KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Maybe the great Baltimore defense isn’t aging as quickly as some people thought.
The battle-tested Ravens humbled a youthful Kansas City offense in a smothering second half Sunday, holding the Chiefs to 25 yards over the final two quarters en route to a 30-7 victory. Now it’s back to Pittsburgh on Saturday in the second round of the AFC playoffs, a showdown between bitter division rivals who split their season series.
And yes, said Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs, this one is personal — but not just between the teams.
“It’s personal between the two cities, Baltimore and Pittsburgh,” said Suggs, who had a sack of Matt Cassel during the second-half throttling. “It shouldn’t surprise you that these two teams are in the fight and at each other’s throats.”
The Ravens (13-4) stopped what Kansas City does best. The No. 1 rushing offense in the NFL was held to 108 yards on the ground. Cassel was sacked three times. The Ravens forced five turnovers. And Pro Bowl wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who led the league with a team-record 15 receiving touchdowns, did not catch a pass.
He was so blanketed by the Ravens defense, he was never even thrown to.
“It was a tough one,” Chiefs coach Todd Haley said. “I thought we got great experience for a lot of young guys that hadn’t been part of this.”
The defensive onslaught began in the third quarter, when Jamaal Charles lost 5 yards on fourth-and-inches. From then on, the Chiefs were helpless to move the ball or stop the Ravens.
“Our defense played phenomenal,” Ravens running back Ray Rice said. “They came out in the second half and gutted that offense. It was impressive. It’s impressive to be a part of this.”
The Chiefs (10-7), who had made a franchise-record six-game improvement to win their first AFC West title in seven years, now go into the NFL record book as the only franchise with seven straight playoff losses.
“It’s just a painful loss,” said safety Kendrick Lewis. “When you put up a performance like this in a clutch game, it hurts. It was very disappointing to go out and compete in a big game like that. It’s just a heartbreaker.”
Ed Reed was not on the team flight back to Baltimore. The Pro Bowl safety boarded a private flight to Louisiana, where his family was still waiting for word about his younger brother who was believed to have disappeared Friday morning beneath the waters of the Mississippi River.
The Ravens gave Reed the game ball.
“Who’s a better teammate than Ed Reed?” Suggs asked. “He didn’t have to play today, but he chose to play. It was the simple fact that we wanted to give him 3 hours of peace. It definitely was an emotional win for him and the rest of us, too.”
Reed said his family wanted him to play. The NFL interceptions leader made four tackles, including a bone-crushing hit on Dexter McCluster in the second half.
“My family kept me focused. My older brother called me and told me, ‘Do what you do. You handle your business, we’ll take care of everything over here,” Reed said.
Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes for the Ravens. But it was the vaunted Baltimore defense that sent about 70,000 shivering fans home with one more playoff loss, a streak that stretches back 17 years to the 1994 AFC championship game.
“To set records is one thing,” said Lewis, who forced a fumble and had a sack in the second-half dismantling of the Chiefs. “To come out and play the way we’ve played in the third quarter all year and the last two weeks, just giving up seven points to opponents, that’s championship-caliber football.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)