5 Thoughts About Number 5: A Baltimore Thank You to Joe Flaccoby Ryan Potts March 16, 2019 0 comments
The Ravens made Joe Flacco the No. 18 pick in the 2008 NFL draft. Following a five-win campaign (the worst since 1996 for Baltimore) the Ravens moved past the revolving door of Kyle Boller, Steve McNair, and Troy Smith into stability.
Flacco started all 16 regular season games and a trio of playoff games and was named the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year. While Flacco was not the engine of the offense, he played well enough to push the Ravens toward 11 wins and 385 total points, the most since 2003 for Baltimore. The offense hinged on All-Pro halfback Le’Ron McClain, Willis McGahee, and a rookie Ray Rice. With reduced pressure by way of the NFL’s second-best running game, Flacco turned in a year featuring 14 passing touchdowns and a pair of rushing touchdowns.
Rookie Flacco failed to reach 30 completions, 300 yards or three touchdown passes in any of his 19 starts, but he was the solution to the Ravens’ quarterback problems. The Ravens improved by six games and went from the cellar of the AFC North to falling a couple plays away from the Super Bowl. The rookie pairing of Flacco and head coach John Harbaugh worked in year one, laying the foundation for future success.
Over the course of the next three seasons, Flacco engineered three straight winning seasons, including a pair of 12-win campaigns. In 2011, Flacco and the Ravens progressed to their second AFC championship game in the Flacco era, falling just short of the Super Bowl. Over those three seasons, Flacco recorded a trio of 20 touchdown seasons, including 25 scores in 2010.
While the Ravens saw team success, Flacco’s numbers did not resemble that of the greatest of the great quarterbacks, but he was still improving nonetheless. In the playoffs, the Ravens were unable to win multiple games in any season, a decline from the two playoff wins the team had in 2008. Despite the lackluster results in the later stages of the playoffs, Baltimore still felt as if they had their quarterback heading into the 2012 season. After coming up a missed field-goal shy of forcing overtime in the AFC title game, the Ravens retooled for one more playoff run.
The Ravens entered in the 2012 season with a 31-point thumping of the Bengals. Flacco tossed a pair of touchdowns and nearly hit 300 yards as the Ravens steamrolled Cincinnati. Flacco’s initial hot start would tail off against Philadelphia the next week, but over the course of the season Flacco was finding the end zone with regularity and had a trio of three-touchdown games in addition to five 300-yard passing games. Flacco also reduced his interceptions, only tossing 10 on the season, posting a career-low interception rate. With the end of the season looming, the Ravens required a bold performance by Flacco to propel them to the AFC North crown for a second consecutive season. Sliding off of a three-game losing skid, Flacco played a tremendous brand of football by recording a pair of touchdowns and over 300 yards as the Ravens dismantled the Giants and locked up the division title.
God Wears #5
Walking into the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, Flacco and the Ravens welcomed the upstart Colts into the confines of M&T Bank Stadium. Flacco fired a pair of touchdowns, leading the Ravens past the Colts in a 15-point victory.
Six days later, the Ravens braved the bitter cold of Denver in an all-time classic of a playoff game. With the Ravens backed up against the wall with under a minute to go, Flacco calmly lofted the ball through the outstretched hands of defensive back Rahim Moore and into the waiting arms of Jacoby Jones. With one miracle out of the way, the Ravens tied the game with the ensuing extra point and eventually won the game in double overtime. Flacco finished the game with a trio of touchdowns and 331 yards to his name.
For the third time in five seasons, the Ravens went to Foxboro to battle the Patriots. Unlike the matchup in the 2011 playoffs, the Ravens came equipped to withstand the Patriots. Despite trailing at the half, Flacco and the Ravens offense outscored the Patriots 21 to 0 in the final two frames as Flacco tossed three more touchdowns, increasing his tally to eight in the playoffs. In arguably the biggest game of his career to this point, Flacco outdueled Tom Brady and pushed the Ravens into the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2000 playoffs.
Two weeks later in the Superdome, Flacco and the Ravens jumped out to a 21-3 lead before the San Francisco 49ers struck back with a field goal to go into the half to tighten the gap to 15. In the first half onslaught, Flacco connected on his ninth, 10th, and 11th touchdowns of the playoffs, matching Joe Montana‘s “perfect” playoff run in 1989. With Flacco joining the elite company of Montana, the Ravens pushed the lead to 22 after a Jacoby Jones kickoff return touchdown to open the second half.
While the 49ers fought back to bring the game within two, a clutch stop near the end secured the victory for the Ravens. As the final whistle blew and confetti fell from the sky, it was clear that Flacco had clinched Super Bowl MVP. While Super Bowl MVP may be an afterthought, Flacco had just rattled off the greatest playoff run in the history of the NFL by a quarterback. In the course of professional football, only Joe Montana had completed a run which involved double-digit touchdowns and zero interceptions in a playoff run which resulted in a Super Bowl championship.
Flacco had added two notches to his already impressive road playoff victory mark and, by securing a Super Bowl, generated enough buzz in order for the Ravens to commit to a gigantic contract for the Super Bowl MVP.
In the ensuing six seasons, Flacco and the Ravens were rarely able to achieve such greatness as in 2012. Outside of an uncharacteristically great season for Flacco in 2014, the Ravens epitomized mediocrity as they made the playoffs only one time with Flacco as a full-fledged starter. After Flacco was injured in the 2018 season and replaced by Lamar Jackson, the Ravens played their best football in nearly six years, ending the Joe Flacco era in Baltimore. In February, the Ravens and Denver Broncos agreed to a trade which sent Flacco to the Broncos to begin a new career.