Flacco Approaching Record Books

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With one game remaining on the schedule, quarterback Joe Flacco is in a great position to etch his name in the Ravens' record books.

Flacco is at or near the top of several single-season records – in only his second season.

As the Baltimore prepares to meet the Oakland Raiders for a shot to go to the playoffs this weekend, the Ravens are hoping Flacco reaches those history-making levels.

"Joe's playing well," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said on Wednesday. "But we're going to chase better with Joe – and with all of our guys. Joe is a weapon and he's a threat, but he's going to have to play his best football this week."

Playing what has become a typical Flacco game could earn the former first-round draft pick four major individual records.

Through 15 contests, Flacco has the highest passer rating (89.5) and completion percentage (63.3) in franchise history, and his 304 completions and 7.31 yards per attempt are second only to Vinnie Testaverde, who boaster 325 completions and a 7.61-yard average in 1996.

The ever-humble Flacco didn't even flinch when told of his sophomore marks. He is more concerned with winning, and then advancing to the postseason than his own accolades.

"I don't even know about those things, really," Flacco said with a laugh. "Probably at the end of the season, I'll look back and maybe be able to take a look at those things, but the most important thing is just going out there and winning football games.

"You can look at that stuff all you want, but if we go out and win this football game then we'll be in the playoffs for the second-straight year and give ourselves a shot to win the Super Bowl. That's kind of the thing I'm focusing on right now."

Flacco has already done a lot of winning in his young career.

Last year, he became the first-ever rookie to win two playoff games in the NFL, helping guide the Ravens to an 11-5 regular-season record and the AFC Championship. Flacco went completed 257 of 428 passes for 2,971 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions on the season.

This season, it's clear that Flacco is more comfortable with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's system and the players around him, as the signal-caller is doing more to move the football. He is now 304-of-480 for 3,511 yards with 21 scores and 12 picks.

On eight occasions, Flacco has thrown for at least 230 yards, including three 300-yard contests. He completed at least 60 percent of his passes 11 times. And, he is spreading the ball to more receivers, a sign of growing confidence.

"He's trusting everybody around him," said wideout Derrick Mason, who leads the team with 1,005 receiving yards on 72 catches. "It's not just one or two guys. He feels that he can pretty much throw the ball to anybody and they'll make a play for him. And then, with the running game and the way the offensive line is blocking, he's got a lot of time to throw the ball.

"He's not as conservative with the ball as he was in his first year, and you expect that in his first year. This year, he understands the type of talent that we have and what talent we have with the skill players, and he allows us to make plays."

Flacco isn't up to Testaverde's level in sheer yardage quite yet, however.

The Ravens' record-holder posted a team-best 4,177 yards the first year the team moved from Cleveland to Baltimore, when Testaverde had a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Michael Jackson and Derrick Alexander.

Flacco's maturation is on pace with some of the NFL's most-respected quarterbacks, however. Through his first 31 games, Flacco has a higher quarterback rating than Petyon Manning posted in his first 32 contests. He has thrown for nearly 500 more yards than the Chargers' Philip Rivers did through his first two seasons. Flacco is averaging more passing yards per game than Tom Brady did over the same span.

Statistically, Flacco is having a slightly better sophomore season than Brady and Rivers had. His quarterback rating is a hair off Manning's (89.5 versus Manning's 90.7).

Flacco thinks that as the current offense grows, and as he grows within it, the potential is limitless.

"As we get better, I'll get better," he said. "They could even be better if we kept operating like we did at the beginning of the season. We hit a little lull towards the middle of the season, so that's why things are where they are.

"But really, it's more important to win football games and have a chance to go to the playoffs in my second year for the second straight time, that's what's cool to me. That's what matters."

Flacco's teammates and coaches have been impressed with his work ethic on and off the field and a maturity beyond his 23 years. Even though he came from Division I-AA Delaware, Flacco said he knew he would have to be committed to practicing and watching film.

Such dedication has paid dividends.

"He's the first person in here, along with the rest of the quarterbacks," Mason explained. "That's the way you want it. Your quarterback should be the first guy here, because he's driving the ship. He is here studying film in the morning to make sure everything is where it's supposed to be, and he's the last person to leave because he's getting extra film in and watching that day's practice. To be a great quarterback in this league, that's what you have to do."

Flacco knows he has a long way to go, and he downplays any great next step in his development.

When confronted with his numbers, Flacco simply shrugged his shoulders and said, "I think anytime you're in the offense for a second year and you understand things better, you're just going to naturally play a little bit better."

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