The real Joe

It would have been easy for Joe Flacco to walk off the field after Sunday’s terrific performance and turn up his nose at all the people who have called him out and questioned his standing among the NFL’s top quarterbacks.

It would have been easy, but it would not have been Joe.

During his pregame interview session, he acknowledged that he and the Ravens have not played up to their own or anyone else’s expectations during the three-game losing streak that ended in such dominating fashion against the New York Giants at M&T Bank Stadium. He also reminded everyone -- without a hint of arrogance -- that he’s a pretty darn good quarterback and has been for the past five seasons.

And he is correct, though he certainly struggled to protect the ball over the previous three games and had little success executing the offense last week against the Broncos. But when he has been backed into a corner by either the critics or opposing defenses during the course of his career, he has come back strong.

The past couple of weeks, in particular, there has been quite a debate about whether he can reach the next level or -- more pointedly -- whether he is “a Super Bowl quarterback.” It’s fair to wonder whether he will ever be on a level with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, but the whole Super Bowl thing is a crock.

Last January, he drove the Ravens down the field in the AFC Championship and placed a clutch pass in the hands of Lee Evans that would have made him a “Super Bowl quarterback.” Evans dropped it and Billy Cundiff missed a chip-shot field goal and, what do you know, everybody forgets that Flacco outplayed Brady when it really counted.

Here’s the bottom line: You can’t be a great quarterback without a great system and supporting cast, and you can’t have a great system without a great quarterback. It all has to work together the way it did on Sunday.

Only time will tell whether Flacco is a truly great quarterback, but he’s a very good one and the Ravens are lucky to have him.

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