It now seems like so long ago when the Ravens placed their faith in Joseph Vincent Flacco and selected the strong-armed quarterback out of Delaware in the 2008 NFL draft. As the story goes, the Ravens also coveted Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan, but after the Atlanta Falcons quickly yanked Ryan off the board, the Ravens turned their focus to Flacco. After a pair of trades in the first round, he was a Raven. But it had taken general manager Ozzie Newsome a little convincing, as he had questions about why Flacco wasn't a team captain during his senior year, according to former Delaware coach K.C. Keeler. But Keeler explained to Newsome -- via offensive coordinator Cam Cameron -- that Flacco was more than capable of carrying the Ravens to where they wanted to go. Flacco went out and did that Sunday night. In the Super Bowl, where legendary quarterbacks are forged and lesser quarterbacks melt under the bright lights -- well, at least before they randomly turn off in the third quarter -- Flacco completed 22 of his 33 throws for 287 yards and three touchdown passes, each of them special in their own way. The first, on the Ravens' first drive on the game, was tossed with expert touch to wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who was trailed by two San Francisco 49ers defenders. In the second quarter, Flacco bootlegged to the right then zipped a pass between a pair of defenders to tight end Dennis Pitta, making a tight throw look easy. And then later in the second quarter, he rainbowed a long pass to wide receiver Jacoby Jones, who caught it about 50 yards down the field, pulled himself off the turf and ran it in for the touchdown. But the drive that won the Super Bowl and secured Flacco's place at the big-boy quarterback table came in the fourth quarter, with the Ravens clinging to a two-point lead. The 49ers had just pulled within two points after a touchdown run by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and the game was nearly falling out of the Ravens' grasp. But Flacco put together the most important field-goal drive of his life. He did a lot of handing off on the drive, sure, but on that key 3rd-and-1 play at midfield, Flacco checked out of a run and made a precise back-shoulder throw to Boldin, who caught the pass with cornerback Carlos Rogers draped all over him. When Justin Tucker's 38-yard field goal split the uprights, the Ravens had taken nearly six minutes off the clock with a 10-play drive. The Ravens, now up by five points, forced the 49ers to play for a touchdown instead of a field goal, and they would survive that furious 49ers rally to win the game. The victory will serve as a coronation of sorts for Flacco, who has won over a lot of doubters during this amazing postseason run. With 11 touchdowns, Flacco tied Joe Montana and Kurt Warner for the most touchdown passes in a single postseason, and with no interceptions, he joined Montana as one the only quarterbacks with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in the same postseason (Montana did it in three games). We just witnessed one of the greatest postseasons a quarterback has ever had, folks, and it should leave little debate about whether Flacco is a so-called elite quarterback. Every individual has his or her own checklist of what makes a quarterback elite, and the last and most important thing to check off is usually a championship ring. Flacco will be getting fitted for one of those in the very near future, and that makes him elite in my book, not that it really matters. What matters is that Flacco is a damn good quarterback who wins a lot of football games, and he just won the biggest game that will be played this year. It understandably took Flacco a few years to get to the pinnacle of his profession. But he has rewarded the Ravens for taking that leap of faith with him back in 2008, and they will soon reward him with an elite contract extension. Once that matter is resolved, Flacco can focus on leading the Ravens into life without Ray Lewis -- and probably back to at least one more Super Bowl before his own career ends.
Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun