Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith (89) tries to get away from Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons (94) after making a catch in the fourth quarter of an NFL wildcard playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Joe Flacco tossed two touchdown passes and Steve Smith Sr. topped 100 yards receiving to lead the No. 6 seed Baltimore Ravens to a 30-17 win over the No. 3 seed Pittsburgh Steelers in an AFC Wild Card matchup on Jan. 3 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
With the win, Baltimore will face the top-seeded New England Patriots on Jan. 10 in Foxboro, Mass.
Entering the game, the Ravens had failed to defeat the Steelers in three previous playoff matchups in Pittsburgh in 2002, 2009 and 2011. Many expected a similar result in their fourth attempt, but Baltimore dominated the second half of the game, outscoring Pittsburgh, 20-8.
After leading just 10-9 at halftime, Flacco tossed two touchdowns in the second half and the Ravens defensive unit came up with three big turnovers to keep the Steelers from mounting a threat.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) scrambles away from Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison (92) before throwing a touchdown pass to wide receiver Torrey Smith (82) in the third quarterof an NFL wildcard playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Flacco completed just five of 11 passes for 74 passing yards in the first half, but ended the game completing 18 of 29 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns, including a 11-yard touchdown pass to receiver Torrey Smith and a 21-yard touchdown toss to tight end Crockett Gilmore. Flacco’s final passer rating was 114.0.
Smith Sr. led all Ravens receivers with five catches for 101 yards; he snagged a 40-yard pass late in the game that led to a Ravens touchdown. The game marked Smith Sr’s fourth 100-yard playoff performance.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith (82) makes a touchdown catch past Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Mike Mitchell (23) in the third quarter of an NFL wildcard playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Veteran linebacker Daryl Smith led Baltimore with nine tackles. Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil led the team with two sacks and fellow outside linebacker Terrell Suggs had four tackles and a clutch interception late in the game. Safety Darian Steward also intercepted a pass from Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who completed 31 of 45 passes for 334 yards, one touchdown, two picks and a 79.3 passer rating. Steelers receiver Antonio Brown had a game-high nine catches for 117 yards.
With the victory, Baltimore has won at least one game in each of their last six playoff trips, and has a 10-4 playoff record since John Harbaugh took over as head coach in 2008, the same year Flacco was drafted.
Flacco’s 10 playoff wins are five more than any other NFL quarterback since 2008, and his 20 touchdown passes are also the most of any passer in the playoffs during that span. Harbaugh also has the NFL’s best all-time playoff winning percentage at 71 percent.
The Ravens will face the New England Patriots on Jan. 10; kickoff is set for 4:35 p.m.