Flacco steadies Ravens in wild-card win

The Sports Xchange

January 04, 2015 at 1:32 am.

Jan 3, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) prepares to throw the ball as Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison (92) defends in the third quarter during the 2014 AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Heinz Field. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH — Joe Flacco will likely not get even one vote in the NFL Most Valuable Player balloting in a year when other quarterbacks such as Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Dallas’ Tony Romo have not only shined but led their teams to division titles.

However, the Ravens quarterback got high praise from his coach on Saturday night after leading Baltimore to a 30-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in an AFC wild-card game at Heinz Field.

“He’s the best quarterback in football,” John Harbaugh said. “We’ll take him any day of the week and twice on Sunday — or Saturday night if that be the case.”

Flacco set a franchise record with a 3,976 passing yards during the regular season, but the Ravens slipped into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season with a 10-6 record when they rallied to beat the Cleveland Browns and got help from the Kansas City Chiefs, who beat the San Diego Chargers.

He was his usual steady-if-not-flashy self on Saturday night, though, completing 18 of 29 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns. He also did not throw an interception and was sacked only once.

Also, as usual, Flacco declined to take credit for the victory, even though his two touchdowns sparked the Ravens in the second half as they pulled away after leading just 10-9 at halftime.

“We have a good football team and I think we are getting better every time we take the field,” Flacco said. “We were on top of our game today. We played a nice, patient football game. We were able to kind of break through in the second half.”

–Ravens star linebacker Terrell Suggs had his first career postseason interception when he picked off Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the fourth quarter. It was one for the highlight reel. Or perhaps the blooper reel.

Suggs nearly lost possession of the ball as he was falling backward, but he was able to trap it between his legs before he hit the ground.

“(Retired Ravens safety) Ed Reed said there’s going to be a time when they throw me the ball and make sure you make me proud and catch it,” Suggs said with a laugh. “I was just thinking grab the ball, get down and catch it.”

Harbaugh relayed a funny story about awarding Suggs a game ball in the locker room.

“I tossed him the ball and what did he do? He dropped it,” Harbaugh said.

–Roethlisberger set career highs with 4,952 passing yards, 32 touchdowns passes and a 67.1 completion percentage during the regular season.

However, the Steelers quarterback won’t win the third Super Bowl ring of his career after losing Saturday night. That made it hard for Roethlisberger to be too excited about his final numbers, especially after two fourth-quarter interceptions negated his 334 yards passing.

Roethlisberger, though, was happy to see his team get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

“I don’t really care about what I did,” he said of his statistics. “I’m proud of the way that this team bounced back from the last two years (going 8-8 each season) and got back to the playoffs. Obviously, it didn’t go the way that we wanted it to, but it only ever ends for one team the way they want it to.”

Wide receiver Antonio Brown had 129 catches in the regular season, the second most in NFL history behind Marvin Harrison’s 142 in 2002 for Indianapolis. Second-year running back Le’Veon Bell set a franchise record with 2,215 yards from scrimmage but sat out Saturday with a hyperextended right knee suffered in the regular-season finale.

–The Steelers had trouble with the Baltimore defense throughout the game as Roethlisberger was sacked six times. Pittsburgh also lost a fumble as it finished with three turnovers.

The Steelers are very familiar with the Ravens as both play in the AFC North and face each other twice a year during the regular season. Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said Baltimore did nothing different with its pass rush this time around.

“As time became a factor, it became more effective. But that’s just an axiom (or) a rule of football,” Tomlin said. “They did a nice job.”

Linebacker Elvis Dumervil had two of the sacks.