They said Joe Flacco couldn’t lead the Ravens to glory. They said Flacco wouldn’t prosper with the game on the line and his team needing him the most.
They were wrong.
Here he is, standing in the spotlight during the week of the NFL’s grandest, take-all game.
Reporters, photographers and broadcasters bombarded Flacco and the Ravens this week, buzzing with enough questions to write a book about their remarkable journey to New Orleans.
One thing is for certain. This is Flacco’s time to shine, to extinguish the remaining doubts of his many critics.
And don’t count Flacco out. Not with one game remaining, the most important game of his five-year career. Not with the Lombardi Trophy up for grabs.
Not this time.
Flacco has done everything his critics said he couldn’t, and much more.
Baltimore lost four of its last six regular season games and limped into the playoffs. And few picked the Ravens to make it deep into the playoffs.
But Flacco and the Ravens believed in themselves.
It began in Indianapolis, a showdown against 2012 first overall pick Andrew Luck and the Colts.
The Ravens held a slim 10-6 lead in the third quarter before Flacco flipped a 20-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dennis Pitta to extend the lead to 17-6. Then, in the fourth quarter, Flacco fired an 18-yard touchdown strike to Anquan Boldin to secure the 24-9 victory and advance to the divisional round.
The following week, the Ravens ventured to the Mile High city with a date against future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning and the Broncos, who boasted the second best defense in the NFL during the regular season.
But Flacco didn’t flinch. Rather, he flourished.
Down 35-28 with 31 seconds remaining in the game, the Ravens faced a third-and-3 from their own 30-yard line with one timeout. Operating from the shotgun, Flacco dropped back and heaved a 70-yard bomb to Jacoby Jones, who scampered into the end zone tying the game and forcing overtime.
The rest was history. Placekicker Justin Tucker booted a game-winning 47-yard field goal to send the Ravens to the AFC Championship against a pair of future Hall of Famers, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
With his team trailing 13-7 at halftime, Flacco came out and put the game on his shoulders in the second half.
With 6:14 to go in the third quarter, Flacco tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to Pitta to give the Ravens a 14-13 lead. Four seconds into the fourth quarter, Flacco found Boldin for a 3-yard score to put the Ravens ahead 21-13. Minutes later, Flacco found Boldin again, this time for an 11-yard score to put the Ravens up 28-13, and ultimately punching their ticket to Super Bowl XLVII.
During the Ravens’ miraculous run to New Orleans, Flacco has proved he’s an elite quarterback in the NFL. He passed for a combined eight touchdowns and zero interceptions and led all playoff quarterbacks with a passer rating of 114.7.
Now, one game stands between Flacco and greatness. One final chance to further prove his critics wrong.
Flacco has come too far to let this opportunity slip from his grasp.
Baltimore has worked too hard to get to this point and not succeed.
The 49ers will be no easy foe. They have their own Cinderella-like playoff run behind the arm and legs of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has less than a dozen NFL starts under his belt.
But, it will be Flacco who rises to the challenge. It will be Flacco who ultimately decides the outcome of this game. And it will be Flacco who will hoist the Lombardi Trophy as the confetti pours down from the rafters of the Superdome in New Orleans.