Ray Rice, Anquan Boldin and Willis McGahee all scored touchdowns and Baltimore forced five turnovers to set up another road game against heated rival Pittsburgh next Saturday.
Matt Cassel was just 9-of-18 for 70 yards and three interceptions for a Chiefs team that had trouble getting out of its own way. The AFC West champions scored their only points on Jamaal Charles’ 41-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Throwing early and often, Flacco completed 25 of his 34 passes, including a nine-yard touchdown pass to Rice in the second quarter that gave the Ravens (13-4) the lead for good.
Baltimore scored on five consecutive possessions between that touchdown and McGahee’s 25-yard run in the fourth quarter, putting the game away with an exacting offense and stifling performance by the defense.
“We were able to keep going, keep going, keep going today,” said Flacco. “It was a really good team victory.”
The Ravens gained a franchise playoff-record 390 yards on offense and had 26 first downs playing on the road at Arrowhead Stadium, typically a tough test for any team.
The defense limited Kansas City (10-7) to 161 yards and eight first downs, picking off Cassel three times and forcing two fumbles.
The Ravens lost the AFC North to Pittsburgh and had to play the Chiefs on the road despite having a superior record in the regular season.
Baltimore will get a chance to renew its heated rivalry with the second-seeded Steelers after the teams split two games during the regular season — both hard-nosed affairs decided by three points.
That game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. (et) on Saturday and figures to be a more competitive affair than this one.
“We’d be happy to see them out of it,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said of the Steelers, “but it seems like it’s poetic justice.”
Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs said everybody wants to see the Ravens- Steelers matchup, calling it “Armageddon.”
Among the Ravens stars on Sunday was tight end Todd Heap, who caught 10 passes for 108 yards, setting a franchise playoff record for receptions. Rice rushed for 57 yards on 17 carries and McGahee had 10 runs for 44 yards.
Charles gained 82 yards on nine carries for the Chiefs, while Dexter McCluster had four catches for 17 yards. He was the only Kansas City player with more than one reception.
“A tough ending to a really fun year where we made a lot of progress,” said Chiefs head coach Todd Haley.
The Ravens, behind 196 yards passing from Flacco, carried a 10-7 lead into halftime. They got a 29-yard field goal from Billy Cundiff in the middle of the third quarter, then scored their next 10 points on back-to-back Kansas City turnovers.
Ray Lewis hit McCluster and knocked the ball loose with his left arm, forcing a fumble that the Ravens converted into another 29-yarder by Cundiff.
Safety Dawan Landry then stepped in front of a Cassel pass, picking it off, and Boldin made a leaping grab in the back of the end zone for a four-yard touchdown and 23-7 Ravens lead.
It could have been even worse for the Chiefs. Another fumble was overturned after Cassel was ruled to be in a passing motion when he was hit by corner Lardarius Webb.
Still, Kansas City was forced to punt and the Ravens responded with an 80-yard touchdown drive to put the game away in the fourth quarter, aided by an offsides penalty on the Chiefs that negated a punt.
Flacco completed all three of his passes on the drive, but Rice did most of the damage with 36 yards on the ground and McGahee made a nice cut at the line before dragging two defenders into the end zone for his touchdown.
“I thought our team got stronger as it went on,” Harbaugh said.
Kansas City hosted its first playoff game since 2004 following a full season spent atop the division standings. Haley called the game a great experience for the young guys on his team who had never been to the playoffs, but had no trouble figuring out why they lost.
“You can’t turn the football over and expect to win,” Haley said.
Baltimore’s defense was good, of course, but the offense also stood out.
Flacco passed for 69 yards on the game’s opening drive and the Ravens ran three plays from the Kansas City one-yard line before settling for a Cundiff field goal and the early 3-0 lead.
Baltimore dominated possession for the first 12 minutes of the game, holding the Chiefs to a three-and-out on their first series. But Flacco was unable to recover his own fumble after linebacker Tamba Hali smacked the ball away and the Chiefs converted the turnover into their first postseason lead in 13 years.
Charles only needed to break two tackles on his 41-yard touchdown run, stepping over a defender as he broke through the line and pushing through another tackler in the secondary.
It was the first time since the 2005 season that the vaunted Ravens defense allowed a rushing touchdown over 30 yards.
But Baltimore scored again before halftime when Flacco found Rice wide open in the secondary, giving the Ravens their three-point lead heading into the locker room.
Flacco was 17-of-24 in the first half. He set an NFL playoff record for pass attempts in the first quarter of a game with 17, besting Tom Brady’s old mark of 16 from January 10, 2004.