Joe Flacco stood at his locker for the last time this season. A black garbage bag lay at his feet. His Fu Manchu mustache was gone, as were some of the doubts outside the locker room about his ability to lead the Ravens to the Super Bowl one day. Less than 24 hours earlier, the fourth-year quarterback had played one of the best games of his career, and arguably his most impressive given the stakes.

On Sunday afternoon, Flacco outperformed New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the AFC championship game. He completed 22 of his 36 throws for 306 yards and two touchdowns and an interception, but what would have been the go-ahead touchdown pass with 27 seconds left was batted out of the hands of wide receiver Lee Evans before he could secure possession.

Two plays later, Billy Cundiff’s failed field-goal try sailed wide left and the Ravens lost, 23-20.

But in a losing effort, Flacco silenced some of his critics with a big performance on a big stage. Was it enough to encourage the Ravens to sign Flacco to a long-term extension this offseason?

Flacco, who is entering the final year of his five-year rookie contract, said Monday he “definitely” hopes he and the Ravens can agree to terms on a contract extension before the 2012 season.

“I’ve said it all along, I’m the quarterback I am. I think the first four years that I’ve played here, we went to the playoffs every time and won a game. I think the last two years I’ve played in the playoffs, I played well,” said Flacco, who has a 5-4 career postseason record. “If you watch the film and you’re a guy in this organization, I think that you can say, ‘Hey, he’s played really damn well, you know, really good for us.’ You never know what’s going to happen, so we’ll see.”

Flacco wasn’t making any demands. “If it goes, it goes. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t,” he said. But he added that he hopes the team “can bring as many people back as we can.” The long list of free agents includes running back Ray Rice, guard Ben Grubbs and outside linebacker Jarret Johnson.

As he and his teammates cleaned out their lockers, exchanged autographs and phone numbers, and left lugging garbage bags over their shoulders -- an experience Flacco says still feels kind of weird -- he said two emotions were wrestling each other in his mind. He said the Ravens can leave with heads held high knowing they gave it all, but it’s frustrating that they didn’t pull through.

Flacco hasn’t yet made any major offseason plans. He doesn’t like to travel, much to the chagrin of his new wife, Dana. “I’m sure she doesn’t like to hear that, but that’s the truth,” he said. His biggest hobby is football, and it sounded as if he couldn’t wait to get back to work this spring.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys. We’ve got to come back and get in shape in the offseason and come back ready to go,” Flacco said. “I think we’ve got an explosive team and we’re going to do nothing but get better. I know we say that every year, but it is the true.”