Ravens beat Rams 16-13, but Flacco tears ACL and is out for the season

Ravens coach John Harbaugh, along with several teammates, talk about what Joe Flacco's injury means to the team. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)

Joe Flacco knew that it was probably bad. He's strained a knee ligament before, but the pain just felt different. It was more intense, more debilitating.

How bad was the state of his knee? He didn't know. He was prepared to find that out later. There was still a game against the St. Louis Rams to win, and if there's one thing that Flacco has prided himself on doing during his eight years as Ravens' quarterback, it's putting his team in position to win.

So, with the score tied and the clock winding down, Flacco limped to the line of scrimmage and then struggled to drop back and hand the ball off to Buck Allen. He repeated the painful act on the next play and, with the Ravens in field-goal range, summoned all his strength to get up to the line of scrimmage again to spike the ball and stop the clock.

"I didn't know what was wrong," Flacco said. "The fact that I was able to hop up and head toward the sideline, I said, 'Oh OK, let's hang out here and see what I can do.' I don't know if that's the best thing, but it's just a reaction."

About five minutes later, after Justin Tucker had sent a 47-yard field goal through the uprights with no time remaining to give the Ravens a 16-13 win at M&T Bank Stadium and improve their record to 3-7, Flacco laid down on the training table and a team doctor quickly delivered the unsettling news.

Flacco's season was over, his left anterior cruciate ligament was torn and his medial collateral ligament was likely torn, too. The quarterback still needed to take a magnetic resonance imaging test, but the early prognosis was about as bad as it gets for a quarterback who had started 122 consecutive games to begin his NFL career.

"To be very honest with you, when I heard it, I was kind of devastated a little bit for Joe," cornerback Jimmy Smith said. "Our team, we're going to be fine. We're going to keep pushing. We have Matt Schaub, we believe in him. Obviously, this is the way our season has been going. At this point, you kind of expect it, you know? That's just the way things are going this year for us. It is what it is."

Earlier in the game the Ravens had lost their starting running back, Justin Forsett, who broke two bones in his right arm when he was slung to the ground by Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald. They had already watched top receiver Steve Smith Sr. (Achilles tendon), their first-round pick in the NFl draft, Breshad Perriman (knee), center Jeremy Zuttah (shoulder) and rush linebacker Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon) go down with season-ending injuries.

Flacco's injury, though, is the capper. With him under center, the Ravens still had hope, even with a diminished supporting cast. He has faults, but Flacco has always shown the ability to shrug off mistakes and get his team down the field when it counts.

"I guess when it rains, it pours," Ravens outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. "We've been dealing with it all year, from Suggs to Steve. Nobody feels sorry for us."

Even Sunday, after throwing two head-scratching interceptions and doing nothing for three quarters, Flacco, with a giant assist from a much-maligned defense, helped the Ravens back from a 13-3 fourth-quarter deficit. He hit Kamar Aiken for a 3-yard touchdown pass to make it a three-point game. He connected with tight end Crockett Gillmore for a 46-yard completion to set up Tucker's game-tying 20-yard field goal with just over five minutes.

And twice in the final two minutes, Flacco put Tucker in position to attempt game-winning field goals. Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein and Tucker traded misses on go-ahead attempts from 52 and 51 yards, respectively. But Tucker got another chance after Courtney Upshaw strip-sacked Case Keenum and Lawrence Guy recovered the ball on the Rams 41-yard line.

Flacco had his left knee torn up on the play following the turnover, an incomplete pass to wide receiver Chris Givens. Left tackle James Hurst, who was subbing for injured starter Eugene Monroe, rolled into him, and immediately heard his quarterback scream.

"I felt a lot of crunches and stuff like that," Flacco said. "I felt a lot of stuff."

Flacco stayed in and handed the ball off to Allen, who got nine yards. Allen then took the next carry for three yards before Flacco spiked the ball and Tucker jogged onto the field for the game-winner. Tucker has kicked game-winning field goals in all three of the Ravens' victories.

"He completed the whole series with two completely torn ligaments and stayed on the field with the clock running, because he knew if he comes off, now we have clock issues," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of Flacco. "He stays out there, gets the run that pops it, puts us in better field-goal range and then runs the clock down. … I think it was a courageous performance by Joe at the end."

Flacco's injury came on an afternoon where the Ravens seemed to be flirting with a total meltdown. Showing little discipline, they had over 100 penalty yards in the first half. On a punt by Sam Koch in the third quarter, the Ravens had three penalties on one play.

Flacco was having a brutal game, and his two interceptions were among the worst throws that he made all season. The Rams turned the second one into Keenum's 30-yard touchdown pass to Lance Kendricks that gave the offensively-challenged visitors a 13-3 lead.

By about midway through the third quarter, there were not only empty seats at M&T Bank Stadium, there were a handful of empty rows. And the fans that did stay and cheered former safety Ed Reed's induction into the Ring of Honor spent much of the third quarter booing the home team.

"I really didn't pay attention to it," Upshaw said. "We were just thinking about winning the game. If we were back on the field, we needed to get the ball back to the offense."

A defense that has struggled to create turnovers for much of the season forced four fumbles, tying a team record, and it was Upshaw who caused the decisive one. Keenum and the Rams had 213 yards of total offense.

But there wasn't a whole lot of celebrating in the Ravens locker room. Typical of this disappointing season, even a win came with a great loss. And Flacco is the biggest loss of them all.

"I've been really fortunate," Flacco said. "I'm really proud of the fact that I was able to go that long. I wanted to go my whole career without missing anything. It's just the nature of the game. It gets guys. It's just the way it goes. I just have to go out there, rehab, get back and be stronger."


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