The best team will win Sunday’s AFC championship game, but how the quarterbacks perform will weigh heavily on the outcome.
Joe Flacco led the Ravens to a 31-30 victory vs. the New England Patriots in Week 3 of the regular season, erasing a 13-point deficit in the first quarter and then a nine-point deficit in the fourth.
But in the championship game last season, Flacco fell 23-20 as Tom Brady’s Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl.
“I don’t really think so,” Flacco said when asked if being more focused for bigger games improves his play. “You to out there and you play to win the football game. … I would like to think that I go out there and play consistently and approach everything the same way.”
Although Flacco is 1-1 in playoff games vs. the Patriots –- beating them 33-14 in a 2010 wild-card match -– he has played well enough to be undefeated:
-- In windy, 17-degree temperatures in New England, Flacco only attempted 10 passes, the Ravens had 234 yards rushing and Brady passed for just 154 yards and threw 3 interceptions.
-- Last year, also in New England, Flacco threw for 306 yards and 2 TDs. He would've had three if then-receiver Lee Evans could've held onto a 14-yard strike in the end zone that hit him in hands with 27 seconds remaining. Brady only threw for 239 yards, failed to throw a TD pass and had 2 interceptions.
"If you look at his track record, the way he's played, especially on big stages, it's easy to see why we consider him our franchise quarterback," said Anquan Boldin, who led the Ravens in receiving this season.
Flacco stepped up in the pocket to launch a 70-yard TD pass to Jacoby Jones that forced overtime at the Denver Broncos. The Ravens won in the second extra period, but Flacco's arm strength literally out-threw the coverage.
"I've never played with a guy with that much talent. I'm talking about physically," said Boldin, who spent his first seven seasons with the Arizona Cardinals and went to the 2009 Super Bowl with Kurt Warner leading the way. "Joe is able to make any throw on the field. Talk about making big-time throws, the deep ball, he does it all."
Despite an up-and-down season, Flacco threw for a career-high 3,817 yards, 22 TDs and 10 INTs. Brady threw for 4,827 yards, 34 TDs and 8 INTs. He's 2-3 overall vs. Brady.
When the Ravens went on a three-game losing streak late in the season, Flacco had six turnovers in those games, including 3 fumbles, that were mostly to blame for the slide. None of that matters now.
“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 game,” said Flacco, who is in just his fifth season. “It’s pretty crazy when you think about it. Who knows what it’s going to take to win on Sunday, but our mind-set is it’s going to take our best and we’re ready to go give it.”