When Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco helped lead the Ravens to a 28-13 victory over the New England Patriots in the 2013 AFC Championship Game, he not only catapulted his team to Super Bowl XLVII, but he also cemented his status as an elite NFL quarterback.
Despite stretches during the regular season that made Flacco look mediocre at best (three games with a QBR of less than 10), the accuracy and arm strength behind the 28-year-old’s deep passes gives the Ravens the big-play ability that few teams in the NFL possess.
Flacco has been lucky enough to have a speedy wide receiver like Torrey Smith on the outside and a sure-handed veteran like Anquan Boldin anywhere he needs him, and the star quarterback has made the most of his opportunities this postseason.
Add in the fact that Flacco has outplayed the likes of 2012 No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck, four-time MVP Peyton Manning and three-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady during this playoff run, and there is no questioning his elite status.
While many fans have questioned Flacco’s ability to carry a team to a Super Bowl victory, Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh told The Boston Herald that he has been on the young star’s bandwagon from the start:
We've always believed in Joe, and for Joe to come out and to have this kind of a game and this kind of a stage three weeks in a row—Luck's a pretty good quarterback, Manning's a pretty good quarterback and Brady's a great quarterback. All those guys are great players, but Joe's a great quarterback. And Joe has proven that. He's not just proven it this year, he's proven it for five years.
Harbaugh is right. The detractors have been on Flacco’s back for his poor regular-season performances, but the turnover at offensive coordinator proves there were fundamental flaws in the way the offense was being run.
Now, with former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell on the case as the Ravens' new play-caller, Flacco is blossoming into a bona fide star that has the ability to steal the show and win Baltimore a Super Bowl.
While the quarterback only had 240 passing yards Sunday, his three beautiful touchdown passes handed the Patriots a stunning postseason exit.
It wasn’t just the AFC Championship Game, either.
Over the three postseason games in 2013 for the Ravens, Flacco has 853 passing yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions.
With the ability to protect the ball even when heaving long-range strikes, Flacco has proven in these playoffs that he's one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks.