Conquering Playoffs Flacco’s Next Step

Last year, Flacco was hamstrung by painful hip injury. Now, he’s set up to become elite.

Posted by Mike Duffy on Thursday, January 6th, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Categories: 2010 Season, Mike Duffy, Wild Card at Chiefs

Joe Flacco has accomplished a lot during his brief three-year career, but the playoffs are the last thing for him to conquer to be firmly placed among the NFL’s elite.

As he enters his third consecutive postseason appearance, Flacco has one final frontier.

Wideout Derrick Mason believes this weekend’s matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs can be a perfect way to embark on that path.

“I think there’s three levels,” said Mason when asked how a quarterback should be judged.  “You get defined by the regular season.  You get defined by the playoffs, and then you get defined by the Super Bowl.  The great ones make it to the Super Bowl.  That’s what separates them from the good ones.  He has put a stamp on his name these last two years.  Now, he’s really going to put himself in a different bracket if we can accomplish what we want to accomplish. 

“He can put himself in the same party as a [Peyton] Manning, [Tom] Brady and [Drew] Brees.  I know Joe don’t care about that, but as a quarterback, you want to be mentioned in the same breath with those guys.”

Late last year, Flacco was hamstrung by a deep bruise that nearly spanned the entirety of his right hip.

The Ravens managed one playoff win, but that was a game where Flacco completed only four of 10 painful passing attempts.

Now, a healthy Flacco is perfectly set up to climb a rung on the ladder of top-shelf signal-callers.

Of course, Flacco is taking Sunday’s wild-card showdown in stride.

“When the game starts and the whistle blows, it’s a football game,” said Flacco, whose 103.4 passer rating over the final four contests was second to only Brady.  “There’s a little more hoopla surrounding the game and all that.  But, the bottom line is it’s a football game and you have to do the same things you did during the regular season in order to get ready for it and in order to play well.”

Since he was selected in the first round of the 2008 draft, Flacco has little-by-little assumed more of a leadership role.

And while the Ravens’ belief in Flacco hasn’t wavered, his 2010 campaign showed that he is ready for the next step after becoming Baltimore’s all-time passing leader in yards (10,206), touchdowns (60), completions (878) and attempts (1,416).

“I think the team’s confidence in Joe has changed, from a rookie to a third-year player,” Mason said.  “The way he’s matured in the game and his numbers have gotten better each year, you walk into the locker room fully confident during the playoffs that that’s the one position that you don’t have to look at.”

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