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.''