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Jeff Schultz: Flacco Can Relate To What Ryan Is Feeling


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Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco is confident Falcons' Matt Ryan will make it to a Super Bowl one day.

NEW ORLEANS – In the ongoing debate about who qualifies as an elite NFL quarterback, the words “Super Bowl” come up far too often. If ranking quarterbacks was based merely on a Super Bowl ring, Trent Dilfer would be the standard others strive to reach and Dan Marino would be the punch line they look to avoid.

But there is something to be said in sports about athletes who win games when the most is on the line. That’s where Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan come in.

Let me preface this with: If Matt Ryan was on the Baltimore Ravens and Joe Flacco was on the Falcons, there's a good possibility that Ryan would have gone to three conference championships and a Super Bowl in his first five seasons and Flacco would be sitting at home with a 1-4 playoff record.

But NFL postseasons are about quarterbacks and how they react to situations. While it's true the Ravens historically have succeeded largely because of their defense (see: Dilfer), Flacco has evolved into that rare athlete who seems to get better when the stagelights gets hotter. He is the first NFL quarterback in history to win at least one playoff game in each of his first five seasons and already has eight postseason wins -- including, remarkably, six on the road.

The Baltimore Ravens are in Sunday’s Super Bowl against San Francisco, not merely because the polarizing Ray Lewis has emotionally lifted them to victories over Indianapolis, Denver (road) and New England (road) but because Flacco has eight touchdowns, zero interceptions and an NFL-best 114.7 efficiency rating in those three games.

Is that not elite?

Vic Fangio, San Francisco’s defensive coordinator, was a Ravens’ assistant when Flacco was drafted. His first impressions: “We were just going through OTAs in his rookie year and I told John Harbaugh, ‘You’ve got your quarterback for the next 10 to 15 years. He’s calm. He’s knowledgeable. The game is not too big for him.”

Ryan and Flacco were drafted the same year. Baltimore trumpets the fact that Flacco has more wins (62) than any quarterback since 2008. But the difference between he and Ryan is the postseason. In regular season games, Ryan (56-22) has two more wins in two fewer games than Flacco (54-26). But Flacco is 8-4 in the playoffs, Ryan 1-4.

In five playoffs, Ryan has nine touchdowns, seven interceptions and three fumbles. Flacco has 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 12 games (15 TDs, two interceptions in the last seven).

Ryan and the Falcons blew a 17-0 lead over San Francisco in the NFC championship, then had a comeback fall 10 yards short. Flacco has been there. In last year’s AFC title game, the Ravens trailed New England 23-20. Flacco threw a would-be game-winning touchdown to Sterling Moore in the final minute but the receiver let the ball get knocked out of his hands in the end zone. Then Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal that would’ve tied it.

Alluding to the Falcons’ narrow loss to the 49ers, Flacco said, “Matt’s done a great job and they’ve be a great team down there. But that’s what football is all about. You play to get to this game and any time you come up short you’re going to be disappointed. But we plan on being around here a long time. He’s going to have a lot more chances. The success he’s had the last five years obviously proves he’s been consistent enough to get here and one day that means he’ll probably get here.”

The Ravens’ confidence in Flacco at least in part led to the stunning firing of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron (and promotion of Jim Caldwell) with only three games left in the season. The parties involved have avoided specifics but there’s a belief that Cameron was inflexible, not allowing Flacco enough freedom.

There was a noticeable difference in upsets of Denver and New England, and Ravens running back Ray Rice believes Flacco hasn't received enough credit. Rice referenced a late 70-yard touchdown pass in Denver and 21 straight second-half points at New England, adding, “I’m not saying it’s a total offensive job, but Joe gets the plays, he’s got to make the throws, and he's made every single one of them.”

Flacco was asked a simple question: How does he define elite?

“It’s a crazy question to answer," he said. "But the bottom line in the NFL is you have to get wins. That’s why we’re here. So if you’re asking me how I define elite, it’s wins.”

No argument.

http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/jeff-schultz/2013/feb/02/flacco-can-relate-what-falcons-ryan-going-through/

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Joe Cool is good, but let's not make this a debate. The difference between Ryan and Flacco in the playoffs this season is their opponents. I am not just speaking like this because I am a die hard Falcons Fan. Seattle and San Francisco played to win. I don't care what no one says about my opinion on this subject, but Denver and New England played like crap. I have never seen Tom Brady play with so little emotion.

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In five playoffs, Ryan has nine touchdowns, seven interceptions and three fumbles. Flacco has 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 12 games (15 TDs, two interceptions in the last seven).

At first glance, it looks like no contest. Ryan has fewer touchdowns than turnovers in the post-season while Flacco has a 2:1 ratio.

However, extrapolating from the part in parentheses, Flacco had 1 touchdown to 6 interceptions in his first five play-off games. Apparently he's put those early bumps aside to really shine under the bright lights.

Hopefully, we see a similar growth in Ryan's play-off performances. I'm not pleased with how San Fran went down, but our offense was markedly better in the post-season this year than in previous years. Cut the turnovers (two of which receivers took blame for, two of which were squarely on Ryan), and we're in business.

Either way, I was pleased to see us shredding the two best defenses in the NFL for long stretches. We are almost there. Exactly what San Fran and Baltimore were saying a year ago.

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Joe Cool is good, but let's not make this a debate. The difference between Ryan and Flacco in the playoffs this season is their opponents. I am not just speaking like this because I am a die hard Falcons Fan. Seattle and San Francisco played to win. I don't care what no one says about my opinion on this subject, but Denver and New England played like crap. I have never seen Tom Brady play with so little emotion.

Man, you are really reaching. . .

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Joe Cool is good, but let's not make this a debate. The difference between Ryan and Flacco in the playoffs this season is their opponents. I am not just speaking like this because I am a die hard Falcons Fan. Seattle and San Francisco played to win. I don't care what no one says about my opinion on this subject, but Denver and New England played like crap. I have never seen Tom Brady play with so little emotion.

so Tom Brady and Peyton Manning didnt want to win. They threw the game for Flacco or NFL purposes? What goes through people's mind is crazy

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Guest Negatorris

If the Falcons were in any other division in the AFC, we'd never put the words 'playoff failure' and Matt Ryan together. The AFC is soft.

I'm not discrediting Flacco though. He did just beat Brady and Manning on their own fields.

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Why is anyone asking Joe Flacco about Matt Ryan before the biggest game of his life? I love Matt Ryan and he's the better QB, but that's ridiculous. This is Joe Flacco's time to talk about Joe Flacco.

Because even the media, like many others, finds it difficult to respect what HE has done to get his team to this point. There was no real "Flacco Magic" involved in putting Baltimore in this game.

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