"I love what he did today," said Boldin, who finished with eight receptions for 142yards. "He came out and just played football. He made a lot of great throws out there. I think he made quick decisions, and you see the end result."
The decision was made early and often to throw to Boldin and attack Browns cornerback Eric Wright, who was beaten on all three touchdown passes.
On the first one, Boldin slipped past Wright and leapt in the back of the end zone for the 8-yard catch. On the second one, Boldin simply made a move to the inside against Wright, who got spun around because he was guessing a route to the corner of the end zone, for the easy 12-yard grab. On the third one, Boldin had only to run under the high-arcing throw after outrunning Wright for the 27-yard score.
"They kind of worked out the way we drew them up," Flacco said, "and that's why he ended up getting those TD passes."
Asked whether he felt as if he could beat Wright every time, Boldin said, "Our receivers feel like we can beat anybody when it's man coverage."
Disaster nearly struck Flacco on his first pass of the game. Seeing a cornerback blitz, Flacco said, he was trying to throw the ball out of bounds. Instead, it sailed into the hands of rookie safety T.J. Ward, who had no one between him and the end zone.
On a play that would foreshadow Flacco's day, the pass went off Ward's hands and right to wide receiver Derrick Mason.
"The guy did a great
uh, bad job of catching it, I guess," Flacco said with a grin.
After the Browns jumped ahead 3-0, Flacco led the Ravens on consecutive drives of 85 and 93 yards. On those possessions, he was 10 of 12 for 127 yards (he threw for 154 yards for the entire game last week).
"Joe lets things roll off his back and goes to the next play, the next game," tight end Todd Heap said. "He's becoming a leader who we can count on that's not fazed by those little things."
The Ravens needed Flacco to take control because the NFL's second-ranked defense had uncharacteristic lapses.
Browns backup running back Peyton Hillis powered his way to 144 rushing yards on 22 carries. He became only the fourth running back to crack 100 yards against the Ravens in the past 54 games.
Hillis' 1-yard score near the end of the first half marked the first touchdown scored against the Ravens defense this season, ending the streak at nine quarters (149 minutes, 47 seconds). His 48-yard run set up Seneca Wallace's 1-yard touchdown throw, which put Cleveland up 17-14 one play into the fourth quarter.
That lead was short-lived because Flacco guided the Ravens on a game-winning 10-play, 69-yard drive on the next possession.
"You look at last week and we gave up five field goals," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "You look at this week, and our offense bails us out. I think that's what builds a team for later in the year."
Flacco improved to 5-0 against the Browns, who were playing without their starting quarterback (Jake Delhomme), starting running back (Jerome Harrison), No. 2 wide receiver (Brian Robiskie), Pro Bowl nose tackle (Shaun Rogers) and sack leader (Marcus Benard) because of injuries.
So, does this impressive outing quiet Flacco's critics?
"It doesn't matter. I don't care," Flacco said. "It was a good performance, and I'm going to come back with another one next week."
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