This month's PressBox recognizes Joe Flacco's time with the Baltimore Ravens. The Flacco era included an awful lot of highs mixed with a few lows and a few pure head-scratchers. We remember all of that with 15 significant moments from the quarterback's tenure in Baltimore.
Sept. 7, 2008: Flacco's NFL Debut
Pressed into starting duty due to an injury to Kyle Boller and an illness for Troy Smith, Flacco wasn't terribly impressive in the Ravens' win against the Bengals. But he did mix in a 38-yard rushing touchdown (perhaps the Ravens should have given Flacco more of the Lamar Jackson offense throughout the years) and set the stage for a rookie season in which he guided the Ravens to the AFC championship game.
Jan. 18, 2009: Three Picks In The AFC Championship Game
It's hard to fathom a day when Flacco wasn't the "January Joe" we eventually came to fully appreciate. But Flacco was putrid in his first AFC title game, throwing three interceptions in a loss to the Steelers. Trips to Pittsburgh were a bit of a bugaboo for Flacco in the early years …
Oct. 3, 2010: A Touchdown Pass To Receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh For Flacco's First Win In Pittsburgh
… until this. It took four tries (and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger being suspended) for Flacco to finally beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh. He made the biggest throw of his then-young career by hitting Houshmandzadeh for an 18-yard score with 32 seconds left to give the Ravens a 17-14 victory.
Nov. 7, 2011: A Touchdown Pass To Receiver Torrey Smith As Flacco Does It Again In Pittsburgh
Roethlisberger wasn't suspended a year later when Flacco proved that winning in the Steel City the year before was no fluke. The then-fourth-year quarterback threw for 300 yards and connected with Smith for a 26-yard score with just eight seconds left -- two plays after Smith had dropped a would-be go-ahead touchdown.
Jan. 22, 2012: Outdueling Tom Brady In AFC Championship Game Loss
We all know how it ended, but before the words "Billy Cundiff" became an expletive in Charm City, Flacco began to rewrite his career narrative. Despite his occasional massive throw or monster performance, he still wasn't viewed as being in the tier of the top quarterbacks in the AFC populated by Roethlisberger, Brady and Peyton Manning. By completely outplaying Brady in this title game, Flacco went a long way toward putting his name in that group. Flacco, of course, would avenge the result a year later by beating the Patriots in Foxborough in his third career AFC championship game appearance.
April 2, 2012: Says He's The Best Quarterback In The NFL
During a radio appearance, Flacco was asked by a silly columnist whose work you're currently reading about comments his agent (Joe Linta) made about him being a top-five quarterback in the NFL. When asked if he believed he truly was a top NFL quarterback, Flacco responded with perhaps the most iconic sound bite in Baltimore sports history. "Without a doubt, what do you expect me to say? I think I'm the best. I don't think I'm top five, I think I'm the best." Those words would be remembered.
Dec. 16, 2012: "Flacco-ing" Becomes A Rather Unflattering Meme
You remember the image. After throwing an interception that Broncos cornerback Chris Harris returned for a touchdown in Denver's blowout win, Flacco was seen lying face-down on the turf while failing to make a diving tackle. The Ravens were in the midst of a total tailspin and their quarterback became an easy punching bag …
Jan. 12, 2013: "Mile High Miracle"
… for a couple of weeks, anyway. The Ravens and Broncos met just four weeks later, and the AFC divisional playoff game was defined by the greatest offensive play in franchise history. Flacco's heroic heave to receiver Jacoby Jones set the Ravens up for a dramatic double-overtime win in Denver, sending them back to the AFC title game.
Feb. 3, 2013: Super Bowl Glory
Flacco's legacy in Baltimore will forever be defined by delivering the Ravens a second Super Bowl title and the city a third. His 287 passing yards and three touchdowns capped one of the greatest playoff runs in history (11 touchdowns, zero interceptions) and earned him Super Bowl MVP honors and a fair amount of coin.
March 1, 2013: A New Deal Defines Second Half Of Flacco's Tenure
Everyone knew Flacco would be rather handsomely paid after the playoff run. As it turns out, the $120.6 million pact would briefly make Flacco the highest-paid player in the NFL and would set the parameters by which Flacco would be judged moving forward. In almost perfect Flacco fashion, he celebrated the deal with a trip to McDonald's. So this year's Clemson players actually weren't the first champions to be feted with a fast food buffet.
April 6, 2013: Flacco To Portray Baltimore's Greatest Quarterback?
We don't actually know what date the scenes were filmed, nor do we know if we'll ever see them; the "Unitas We Stand" movie project remains on seemingly permanent hiatus. But Flacco's decision to accept an offer to portray iconic Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas in a movie became a massive offseason news story in the spring of 2013 in part because Ravens fans just seemed to think it was such a cool idea but in larger part because it ignited another chapter in the Unitas family feud.
Oct. 12, 2014: A Career-High Five Touchdowns … In About 16 Minutes
Just one minute and three seconds into the second quarter of the Ravens' game against the Buccaneers, Flacco connected with receiver Steve Smith Sr. for what was already his fifth passing touchdown of the game. The Ravens would ease up the rest of the way, but the massive performance was a sign of what was to come under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak following a disappointing 2013 campaign.
Jan. 3, 2015 And Jan. 10, 2015: "January Joe's" Last Rides With The Ravens
After the best statistical season of his career, Flacco was back in the postseason. With a strong performance in the wild-card round, he delivered the Ravens' first-ever road playoff win against the Steelers and became the first quarterback to win a playoff game in six of his first seven seasons. Another strong performance a week later in New England would be spoiled by a late interception in what would be Flacco's final playoff appearance as a Raven.
Nov. 22, 2015: Finishes Game, But Season Also Finished Due To Torn ACL
The Ravens still needed Flacco to hand the ball off a couple of times after he injured his knee to set up a game-winning field goal against the Rams. Flacco's toughness had been a major part of his story until that point in his career, and the injury led to him missing games for the first time in his eight years in the league. He never really seemed to be the same after that.
Jan. 6, 2019: Ever Gracious In Supporting Lamar Jackson
Fans were rather disappointed in the Ravens' decision not to bench Jackson in favor of Flacco during the Ravens' wild-card playoff loss to the Chargers. Ever classy, the veteran took the high road and supported the rookie. After the game he defended the team's decision to keep him on the bench and praised Jackson's toughness. This was on the heels of Flacco reportedly telling Harbaugh during the offseason that he didn't want to get in the way of the team's plans with their first-round selection.
Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox
Issue 251: February 2019