Ray Lewis plays for the grail one last time, and Jim Harbaugh faces his brother Jim’s San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII in two weeks because the better quarterback Sunday was not the one who is arguably the best of all time.
It was the maligned guy, a Delaware Blue Hen, who didn’t merely outduel Brady but directed the Ravens to three second-half touchdowns and got rid of whatever demons were left from two AFC championship losses.
“There are hurdles in your mind that get cleared just like hurdles on the field,” said Jim Caldwell, Flacco’s offensive coordinator of less than two months. “Joe did something special today that I think will have a carry-over effect. Be honest, he’s been doing it for a while, and not many people have noticed.”
Caldwell knows what this means for Flacco, because he was there in Indianapolis in 2007 as Peyton Manning’s quarterback coach when Manning finally faced down his monster and won, beating Brady and these same Patriots in the AFC championship game after failed tries in 2004 and 2005. A different confidence and belief emerged about Manning afterward, and it’s probably about time to at least consider Flacco a winner of the highest regard.
Yes, it’s mea culpa time, especially if you wrote in early December that Flacco doesn’t belong among the most accomplished quarterbacks of his era and really needs to stop obsessing about being called elite, because, frankly, we were getting sick of hearing that word when it came to Flacco.
As Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith said afterward, “We won that game because Joe won that game. That’s why we’re going to the Super Bowl. I’m sure there will be some people who won’t give him due unless we win it. But after the way he played in the second half, if that’s not elite, what is?”
One of every five Flacco completions during a 10-minute barrage from the middle of the third quarter through the first four minutes of the fourth quarter were for touchdowns, the last an 11-yarder to Anquan Boldin, who scored twice.
Economical, poised in the pocket, Flacco dissected New England’s secondary after Harbaugh told his quarterback and team to stop holding back and attack the Patriots during the final two quarters.
“Brady-like,” Harbaugh called Flacco’s second half in the Ravens’ locker room later. “He really was. We started to open things up and find the right people that were open. Joe didn’t hesitate at all. He just started going to the people that were available at the right time. It was very Brady-like.”