With a little less than two minutes left in the game, I was emotionally spent. Flashing through my mind were memories of last year’s debacle when Polamalu forced a strip-sack or the playoff heartbreak when Antonio Brown did his best “David Tyree” impression. It boils down to one thing: the Steelers make plays and we don’t.
The sad part is I have gotten used to it. My faith has wavered when the game is on the line. I scream, cuss, insult. I’ve even jumped up and punched a wall in disgust two days after tearing ligaments in my ankle (again referencing Polamalu’s strip-sack). We can’t help it, we’re fan-atics….
Somehow Flacco does, “You don’t have anything to lose. You either score or you don’t….” Flacco is so calm he’s borderline equaniminous — he’s like a robot and it pisses us off. We want fire in his belly; we want the star of our 3-hour football movie to move and feel as we do. But he’s not like us, he is a machine from the future that has traveled back in time to kick the Steelers’ ass.
More after the jump…
This year’s upgraded Flacco, Ver. 4.0, is better in every way. He has a quicker release. His pocket presence is improving; did you see how he manipulated the pocket on the play where Torrey Smith dropped the game-winning TD? But most importantly he recognizes matchups and exploits them. That is the cornerstone of our offense. We do not have elaborate route schemes like New England, perfect route runners like Green Bay, or speed demons who get separation like Pittsburg. Cameron designs favorable matchups for our receivers to win one-on-one.
This year we have skill players who can win one-on-one at every position. We all knew at the end of last season that we weren’t good enough to win a Superbowl. We were too old. You can’t have three crafty veterans who know how to get open without the physical tools to do it.
When you play pick up basketball and you have one old guy who is slow and awkward but has an unstoppable mid-range hook shot, you can’t stop him. Leaving your man to double him, gives up an easy layup.
Conversely, imagine going full court against five middle-aged men…. you’d just run the fast break and full court pressure them until they throw up or their knees give out.
Today, the Ravens are young, fast, strong, and a matchup nightmare. Anquan Boldin is our elite albeit “crafty” receiver. Leaving him one-on-one with anyone not named Darelle Revis is not smart. You have to cover Ray Rice, maybe even double him coming out of the backfield. Pitta and Dickson, yeah try and put a linebacker on them… you’ll get burned. Then there is Torrey. Watching his college tape, I was worried how he catches the ball with his body. After the first half of the season, defensive coordinators are worried about how he catches the ball with his body – after he’s burned their secondary.
Flacco is reading his progressions and finding open receivers. When pressure packages come he is identifying hot reads, one-on-one coverage and throwing his man open. Flacco is cool, calm and collected; and with his receivers making plays, he has engineered back-to-back come-from-behind fourth quarter victories!
Does this make him elite? Who cares.
What he did was make me a believer. Apparently, before Sunday’s victory Flacco had 7 fourth-quarter comebacks. But none of them came to mind after Kapinos’ punt pinned us at our 8 yard line with 2:24 left in the game. After years of watching our failures, the writing was on the wall, and I was sure we were going to lose.
But Flacco was terrific. The offense executed. And Torrey Smith put a crucial drop behind him and showed us why he’s going to be a beast in the years to come.
Being wrong never felt so right. Now I can smile all week and hope this momentum leads to consistency for the remainder of the season.
Yet on days where our performance is lacking, I think we can all stay cool knowing our quarterback can get the job done. To win a Superbowl we’ll need another fourth quarter comeback — I guarantee it. But now I have faith, and you should too. I look forward to watching Flacco’s next chance to shine while his fans reminisce his past heroics expecting another last minute touchdown drive. Welcome to the life of an elite NFL quarterback Joe Flacco. You are, “…a man. A big man!”