AFC: Baltimore wins at Pittsburgh
The Associated Press
PITTSBURGH — Joe Flacco and the NFL’s playoff road warriors are heading to New England with their swagger — and their pass rush — fully intact.
The rarely flustered Flacco tossed two second-half touchdowns, and the Baltimore Ravens dominated the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-17 on Saturday night in the AFC wild-card game.
Flacco hit Torrey Smith for an 11-yard score in the third quarter and found Crockett Gillmore with a 21-yard pass in the fourth one play after Terrell Suggs picked off Ben Roethlisberger. The Ravens won in Pittsburgh for the first time in the postseason.
Baltimore (11-6) sacked Roethlisberger five times and kept the NFL’s second-ranked offense off-balance. Roethlisberger passed for 334 yards, but the Steelers (11-6) settled for field goals while the Ravens kept scoring touchdowns against their AFC North rival.
Baltimore heads to top-seeded New England next Saturday.
That means No. 2 seed Denver will host the winner of today’s Cincinnati at Indianapolis game next Sunday afternoon.
Two years after leading the Ravens to the franchise’s second Super Bowl title — with wins at Denver and New England along the way — Flacco did what he always seems to do when the calendar flips to January.
Flacco’s seven road playoff wins are the most by a quarterback since the 1970 merger. He completed 18 of 29 passes for 259 yards and the two scores. The Ravens gained a measure of revenge after the Steelers knocked them out of the postseason in 2008 and 2010 at Heinz Field.
Yet Flacco has come of age in the interim. And while Pittsburgh’s bounce-back season included its first AFC North title in four years, the Steelers’ revamped roster could do little when it mattered.
Pittsburgh played without All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell, out with a hyperextended right knee. Fill-ins Ben Tate, Josh Harris and Dri Archer managed just 43 yards on 15 carries as the Steelers’ four-game winning streak came to an abrupt and decisive end.
Pittsburgh fell to 9-1 when facing a team for the third time in the same season, and it was not close. Baltimore’s 13-point victory was the fourth-biggest win by a road team in Steelers postseason history.
Flacco escaped pressure from James Harrison to find Smith in the back of the end zone to make it 20-9 in the third quarter. Pittsburgh drew within 20-15 on a 6-yard pass from Roethlisberger to Martavis Bryant with 11:01 to go. But there would be no 2.0-version of the Steelers’ rally from 14 points down to Baltimore in the divisional round four years ago.
Justin Tucker drilled a 52-yard field goal to push the lead to 23-15 and Suggs made a juggling interception from his knees on Pittsburgh’s ensuing possession. The Ravens did not hesitate to put the Steelers away. Flacco rolled right and flipped to Gillmore. The tight end outraced two defenders to the end zone.
Fully aware he was in the midst of the mountain bike race of his life, Aspen’s John Gaston said he “tried to not think too far ahead” to prevent the magnitude of the moment from getting to him. He eventually finished runner-up in the iconic race.
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