For Flacco, it rolls on, and that has as much to do with how he handled the Ravens’ more aggressive game plan after halftime as it does anything else. At the break, the Patriots dominated statistically — in yards (214-130), first downs (15-8) and time of possession (18:12-11:48). So Baltimore adjusted, and the Patriots didn’t.
“We realized we had to put a little more pressure on them,” Flacco said.
With Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib sidelined by a thigh injury, that became easier, and Flacco took advantage, not just with the deep routes that have defined his season and become his strength, but with underneath, drive-sustaining passes. Back-to-back touchdown drives that spanned the third and fourth quarters each lasted 10 plays, and put the Ravens up 28-13.
The way Flacco orchestrated them is what the Gillette crowd expected of Brady. But Flacco is in his fifth year in the NFL and has been at this stage three times now. The crowd might have looked to Brady. The Ravens looked to Flacco.
Asked what he learned about Flacco on Sunday — when the quarterback won a playoff game on the road for the sixth time, an NFL record — Boldin looked almost incredulous.
“What I’ve been telling you guys all along: He’s a great quarterback,” Boldin said. “I don’t know why people doubt him, because the bigger the situation the bigger he plays. And he’s proven that time and time again.”
Added Reed, who will make his first trip to the Super Bowl:“He’s a leader.” Reed recounted — again — the first play Flacco ever ran against the Ravens’ top defense in training camp. Reed, Lewis and company were coming on a blitz. Flacco read it, and calmly threw the ball out of bounds. On to the next play.
“Joe’s a great quarterback, and Joe’s proven that,” Harbaugh said. “He’s not just proven that this year. He’s proven it for five years.”
So pick your Baltimore story line — Flacco or Harbaugh, Lewis or Reed, who will play in his home town of New Orleans. They’re all pertinent now, now that the Ravens are the assassins and AFC champions.