KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Todd Heap was usually a step ahead of Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry, repeatedly schooling the rookie as he caught pass after pass from Joe Flacco.
And Berry kept trailing behind Heap.
It was a distinct mismatch that the Baltimore Ravens exploited during a 30-7 AFC wild-card victory Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
Heap set a franchise postseason record with 10 receptions, generating 108 yards to set the Ravens up for scores.
The Chiefs primarily attempted to cover Heap with Berry as well as linebackers and cornerbacks, but no strategy was successful.
"I am always confident I can get open the way they were playing it, the defenses we were getting," Heap said. "We were successful early in the game. I think we kind of figured we could keep going back to some of those looks, some of those plays.
"Joe kept gaining more confidence in just putting the ball out there. Obviously, I felt good about the matchups out there. So, all those things combined, we were able to keep converting and making big plays down the field."
For the game, Heap converted four third downs.
Targeted 13 times, Heap kept the chains moving for the Ravens.
During their first drive, Flacco completed three passes to Heap for 32 yards before throwing incomplete to him in the end zone on third down with Berry knocking it away.
Then , Heap caught three passes on a drive capped by a touchdown throw to Ray Rice as he repeatedly beat coverage from cornerback Brandon Carr and safety Jon McGraw.
"It was huge," Flacco said. "It’s tough for the safety and the linebacker to cover Todd. He was big underneath for us. That’s the way he is."
Before Anquan Boldin’s touchdown, Heap caught a 13-yard pass in the third quarter.
Despite mixing up coverage schemes, the Chiefs had no answers for Heap.
"We’d seen it in on film, a lot similar to a couple teams we played earlier this year," Heap said. "I think we really had a good game plan going in on how to attack that."
This marked Heap’s second game since returning from a pulled right hamstring that forced him to miss three games.
Heap caught 40 passes for 599 yards and five touchdowns during the regular season.
Now, he’s off to a fast start in the playoffs.
"Todd Heap has got great hands," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He’s 6-foot-5, he’s got great speed for a tight end, good speed for any receiver. Great body control, great hands. He’s tough as nails.
"If there’s anybody out there that doesn’t think Todd Heap is one of the premier tight ends in the NFL, then they probably haven’t paid attention over the course of his career."
BIG MISTAKE: No one was more relieved than reserve safety Haruki Nakamura when the Ravens’ defense shut down running back Jamaal Charles on fourth down to get the football back.
It was Nakamura who inexplicably decided to lateral the ball after intercepting a tipped Matt Cassel pass intended for tight end Tony Moeaki, a decision that went awry when Charles pounced on the fumble.
"Stupid, stupid play," Nakamura said. "I knew I made a boneheaded play. It was just stupid. I should have never put myself in that situation."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh immediately lectured Nakamura when he came off the field after the gaffe.
"He said this is the playoffs and possession is more important than big plays," Nakamura said. "I made a good situation into a very bad situation. He said all the right things. I’m never a guy who will take criticism in the wrong way. I’ll take it in a positive way.
"A mistake like that can cost you championships. I was just worried about it. When they bailed me out, it made me feel a lot better."
Nakamura was attempting to lateral it to free safety Ed Reed, who has made a living out of good and bad decisions on laterals.
"I got to get him in my class, he don’t come to class at all," Reed said. "It’s more on me than anything, asking for the ball. I told him don’t worry about it. We got the stop, which was huge, but you’ve got to be smart about what you’re doing."
SHUTDOWN: The Ravens prevented Pro Bowl wide receiver Dwayne Bowe from catching a single pass.
The imposing wideout was never even targeted despite leading the NFL with 15 touchdown passes this season.
Cornerbacks Chris Carr and Josh Wilson shadowed Bowe all game.
"Initially, they were running the ball so effectively they didn’t even have to pass the ball," Carr said. "The times I was covering him, he wasn’t open. Coming into the game, we were very confident. He’s a very good player and he catches the ball very well, but I felt very confident that those bigger types of receivers, it’s kind of easier for me to read their routes.
"It’s good when you meet up with your expectations. We didn’t play perfect, but we held him to no catches, which is good."
MODELL DOESN"T MAKE THE CUT: Former Ravens majority owner wasn’t selected as a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Modell hasn’t made it to the finals since 2001 with the primary obstacle being him moving the Cleveland Browns to Maryland.
Meanwhile, former Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe and cornerback Deion Sanders made the list of 17 finalists.
Named as finalists: Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Dermontti Dawson, Richard Dent, Chris Doleman, Marshall Faulk, Charles Haley, Chris Hanburger, Cortez Kennedy, Curtis Martin, Andre Reed, Les Richter, Willie Roaf, Ed Sabol as well as Sharpe and Sanders.
INJURY UPDATE: The Ravens didn’t report any new injuries.
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (right knee) and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (bruised thigh) both played despite being listed as questionable on the injury report and practicing once last week.
Suggs recorded two sacks and four quarterback hits.
Ngata said his thigh didn’t really loosen up until well into the game.
"I couldn’t really get off the ball real well," Ngata said. "It was real sore and stiff."
Also playing through injuries: inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (shoulder stinger), cornerback Josh Wilson (shoulder stinger) and Reed (bruised ribs).
QUICK HITS: The Ravens deactivated rookie kickoff returner David Reed (torn left wrist ligament), linebacker Tavares Gooden (dislocated left shoulder), free safety Tom Zbikowski (bulging disc in his back), tight ends Davon Drew and Dennis Pitta, defensive tackles Arthur Jones and Lamar Divens and fullback Jason McKie. … The Ravens’ game captains were Flacco, Suggs, Reed, wide receiver Derrick Mason and linebackers Ray Lewis and Brendon Ayanbadejo. … The Chiefs deactivated wide receiver Chris Chambers, quarterback Tyler Palko, wide receiver Quentin Lawrence, fullback Mike Cox, safety Reshard Langford, linebacker Charlie Anderson, center Rudy Niswanger and defensive tackle Anthony Toribio.