. That’s how we feel and that’s what we showed today.”
Flacco, who completed 17 of 24 passes for 196 yards in the first half, found Ray Rice with a 9-yard TD toss with 19 seconds remaining before intermission to put the Ravens up, 10-7, at halftime.
Flacco then directed a 7-play, 51-yard drive _ which he sustained (the hard way) by absorbing a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty from Kansas City’s Tamba Hali. It resulted in a 29-yard field goal by Cundiff that increased the Raven’s lead to 13-7 with 6:36 remaining in the third quarter.
Baltimore’s defense came up with a huge turnover when Ray Lewis made a jarring hit on Chiefs’ rookie receiver Dexter McCluster and Chris Carr recovered for the Ravens at the KC 17.
Baltimore’s offense, however, failed to punch it in and was forced to settle for yet another Cundiff 29-yard field goal that expanded the Ravens’ lead to 16-7. It came as a little breathing room, yes, but it was evident that with the Chiefs’ ability to run the ball, it was going to take more than just field goals to beat Kansas City.
But Arrowhead Stadium, considered the loudest venue in the league, became one of the most silent when the Ravens’ capitalized on a Dawan Landry interception return to the Chiefs’ 31, where Flacco needed six plays to find Anquan Boldin with a 4-yard TD toss that expanded Baltimore’s lead to 23-7 after three quarters.
Willis McGahee buried a final nail in the Chiefs’ playoff hopes when he broke open for a 25-yard touchdown run that capped a 15-play, 80-yard scoring drive that consummed 10:20 and gave the Ravens’ a 30-7 lead with 4:26 to go.
“It was a really good team victory,” Flacco said. “They were a tough team but we were able to kind of pop out the other end and keep it going today. It feels good to do that in the first round of the playoffs.”