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.
The Ravens’ fourth road playoff win in three seasons advances the AFC’s No. 5 seed to the divisional round against their AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens play the second-seeded Steelers on Saturday at Heinz Field, where the Ravens beat them earlier this season.
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 Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel three times and forcing two fumbles.
The momentum from the Ravens’ defense started to snowball in the third quarter, when Dawan Landry picked off Matt Cassel. 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 4-yard touchdown to a leaping 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 Chiefs linebackers and into the hands of Boldin, who scored for the first time in five games.
Willis McGahee finished off the game with 25-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. It was an interesting start for the more playoff-experienced Ravens, who scored on their first and last possessions of the first half.
Everything else was a little shaky.
The Ravens took the opening kickoff right down the field with Flacco exposing the middle of the Chiefs’ coverage. He hit Anquan Boldin for a 27-yard connection and found Todd Heap for a 12-yard gain to the goal line.
But the Ravens were unable to punch the ball in despite having three shots from the Kansas City 1-yard line. Flacco fumbled the snap on first down, and Willis McGahee got stuffed on second down. The Ravens had to settle for a short field goal after Chiefs 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, Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles sprinted past the entire Ravens defense for a 41-yard touchdown.
The longest touchdown run allowed by the Ravens in their playoff history put them behind 7-3 late in the first quarter.
The Ravens’ best drive of the first half came at the end of it, thanks to Flacco’s arm and feet. Flacco ran three times for 24 yards (a season high in any one game for him, much less one drive) and completed three passes to Heap for 46 yards to get the Ravens in the red zone.
An offensive line, which had allowed 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 5-yard line, used a head fake and went into the end zone untouched.
Rice’s 9-yard touchdown catch — the first touchdown reception by a running back in Ravens postseason history — finished off the 11-play, 80-yard drive and moved them back ahead, 13-7, with 19 seconds before halftime.
On the first drive of the second half, the Ravens defense stopped Kansas City on fourth-and-1, when nose tackle Kelly Gregg hit Charles in the backfield before the rest of the Ravens swarmed on top of him. The Ravens then capitalized to extend 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 personal foul on Hali, who took a shot at Flacco’s knees.
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’ advantage to 16-7.