Sunday, January 9, 2011

Ravens vs. Chiefs: Joe Flacco, Todd Heap Shred KC as Baltimore Rolls

The Baltimore Ravens put an end to the Kansas City Chiefs' season with an overpowering offensive show and dominating defense. Wild Card entry Baltimore advanced to the divisional round against Pittsburgh with a 30-7 rout of AFC West champion Chiefs, who were back in the playoffs for the first time in four years.
Joe Flacco threw for two touchdowns and tight end Todd Heap pulled in 10 catches, a franchise postseason record, to fuel the Ravens offense at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. Linebacker Ray Lewis led a Ravens defense that forced five turnovers and shut out the Chiefs after allowing a long first-quarter touchdown to Jamaal Charles, as Baltimore won the time of possession battle by a whopping 41:44 to 18:16.
The Ravens discombobulated Matt Cassel, who had perhaps his worst outing as a professional in mustering only 70 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions on 9-for-18 through the air. Only Dexter McCluster caught more than a pass for Kansas City, which suffered its NFL-record seventh consecutive playoff loss, dating back to January 1994 in Joe Montana's last NFL season. The Chiefs also suffered five turnovers to break another team postseason record.
Some thoughts on the game:            
Willis McGahee scored the clincher for the Ravens, who improved to 7-3 in road playoff games since 2000. Against a Chiefs defense that had been on the field practically non-stop, McGahee ran right up the middle on a fourth-and-1 play for a 25-yard touchdown with 4:26 remaining. The score came at the end of a 10-minute back-breaking drive against a Chiefs defense that finally broke down after playing gallantly.
• The Ravens took over at the Chiefs' 31 yard line following Kansas City's fourth turnover. Flacco got the Ravens close with a 13-yard completion to Heap and a couple plays later, hit Anquan Boldin over the middle for a 4-yard touchdown pass with 27 seconds left in the third quarter for a 23-7 Baltimore lead.
• Cassel threw his second interception of the day when he tried to squeeze a pass to tight end Tony Moeaki through double coverage. The Ravens' Dawan Landry came up with the interception, the fourth turnover on the day by the Chiefs. That tied a Chiefs' franchise record for the most in a postseason game, which they would soon after break on Cassel's third interception.
• Linebacker Ray Lewis put a huge hit on McCluster as the Chiefs rookie was turning up field after making a catch, causing him to fumble in Chiefs territory. The turnover set up another field goal by the Ravens' Billy Cundiff, who went 3-for-3 after making his second 29-yarder of the day.
• After taking over on downs, the Ravens drove to the second field goal by Cundiff. The Chiefs defense had been pretty solid in the red zone, considering the Ravens big advantage in time of possession.
• Charles lost a fumble and but also caused one as the Ravens and Chiefs traded turnovers on the same play in the third quarter. Cassel was intercepted by Haruki Nakamura but as he ran it back Charles put a big hit on him, while considering a lateral to Ed Reed, that jarred the ball loose and Charles recovered it to keep the Chiefs drive alive. Kansas City later passed up roughly a 50-yard field goal to go for it on a fourth-and-1 play from the Ravens' 33-yard line but were stopped well short.

• The Chiefs moved Dwayne Bowe around but he wasn't able to find an opening. Ravens cornerbacks Chris Carr and and Josh Wilson helped hold Bowe without a reception in the game, with such tight coverage that Cassel didn't even throw Bowe a ball early on.

• The Ravens took a 10-7 halftime lead on Ray Rice's 9-yard touchdown reception with 19 seconds left in the second quarter. Rice's catch was the first postseason touchdown reception ever by a Ravens running back and capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive. Flacco hooked up with Heap four times for 59 yards on the drive as the Chiefs struggled to cover the Ravens' star tight end.

• Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali broke through left tackle Michael Oher's pass protection to sack Flacco, forcing a fumble that he recovered at the Ravens' 46-yard line. Hali had two of the Chiefs' three sacks in the first half and forced a fumble. Oher was playing with his knee taped after hurting it in last week's season finale against Cincinnati.

• The turnover led to a Chiefs touchdown two plays later that put Kansas City in front 7-3 with 2:09 left in the first quarter. Blocks by tight end Tony Moeaki and left tackle Branden Albert sprung Charles around the left side and the Chiefs running back burst past safeties Reed and Landry on his way to a 41-yard touchdown run. It's the first time the Chiefs held a lead in a postseason game since the 1997 AFC divisional game against Denver, which Kansas City eventually lost 14-10.

• No Chiefs' opponent has driven for a touchdown on its opening possession in Kansas City's last 14 home games. Make that 15. The Ravens settled for a 19-yard field goal by Cundiff after the Ravens couldn't punch the ball in from the 1-yard line on three tries.

• Reed decided to play though he had to be filled with worry over the fate of his 28-year-old brother, Brian, who is missing. Relatives in Louisiana believe Brian Reed was the person who jumped into the Mississippi River while fleeing from St. Charles Parish sheriff's deputies on Friday. Authorities have suspended the search for the man, who hasn't been seen since. Relatives say shoes and a jacket found by authorities during the chase belonged to Reed's brother. The chase began when authorities spotted a man inside a car whose description matched that of a vehicle that had been reported stolen.

• The Ravens were without David Reed, the NFL's top kickoff return man who was inactive because of a wrist injury. Reed led the league by averaging 29.3 yards per return. The Chiefs listed wide receiver Chris Chambers among their inactive players in what was a healthy scratch. Wide receiver Kevin Curtis, who was signed by the Chiefs last week, was active for the game.

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