FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Baltimore Ravens needed to win, and also get some help, to earn a playoff berth in the final week of the regular season. That served as a reflection of how the 2014 regular season didn't necessarily go as the team hoped.
But none of that matters now.
When the Ravens topped the Browns in Week 17, and the Chargers lost on the road to the Chiefs, it gave Baltimore the sixth and final seed in the AFC playoffs. With a clean slate, they put together an impressive performance Saturday night in a 30-17 road victory over the third-seeded Steelers.
Next up is a fourth playoff trip to New England since 2009, where the Ravens are 2-1 in the postseason.
For more on the Ravens, here is our standard primer (including a "quick take" from Saturday night):
Record: 10-6 regular season; 1-0 playoffs
Head coach: John Harbaugh
Offensive coordinator: Gary Kubiak
Defensive coordinator: Dean Pees
Special teams: Jerry Rosburg
General manager: Ozzie Newsome
FIVE PLAYERS TO KNOW, OFFENSE
1. QB Joe Flacco. He's playoff-tested, with his nine postseason wins from 2008-2012 tying Tom Brady for the most playoff wins by a quarterback in their first five seasons in NFL history. It's now 10 wins after his impressive performance Saturday in Pittsburgh. The 6-foot-6, 245-pound Flacco can make all the throws (especially deep), is icy under pressure and showed more mobility than we were expecting Saturday.
2. OL Marshal Yanda. Arguably the best guard in the NFL, the 6-foot-3, 305-pound Yanda kicked out to right tackle once again on Saturday night because of injuries to others, and he excelled, which reflects his excellence. He entered the NFL as a third-round draft choice of the Ravens in 2007, having played at Iowa.
3. WR Steve Smith Sr. One of the game's great competitors, the 35-year-old Smith signed with the Ravens as a free agent after spending the first 13 years of his career (2001-2013) with Carolina. The Patriots were interested in possibly signing him as well, and he's shown he still has it -- 79 catches for 1,065 yards and six touchdowns this season. He can still threaten the deep part of the field.
4. RB Justin Forsett. Selected in the seventh round of the 2008 draft by the Seahawks, the University of California alum has come out of nowhere this season to be the Ravens' lead back (1,266 yards in the regular season). At 5-foot-8, 197 pounds, he is a nice fit running behind a zone-blocking scheme and is a willing pass protector. He's been with Indianapolis (2008), Seattle (2008-2011), Houston (2012) and Jacksonville (2013).
5. TE Owen Daniels. The former Houston Texan does a lot of the same things for the Ravens as he did in Houston and has reliable hands (48 receptions), a knack for finding openings underneath and is well-versed in the offense from having played under Ravens coordinator Kubiak in Houston.
FIVE PLAYERS TO KNOW, DEFENSE
1. OLB Terrell Suggs. The 32-year-old can still create pressure off the edge (12 sacks), and of course, headlines off the field with his sharp tongue. The 6-foot-3, 260-pound Suggs has spent his entire career in Baltimore (2003-2014) and is one of the NFL's more durable, consistent and physical edge defenders. He often rises up in big games.
2. OLB Elvis Dumervil. In his second season in Baltimore after spending six seasons in Denver, the 5-foot-11, 255-pound long-armed Dumervil led the Ravens with 17 sacks this year. The 30-year-old creates a formidable 1-2 combination with Suggs off the edge.
3. DTs Haloti Ngata, Brandon Williams. The 6-foot-4, 340-pound Ngata, now in his ninth season out of Oregon, just returned from a four-game suspension and helps clog up the middle and push the pocket. He's one of the NFL's more powerful interior defenders, much like the Patriots' Vince Wilfork. The 6-foot-1, 335-pound Williams, a 2013 third-round pick out of Division II Missouri Southern State, started 14 games this season as another stout presence inside.
4. LBs CJ Mosley, Daryl Smith. The Ravens' 2014 first-round draft choice, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Mosley transitioned from a centerpiece player at Alabama to the same in Baltimore (16 starts). He earned a Pro Bowl berth and second-team Associated Press All-Pro recognition in 2014. Meanwhile, the 32-year-old Smith is the wily veteran -- a longtime Jacksonville Jaguar (2004-2012) in his second season with the Ravens whose presence and contributions remind us a little bit of Roman Phifer's from the Patriots' Super Bowl years.
5.CB Lardarius Webb. The 5-foot-10, 182-pound Webb is the Ravens' most experienced player in the secondary, which appears to be the area of vulnerability on defense. He entered the league as a third-round pick of the Ravens in 2009 out of Nicholls State and received a big pay day. Some wonder if the team will be inclined to pay him $8 million next season.
EXTRA POINTS: Jacoby Jones is one of the most dangerous kickoff returners in the NFL, as the Ravens ranked No. 1 in kickoff return average (30.8) in the regular season, with Jones having a 108-yard return for a touchdown. ... Harvard's Kyle Juszczyk, a fourth-round pick in 2013, shows up at times on offense but mostly on special teams. ... The Ravens only allowed opponents to convert 42.6 percent of their red-zone drives in the regular season, the second-best percentage in the NFL. ... Injuries forced shuffling on the offensive line on Saturday, where rookies James Hurst (undrafted) and John Urschel (fifth round) are starting at left tackle and right guard, respectively. ... Kicker Justin Tucker has a powerful leg. ... The Ravens haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in any of the past 27 games. ... Former Patriots receiver Kamar Aiken (24 catches, 267 yards, 3 TDs) is a depth option behind Steve Smith Sr. and the speedy Torrey Smith, who had eight touchdown catches of at least 15 yards this season, tied for the second most in the NFL. ... Former Patriots defensive lineman Casey Walker was a healthy scratch Saturday, and has played one game in Baltimore since being claimed on waivers in December. The Ravens have played in 14 playoff games since Harbaugh and Flacco arrived in 2008, most in the NFL.... ESPN.com reporter Jamison Hensley has the Ravens covered.