Once again, there weren't many believers in the Ravens' corner entering the playoffs.
Being doubted, facing adversity is nothing new for this team, however.
The Ravens went into Pittsburgh and knocked out the AFC North champions,* *30-17, in the wild-card round of the playoffs.
It's the first time Baltimore has beaten Pittsburgh in the postseason, dating back to the Baltimore Colts days. It avenged a 20-point loss in Heinz Field earlier this season.
"This is a very special victory for us, not just because it's a playoff win," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "But because of who it comes against, which is our most respected rival."
The Ravens will now travel to top-seeded New England for the divisional round next Saturday. Baltimore has won at least one playoff game in six of the past seven years.
The Ravens offense, which struggled down the stretch of the regular season, came alive under cool playoff quarterback Joe Flacco, the man with the most road playoff wins in NFL history. He added one more to his docket.
The defense, which had given up six touchdowns to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in their last meeting, sacked him five times and picked him off twice.
As usual in this rivalry, and on par with the adversity of the season, it didn't come as easy as the final score looks.
Baltimore led for most of the game, but coughed the ball up leading by 11 points when running back Justin Forsett ran into his own man. The Steelers scored a touchdown just two plays later, cutting Baltimore's lead to five.
It looked like it could be the beginning of yet another playoff meltdown in Pittsburgh. The tide turned earlier this year on a fumble by running back Lorenzo Taliaferro.
But not this time. This time, the Ravens stepped up. Once again, they answered the call.
"Joe driving and getting points on the next drive was huge. It changed the game," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "We stuck together and good things happened for us."
**Turning Point Of The Game
With the Steelers trailing by just eight points, Suggs intercepted a Roethlisberger pass … between his legs. The Ravens scored a 21-yard touchdown on the very next play as quarterback Joe Flacco rolled out and hit rookie tight end . Baltimore took a commanding 30-15 lead with less than eight minutes remaining.
"Greatest catch in football," Harbaugh said. "Never seen a greater catch. I just gave him the game ball. The greatest catch in the history of football. I tossed it to him, and what happened do you think? He dropped it! He caught the one that mattered."
- After a three-and-out on the Ravens' first drive, they got the ground game going. Forsett ripped off a 9-yard gain on the final play of the first quarter. He then picked up 7- and 14-yard runs before Bernard Pierce punched in Baltimore’s first touchdown from 5 yards out.
- Safety Darian Stewart saved a touchdown by shoving Antonio Brown out of bounds as he caught a pass in the end zone. Brown was wide open, but Stewart showed impressive closing speed to make the play as Brown's foot stepped barely on the white line. The Steelers later got a field goal, but that play saved four points.
- On that same drive, after seemingly forcing a 46-yard field-goal try, the Ravens were flagged for having 12 men on the field. That gave the Steelers a free first down. The Steelers later hit a 22-yard field goal. But might kicker Shaun Suisham have missed from further out?
- With Baltimore driving on its first drive of the second half, Flacco tried to throw a pass away as he was being sacked, but instead fumbled. Center Jeremy Zuttah pounced on the loose ball, saving the possession. The Ravens moved back into field-goal range for a 45-yard Justin Tucker boot to extend their lead to 13-9.
- After a defensive stand, Flacco came out on the first play and launched a pass deep down the field. The 5-foot-9 Steve Smith Sr. climbed over cornerback Brice McCain and hauled in a 40-yard catch, setting up the big touchdown later in the drive.
- The Ravens were facing a third-and-7 from the Pittsburgh 11. Outside linebacker James Harrison got around left tackle James Hurst on the edge, but Hurst stayed with him and got some help from left guard Kelechi Osemele. They crushed Harrison, freeing him from Flacco's legs. Flacco scrambled to his left and found wide receiver Torrey Smith open in the back of the end zone for a touchdown that gave Baltimore a 20-9 lead with four minutes, 13 seconds remaining. It was the game's first big swing in a back-and-forth effort.
- The Steelers got to midfield on the next drive when Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees sent a blitz off the left side. Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil dropped Roethlisberger for a 12-yard loss, forcing a punt and keeping momentum on Baltimore's side.
- Right after the Ravens converted on a fourth-and-inches, Forsett ran into the back of Zuttah and fumbled, giving the Steelers possession in Ravens' territory. It was Forsett's second fumble of the season. Pittsburgh scored two plays later to bring the score to 20-15.
- On third-and-long, tight end Owen Daniels pulled away from safety Mike Mitchel for a 23-yard gain, setting up a 52-yard field goal by kicker Justin Tucker to put Baltimore up by eight points. They were huge points answering the Steelers' momentum-changing fumble and touchdown.
- The Steelers, gasping one last time for momentum, drove down the field. Outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw sacked Roethlisberger, sending him to the sideline to be evaluated for a concussion. Roethlisberger came back and was intercepted by Stewart on his first pass.
QB Joe Flacco
Flacco was his usual cool playoff self, stepping up in big moments to win a game on the road. Flacco went 18-for-29 for 259 yards and two touchdowns, including a huge third quarter touchdown after he escaped pressure.
SS Darian Stewart
Stewart saved a touchdown by covering a lot of ground and hitting Brown out of bounds before he could get both of his feet down. His blitz up the middle pressured Roethlisberger and led to him throwing a poor pass directly to Suggs for the fourth-quarter interception. Stewart then essentially sealed the win with an interception in the end zone.
OLB Terrell Suggs
Suggs didn't sack the quarterback he loves to hit, but he made the interception that turned the game. It's his first interception since 2011, and certainly the first he's caught with his legs.
Stat Of The GameAfter giving up six touchdowns to Roethlisberger in Week 9, the Ravens secondary surrendered 334 yards to Big Ben, but just one touchdown. They picked him off twice.
Quote Of The Day
"That's playoff football. That's Joe Flacco. He's the best quarterback in football, and we'll take him any day of the week, twice on Sunday, or Saturday night." – Harbaugh
On The HorizonThe Ravens will travel to Foxborough to face the top-seeded New England Patriots next Saturday at 4:35 p.m.
Check out all the best photos from the AFC Wild Card match-up between the Ravens and Steelers at Heinz Field.