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For Ravens to have success in playoffs, Joe Flacco has to produce

Maybe Sunday's fourth quarter means quarterback Joe Flacco is ready to get on a roll like he did when the Ravens won the Super Bowl.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco delivered a great "boomalacher" at halftime, and it lasted about 10 seconds.

Boomalachers are pregame or halftime speeches given by a coach or player. Vince Lombardi was one of the NFL's greatest orators, but now Flacco has delivered one whose rousing words will live in Ravens history.

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Of course the speech didn't kick in until the fourth quarter, but that's because the team was still stunned by his words throughout the third.

"I just said, 'Let's go win the [bleeping] game. [Bleep]," Flacco said.

Now, that doesn't sound like much, but it came from "Joe Cool," who shows about as much emotion as a mushroom. But when Flacco speaks, his teammates listen. And when he plays well, the Ravens are tough to beat.

If there was a glimmer of hope that came out of the Ravens' 20-10 playoff-clinching win against the Cleveland Browns Sunday, it was that Flacco broke an 11-quarter slump with a strong fourth-quarter performance.

If the Ravens are to go deep into the postseason, Flacco has to become hot like he did in the Ravens' 2012 Super Bowl season. In the fourth quarter Sunday after another sluggish start, Flacco completed eight of nine passes for 161 yards and two touchdown passes.

He had a quarterback rating of 158.3 in the fourth quarter and ended with a 107.6 rating for the game. He completed 22 of 36 passes for 312 yards, but afterward the Ravens wanted to talk about Flacco's halftime speech.

It was a beauty.

"[He said] win the game, very intensely," Ravens receiver Torrey Smith said. "You all act like Joe is the most boring guy in the world. He has some fire to him. It was definitely Joe speaking up, though."

When asked if the speech was long, Torrey Smith said, "You can't expect anything long from Joe, but the delivery was powerful."

The Ravens are going to need more leadership than ever from Flacco in the postseason. He is going to have to leave that calm demeanor back home once the playoffs start. He doesn't need to be fire-and-brimstone full-time because that would be phony.

But the fiery side of Flacco might need to emerge more often, especially if he starts backing it up like he did Sunday. The Ravens can't win consistently without a hot Flacco. The offensive line has been decimated with injuries and running back Justin Forcett's legs seem slightly more tired compared than they were at the beginning of the season.

The play of the receivers has been inconsistent throughout the year and the secondary has been awful, downright pathetic.

Flacco better get hot or the Ravens have no chance because they might need to score about 28 points a game.

"I'm not going to have to," Flacco said when asked if he has to carry the team in the post season. "We're just going to have to play fundamental football, get back and run our offense the way we need to run it. If there are plays to be made, then we're going to make them. We've just got to make sure that we give oursleves enough opportunities to make plays."

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Oh, come on No. 5. You're the key whether you like it or not.

"When Joe is hot, he's tough to handle," Torrey Smiths said. "And that's on us at times to get him hot and our offensive line to do a great job protecting him. When you get him hot, we've seen what he can do. So, hopefully, that last quarter, or whatever amount it was he got hot, hopefully that continues on."

Before the fourth quarter Sunday, Flacco had played poorly in the last two games and may have had the worst game of his career last week in the Ravens' 25-13 loss to the Houston Texans when he completed just 19 of 50 passes for 195 yards and had three interceptions.

At halftime Sunday, Flacco had a quarterback rating of .00. But that's all part of the Flacco mystique. There are times when his mechanics are so poor they he can go into a two- or three-game funk as he has done twice this season.

Quarterback awareness? He sometimes needs Doppler radar to find pass rushers.

In the first three quarters Sunday, Flacco was throwing too high, too low or too late. By the fourth quarter, his aim was deadly. The 16-yard touchdown pass he threw to Torrey Smith was rifled between three defenders. His 2-yard touchdown pass to Kamar Aiken with 3:44 left was perfect — to the outside shoulder where only Aiken could make a play on the ball.

"We kept giving our offense the opportunities and No. 5, he started playing like No. 5," Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said: "Joe has been a great fourth-quarter quarterback. I'll bet you the numbers back that up pretty good."

Flacco has won 21 games in the fourth quarter in seven seasons in Baltimore. But that's not really important here. He needs to go on a tear like he did in 2012 when he completed 73 of 126 passes for 1,140 yards and 11 touchdowns in the postseason.

In the postseason, the Ravens can match up with Cincinnati or Pittsburgh because they are familiar with both. But in New England and Denver, if the weather is good, Flacco is going to have put up some big numbers against quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

"We have to understand its 0-0, there are no do-overs," said Ravens receiver Steve Smith. "We have to play perfect football all four quarters."

And Joe Flacco has to stay hot throughout the postseason.

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