Joe Flacco did his best Brett Favre impersonation Sunday.
He was down 17-points entering the fourth quarter and so beat-up, bullied and battered by the Minnesota Vikings that he limped down the field after long completions.
But Flacco never surrendered, and thus neither did the rest of the Ravens' offense.
By the end, Flacco's late-game drive fell short of victory for the second time this season as the Vikings won 33-31 on a missed 44-yard field goal. But the sophomore quarterback showed once again that he can deliver when the game is on the line – much like Favre has done his entire career.
"I told Joe on the field, 'That is a performance that you're going to see out of a 15-year veteran or a second-year veteran,'" Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. "That is what Joe is right now."
Flacco completed 28 of 43 passes for two touchdowns and a career-high 385 yards, all in the face of intense pressure from the Vikings' pass rush. He didn't throw an interception and finished with a 109.3 quarterback rating.
It's the third time this season he has set a single-game career-high in passing yardage. Flacco threw for 307 yards in Week 1 against the Chiefs and 342 yards against Cleveland in Week 3.
Flacco has now thrown for 1,674 yards this season for an average of 279 yards. He threw for 1,076 through six games last year, exactly 100 yards fewer per game.
More impressive than the stats has been Flacco's performances at the end of games.
He sunk the Chiefs with a 31-yard touchdown pass to Mark Clayton that gave the Ravens the lead with two minutes, 14 seconds remaining. Then, against the Patriots in Week 4, he drove the Ravens 66 yards inside the 20-yard line in the final minute before a fourth-down pass bounced off Clayton's chest.
Sunday was Flacco's third shot this season to be the hero. The Ravens' final drive started at the Ravens' 33-yard line with 1:49 left. Flacco hit a short pass to Ray Rice for 13 yards, then found a diving Kelley Washington over the middle for another 13 yards to reach Minnesota's 41-yard line.
Two more completions for 12 yards and a 3-yard Rice run brought the Ravens to the 26-yard line, where Flacco spiked the ball with two seconds left to set up Steve Hauschka's field goal attempt.
After the kick, Flacco simply looked up, deeply exhaled and walked off the field. His face, characteristically, showed no emotion.
"I was just watching my own guys and seeing how they reacted and the crowd went kind of nuts," Flacco said. "So I figured it was a little bit missed."
The Vikings, who stopped the Ravens' rushing attack nearly all game, put the onus on Flacco to beat them and the Ravens gave him the keys down the stretch as they had to make up ground quickly. Minnesota put intense pressure on Flacco the entire game and especially dialed it up on the final drive.
Flacco was hit nine times and sacked on three, including one unimpeded shot to the back from Vikings defensive end Jared Allen. He rolled his ankle early and twice had his foot stepped on, which caused the limp late in the game and had trainers hovering over Flacco on the sideline.
"Joe is courageous; he is physically and mentally tough," Harbaugh said. "Standing there against that defense to keep chucking it and making the throws he did, speaks for itself."