January 20, 2013

AFC Championship: At QB, it should be a battle

Tom has proven he can be terrific, but Flacco is no ordinary Joe

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Tom Brady holds the NFL record for career playoff wins for a starting quarterback and is looking for another.

The Associated Press

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Joe Flacco keeps improving every season for Baltimore, and will have to be at the top of his game against the Pats.

The Associated Press

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP

WHO: Ravens at Patriots

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Foxborough, Mass.

His performance in last week's AFC division-round 38-35 double-overtime win over the top-ranked Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning, when he threw for 331 yards and three touchdowns, including a stunning 70-yarder to Jacoby Jones in the final seconds to send the game into overtime, certainly opened some eyes.

"You can look at Joe's track record," said retiring linebacker Ray Lewis. "Joe has progressed every year, he has gotten better every year. He is growing up right before our eyes and no matter how big the game is, the game never gets too big for Joe. Joe is just Joe, and having a big game like last week, hopefully, is a great carryover to this week.

"He has a great opportunity to etch his name into the record books of going and doing something in the playoffs that no quarterback has ever done. I'm just glad to be along for the ride."

Of course, even Lewis knows that no matter how well Flacco plays Sunday, if Brady plays like Brady can, it will be tough to beat the Patriots.

"Playing against Brady and just watching him sometimes," said Lewis, "you're always in awe, watching how good he really is."

Brady may not have Flacco's arm strength, but his decision-making is unmatched. He always seems to find the open receiver. And on Sunday, he'll likely be targeting Lewis often. While Lewis leads the Ravens with 30 tackles in two playoff games, he has had trouble in the passing game. Manning and Andy Dalton of Cincinnati have targeted him 17 times, completing 14 passes for 177 yards, according to Matt Vensel of the Baltimore Sun.

Look for Brady to be looking for that matchup throughout Sunday's game.

Bill Belichick, the Patriots' head coach, has often said that there is no other quarterback he'd rather have than Brady. But he knows better than to overlook Flacco.

While Flacco may not have the best statistics, he does well in stats that matter. Belichick noted that Flacco doesn't turn the ball over much -- the Ravens had 16 turnovers this year, the same as New England -- and that he makes big plays and the Ravens score points.

"It's about points," said Belichick. "Not all the other stats that we sometimes like to throw out there I think if you're scoring points, you're not turning the ball over, then you're probably playing pretty well."

There is one other factor in this week's game to be considered: Flacco was on the cover -- at least in the Eastern half of the U.S. -- of Sports Illustrated. Fans in Baltimore are already worrying about the SI cover jinx. It was only the second time in Flacco's career that he had been on the cover -- Brady, conversely, has been on it more than 20 times -- and the first time (in 2001) was followed by a thumping loss.

"I hope not," said Flacco when asked about a possible jinx. "It just depends on how we go play on Sunday. We'll see." 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

mlowe@pressherald.com

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

 

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