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If there’s a silver lining to take from the sting of the Ravens’ 23-20 AFC championship loss to the New England Patriots, it was the play of quarterback Joe Flacco.
Buried and attacked by media pundits all week leading up to the game – and after hearing some criticism from safety Ed Reed – Flacco delivered a performance that was certainly worthy of becoming AFC champion.
He went 22-of-36 for 306 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. It was good for a quarterback rating of 95.4.
Flacco outgunned the sure Hall of Fame quarterback opposite him, New England’s Tom Brady. Brady finished 22-of-36 for 239 yards and two interceptions (57.5).
Flacco: ‘I Don’t Care’ If I Proved Anything
But did Flacco prove anything Sunday night?
Not in his eyes, nor in the eyes of his teammates.
“I don’t care,” Flacco said. “Look at the film. If you look at the film, you see how I play. I pretty much play the same way every week. If you think I played better this week than other weeks, I think you’re wrong.
“I don’t know if I ever will prove anything, but it’s not really up to me. My job is to go out there and play and give us the best chance to win.”
Flacco did that and more. With the Ravens’ running game stuffed early on in the game, Flacco said Baltimore got into their passing attack a little earlier than expected.
“Needless to say, Joe Flacco showed that he is a top-5 quarterback in this league,” Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice said.
“It wasn’t me today. It was Joe Flacco. Joe Flacco drove us today. I would just appreciate that if some of the people who criticized him lay off him now. That’s my quarterback, we’re going to be here for a while.”
After a sluggish start, Flacco heated up in the second quarter, completing seven straight passes at one point for 123 yards, capped by a 6-yard touchdown pass on a roll out to tight end Dennis Pitta.
He converted on three third downs on the Ravens’ third-quarter touchdown drive, including a strike to wide receiver Torrey Smith that he spun off of for a 29-yard score.
The Ravens took over possession trailing by three points with one minute, 44 seconds remaining. Working completely out of the shotgun, Flacco completed five passes to drive the Ravens to the 14-yard line and would have had the game-winning touchdown had it not been dropped.
“He did what he had to do. He led our offense through that entire game,” wide receiver Lee Evans said.
Flacco has heard that he’s not “elite” throughout the season.
But his teammates have grown tired of the naysayers.
Flacco started the year saying he’s a “damn good quarterback” and, perhaps, he’ll end it with the media saying the same.
“He played his butt off,” said safety Bernard Pollard. “For the people that keep dogging him, if you aint never played this game, shut up.”
“I’ve talked for three years about how good Joe is,” center Matt Birk added. “For whatever reason, I don’t know. I don’t know that he can ever do enough until he wins a Super Bowl. That’s the Joe we know, that’s the Joe we see every day. It certainly wasn’t surprising by any means to us. I’m proud of him, proud of the way he played.”
Linebacker Ray Lewis said that “probably the most important thing we learned as a team” was that not one player had a doubt Flacco was going to lead them down the field in the final minutes.
“Joe came in here today and proved again that Joe Flacco, once again, is the quarterback to put us in position to go to a Super Bowl,” Lewis said. “He proved that. There’s nothing else for him to prove, from my side.”