Flacco's stellar performance pays off in more ways than one

Flacco's stellar performance pays off in more ways than one
January 21, 2013, 1:45 am
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Flacco: 'It feels good in general.'

In three games, Ravens quarterback has erased all doubt about where he stands among the NFL’s elite.

At the very least, he’s ahead of Tom Brady of the New England Patriots when it comes to head-to-head showdowns.

And Flacco's number one all-time with six road playoff wins after Sunday's 28-13 triumph in the AFC title game.

He started off by getting the best of Andrew Luck, who holds the NFL rookie passing record, of the Indianapolis Colts. Then, he went on the road to shock Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in single-digit temperatures and double-overtime.

Sunday, Flacco came from behind to beat the Patriots, who were as much as a 10-point favorite, to lead the Ravens to their first Super Bowl since 2001.

It was Flacco’s second victory vs. the Patriots this season. He out-performed Brady, a three-time Super Bowl champion, in Week 3 in leading the Ravens from a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter for a 31-30 victory.

“Joe did a good job reading things out. Getting the ball to the guy in the (the right spot),” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s Brady-like. Brady gets it to the right guy in coverage, where the ball should go.”
Flacco completed 21 of 36 passes for 240 yards and 3 touchdowns. Just as importantly, he didn’t throw an interception for the Ravens, who are 42-5 when he is careful with the football. Flacco hasn’t thrown a pick in three playoff games.

Brady threw 2 interceptions. Running back Stevan Ridley lost a fumble and was knocked out of the game in the third quarter on a hit by safety Bernard Pollard.

Last season, the Ravens fell to the Patriots 23-20 loss in the AFC title game at Gillette Stadium. Flacco was stellar in that game, too, but then-receiver Lee Evans dropped a TD in the end zone late in the fourth quarter that could’ve achieved victory and then-kicker Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal that would’ve forced overtime.

“Get all the critics off his back,” said Anquan Boldin, who had TD catches of 3 and 11 yards in the second half as the Ravens erased a 13-7 halftime deficit. “We’ve said all along how good of a quarterback he is. People obviously don’t want to listen but they have no choice now.”

Trailing 3-0, Flacco led the Ravens on a 13-play, 90-yard drive as running back Ray Rice scored the Ravens’ first TD from 2 yards out. The Patriots stuffed the run well, holding Rice to 48 yards and Bernard Pierce to 52.

But Rice joyfully deflected questions about Flacco being a $100 million man. Flacco beat the Broncos in a divisional playoff game with long strikes of 70, 59 and 32 yards. Sunday, it was mostly methodical drives of 10 plays for 87 yards and 63 yards on 10 plays. The Ravens won the time-of- possession battle 31 to 29.

“I’m not going to go into the whole Joe Flacco thing,” said Rice, who signed a 5-year, $40 million deal before the season. “He’s going to deserve every penny that he’s going to ask for this offseason. It’s not the first time he’s done that at Gillette Stadium against Tom Brady.”

Flacco distributed the ball masterfully. Boldin had 5 catches for 60 yards. Torrey Smith grabbed 4 for 69. Dennis Pitta had 5 for 55 yards.

“I’m so glad we’re going to the Super Bowl so people can get off Joe’s back a little bit,” Smith said. “He led us there. He made plays with his arm and we made plays for him.”