NEW ORLEANS - Joe Flacco came to Super Bowl XLVII with impressive postseason credentials, gaudy statistics like the most career road victories in history, and eight touchdowns against no interceptions in this year's playoffs, all the while displaying the nothing-bothers-me demeanor that led to Baltimore fans dubbing him "Joe Cool."
The Ravens quarterback added another accolade Sunday night in New Orleans - Super Bowl MVP.
Flacco led Baltimore to a 34-31 win over San Francisco with another solid performance, using his powerful right arm as a statement toward his status in the NFL. He also used it to raise the Lombardi Trophy, to the delight of the thousands of Ravens fans inside the Superdome.
The 28-year-old threw for 287 yards and three touchdowns, connecting on 22 of 33 passes along the way. Baltimore held on to win despite a furious San Francisco rally led by young quarterback Colin Kaepernick (302 passing yards, 62 rushing yards), but the 49ers came up short on their final series near the goal line and the Ravens prevailed.
With Flacco at the top.
"I don't think it's going to settle in for a while," Flacco said. "We don't make anything easy."
Flacco finished the playoffs with 11 touchdowns, tying Joe Montana and Kurt Warner for the most in a postseason. He also became the sixth player in NFL history to throw three or more touchdowns in the first half of a Super Bowl, one of which was a 56-yard bomb to speedster Jacoby Jones in the second quarter.
Flacco also made a few other pivotal throws that helped Baltimore keep its lead, particularly midway through the fourth quarter on a huge third-down situation.
Baltimore faced a third-and-inches at its own 45 with 7 minutes, 14 seconds to play, and Flacco hit receiver Anquan Boldin, his main target during the Super Bowl, for 15 yards to keep the Ravens' offense on the field and the clock on the move.
"I told Joe to give me a chance," said Boldin, who caught six passes for 104 yards, "and he gave it to me."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh didn't hesitate to eschew a running play on third-and-short with Flacco under center.
"To me, it shows you he has got guts," Harbaugh said. "He has got the guts of a burglar. He was doing it all night, making plays."
The drive didn't end with a touchdown, but Flacco move the ball 60 yards and used 5:38 with three completions for 26 yards. Then he watched from the bench while the Ravens' defense kept Kaepernick and the Niners out of the end zone for the go-ahead score.
"I was sitting there thinking there's no way, there's no way we can stop them here," Flacco said. "But we did, and that's what our defense is all about."
The Ravens' trademark has long been the defense, but Flacco seems on his way toward turning that around.
He threw for a career high 3,817 yards in the regular season and tossed 22 touchdowns against 10 interceptions, but Flacco and the offense went through enough struggles that coach John Harbaugh switched coordinators during the year, firing Cam Cameron and replacing him with Jim Caldwell. After three straight losses in December, Flacco led the Ravens to a 33-14 win over the Giants with 309 yards on 25-for-36 passing and two touchdowns.
Flacco threw for 1,140 yards in the playoffs and completed 57.9 percent of his passes in beating Indianapolis, Denver, New England, and San Francisco.
The Ravens have a decision to make during the offseason with their budding star quarterback, whether to slap a franchise tag on him or let the fifth-year player's rookie contract expire.
Baltimore's front office has expressed its desire to lock up Flacco for years to come.
Perhaps a Super Bowl championship is going to make the choice for them, which means Flacco could be standing at the start of something big.
"It's tough to put into words because it really hasn't sunk in yet," Flacco said. "I don't even think it has sunk in yet that we're here. Pretty cool."