Flacco's finest hour

Flacco's finest hour
November 14, 2012, 2:15 pm
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Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass in the third quarter against the Oakland Raiders at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore defeated Oakland 55-20.

(James Lang-US PRESSWIRE)

Joe Flacco has taken his share of heat for his play on the road, but his most recent trip to Pittsburgh generated perhaps the signature moment of his career to date.

At Heinz Field last season, Flacco led the Ravens on a 92-yard, game-winning drive in the final two minutes, hitting Torrey Smith with a 26-yard touchdown pass with eight seconds left to give the Ravens a 23-20 win.

It was actually the second straight fourth-quarter, regular-season comeback at Heinz Field for Flacco. In 2010, he threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Houshmanzadeh with 34 seconds left to lift the Ravens to a 17-14 win.

For whatever reason, Flacco, who has looked so inconsistent on the road, has been virtually unflappable in the cauldron that is Heinz Field.

The game in Pittsburgh last season had been a typically defensive but somewhat frustrating night for the Ravens. An apparent 76-yard touchdown run by Ray Rice on the game’s first play was called back by penalty. The Ravens failed to get in the end zone with first-and-goal at the 1-yard line, settling for an 18-yard field goal.

Then the Ravens lost a 16-6 fourth-quarter lead as the Steelers scored a pair of touchdowns sandwiched around a Ravens turnover. First, Rashard Mendenhall scored on a 1-yard run, and the Ravens’ next possession ended when Flacco fumbled after being sacked by James Harrison. The Steelers responded with a six-play, 58-yard drive that ended with a 25-yard scoring pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace for a 20-16 lead with 4:59 left.

The Ravens went nowhere on their next posession, and after forcing a Steelers punt, took over at their own 8-yard line with 2:24 left and Heinz Field in delirium.

“I just remember … us getting in the huddle and saying, ‘Here we go,’” tight end Ed Dickson said.

“Throw everything out that happened up to this point, and go out and focus and finish,”  Dickson added. “O-Line was ready. Joe had the look in his eye, he was ready. And the skill guys were ready.”

After an incompletion on first down, Flacco connected with Anquan Boldin for 21 yards to move the Ravens out of the shadow of their goalpost at the two-minute warning.

 “What I remember mostly (of that drive) is the very first catch that Anquan made to get it started,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Uusally that’s pretty important in a two-minute drive.”
 
Flacco later converted a fourth-and-1 – hitting Boldin for 10 yards – and converted two third downs, including the touchdown throw to Smith. That came four plays after Smith dropped a potential 37-yard touchdown pass in the end zone.

Facing third-and-10, with 14 seconds left, Flacco stepped up in the pocket and found Smith, who had gotten behind cornerback William Gay down the right sideline. The pass was caught, but a flag was thrown.

“I remember not really realizing whether it was a touchdown or not, who the flag was on,” said Flacco, who was 28-of-47 for 300 yards overall and 7-for-13 on the final drive.

Then came the call: Defensive pass interference. Touchdown stands.

 “We went out there (on that final drive) to win that game,” Dickson said, “and that’s what we did.”

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