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Winning Consumes Joe Flacco


Joe Flacco didn't want to watch the 2013 NFL playoffs.

But in reality, as a football player, you can't help but settle in and flip on the TV.

"It was tough to watch those games," Flacco said. "You're so used to being in them. You're so used to practicing that week and going and playing in those games."

Flacco is the first and only quarterback in NFL history to reach the playoffs in each of his first five years. He didn't know any other way.

Flacco's critics always point to his statistics and lack of Pro Bowls when compared to some of the other great signal-callers around the league. Flacco always had the trump card that he won games.

When the Ravens missed the playoffs for the first time since the big-armed Delaware kid arrived in 2008, Flacco lost that card.

That's what Flacco wants back. It's not to have an argument against the critics, because he couldn't care less. It's because he doesn't want to be on the couch again in January.

"I honestly don't think too much about that stuff," Flacco said. "I think about getting back here and winning. I think we have the team to do it and it's my job to put us in that situation and play as well as I can."

In his first five seasons (2008-2012), Flacco compiled a 63-30 record, including the playoffs. He won more than twice as much as he lost.

Winning is what it's always been about for Flacco.

Even in practice, he argues with Head Coach John Harbaugh and defensive players about whether he was "sacked" before he got passes off, or whether he would have crossed the goal line on runs if others were allowed to hit him.

This offseason, Flacco has been quieter on the practice field. He's always gone about his business, and maybe it's because he's so enveloped by the new offense, but there seems to be a different focus.

"I think you always have that passion to win, but there's no doubt that things here and there grab your attention and make you say, 'Man, that really didn't sit well,'" Flacco said.

"Losing gives you that reminder of how great it does feel to get to the playoffs and win games. If you'd been on our team for the last six years, you could almost take it for granted."

In order for the Ravens to win, Flacco knows a lot falls on his shoulders.

He has to throw fewer interceptions than he did last year (22). He's got to get his completion percentage up after it dropped to 59 percent. He has to take fewer sacks (48).

Flacco feels like all of those will come with the new offensive system. He won't be taking as many risks because that's what Kubiak focuses on most. His completion percentage should improve because he's throwing easier-to-complete shorter passes. He should take fewer sacks because he's getting the ball out faster.

Flacco believes his yardage (3,912 last year) and touchdowns (19) should also improve because the offense will stay on the field longer. More plays equals more yards and points.

"I expect our offense to be a lot better," he said. "We haven't performed up to our standards, statistically. This offense is going to be pretty tough to handle.  We've got a lot of weapons and we've got a lot of tough guys. I expect us to be up there at the top of the league."

But most importantly, a better offense should translate to more wins. That's what held the Ravens back in many ways from making the playoffs last year.

In retrospect, they had to win either of their final two games to get in, but the offense scored just seven points at home against New England, then followed up with 17 points and three interceptions in Cincinnati.

Asked whether he believes the Ravens have what it takes to be back competing for a Super Bowl, Flacco answered without hesitation.

"There's no doubt about it," he said. "We have a great team. Our defense is revved up just like always. Our offense has a ton of weapons, some new guys. We're working on a new offense, but I think everybody is really confident with it.

"Believe me, I've been a part of some good teams, obviously, and we're just as good as ever."

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