Witnessing the Emergence?


After leading the Ravens to 21 fourth-quarter points in a 38-24 win over the Kansas City Chiefs last week, quarterback Joe Flacco showed that he is more than capable of being at the helm of an offense.

The second-year signal-caller earned personal bests in attempts (26-of-43), yards (307) and touchdowns (three), all the while distributing the football to seven different receivers and basically marching the offense down the field at will.

Flacco's confident air is something that has always been with him, from the time when he was taking the University of Delaware to the Football Championship Subdivision title game to when the Ravens selected him 18th overall in 2008.

The difference from year one to year two is the way he lets that confidence show. There were glimpses of emotion in Baltimore's run to the AFC Championship, when Flacco became the only rookie quarterback in NFL history to win two playoff contests.

Fast forward to his 20th career game last weekend.

The Chiefs had just tied it up at 24 in the fourth quarter, but a determined Flacco marched the offense 74 yards in eight plays to take the lead with a 31-yard touchdown pass to Mark Clayton. When Clayton hauled in the bomb, Flacco wildly pumped his fists and looked towards the sideline with intense energy.

Then, when fullback Le'Ron McClain officially ended it with his 1-yard touchdown run on the Ravens' ensuing drive, Flacco again let his competitive fire come out.

Just like Flacco's 300-yard day, the Ravens knew all along what type of a player and man he was.

The outside world is just beginning to witness it.

"It's in there," head coach John Harbaugh said. "Believe it or not, Joe is an emotional guy. He's a competitive guy. He's edgy, and he likes to do well. We like that about him."

While Flacco's outing may have surprised Ravens fans and NFL analysts that follow a team that has historically been known for defense, not one of Flacco's teammates was surprised.

"I think there's going to be many more of those days to come," said tight end Todd Heap, who caught five of those passes for 74 yards and a score. "We just saw the emergence, we just saw the beginning of what he's capable of. We've been seeing it all off-season, we saw it all last year, and I'm glad to see it starting to come to fruition for him."

Still, "better" would mean a monster offensive output, considering the Ravens racked up a franchise-record 501 total yards last Sunday.

And it won't be easy for Flacco, as the Chargers boast two excellent pass-rushing outside linebackers in Maryland native Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips. Merriman is only one year removed from notching 12.5 sacks in 2007, while Philliips boasts 27.5 over the past three seasons.

Kansas City provided a good test in the pass-rushing department. Having converted to the 3-4 defense this offseason, the Chiefs brought some pressure to Flacco that was largely deflected by Baltimore's offensive line, save for a sack from linebacker Tamba Hali.

"They've got a bunch of talented guys on their defense," Flacco said of the Chargers. "We're going to pay attention to [Merriman and Phillips] in certain things, but the bottom line is to focus on what we do and do what we do best. And that's what we'll do, and as long as we do that I think we'll be successful."

But even though it is incumbent upon Flacco to show that his performance was not a fluke, head coach John Harbaugh does not require such spectacular numbers.

He'll simply take another win, this time against the San Diego Chargers.

"It's good to see him perform well, but we're not looking for those to be honest with you," Harbaugh told reporters this week. "We're not looking for those landmarks.

"We're just trying to play as well as we can on Sunday. Joe played as well as he could last Sunday, but we need him to get better this Sunday. That goes for every guy on the team. That's what coaches say, but you know what? That's what we believe."

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