NEW ORLEANS -- Joe Flacco ripped a page out of the Eli Manning playbook, declaring he was an elite quarterback over the offseason, keeping a confident exterior through an uneven regular season and then putting together one of the most impressive playoff runs in NFL history.
Flacco threw for 287 yards and three touchdowns in the Baltimore Ravens’ 34-31 Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night, winning Most Valuable Player honors.
The numbers are staggering -- 11 touchdowns and no interceptions through a four-game playoff run that led the Ravens to their second title in franchise history.
A pending free agent, Flacco could be headed toward the $20 million-per-season mark he is reportedly seeking if he can work out a deal with the Ravens. The team would place the franchise tag on Flacco if a multiyear deal isn’t reached.
In either case, there is no argument Flacco has elevated himself into the top echelon of NFL quarterbacks. It’s ironic that in a season in which three first-year starters electrified the league through the read-option, Flacco, a traditional big-armed drop-back passer, showed off that arm and some surprisingly nimble footwork in the pocket to come up with clutch completion after clutch completion.
He seemed to be coasting to MVP honors while completing 13 of 20 passes -- including three drops -- for 192 yards and three touchdowns as Baltimore built a 21-6 halftime lead.
However, it was how Flacco reacted when the 49ers stormed back from a 28-6 deficit to cut the lead to 31-29 with 10:04 remaining in the game that proved the fifth-year quarterback’s mettle.
Flacco, dubbed "Joe Cool" for his unassuming demeanor, faced a third-and-inches at the Ravens’ 45-yard-line with 7:57 remaining. When the 49ers moved their safeties forward and flooded the box with nine defenders, Flacco checked out of a running play. He dropped back, saw wide receiver Anquan Boldin working against tight coverage from Carlos Rodgers and delivered a strike for an 8-yard gain and a critical first down.
The drive eventually would stall at the 49ers’ 20-yard line, but kicker Justin Tucker converted a 38-yard field-goal attempt to give the Ravens a 34-29 lead, forcing San Francisco to have to score a touchdown in order to win the game.
"It’s unbelievable," Flacco said. "We don’t make it easy, do we? It’s the way Baltimore is, it’s the way we are. We did this for them back home."
Flacco will command big money in the offseason, but general manager Ozzie Newsome has faced this situation before. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata all received multiyear contracts to remain in Baltimore in the past. Running back Ray Rice received the franchise tag last year.
Super Bowl MVPs
XLVII Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
XLVI Eli Manning, New York Giants
XLV Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
XLIV Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
XLIII Santonio Holmes, Pittsburgh Steelers
XLII Eli Manning, New York Giants
XLI Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts
XL Hines Ward, Pittsburgh Steelers
XXXIX Deion Branch, New England Patriots
XXXVIII Tom Brady, New England Patriots
XXXVII Dexter Jackson, Tampa Bay Bucs
XXXVI Tom Brady, New England Patriots
XXXV Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens
XXXIV Kurt Warner, St. Louis Rams