The Baltimore Ravens offense was clicking all night long, while the Pittsburgh Steelers offense sputtered, in the first round of the NFL playoffs. Baltimore was nearly unstoppable offensively in the second half as quarterback Joe Flacco put together one of his best performances in the second half.
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger put an end to the Steelers comeback hopes by throwing an interceptions in the back of the end zone. Roethlisberger came back onto the field after sitting out for a couple of plays as he went through the concussion protocol after his head hit the ground during an attempted scramble. He looked groggy even as he headed back to the sideline after the interception.
The Ravens were unable to convert a first down after the interception and were forced to punt away the ball after the two-minute warning. Demarco Thomas blocked that punt, which went outside the back of the end zone; it gave the Steelers two-points and possession with 1:56 left in the game, down by 13 points. But the Steelers were unable to hold onto the ball as Heath Miller caught a fourth and three pass from Roethlisberger, crossed the first down line, and then fumbled it during the tackle.
Baltimore recovered the fumble and kneed out the clock.
Baltimore put the game out of reach when Flacco found tight end Crockett Gillmore, running a shallow corner route, for a one yard touchdown; the touchdown pushed the Ravens lead to 15. The Pittsburgh defender lost the tight end when Gillmore made the left turn towards the corner of the end zone; Flacco put the ball right in between the numbers on Gillmore’s jersey.
Flacco didn’t turn the ball over once, as he completed 18 of his 29 attempts for 259 yards (8.2 per completion) and two touchdowns. The quarterback, for the most part, was consistently under pressure as the Steelers’ defensive front controlled the line of scrimmage. But he didn’t make any bad decisions under duress.
The first half was a defensive battle as neither offense was able to find open space. Baltimore was the only team to really move the ball down field, and that was primarily off a 23-yard pass to Steve Smith with 5:40 left in the second quarter. Smith’s catch put the Ravens in field goal range, and kicker Justin Tucker hit the 28-yard kick with plenty of room to spare.
Next up for Baltimore is a trip to Foxborough, Mass. where the Ravens will face the New England Patriots in the Divisional Round.