By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
About 30 seconds after the NFL Network played highlights of the Baltimore Ravens win over the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship, Hall-of Fame cornerback and network analyst Deion Sanders was asked if Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was among the league’s elite signal-callers.
Sanders answered by saying that Flacco would have to win a Super Bowl in order to be mentioned in the same company as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning and Aaron Rogers.
Flacco will certainly have that opportunity this Sunday in Super Bowl XLVII against the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans.
“It will mean a lot if we can go win this game on Sunday,” said Flacco, who has led the Ravens to the playoffs in every year of his pro career, which started back in 2008. “I think when you talk about winning as quarterbacks in the playoffs, I would think that all of them have Super Bowl victories so that’s really the only one that matters and that’s what we’re trying to get.”
But when you look at his performance late in the season, one could argue that Flacco has played well enough to prove that he’s one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL even before winning what could be the biggest game of his career.
“Listen, I am a little biased when it comes to Joe, because you are talking about somebody who has, right now, the best playoff winning percentage ever in NFL history. So, this guy has been proven since day one,” said Ray Lewis, the Ravens legendary middle linebacker.
Baltimore wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who caught a pair of touchdown passes from Flacco in the AFC title game, said he and his teammates feel that their quarterback is one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, especially after the former University of Delaware star said it himself earlier in the season.
“We backed him up. We all feel that way,” Boldin told reporters on Tuesday. “The perspective that we have is that we get a chance to see him every day. You guys, obviously you don’t. We know what he’s capable of doing. We’ve been in games where he’s won games for us. We know what he’s capable of doing, so we all back him.”
Ever since Jim Caldwell was promoted from the Ravens quarterback coach to the team’s offensive coordinator, Flacco has been the driving force behind Baltimore’s run to the Super Bowl aside from Lewis’ retirement hoopla.
More importantly, Flacco has beaten some of the league’s best quarterbacks in four of his last five games. He defeated two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Eli Manning in the Ravens 33-14 win over the N.Y. Giants in December. In that game, he completed 25-of-36 passes for 309 yards and threw two touchdown passes.
Two weeks later in the opening round of the playoffs, Flacco outplayed Indianapolis Colts rookie sensation Andrew Luck in the Ravens 24-9 win. In that game, Flacco was an efficient 12-of-23 for 282 yards and two touchdown passes.
The last two games leading up to the Super Bowl, Flacco simply outgunned two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks in a span of eight days. In the double-overtime divisional playoff win over Peyton Manning and Denver Broncos, he passed for 331 yards and three touchdowns including the big 70-yard TD strike to Jacoby Jones that sent the game to overtime.
Against Brady and New England in the AFC title game, Flacco threw three second-half touchdown passes while passing for 240 yards.
“He’s one of the elite quarterbacks and I think he’s proven that,” said tight end Dennis Pitta. “We’ve known that about him all along. We’ve got a ton of confidence in him and he’s finally able to showcase that. Who are the other quarterbacks in the league? I only know Joe.”
Never mind that Flacco has won six playoff games on the road, has the best winning percentage in postseason history, led the Ravens to some clutch wins in the last couple of years and was one dropped pass away from going to last year’s Super Bowl, he will have to show he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the game by beating the 49ers on Sunday.