"Just win the game."
That's what Joe Flacco told his teammates at halftime of the Ravens' 20-10 win over the Browns on Sunday. Perhaps he slipped in an expletive in there, too. Point is, the Ravens came out flat once again to start the game against Cleveland, which led to the M&T Bank Stadium fans booing them at times.
The boos were deserved. No disrespect to the Browns, but there's no reason the offense should have played that poorly for so long. So at halftime, the leader of the offense stood up and gave a passionate plea. Just win the game, he said.
Flacco struggled early on, along with the rest of the offense. But he elevated his game after asking his teammates to do the same. He finished with 312 yards and two touchdowns, with a huge 53-yard completion to Torrey Smith setting up the first score.
That can essentially be Baltimore's motto, dating back to 2000 even. This team has never won with flare, flash or pizazz. It's always been a gritty, old-school group that plays smart, clutch football when it matters most. This is the sixth time in seven years a John Harbaugh coached team will be in the postseason. As Harbaugh said about the Super Bowl XLVII championship run, "It's never pretty, it's never perfect, but it's us."
It's the reason why you can't count out the Ravens this postseason. For whatever reason, this team is able to find another gear to click into once the second season begins. Who's to say this postseason will be any different? Of course, the No. 1 talking point — outside of the natural storyline of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry — will be whether Flacco can elevate his game like he did two years ago. A lot of eyes will once again be on No. 5 in the postseason.
As for Flacco's halftime speech, that shows the competitor that he is. He may be boring in the public eye, but you know he's as competitive as anyone.
"I probably can't remember a time he has ever done it before," Ravens coach John Harbaugh told reporters after the game. "He has said some things before, but I was glad to hear it. He said it better than I did. I said what I said, which was basically the same thing. My point was, ‘Let's go for it. Let's not be playing scared, and let's not be playing tight, and let's go for it, let's go make some plays.' And Joe said, ‘Just go win a game.'"