ASHBURN – For the past five years Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco has taken more hits off the field than he has from opposing defenses. The media has scrutinized him to no end and labeled him a second-tier QB, while riddling him with demeaning monikers such as “Fluko” and “Joe Flak Jacket” due to his inability to win when it counts – in the playoffs. Well, last weekend Flacco silenced his critics, throwing for 300-plus yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions to defeat a heavily-favored Denver Broncos’ team in miraculous style to advance his Ravens one game closer to a Lombardi Trophy.
Peyton Manning had all-but sealed a Denver victory, giving his Broncos a seven-point lead with less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter. All his defense had to do was keep Baltimore out of the end zone for the final 31 seconds and Manning would inch one game closer to his second Super bowl, with his second team. But what Manning, the Broncos and millions of viewers had yet to realize was that those ensuing 31 seconds were destined for Joe Flacco to shine – not Manning.
“At that point, you have to start taking shots,” Flacco said via CBS Sports. “You have to get a little lucky. Had to take a shot and everyone came through.”
Flacco did indeed take a shot as Raven receiver Jacoby Jones, split out wide right, sprinted down the sideline on the snap. The so-called “second tier” QB caught Denver’s free safety sitting statuesque and much shallower than expected, and he capitalized. Jones got behind both the corner and safety, cradled his quarterback’s perfect pass and took it to the house for a 70-yard score that sent the game to overtime, and double OT where Flacco would finally earn redemption.
So, what now? Was Flacco’s come from behind drive an anomaly? Or was it his defining moment? There will be those that argue the Ravens won because of Ray Lewis’ retirement announcement. And many will say Denver lost the game as opposed to Baltimore winning it. But what nobody can do is take away that moment from Joe Flacco. In fact, he answered the call all season. With an aging defense and its three best players sidelined with injuries for the majority of the season, Flacco matured into the leader of that team and has led his Ravens all the way to the AFC Championship game this weekend. And while they will no doubt play the role of underdogs against a red-hot Tom Brady, the city of Baltimore can rest sure that it too has an elite-caliber quarterback at the helm.