Ravens Ride Joe Flacco's Arm To Victory


The Ravens came into the locker room at halftime of Sunday's AFC championship game and decided to make a change.

The offense had been stagnant with a run-first approach in the first half, and quarterback Joe Flacco was quiet.

That's when the Ravens opened things up and put the game in Flacco's hands.

"We didn't come all the way here to play it safe and hope we'd win," Flacco said. "We're in the AFC championship game and you have to play to win."

The fifth-year quarterback delivered with one of the finest performances of his career.

He marched the Ravens up and down the field in the second half, standing in the face of pressure to deliver big throws to lead his team to a 28-13 victory.

Flacco finished the day 21-of-36 for 240 passing yards and three touchdowns, with a quarterback rating of 106.2. All three of those touchdowns and 159 passing yards came in the second half once the Ravens switched to more of a pass-heavy approach.

"We came in at halftime and we didn't feel like we were being as aggressive as we would like to be," tight end Dennis Pitta said. "He's really been able to showcase his abilities this last stretch here, and he's been playing unbelievable. The second half he was lights out and did a great job putting the ball where it needed to be and he marched us right down on a couple of drives."

Flacco spread the ball all over the field, finding receivers, tight ends and running backs in tight windows for big completions. Unlike last week where Flacco relied on the deep ball, this Sunday he was methodical in picking apart the Patriots secondary with sharp touch passes to lead the Ravens on long scoring drives.

He outdueled future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, and carried the Ravens to their first AFC championship since 2001 and first Super Bowl appearance of Flacco's career.

It was the second straight season that Flacco has outplayed Brady in the AFC championship.

"It's not the first time he's done this at Gillette Stadium against Tom Brady," running back Ray Rice said. "He's worth every penny he's going to ask for this offseason."

With Sunday's win, Flacco became the winningest quarterback on the road in NFL playoff history. His six road wins surpassed Giants quarterback Eli Manning with five.

Despite being the only quarterback in NFL history to go to the playoffs in each of his first five seasons and win a playoff game in each of those years, Flacco was still the frequent target of criticism in the media.

The debate surrounding Flacco this season – and for much of his career – is whether he's in the elite class of quarterbacks with the likes of Brady, the Mannings, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. Flacco declared before the season that he thinks he's the best quarterback in the NFL, emphasizing that it's important for any competitor to think that way and have confidence in their abilities.

Flacco took some heat for those comments, but stood by them all season.

With victories over Brady and Peyton Manning now in back-to-back weeks, Flacco is making a strong case to be considered among the best signal callers in the NFL. Flacco has been the star quarterback of the playoffs, and has thrown for 853 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions in three wins.

"He's a great quarterback," said wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who caught two touchdowns. "I don't know why people keep doubting him because the bigger the situation, the bigger he plays. I think you saw that today."

"I'm a fan of Joe's," linebacker Ray Lewis added. "I've always been a fan of Joe's. He played his butt off again today and he was one of the biggest reasons we're here today."

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