Joe Flacco: Elite quarterback?
The truth of the matter is, he's pushing himself into the discussion.
Not long ago, back in April to be exact, Flacco was popping off at the mouth and proclaiming to the world he was not only a top-five QB, but “the best.”
For a guy that has been better known for mediocrity than greatness, it was a major exclamation.
Really, it was ridiculous.
Before the 2012 season, Flacco was merely a four-year pro out of Delaware; both his play and leadership were lacking.
And even though this year's regular season, Flacco was fair to middling; he averaged 3,500 yards, too few touchdowns (20) and too many interceptions (11), while also fumbling the ball seven times a season.
When his Baltimore Ravens were excelling, everyone was questioning Flacco's ability to win when it counted, in the big games on the big stage – the playoffs.
Well, that's where Flacco's year has taken a dramatic shift; from lackluster to legendary.
In the Wildcard round, he showed rookie sensation Andrew Luck how it's done. Flacco started slowly, and it looked as though nerves of the postseason were getting to him, until his strong second half. With his team up 10-6, he hit Anquan Boldin for 10 yards, let Ray Rice run for four, then connected with Boldin again on a perfect pass that dropped in over the receiver's shoulder in stride for 46 yards on the sideline. Three plays later, he found tight end Dennis Pitta open over the middle for the touchdown. In the fourth, his strike to Boldin in the end zone was the game-clinching score, as the Ravens won 24-9.
The next week, he out-dueled legend Peyton Manning, on the road in the Mile High City. Flacco was on all day long in that game; he burned the venerable Champ Bailey twice with speedster Torrey Smith for two touchdowns; one for 59 yards down the seam of the field, the other, down the right sideline to tie the game up at 21 just before the half. But the biggest play came with the Broncos leading 35-28 with 41 seconds to go, and Baltimore 70 yards from the end zone. Flacco dropped back and let the ball fly in the direction of Jacoby Jones, who caught it over the outstretched hands of Denver safety Rahim Moore, who wildly misplayed the throw and allowed Jones to get behind him and score the game-tying touchdown. The Ravens won 38-35 in double overtime, moving onto the AFC Championship game.
There they met the Patriots in New England, a game few thought Baltimore could win. Beating Tom Brady in his home stadium? Dream on, Flacco. But that's just what he did. Brady's Patriots led 13-7 at halftime, but it was Flacco's three touchdown passes in the second half that were the difference in the game, as the Ravens won 28-13.
Joe Flacco, the guy everyone has doubted for years, has gone a perfect eight touchdowns compared to zero interceptions in the postseason, guiding his Ravens into Super Bowl 47 against the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday.
Now, with one more great game, Flacco can be considered elite, just like he's always wanted.
But, with all the pressure on, will he deliver?
Or will he just underwhelm as he has so many times before?
Super Bowl XLVII kicks off at 6:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, February 3 and can be seen on CBS.
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