Joe Flacco celebrates Willis McGahee's fourth-quarter… (Baltimore Sun photo by Karl…)
Kansas City, Mo. — — Ravens veteran tight end Todd Heap put quarterback Joe Flacco's performance into perspective, even though he was talking about himself.
"Having a good game, personally, in the first game in the playoffs doesn't mean anything if you don't get it done in the second game," Heap said.
He is correct, but what a great start for Flacco, the Ravens third-year quarterback. The Ravens and the city of Baltimore have put the pressure on Flacco to carry the Ravens through the 2010 postseason, and he delivered Sunday.
On a day when the team's most talented offensive player, running back Ray Rice, couldn't find running room early, Flacco ripped up Kansas City's defense in the wild-card game.
Flacco completed 25 of 34 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns. He made the easy throws over the middle to Heap, and the hard ones back across the field to receiver Anquan Boldin and Heap with Chiefs defenders draped all over him.
Just as important, he looked off Kansas City defenders quite a few times, and then came back to his original targets. Flacco also rushed seven times for 26 yards to keep several drives a live.
Flacco didn't play a perfect game, but it was close.
"Whatever it takes to win games, I'll do it," said Flacco. "I feel good about myself when I can add something to the offense."
Flacco has been criticized for not playing well in the postseason. As a rookie, he was basically expected to manage the game. Last year, he suffered back and thigh injuries, which affected his throwing motion.
But there are no excuses now. The playoffs are where quarterback legends are born because the great ones like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger take over games.
And for the first time in a postseason, Flacco took over a game.
"This is a very good coverage team, and Joe making plays with a great pass rushing bearing down on him, that was probably the difference in the game," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh.
Dart to Nakamura
The dumb-dumb award goes to Ravens safety Haruki Nakamura who intercepted a pass in the third quarter, and tried to lateral to fellow safety Ed Reed.
The ball never made it to Reed, and Kansas City recovered Nakamura's lateral at its own 32 instead of the Ravens taking possession. That play could have put the game away for the Ravens early in the third quarter.
'I saw Ed, and was getting ready to give it back," Nakamura said. "Stupid, stupid play. Coach Harbaugh said what he should have. This is the playoffs, and possession is more important than big plays, and I turned a good situation into a bad one. I 'm just fortunate to play for a great defense because they bailed me out."
How to use Heap
Heap had 10 catches for 108 yards, and the Chiefs tried everything to slow him down. They covered Heap with combinations of safeties, cornerbacks and linebackers.
Heap just wasn't open. He was wide open.
The Ravens had planned a similar game plan against Pittsburgh in the second game in Baltimore, but Heap strained his hamstring on the very first offensive play of the game.
It will be interesting to see if the Ravens prepare for Pittsburgh the same way Saturday.
Speaking of Pittsburgh, the Ravens get to meet them Saturday for the third time this year. Like the New York Jets who get to play the New England Patriots Sunday, this is the rubber match with each team having won a game.
"Everybody wants to see these matchups because both teams split in the regular season," said Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs. "This is Armageddon for all four teams. There can only be one winner at the end. What better teams than these four. Baltimore at Pittsburgh. New England against the Jets. This is what the world wants to see."
The turning point of the game came with 9:45 left in the third quarter. On and fourth-and-1 at the Baltimore 33, the Chiefs ran running back Jamaal Charles around right end, but defensive tackle Kelly Gregg got deep penetration, and safety Dawan Landry came up to tackle Charles for a 4-yard loss.
"It just was not a well-executed, well-conceived play, just probably what started to turn the game into the situation we ended up in," said Chiefs head coach Todd Haley.
Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali took at cheap shot at Flacco's legs near the midway point of the third quarter. Ravens right guard Chris Chester did nothing at that point, which may have been a good thing.
But later in the game, some Ravens should have retaliated. If either Michael Oher or Orlando Brown were nearby when that happened, Hali would have been on his back missing a couple of teeth.
Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel was clueless without his running game. Once the Ravens got ahead by more than a touchdown, this game was over because Cassel can't carry an offense.
Actually, he had a total meltdown. He completed only nine of 18 passes for 70 yards, and had three interceptions. His lackluster performance shows the true genius of Patriots head Bill Belichick who succeeded with Cassel as his starter when Brady went down with a knee injury in 2008.
The other dumb-dumb award goes to Haley.
How can you not throw the ball to receiver Dwayne Bowe one time? I don't care how great the Ravens cornerbacks are or what kind of scheme they use. Your best receiver, and one of the best in the league, has to touch the ball.
Listen to Mike Preston on "The Bruce Cunningham Show" from noon to 2 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays on 105.7 FM