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NFL

Ravens teammates think Flacco is elite

| Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, 7:36 p.m.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco speaks during a news conference at the team's practice facility in Owings Mills, Md., Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013. The Ravens are scheduled to face the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship on Sunday. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Maybe it's going to take a trip to the Super Bowl to convince those outside the Baltimore Ravens' locker room that Joe Flacco is an elite quarterback.

Flacco is the only starting quarterback in NFL history to reach the postseason in each of his first five seasons. His 61 victories (including the postseason) are more than any quarterback since the start of the 2008 season.

Flacco has won five road playoff games in his career, tied with Eli Manning for the most in history. Joe Montana didn't do it. Neither did Brett Favre, Steve Young, Troy Aikman or Peyton Manning.

Each of those greats, however, owns a Super Bowl ring. So does Tom Brady, who will lead the New England Patriots (13-4) in Sunday's AFC championship rematch against the Ravens (12-6).

Flacco's teammates don't care about how his numbers stack up against the other greats in the game.

“That's a question you guys have got to answer,” wide receiver Anquan Boldin told reporters this week. “He already has our respect.”

Flacco's 7-4 record in the postseason speaks loudly about his ability to excel in big games. The former first-round draft pick out of Delaware outplayed Peyton Manning last weekend, throwing for 331 yards — including a 70-yard strike to Jacoby Jones in the closing seconds of regulation to force overtime in a game the Ravens ultimately won, 38-35.

The touchdown pass to Jones might have thrust Flacco into the discussion about whether he can stand among the elite.

“You go out there and you play to win the football game, and some of the things that have been required to win these football games have maybe been a little bit over the top and a little abnormal,” Flacco said. “I would like to think that I go out there and play consistently and approach everything the same way. I think that's been proved out. We win a lot of football games around here, and this is actually the third time I'm standing up here getting ready to play in an AFC Championship Game.

“It's pretty crazy when you think about it.”

The guy is good. So far, not quite good enough to take his team to the Super Bowl. But he's taken the Ravens to the brink and hasn't missed a start since earning the job as a rookie in training camp.

“We love Joe, have for a long time,” center Matt Birk said. “You're always going to have naysayers out there, but we're not concerned about that. The great thing about Joe is, neither is he. That's a great trait for a leader to have, especially a quarterback in the NFL.”

He's got another great trait for a quarterback: The ability to throw the deep ball. Few have done it as well this season as Flacco, who has completed 46 passes of 25 yards or longer, including TD throws of 70, 59 and 32 yards last week in Denver.

Asked to describe Flacco's deep ball, Jones replied, “It's like a Starburst. It's just juicy, man. It's good. It's like candy. Everybody likes candy.”

On the Ravens, it seems like everyone likes Joe.

“I've never played with a guy with that much talent; I'm talking about physically,” Boldin said. “I think Joe is able to make any throw on the field. Big-time throws, the deep ball, he does it all.”

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