Joe Flacco will sign his new six-year, $120.6 million contract extension Monday afternoon, a deal which will make the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player the NFL’s highest-paid player while also giving the Ravens salary cap wiggle room.
Since the news of Flacco’s new deal broke Friday night, many national reporters and analysts have pointed to Flacco’s game-tying touchdown pass in the playoff win over the Denver Broncos and said that Flacco would not be as rich as he is today had Broncos safety Rahim Moore not allowed Jacoby Jones to get in behind him.
True, the Ravens caught a break there as Moore misplayed the ball and tumbled to the turf as Jones caught one of the biggest touchdown passes in Baltimore sports history. But for those who likes to ponder how things would be not had the Ravens not caught that break, allow me to play devil’s advocate and point out that perceptions of Flacco might have changed a year earlier had Lee Evans caught that ball. It all evens out.
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The reality is that Flacco convinced the Ravens to make him rich with a body of work that includes hundreds of throws in live NFL action and thousands on the practice field at the team’s Owings Mills training facility.
Some throws are bigger than others, though, and the big throws he made in big games obviously carry more weight.
As we wait for Flacco to put expensive pen to paper Monday, here is look at five throws that helped get Flacco paid.
1. Exorcising the Steelers: Early in the Flacco era, the Ravens struggled against the rival Steelers in Pittsburgh, especially when Ben Roethlisberger was in the lineup. But in November 2011, Flacco and the Ravens officially shifted the balance of power in the AFC North when Flacco found Torrey Smith -- not once, but twice -- for the game-winning touchdown pass with eight seconds left. That was a major hump that Flacco threw over.
2. The Lee Evans play: Like I said, this play gets overlooked when people play the “what if” game with Flacco, but in the 2011 AFC championship game he threw what should have been the go-ahead score, but Evans count not hang on to it. What also gets forgotten how great a throw that was. Greg Cosell of NFL Films said it was “as good a throw as you will ever see in a pressure moment.” Flacco proved a lot in a loss that night.
3. The dagger in Denver: The Ravens don’t win the Super Bowl if Flacco doesn’t complete that deep pass to Jones, which folks in Denver are still trying to get over. Sure, Moore and the Broncos botched that play, but you can’t take the touchdown off the board. One team executed and one team did not. Flacco made a huge play with the season -- and the career of Ray Lewis -- hanging in the balance, but his work was not yet done.
4. Finishing off the Broncos: The double-OT thriller was a blur of big plays, from the game-tying TD to Corey Graham’s critical interception to Justin Tucker’s game-winning field goal. But the throw Flacco made out of his end zone to flip field position was just as crucial. Facing 3rd and 3 from the Baltimore 6-yard line, Flacco lasered a pass up the seam to Dennis Pitta for 24 yards. Moments later, Graham picked off Peyton Manning.
5. One Super-gutsy audible: Flacco made his final argument for a massive payday by throwing for 287 yards and three touchdowns in Super Bowl XLVII. The most critical throw was a five-yard pass, though. After the 49ers pulled within two points, the Ravens faced a 3rd-and-1 play near midfield. Flacco checked to a pass and threw a beautiful back-shoulder pass to Anquan Boldin. His contested grab helped set up a Ravens field goal.