Joe Flacco isn’t superhuman all the time, but when the Ravens QB senses trouble, the ordinary signal caller transforms into the super throwzini. Comic books are for superheroes, but in science the phenomena known as hysterical strength realistically applies to Flacco’s fourth quarter heroics. Hysterical strength is what allows regular people to lift cars in life or death situations when adrenaline starts pumping through veins like the bass on a DMX track.
When the fight-or-flight choice arises, Flacco fights but his passes grow wings. Those in the know have always known he had a rifle for an arm, but watching him knife passes with Navy Seal-like accuracy was awe-inspiring. He’s got physical tools that are protected under the second amendment (and sneaky mobility.)
This weekend will mark the third AFC Championship appearance in Flacco’s five-year career.– a strong playoff performance will bump him into a higher echelon of quarterbacks. While Peyton Manning dissolved with Flacco nipping at his heels, Flacco’s resolve was reminiscent of Peyton’s brother, Eli.
Almost a year after Eli Manning validated his own “elite” ticket, Flacco is following Eli’s blueprint for entry behind the velvet QB’s VIP rope.
“I don’t think I’m top five, I think I’m the best. I don’t think I’d be very successful at my job if I didn’t feel that way.” Flacco told a Baltimore radio station in spring.
It took Eli winning his second Super Bowl in heroic fashion for him to get recognized. Flacco is the Eli Manning of the AFC universe. Flacco's 60.5% career completion rate dwarfs Eli's 58.6%.
Flacco has completed only 52.6% of his passes during the 2013 postseason, but he makes up for it with a strong 20.4 yards per completion rate. Von Miller reportedly went catatonic after the Broncos lost for the first time in 12 games. After hitting the Broncos with a 70-yard TKO, Flacco will never get slept on again.
Unlike the Falcons, who drove 41 yards in 23 seconds, John Fox chose flight with 31 seconds remaining instead of attempting a few shots down the field with a four-time league MVP.
"It was like a prize fighter who gets a right cross on the chin at the end of a round. You're looking to get out the round. That might not be the ideal time to go for a knockout punch," explained Fox.
While Peyton now holds the playoff record for most losses in a playoff opener with eight, Flacco is the ultimate road warrior. The chilly temps forced Peyton into a pair of gloves. Flacco bare-knuckled it.
Flacco gets excessive flack, but after his Divisional Round performance, it’s time to cut him some slack. Time after time, Flacco could have remained on the mat when Manning kicked him down.
To make matters worse, while sparring with Peyton on offense, the 6’6'' Flacco was double teamed by 5’5'' Trindon Holiday punching him in the knees with a pair of kickoff returns touchdowns. Instead, he showed the nation, his thunderous counterpunch.
On occasion, Flacco loses focus in games that should be a cinch and zeroes in on matchups he’s supposed to lose. In many ways, he’s the anti-Tony Romo. Both are seeking contract extensions before August, but only one is likely to receive it. Flacco is Clark Kent for most of the time but is Superman in crunch time. Conversely, Romo has vanished like Jimmy Walker during Dallas’ last two de-facto playoff play-in games.
Flacco’s mission isn’t accomplished yet. With the NFL’s fourth-ranked passing defense out the picture, New England’s 29th ranked pass defense is all that stands between Flacco and the Super Bowl. It’s eerie that like Eli, Brady is all that stands between Flacco and immortality.
When Flacco’s elite status was discussed in the offseason, folks laughed. They’re not laughing anymore.