Why Joe Flacco Is So Good In The Playoffs

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After Saturday's wild-card win in Pittsburgh, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh stood on the press conference podium and said, "He's the best quarterback in football." 

The clip, of course, blew up on sports talk radio and Twitter, and opened Pandora's box of Flacco "elite" questions.

But this time it raised a follow-up question: Is Flacco the best playoff quarterback in football right now?

Because, if so, that's perhaps an even higher honor considering the playoffs are what actually matters, right? It's about winning Super Bowls, right?

Here are the stats:

  • Flacco has the most playoff wins (10) by any NFL quarterback since 2008, twice as many as the next closest competitor and more than twice as many as New England's Tom Brady (4).
  • Flacco has the most road playoff wins in NFL history (7), two more than the New York Giants' Eli Manning.
  • Flacco has the second-best playoff winning percentage (.714) of any quarterback (with a minimum of 10 starts) in the league. Manning is at .727 (8-3). It's sixth-best all-time, trailing only legends Bart Starr, Jim Plunkett, Terry Bradshaw, Troy Aikman and Manning.
  • Unlike Manning, Flacco has never gone to the playoffs and not won at least one game. Manning won four straight during two Super Bowl runs. He lost his first game in his three other playoff trips.
  • During Baltimore's current five-game playoff winning streak (the longest in the NFL), Flacco has thrown 13 touchdowns and no interceptions. He's attempted 166 consecutive passes without a pick in the playoffs. He's produced a 116.6 quarterback rating over that stretch.
  • In the Ravens' last nine playoff games (since 2010), Flacco is 168-of-282 for 2,271 yards, 20 touchdowns and two interceptions (106.0 quarterback rating).

So how is Flacco so good in the playoffs? How does a guy with such wild swings during the regular season, including posting a 41.7 quarterback rating in Houston in Week 16, perform this well when it matters the most?

"It's no different," Flacco said. "It's going out there and playing a football game. I'm doing the best I can to put everybody in a position to do good things, put the ball in their hands and let them take over. I think we've just come together and played well as a unit."

That's about as good an explanation as one is going to get from Flacco. He points right back at the team around him.

"I think we're a good team," he added. "So put us in enough situations and put us in tough situations and we're going to react well to them."

Flacco's teammates point back at him.

Cornerback Lardarius Webb was asked how the Ravens have posted the most road playoff wins (10) since the 1970 merger.

"It seems to always gel around December," Webb said. "I'm always bringing up Joe Flacco, but he's very important to our team. The way he comes out and he performs, the way he carries the week, the way he's prepared. We look up to him, we see him. When he plays that well, we expect to win. We feel comfortable going on the road when we're going on the road with Joe Flacco."

Wide receiver Torrey Smith said "big-time players show up when you need them most, and that's how he's been."

Part of the reason why Flacco does have so many road playoff wins – a stat he'd like to add to this Saturday in Foxborough – is because he's played in so many road playoff games. Flacco has started 14 playoff games with only two at home.

Flacco said his mentality when he goes on the road for a playoff game is the same as it would be at M&T Bank Stadium. He's able to keep it simple.

"Obviously the opponent is different, but your mindset is the same," he said. "You're feeling the same thing before a game, you're feeling the same thing standing on a sideline getting ready to take the field for the first time. That's my mindset. I believe that it's the same."

But Flacco continued to speak, and actually revealed that his brain, and the way the Ravens approach the postseason in general, does tweak in the playoffs a bit.

"In the regular season, the cliché line is one play at a time, one game at a time," Flacco said. "At this point, you really are. You don't have any choice but to be totally locked in on this one game. There's nothing really to look forward to. You don't know what's going to happen after this. It's definitely an interesting mindset that you take as a team, and it's a lot of fun."

Flacco has seemingly always been at his best when the stakes are high and his back is against the wall. He's good in two-minute drill situations. He's good at battling back from behind.

It's a let-it-rip mentality that Flacco referenced when he said he plays without a conscious in the playoffs.

Saturday in Pittsburgh, Flacco and the Ravens aired it out. They attacked deep more than they had in the regular season, particularly down the final stretch.

And when Flacco rolled right and found tight end Crockett Gillmore open for a 21-yard touchdown to send Pittsburgh fans streaming to their cars midway through the fourth quarter, Flacco took notice of the emptying stadium – and he liked it.

"I don't think it's something that you're thinking about in the moment, but when it happens, it's pretty awesome," Flacco said. "It's great when you score a touchdown and then put another one on top of that and take that lead, and just hear the place go quiet."

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