Everyone who plays sports dreams of that game-winning shot, or throw, or catch.
In that dream, the crowd usually goes wild with applause at the end, right?
Not for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.
Flacco dreamed of the kind of game he'll play Sunday night at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, where the Ravens will battle the Steelers for first place in the AFC North with one week to go.
"When you dream of being in the NFL, you dream of going into hostile environments in high-pressure situations, where a lot is on the line, and people are into it," Flacco said. "You picture going into a place and playing in front of 70,000 people that hate you. That is what makes it fun."
Flacco loves playing in Pittsburgh, which may partly explain why he's had so much more success there than his peers.
Since 2010, Flacco's five wins at Heinz Field is the most by an opposing quarterback. The rest of the NFL is 12-37 (.244) during that span, per ESPN.
Sure, Flacco has had more games in Pittsburgh than many quarterbacks, which offers more opportunities for wins. But many other quarterbacks would simply walk out with more losses.
Flacco has led game-winning drives, and thrown daggers into Steelers fans' heart with late touchdown throws to wide receiver Torrey Smith and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, to name a couple. In the 2014 playoffs in Pittsburgh – the last Ravens-Steelers game there with such high stakes – he threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns.
"It is not a lot of fun when you don't win," Flacco said.
"But when you go in there and you do your job and you play the way you dream of playing … There are not too many feelings in this world that are better than winning an NFL football game. That probably gets amplified a little bit when you get to silence a crowd."
Flacco hasn't silenced too many road crowds this season, which has been full of ups* *and downs. The Ravens haven't won a road game since Sept. 25. Come off last year's ACL knee surgery, Flacco has had one of his toughest seasons, statistically.
He's poised to top 4,000 passing yards for the first time in his career and currently ranks fifth in the NFL in passing yards (3,788), but that's also partly because he's also on pace to set a career-high for passing attempts (579 so far).
Flacco had tossed 19 touchdowns to 13 interceptions and has an 84.8 quarterback rating. He's played better as of late, especially in a 381-yard, four-touchdown performance on Dec. 4 against the Miami Dolphins.
As Flacco has gone, often the Ravens offense has followed. Baltimore's offense has been wildly inconsistent for much of the season, but put up 27 points against the Philadelphia Eagles, 23 versus the New England Patriots and 28 against the Dolphins in the past three weeks.
"It is tough to look back at the whole thing, but we have hit our bumps here and there," Flacco said. "But I think we are starting to hit a stride. When you come out here and watch our practices, you can tell we are starting to hit a stride.
Now would be the perfect time for Flacco to take it to the next level and carry Baltimore's offense in Pittsburgh. He's done it before, and he's proven that he can get hot late in the season.
Flacco's wide receiver, Mike Wallace, can attest to that. He saw it from the other sideline when he was wearing black and gold. Wallace said Flacco is capable of winning in Pittsburgh because of the poise and confidence he shows on a daily basis.
"I know I have seen him do it to us two or three times when I was there [with the Steelers] on our field," Wallace said. "Hopefully we can go down on Sunday, and he can do it while I'm on his team and not on the other side."