Joe Flacco's phone started buzzing a little bit before noon Sunday. As teammates pulled on their pads and bobbed their head to whatever music was bumping in their headphones, the Ravens quarterback interrupted his pregame routine to answer the call he had been waiting for.
It was his wife, Dana, who was at a hospital in New Jersey. She had just given birth to their son, Daniel, and wanted to let Flacco know that both she and their second child were safe and sound.
The cellular reception in the locker room, deep in the bowels of M&T Bank Stadium, was spotty, but Flacco heard exactly what he needed before jogging out on the field for pregame warmups.
From that point on, it was business as usual for the quarterback, who overcame a scoreless first half to lead two second-half touchdown drives in a 14-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns. Flacco, who threw for 211 yards and a touchdown, said it was a day that he would never forget.
"No doubt about it. Anytime you have a child, it's one of your best days," Flacco said. "The game didn't go exactly how we wanted it to, but that's how we've won football games around here. We're able to win like this, and sometimes you have to do it in an ugly way."
Flacco admitted that he couldn't help but think about his newborn baby as he stood on the sideline between possessions. But he said he was able to keep his mind from wandering while he was on the field. The talented Browns front seven, which sacked him twice, made sure of it.
Flacco completed just six of his 13 passes in the first quarter and went into halftime with 109 yards on 12-for-21 passing. The Ravens trailed, 6-0, at the start of the third quarter, but Flacco steered the Ravens on a 80-yard scoring drive, handing the ball off nine times on the 12 plays, including the 5-yard touchdown run by running back Bernard Pierce that put the Ravens on top, 7-6.
In the fourth quarter, he moved the Ravens down the field again with third-down completions to wide receivers Brandon Stokley and Marlon Brown before connecting with Brown for a 5-yard touchdown pass.
Flacco finished the game 22-for-33 with a 94.4 quarterback rating.
"That's Joe. There's nothing that can get to that guy," said wide receiver Torrey Smith, who led the Ravens with seven receptions and 85 receiving yards. "We were all happy. It was kind of like baby watching. We were happy for him and he just went out and played well, like Joe does."
The Ravens knew Sunday morning that Dana was in labor, a week earlier than expected. Flacco was on the phone all morning, sending text messages to family and keeping in touch with his wife, who gave birth to their oldest son, Stephen, last June.
Coach John Harbaugh said that Flacco approached him at breakfast and told him that Dana was in the delivery room. Flacco had been conspiring with a couple of teammates to tell Harbaugh that he was going to leave the team immediately and drive to New Jersey, But Flacco didn't follow through with the joke.
"I'm so glad he didn't do it," Harbaugh said. "He would have had me hook, line and sinker and in the boat. To play with that on your mind, I think obviously says a lot, and we appreciated that."
He also joked, "Congratulations to Dana. She's getting the job done on her own out there."
After the win, Flacco quickly showered and changed into his clothes. He was only at his locker stall for a few minutes, but several teammates stopped by to congratulate him before he walked out of the stadium, got in his truck and drove up to New Jersey.
"I can't wait to go back and see him," Flacco said.
As Flacco embarked on the drive back to New Jersey, his teammates marveled at his poise.
"He was actually surprisingly calm," Pierce said. "Me on the other hand, I might have been freaking out a little bit. But he was actually really calm."
Added tight end Ed Dickson: "For him being here, as a leader, we respect him for that."
Flacco didn't let his teammates down, shaking off a slow start to play mistake-free football in a critical win for the Ravens, who couldn't afford to start the season 0-2.
"Even though we didn't have a great first half, he came out and he stayed with it, he stuck with it," cornerback Lardarius Webb said. "That's just what we need out of Joe. Now, he can go be with little Daniel."
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