2. In stepping over Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on the way to his first Super Bowl, Joe Flacco announced to the football world that this will be his team going forward. With 140 seconds left in Sunday's AFC championship game, as the Ravens began to realize that they had finally broken through and gotten to the Super Bowl, the CBS television crew accidentally broadcasted audio from the Baltimore sideline. As Ray Lewis hugged everyone within his bionic arm's reach and John Harbaugh berated officials as if his team was the one that trailed by 15 points, someone yelled out loudly, "We're going to get that [freaking] ring, baby." I might be mistaken here, but I'm pretty sure it was Joe Flacco. Yes, that nonchalant, sleepy-eyed quarterback who opponents, analysts and other doubters said would always somehow find a way to trip over his own feet while trying to carry the Ravens to the Super Bowl. They can't say it any longer. Not only has Flacco lifted his team on his back on the road to New Orleans, Flacco has also stepped over future Hall-of-Famers Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on the way there. It will likely take a Lombardi Trophy for Flacco to cement his status among the league's upper echelon of quarterbacks, but what Flacco has done in this year's playoffs is nothing short of remarkable. Flacco has thrown for 853 yards and eight touchdowns, and he has avoided the kind of back-breaking turnovers that plagued him in the past. Simply put, he is putting up superstar numbers, and he took over Sunday's 28-13 win against Brady's New England Patriots in the third quarter. After spending most of the first half with Flacco under center, the Ravens, in the words of coach John Harbaugh, "made the decision in the second half to cut it loose." So the Ravens put Flacco in the shotgun and picked up the pace. A rhythm passer, Flacco completed a couple of passes to get into a groove. Next thing we knew, it was raining touchdowns in Foxborough. Flacco completed 15 of his 22 attempts for 159 yards in the second half after he found wide receiver Anquan Boldin for his third touchdown pass of the game with 11:13 left. About a half hour or so later, someone -- maybe it was Flacco or maybe I need to get my ears checked -- dropped that eff-bomb on the sideline. And soon Flacco would saunter out onto the field to take a knee in the victory formation, the eighth time he has done that now in five trips to the postseason. He looked slightly goofy at the postgame news conference, where he took a backseat, of course, to Lewis, who should probably invest in some tear-proof eye-black for the Super Bowl two weeks from now. Flacco may never turn it on in that kind of spotlight, but there is no doubt that he is the kind of player who is no longer disoriented by the glare of postseason football. There is also no doubt that this is Flacco's team now, and it would be even if Lewis hadn't coronated him as "the general" after Flacco beat Manning's Denver Broncos last weekend. Flacco has made a loud statement, echoing from New England to San Francisco. Now all that's left is for him "to get that [freaking] ring."
Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore Sun
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