Ravens tight end Todd Heap catches a pass for a first down against Brandon… (Larry W. Smith / EPA )
Reporting from Kansas City, Mo. — The Ravens rode the emotions of a determined defense and the strong arm of Joe Flacco to a 30-7 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in a wild-card game Sunday.
In a playoff weekend that began with upsets, the Ravens slammed the young Chiefs by forcing five turnovers and getting two touchdown passes from Flacco, who completed 25 of 34 passes for 265 yards.
The Ravens' fourth road playoff win in three seasons advanced the AFC's No. 5-seeded team to the divisional round against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens play the second-seeded Steelers on Saturday at Heinz Field, where the Ravens won this season.
"It seems like it's poetic justice. I'm sure [the Steelers will] bring their 'A' game and we'll try to bring our 'A' game and we'll see what happens. We respect them and we know what kind of game it's going to be. But we do enjoy playing them," Coach John Harbaugh said.
It was an emotionally charged game for the Ravens and safety Ed Reed, whose brother went missing in Louisiana last week. The Ravens took control of the game by intercepting three passes by Matt Cassel and forcing two fumbles.
"What Ed and the Reed family are going through is a big part of this victory. I think that's what will be remembered by our players. We're a family and the Reed family is part of the Raven family. That's the way it works with our organization," Harbaugh said.
The momentum from the Ravens' defense started to snowball in the third quarter, when Dawan Landry picked off a Cassel pass. The Ravens' third forced turnover of the quarter led to a devastating blow by Flacco.
In a season when the Ravens have struggled to finish off teams, Flacco did exactly that when he threw a four-yard touchdown pass to a leaping Anquan Boldin in the back of the end zone for a 23-7 lead. Flacco's second touchdown pass of the game arched over two jumping linebackers and into the hands of Boldin, who scored for the first time in five games.
Willis McGahee capped the victory with 25-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The Ravens took the opening kickoff down the field with Flacco exposing the middle of the Chiefs' coverage. He hit Boldin for a 27-yard gain and Todd Heap for a 12-yard pick-up to the goal line.
But the Ravens were unable to punch the ball in on three tries from the one. Flacco fumbled the snap on first down and McGahee got stuffed on second down. The Ravens had to settle for a short field goal after safety Eric Berry deflected a third-down pass to Heap in the end zone.
The first half began to shift when Flacco had the ball stripped from behind by Tamba Hali, who beat left tackle Michael Oher off the edge. Two plays after Flacco's fifth fumble lost this season, running back Jamaal Charles sprinted for a 41-yard touchdown, the longest touchdown run given up by the Ravens in their playoff history.
The Ravens' best drive of the first half came at the end of it. Flacco ran three times for 24 yards (a season high in a game for him) and completed three passes to Heap for 46 yards to get the Ravens in the red zone.
An offensive line that gave up three sacks in the first half gave Flacco enough time to look to his right and left before finding an uncovered Ray Rice over the middle. Rice caught the ball at the five, used a head fake and went into the end zone untouched.
Rice's nine-yard touchdown play, the first touchdown reception by a running back in Ravens postseason history, finished an 11-play, 80-yard drive and put Baltimore ahead, 13-7, with 19 seconds before halftime.
On the first drive of the second half, the Ravens stopped Kansas City on fourth and one when nose tackle Kelly Gregg hit Charles in the backfield before other Ravens joined in. The Ravens extended their lead to 13-7 in the third quarter on a Billy Cundiff 29-yard field goal. The scoring drive was helped by a 15-yard foul on Hali, who took a shot at Flacco's knees.
The Ravens defense stepped up again on the next series when Ray Lewis forced receiver Dexter McCluster to fumble. Taking over at the Chiefs 17, the Ravens couldn't convert in the red zone for the second time in the third quarter. Cundiff's 29-yard field goal increased the Ravens' lead to 16-7.
Landry intercepted Cassel's pass at the Chiefs 21, and on the next possession Flacco through a short pass over the middle to Boldin, who ran it in for a four-yard touchdown with 32 seconds remaining in the quarter.
The Ravens controlled the clock for nearly 14 minutes in the fourth quarter, assembling a 15-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown on McGahee's 25-yard run.
"It's a lot of fun to come on the road and into places like this and be confident in yourself and be confident in your teammates that you're going to get the job done. That's really how we feel. We don't have any doubt that we're going to come in here and win the football game. And that's what it showed today," Flacco said.