The Baltimore Ravens eliminated the Pittsburgh Steelers from the playoffs Saturday with a 30-17 win over their AFC North rival. It is their first playoff win in Pittsburgh.
It was an impressive showing from the Ravens who in the last few weeks have given fans little reason to believe that they could come out and dictate a game like they did in the wild-card matchup. The Ravens were more physical than the Steelers, controlling both side of the line of scrimmage.
If not for Terrell Suggs’ incredible thigh interception, left guard Kelechi Osemele’s block on James Harrison to allow Joe Flacco to find Torrey Smith for a touchdown may have been the play of the game. It was like in the movies when the hero is about to get taken out by an unsuspecting villain until the hero’s sidekick comes out of nowhere and saves the day.
The front seven, particularly Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Brandon Williams, was strong in shutting down the Steelers’ run game and forced the Steelers to become essentially one dimensional. The Ravens did an excellent job of collapsing the pocket on multiple occasions, sacking Ben Roethlisbeger five times.
You also have to really credit the Ravens secondary. Last time they faced this Steelers passing attack they gave up six touchdowns and two corners were cut the next day. For all of their issues they only gave up one big play, after a Justin Forsett fumble, that eventually led to a Steelers touchdown to make the game close again. Most of the Steelers’ yards came from short and underneath passes.
And of course, Postseason Joe Flacco showed up and controlled the game. Flacco finished 18-29 for 259 yards and two touchdowns, with a 85.9 QBR (out of 100) and 114.0 passer rating. He was composed, in command, and elusive and aware in the pocket. It was clearly his best game of the year given the circumstances. In his last five playoff games, Flacco has thrown 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions. His playoff numbers are undeniable.
For all of their regular season head scratchers – and there are plenty – the Ravens are a team no one wants to see come January. Flacco and coach John Harbaugh are now 10-4 in the postseason and Flacco’s 10 wins since 2008 are double that of the next closest quarterbacks. It’s never pretty and almost always very ugly, but those two just win together when it matters.
Now, the Ravens travel to New England to face a familiar opponent in a familiar place. The last three times the Ravens have met the Patriots, they’ve out-played them. They would’t have it any other way.
The Ravens play the Patriots at 4:35 on Saturday on NBC.