Game Recap - Wild Card - Ravens at Chiefs

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Down for much of the first half to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Ravens could have gotten discouraged heading into halftime.

With the entire team playing in part for safety Ed Reed, whose brother went missing this week in Louisiana, quarterback Joe Flacco and an opportunistic defense simply wouldn't allow it.

Flacco led his team to a 30-7 victory and a second-round matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, while the defense logged three interceptions and recovered two fumbles in front of a hostile Arrowhead Stadium crowd.

"This place was on fire the whole game," said Head Coach John Harbaugh "It's a great place to play. So for us to come out here and pull out a victory in an environment like this, I think is a great accomplishment."

Down 7-3 to Kansas City in the second quarter, Flacco took possession with five minutes, 45 seconds on the clock and went to work.  The third-year passer led a methodical drive, completing six of six passes for 61 yards, scrambling for another 24 and finally hitting running back Ray Rice for a 9-yard touchdown.

The Ravens went into the break with a 10-7 lead, and the Chiefs never got a sniff closer.

"That was a really big drive, to get points there," said Flacco.  "A lot of games are going to be decided by a two-minute drive at the end of the half or end of the game.  For us to get that was a big part of the game."

Flacco's 25-of-34, 265-yard, two-touchdown performance saw him set Ravens postseason records for completions, yards and scores.

He amassed 196 passing yards in the first half, his third-best showing in the first half this season.  Previously, Flacco logged 213 yards in Week 11 against the Carolina Panthers and 202 yards the following week versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

At the end of the day, the Ravens dominated time of possession 41:44 to 18:16 and ran 78 offensive plays and totaled 19 first downs through the air.

Flacco, who upped his playoff record to 4-2, was the star in a game many thought would be decided on the ground.

"Joe's now been to six road playoff games and won four of them," said Head Coach John Harbaugh.  "I thought it showed.  He made some plays when he had to.

"This is a very good coverage team.  Joe made plays, and they had the pass rush going. That was probably the difference in this game."

The Ravens got the ball to start the game after losing the coin toss, and Flacco threw 10 passes on Baltimore's first drive. 

The Ravens ran several slants and crossing routes to exploit the middle of the field - as Kansas City seemed intent on taking away the comeback route Derrick Mason has made a living on all year - and marched 69 yards in 14 plays, but only came away with a 19-yard field goal from Billy Cundiff.

Then there was a hiccup, as Flacco fumbled on the Ravens' next series when AFC sack leader Tamba Hali beat left tackle Michael Oher to strip the football and recover.

The hiccup turned into a cough two snaps later, as the Chiefs took a 7-3 lead on running back Jamaal Charles' 41-yard touchdown run.

Charles went through a hole on the left side of the line and accelerated past Ray Lewis and Dawan Landry while shedding an Ed Reed tackle attempt.

But the Ravens pressed on, stopping the Chiefs until Flacco's signature drive just before halftime.

Cundiff added a pair of 29-yard field goals in the third quarter, the second of which was set up by Dexter McCluster's fumble as he was tackled by Lewis (who tied an NFL playoff record with his sixth-career forced fumble).

Holding a 16-7 advantage allowed Ravens Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison to turn up the heat on Chiefs signal-caller Matt Cassel. 

With the third quarter winding down, Cassel tossed an interception to Landry in Kansas City territory.  That gave Flacco a chance to finish his opponent, something the Ravens haven't consistently done all season. 

Taking over at the Chiefs' 31-yard line, Flacco found running back Willis McGahee for 8 yards and Todd Heap for 13, but he hammered home the nail with a 4-yard strike to Anquan Boldin in the back of the end zone.

"It felt really good to get a good team victory," Flacco said.  "We were able to pop out there in the end and keep it going today. It feels good to do that in the first round of the playoffs.

McGahee rumbled 25 yards to paydirt and cornerback Josh Wilson nabbed another Cassel interception in the fourth quarter to put the game officially out of reach, but by then Flacco had already wreaked enough havoc.

Flacco had already been to the playoffs the previous two years.  But in 2008, he was more of a rookie game manager, and last year, Flacco was dealing with a painfully bruised hip.

As they head into a Divisional Round matchup with the Steelers at Heinz Field, the Ravens are happy to do it with a matured, confident and healthy Flacco at the helm.

"I think it can't get any better when you've fought with him from Day 1, and then Year 2," said linebacker Ray Lewis. "Now, we're in Year 3, and from Day 1, we've always told Joe, 'We're with you, so no matter what you do, just go out and enjoy it.'  We sit on the sideline, and we like watching Joe play football. We know what Joe's mindset is, and that's to keep the defense off the field.

"I like Joe.  I'm a little biased, but I do like Joe as a ballplayer."

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