The Baltimore Ravens beat the New England Patriots last night in the same exact manner as they did in last year's AFC Championship Game. The only difference? They made the field goal at the end of the game this time, albeit just barely. The common denominator? In both games there was no question that Ravens QB Joe Flacco outplayed Patriots QB Tom Brady.
Through three quarters, it appeared that this was going to end up a Patriots victory on another classic performance by Brady, who was precision-like in his operating manner dissecting the Ravens defense with short crisp passes. However, Flacco emerged in the game's final quarter to finish with perhaps the game that might turn around the critics questioning whether or not he had the tools to get it done, as rookie placekicker barely split the uprights for the 27-yard FG as time expired to win it 31-30.
Twice now Flacco has outplayed Brady in games that both should be considered classics for any football fan even outside of Baltimore and New England. Flacco's stats line was eye-opening especially compared to the excellent numbers that Brady put up on the night.
Brady finished with 28 completions in 41 attempts for 335 yards, one TD and a Quarterback Rating of 101.2, outstanding stats usually reserved for a winning performance. Unfortunately for Brady and the Pats, Flacco was just that much better (thumb and forefinger held 1/4 inch apart). Joe's final statistic line read 28 for 39 for 382 yards, three TD passes and a Quarterback Rating of 117.7.
In the decisive fourth quarter alone, Flacco was 12 of 16 for 161 yards and a TD pass. In the first half alone, Joe also completed 12 of 16 passes for 136 yards and 2 TD passes, which earned him a 113.5 Quarterback Rating. Flacco's consistency and especially his clutch fourth-quarter performance should not be overlooked in a game marred by questionable referee calls or even non-calls.
The Ravens defense is an entirely separate issue. Offensively, the Ravens are playing as well as pretty much any other team in the NFL. They are second in the league, averaging over 32 points a game and were arguably one play away from being undefeated, had they been able to pull out their loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
The Ravens do not get any rest this week, as they are about to play their 4th game in the season's first 18 days when they host the winless Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football. At least it is another home game, their third nationally-televised game out of their first four. After sending the Browns to their fourth straight defeat, the Ravens will get a much needed ten-day break before their next game.
The defense will get their act together as they usually do and should return to their rightful place among the best in the league. In the meantime, relish in the obvious fact that the Ravens offense can now compete with any other in the NFL.