While Ray Lewis got most of the headlines before his final home game for the Baltimore Ravens, the accolades and the praise for the postseason win need to go to Joe Flacco.
A quarterback that gets criticized more than most in the NFL, despite leading his teams to two AFC Championship games and a win in each postseason he’s been to. Yes, he isn’t going to go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, but for all of his faults, he came through with flying colors in the Wild Card playoffs for the Ravens, in a game many feared was going to go South from the very beginning.
That’s the nature of “Golden-Boys” like Andrew Luck. To put too much faith into them and their dysfunctional teams. The Indianapolis Colts aren’t really 11-5 good, and Luck, despite his impressive numbers through the season, caught a lucky break here and there. Well, these things tend to change, and Luck suffered in his first ever playoff game. From bad play and from bad luck, seeing six or seven passes dropped by his receivers.
Luck also set a new record for a passing attempts by a rookie: He completed 28 of his 54 passes for 288 yards and an interception. The only points the Colts managed to put on the board came from Adam Vinatieri, scoring three field goals. The rest was just too much defense and energy from the home team, something the Colts couldn’t overcome.
For once, the Ravens won without Ray Rice getting “his touches”, limited to only 16. In a game of four turnovers, it was the Ravens who made the most of the short fields and the clock, winning 24-9 despite seeing 15 minutes less of the ball. Ray Rice lost two fumbles, Andrew Luck fumbled and got intercepted as well.
This reminded me and others of the Colts in the pre-Super Bowl days, when they came year after year to New England and just couldn’t move the chains when they needed to. The Patriots, like the Ravens today, simply made too many plays on defense for the Colts to overcome. Paul Kruger got to be the hero of the day on the defensive front, finishing with 2.5 sacks and a total of 5 quarterback hits, as Andrew Luck kept seeing pressure coming at him from everywhere.
Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes the gained the final separation needed from the Colts who kept coming back, only to be pushed back like waves crashing on a beach. They managed 87 plays to Baltimore’s 56, but also averaged 3.2 yards less per play.
Flacco finished with 282 yards, 12-23 and two touchdown passes, finishing with a 125.6 passer rating. He threw a 20 yard touchdown pass to Dennis Pitta in the third quarter to get the 17-6 lead and found Anquan Boldin for an 18 yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, to put the final points of the game on the board.
The ending belonged to Ray Lewis, who got to take the final kneel down before going on another dance to excite the stadium. Ray Lewis stole the show with his presence and influence. More important for the Ravens was Joe Flacco, away from all the spotlight in this one, aimed at Luck and Lewis, coming through with a complete and composed performance that is always surprising to see from him.