Flacco maintains cool in good times and bad

Joe Flacco reacts to positive and negative feedback the same way

he responds to a jolting hit in the pocket: He shakes it off,

stands tall and proceeds as if it never happened.

This has been a good week for Flacco, who led the Baltimore

Ravens on a beat-the-clock drive Sunday night in a 23-20 win over

the Pittsburgh Steelers. Showing all the poise of a 10-year

veteran, Flacco moved the offense 92 yards against the league’s

second-ranked defense, culminating the march with a 26-yard

touchdown pass to rookie Torrey Smith with eight seconds

remaining.

Although he has been praised for his performance in Pittsburgh,

Flacco knows he’s only one interception away from being blasted by

fans and the media.

”It’s definitely true. But that’s why the quarterbacks are what

the quarterbacks are. They’re guys that can take criticism and move

on to the next week,” Flacco said Wednesday. ”They’re guys that

can take whatever people are saying good about them and not really

pay too much attention to it. It takes a lot to have to deal with

those different emotions every week. That’s why you have to stay

the course and not really pay too much attention to all that

stuff.”

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said, ”I’m sure Johnny Unitas got

some criticism when he was playing, certainly.”

Ever since he was named the starter before the first game of his

rookie season, Flacco has alternatingly been praised and smeared.

The University of Delaware product hasn’t won a Super Bowl, but he

took the Ravens to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons

and is on course to do it again.

Baltimore is tied with Cincinnati for the best record in the AFC

heading into Sunday’s game in Seattle (2-6).

”We’re a 6-2 football team and we’ve won a lot of games since

I’ve been here,” Flacco said.

One of his most notable victories came on Sunday night. With

first place on the line and a sweep of the hated Steelers hanging

in the balance, Flacco calmly took the Ravens the length of the

field in 13 remarkable plays.

”We all believe that Joe can do it. It was just a matter of

going out there and actually doing it,” running back Ray Rice

said. ”He was poised. I don’t think there was one worry or doubt

that we weren’t going to go down the field and score. I’m not

saying it was easy. But if you would have seen the huddle. … Joe

did a great job of just driving us down.”

The Ravens have long counted on their defense to win games, but

in this one, linebackers Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis were watching

from the sideline as the offense walked onto the field in just over

two minutes left and Baltimore needing a touchdown to win.

”Joe just kept putting it there. I was highly in awe of what

was happening,” Suggs said. ”Even when they had 92 yards to go,

Ray was saying, `We still got it.’ And I was just like, `If you say

we got it, we got it.’ And they went and did it.”

Lewis has formulated his own unwavering opinion of the

quarterback, and it’s quite unlike those of the quarterback’s

critics.

”I’m probably one of the biggest fans of Joe. I don’t care what

nobody says,” Lewis said. ”Anytime Joe is going through that

(criticism), I tell him, just go be Joe. That night, when he had an

opportunity to go out there, we could have ended that script a lot

of different ways. But it had to be done that way.

”From the first day the kid came in here to now in his fourth

year, there’s not a pass he can’t throw, there’s not a coverage he

can’t read. He’s only getting better with time.”

Rice and Flacco broke into the league together, and the Pro Bowl

running back has seen Flacco remain expressionless in the wake of

countless insults.

”It’s the quarterback position. You’re going to get hit with

the highs, the lows,” Rice said. ”When you lose, it’s your fault.

There’s a lot of stuff that goes on with that, and he’s handled it

very well. He’s our quarterback. I’m not afraid to say I look

forward to playing with Joe Flacco for a long time.”