5 KEYS TO THE GAME

1. The Baltimore Ravens' 31-7 rout of the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at Heinz Field allowed them to leapfrog the Indianapolis Colts for the No. 2 playoff seed in the AFC and matched their franchise record with their 12th victory of the season.

Plus, Baltimore is still trying to chase home-field advantage throughout the postseason. It couldn't have happened without the Houston Texans' upset win over the Colts or the major contribution of quarterback Steve McNair, who delivered three touchdown passes while completing 21 of 31 passes for 256 yards and a 98.3 passer rating. He accomplished that task despite having his throwing hand punctured by an opponent's cleat during last week's win over the Cleveland Browns. McNair staked Baltimore to a 21-7 lead by the third quarter, connecting in stride with receivers Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams for scores from 35 and 25 yards, respectively. He also hit tight end Daniel Wilcox on a 1-yard touchdown pass off a play-action fake to running back Jamal Lewis. One of McNair's two interceptions came off a dropped pass by Clayton. Meanwhile, Clayton finished with seven receptions for 108 yards as Baltimore (12-3) went 5-1 against the AFC North, swept the Steelers for the first time ever, earned its first win at Pittsburgh since 2001 and marks its eighth win in their last nine games.

2. The Ravens' top-ranked defense clearly rattled Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, sacking him five times and intercepting him twice. Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed had one interception along with a pivotal fumble recovery near the Ravens' goal line. Rookie safety Dawan Landry had another interception, his fifth of the season to tie Reed (2002), cornerback Chris McAlister (1999) and cornerback Duane Starks (1998) for the franchise's rookie record.

3. The defense limited Pro Bowl runner Willie Parker, the NFL's fifth-ranked rusher, to 29 yards on 13 carries. He rushed for only 51 yards on 23 carries against Baltimore this year. Pittsburgh converted just two of 14 third downs.

4. Lewis reached 1,000 yards for the fifth time, boosting his totals to 1,063 this season as he scored his seventh touchdown in the past six games. The Ravens improved to 7-0 when Lewis scores. He rushed for 77 yards on 24 carries, playing a key role in allowing Baltimore to control the clock for 35 minutes and 22 seconds to the Steelers' 24 minutes and 38 seconds as the Ravens rolled up 23 first downs, a season-best.

5. The Ravens demonstrated once again that they know how to hold a lead, improving to 48-1 under coach Brian Billick when they build a lead of 14 or more points.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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