OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — For Joe Flacco, the worst part about getting ready to face the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday is looking at film of the last time the teams met.
Playing in the second round of the AFC playoffs last January, Flacco threw a touchdown pass to Todd Heap to help the Baltimore Ravens take a 21-7 halftime lead.
Then came the third quarter. Flacco was sacked twice, lost a fumble and threw an interception. Baltimore finished with minus-4 yards in offense over the 15-minute span and had its season end with a 31-24 defeat.
Asked if the meltdown filled his thoughts during the offseason, Flacco said Wednesday: “You look at it right now when you prepare for Pittsburgh, but other than kind of thinking about it for a couple of months after you lost, we haven’t necessarily revisited it too much.
“It is what it is. We didn’t play well in the third quarter, they scored some points off our turnovers and we weren’t quite capable of getting the game back. That game has no influence on this game.”
Oh, but it does.
Flacco has reached the postseason in each of his three seasons in the NFL, but his record against Pittsburgh is 2-6. Not only that, but the Steelers have eliminated the Ravens from the playoffs in two of the last three years.
No wonder Pittsburgh linebacker LaMarr Woodley said the notion of Flacco beating the Steelers to advance to the Super Bowl “isn’t going to happen in this lifetime.”
Flacco shrugged off that comment in July, and his teammates have come to his defense this week.
“Anybody who understands the quarterback position knows Joe is pretty solid,” center Matt Birk said. “Obviously, that’s not to say he’s not continuing to progress and has stopped working hard. That’s what Joe does. His body of work the last three years and what he’s done, not just us, but people around the league respect that.”
Ravens running Back Ray Rice broke into the NFL with Flacco as part of the same rookie class. The two are good friends and have become the two most integral parts of the Baltimore’s offense. Rice does not take kindly to someone criticizing Flacco, especially since the quarterback is coming off a season in which he reached career highs in yardage (3,622) and touchdowns (25).
“I think Joe Flacco is an elite quarterback, and he happens to lay for us. He’s a winning quarterback,” Rice said. “People look at the other stuff, like he hasn’t won a Super Bowl. I came into this thing with Joe, and we’ve been to the playoffs every year since I’ve been here. When you look at a quarterback, if it’s based on winning, you’ve got to take a look at Joe Flacco. He’s a great quarterback and he’s only gotten better.”
The numbers back up the assessment. Flacco has 36 wins (including playoffs), tied with Dan Marino for the most in NFL history by a starting quarterback over his first three seasons. Unfortunately, Marino never won a Super Bowl and Flacco has never been to one.
It also doesn’t help that when Baltimore faces Pittsburgh, Flacco is compared to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethisberger, who has won seven straight over Baltimore.
But this isn’t necessarily about Flacco vs. Roethisberger, or Flacco against the Steelers. At least that’s what he says.
“We have to go out there and beat them as a team,” Flacco said. “I don’t ever want to go out into a game and feel like I have something to prove personally. I am going to go out there and give our team the best chance that we can to win.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)