Ravens wrap-up: What more does Joe Flacco have to prove?

Written by on January 26, 2012 in Featured, Ravens - No comments

No matter what he accomplishes, you have to wonder if Joe Flacco will ever get the credit he deserves.

Flacco shredded the vaunted Jets’ defense for 34 points in October. Photo by Shawn Hubbard/Ravens

Flacco seems fed up with the criticism, something he’s never been able to understand in his four years of being an NFL quarterback with the Baltimore Ravens. After outplaying Tom Brady in Sunday’s AFC Championship loss to New England, Flacco was asked if he proved anything to his critics.

“If you think I played better this week than other weeks then I think you’re wrong,” Flacco said, seemingly annoyed with the question. “This is the way I play every week and I really don’t care.”

Flacco proved he can play with the best, going 22-36 for 306 yards and two touchdowns. His lone interception was negated with Baltimore’s defense making its highlight of the season on the following play. Safety Bernard Pollard acrobatically tipped a deep Tom Brady pass into the end zone to cornerback Jimmy Smith, who returned it back out to the Baltimore 38 yard line to set up Baltimore’s next drive.

In hindsight, when judging Flacco’s season, you have to take in account the numerous tough pass defenses the Ravens faced week in and week out. Including the playoffs, Flacco faced the NFL’s top three pass defenses (Steelers, Browns, Texans) twice. He also had to throw against the Jets, Rams, Jaguars and Bengals (twice), all of which finished in the top 10 in pass defense.

Throw in games against Seattle (11), San Diego (13), Tennessee (14), Indianapolis (15), San Francisco (16) and Arizona (17) and maybe you can create your own common theme as to why Flacco didn’t put up 4,500 yards and 35 touchdowns this season. New England was the first team Flacco faced that ranked lower than Arizona in pass defense during the regular season.

“In my mind, (Flacco) didn’t have to prove anything,” tight end Dennis Pitta said. “But I think there are a lot of people outside of our team and organization that were pretty critical of him. He’s been doing this for us every game. When we needed him most, he stepped up and made plays.”

It was a bizarre way for Baltimore’s season to end, especially for Flacco. He threw a beautiful pass to receiver Lee Evans to win the game against New England, only to see Patriots cornerback Sterling Moore knock it out of his hands at the last second.

On the next play, his throw to Pitta was incomplete on what looked to be pass interference, though no flag was thrown. Then of course, there’s the now-infamous missed 32-yard field goal from Billy Cundiff that will haunt this organization for some time. Despite Flacco’s stellar performance, he’ll sit at home in two weeks when the Patriots take on the New York Giants in Indianapolis for this year’s Super Bowl.

In the minds of some, Flacco may never be able to do anything right. Some fans believe that when a player doesn’t make a desired play it’s his fault for not being good enough, not the opposition’s credit for playing the game at just as high of a level.

Flacco’s fallen victim to that, even though he’s appeared in two AFC championship games and won five playoff games in his first four years. Maybe some day Flacco will be appreciated for who he is, the best quarterback to ever suit up in a Ravens uniform. In the meantime, Flacco isn’t banking on it.

“I don’t know if I ever will prove anything,” Flacco said. “That’s not up to me. My job is to go out there and play and give our team the best shot to win.”

by Jason Butt

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