It came as a surprise to many when the Ravens won the 2012 Super Bowl. They rallied late in Denver to knock off Peyton Manning. They became the first team to beat the Patriots in Foxboro when trailing at halftime. They overcame a halftime power outage to hold off the 49ers in the Super Bowl itself.
So, how did this 10-6 team manage to beat two all-time great QB’s on the road, and then beat the mighty 49ers? Because some 6’6 quarterback named Joe Flacco turned into the thing he has never been in his career. A Pro-Bowl caliber player.
Flacco’s Career Numbers Prior to Super Bowl
Joe Flacco always prided himself on limiting turnovers. But, other than his exceptional arm strength to throw the deep ball, he was mediocre. He took the Ravens to the playoffs in each of his first four years, never throwing for more than 3700+ yards or 26+ touchdowns.
He threw 12 or fewer picks every year, and had an average completion percentage of 63.0. Not exactly world beating. And in the 2012 season, he posted totals of 3,800 yards, 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Not what you expect from a Super Bowl-caliber QB.
Flacco entered the season with a 5-4 playoff record, and a completion percentage around 57.0. He had thrown eight touchdowns, seven interceptions and was averaging around 220 passing yards per game.
See, Flacco wasn’t somebody you expected to serve as an X-Factor. He was a game-managing quarterback who connected with speedy receivers down the field from time-to-time. That’s it.
The 2012 Playoff Run
As soon as the postseason began, everything clicked for Joe Flacco like it had never had before. It had been announced right before the playoffs that Ray Lewis would be retiring. So maybe that news prompted Flacco to become elite, to help deliver one last ring to the all-time great linebacker.
Flacco’s totals against the Colts in the Wild Card game were crazy. He completed just 12 passes, but threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns. He took just one sack, and had a passer rating of 125.6.
Against the Broncos, he did it again. With the Ravens down by seven late in the game, Flacco connected with Jacoby Jones on a deep ball for a 70-yard score to tie things up. The defense stepped up and forced a turnover, setting up Justin Tucker for the winning kick. Flacco was 18-34 for 331 yards and three touchdowns, passer rating of 116.2. This was his first ever 3-TD game in the playoffs.
Against the Patriots, Flacco helped the Ravens to several long drives in the second half to keep the ball away from Brady and co. He went 21-36 for 240 yards and three more touchdowns in a 28-13 win. Flacco added 12 yards on three carries and had a passer rating of 106.2.
And on the biggest stage of all, Flacco had himself a game. He completed 22 of 33 passes for 287 yards and had his third straight game with three touchdown passes. He had a passer rating of 124.2 as the team captured its first Super Bowl title in 12 years. He promptly received the Super Bowl MVP award.
11 touchdowns. 0 interceptions. 4 wins. 0 losses. A magical run for Flacco, a QB that was never known for his takeover ability.
Since The Super Bowl
Joe Flacco threw 19 TD passes and a career-high 22 interceptions the following year. It marked the first time the Ravens missed the playoffs with him at QB. He guided Baltimore back to the 2014 postseason though, as the team went 10-6. Flacco threw a career-best 27 TD passes and just 12 interceptions.
They would lose in the divisional round to the Patriots, who they blew two 14-point leads against, Flacco couldn’t do it there. He wasn’t the same.
He had led the team to a 3-7 record in 2015 before he got injured. And his numbers aren’t even worth mentioning. In 2017, he helped the team to a 9-7 record, throwing 18 TD’s and 13 INT’s. But a late week 17 blunder by the defense lost them a must-win game to the Bengals and they missed the playoffs again.
In 2018, Flacco had the team at 4-5. He got hurt, and Lamar Jackson came in. Flacco had played his final snaps in Baltimore. He led them to the playoffs as the starter just one time after the Super Bowl.
And as the team was being blown out by the Chargers and fans on social media clamored for John Harbaugh to pull Jackson in favor of Flacco… he didn’t. The Flacco era was finished.
Flacco latched on in Denver, where he started the team’s first eight games in 2019. He posted a 2-6 record, with just six touchdowns and five interceptions. He averaged just over 200 yards a game.
And with the Jets this season, he has looked horrible. Flacco has 397 yards, one touchdown and one interception in parts of three games. He has completed just 41 of 79 passes.
Flacco’s 2012 run with Baltimore was one for the ages. But, it’s appreciated more (rightfully so) given how the rest of his career has panned out.
We’ll continue to enjoy the miracles of the Ravens playoff run, and that one period of time when Joe Flacco seemed to be the best QB in the world. It’s just incredible that his career could be what it is before and after, and for the Super Bowl run exist.