OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Maybe it's going to take a trip to the Super
Bowl to convince those outside the Baltimore Ravens' locker room that
Joe Flacco is an elite NFL quarterback.
Flacco is the only starting quarterback in NFL history to reach the
postseason in each of his first five seasons. His 61 victories
(including the postseason) are more than any NFL quarterback since the
start of the 2008 season.
Flacco has won five road playoff games in his career, tied with Eli Manning for the most in NFL history. Joe Montana didn't do it. Neither
did Brett Favre, Steve Young, Troy Aikman or Peyton Manning.
Each of those greats, however, owns a Super Bowl ring. So does Tom Brady, who will lead the New England Patriots (13-4) in Sunday's AFC
championship rematch against the Ravens (12-6).
Flacco's teammates don't care about how his resume stacks up against
the other greats in the game.
"That's a question you guys have got to answer," wide receiver Anquan Boldin told reporters this week. "He already has our respect."
Flacco's 7-4 record in the postseason speaks loudly about his ability
to excel in big games. The former first-round draft pick out of
Delaware outplayed Peyton Manning last weekend, throwing for 331 yards
— including a 70-yard strike to Jacoby Jones in the closing seconds of
regulation to force overtime in a game the Ravens ultimately won 38-35.
The touchdown pass to Jones might have thrust Flacco into the
discussion about whether he can stand among the elite.
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"You go out there and you play to win the football game and some of the
things that have been required to win these football games have maybe
been a little bit over the top and a little abnormal," Flacco said. "I
would like to think that I go out there and play consistently and
approach everything the same way. I think that's been proved out. We
win a lot of football games around here, and this is actually the third
time I'm standing up here getting ready to play in an AFC championship
"It's pretty crazy when you think about it."
The guy is good. So far, not quite good enough to take his team to the
Super Bowl. But he's taken the Ravens to the brink, and hasn't missed a
start since earning the job as a rookie in training camp.
"We love Joe, have for a long time," center Matt Birk said. "You're
always going to have naysayers out there, but we're not concerned about
that. The great thing about Joe is, neither is he. Joe is very
comfortable with who he is and the type of player he is. That's a great
trait for a leader to have, especially a quarterback in the NFL."
He's got another great trait for a quarterback: The ability to throw
the deep ball. Few have done it as well this season as Flacco, who has
completed 46 passes of 25 yards or longer, including TD throws of 70,
59 and 32 yards last week in Denver.
Asked to describe Flacco's deep ball, Jones replied, "It's like a
Starburst. It's just juicy, man. It's good. It's like candy. Everybody
On the Ravens, it seems like everyone likes Joe.
"I've never played with a guy with that much talent; I'm talking about
physically," Boldin said. "I think Joe is able to make any throw on the
field. Big-time throws, the deep ball, he does it all."
Flacco is known among his teammates as Joe Cool because of his calm
demeanor in the huddle and the pocket.
"He doesn't flinch in any situation," wide receiver Torrey Smith said.
"That's what we like about him. He's the same, whether we're doing well
or bad, and you can trust a guy like that."
When it's time for business, Flacco doesn't panic. Against Denver, he
moved the Ravens 77 yards in 38 seconds with the game on the line.
"You all might think we're lying about it, but I'm being so serious
when I say that when we went to the huddle, no one doubted for a second
that we (were) going to score," Smith said. "Did we think it was going
to be a 70-yard bomb? No. But no one panicked. It was just so calm in
the huddle. It was like, 'All right. Let's go do it.' And we got it
Recalling the drive, Flacco said, "There's no need to get all worked up
over stuff like that when you know you have put all of your time, all
of your effort into going out there and having fun and winning the
football game. There's no need to blow it out of proportion and get
overwhelmed by that kind of thing. I think when you have that mindset,
it is easy to go out there and stay calm and play in that moment."
Flacco earned the Patriots' respect in last year's title game when he
outplayed Brady and nearly pulled off an upset. Earlier this season,
Flacco threw for 382 yards and three scores in Baltimore's 31-30 win
over New England.
"He's tough to bring down, he stands in the pocket, he takes a hit, he
gets up. That's a tough football player," Patriots tackle Vince Wilfork
said. "When you have a quarterback like that, that's special."
Flacco's rookie contract expires after this season. Regardless of what
happens Sunday — and whether he gets a long-term deal or receives
Baltimore's franchise tag — he is due for a big payday in the months
ahead. But Flacco has more pressing issues in mind this week.
"I'm sure it's back there somewhere, but it's not something I've really
thought about or really considered," he said.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh has made his position clear: Pay the man.
"He is one of the toughest quarterbacks I have ever been around,"
Harbaugh said. "He's the best quarterback I've ever been around."
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