Timing of media critique puts even brighter spotlight on Flacco to deliver

January 12, 2012 | Luke Jones

The journey is still a challenging one, but it lacks the degree of difficulty seen in his first three seasons, even with a potential trip to Foxborough to face the New England Patriots looming next weekend should Baltimore prevail over the Texans.

“It’s really going to come down to what team is the best. I’m sure if we win, I’ll have nothing to do with why we won, not according to you guys,” said Flacco, earning laughs again. “It is what it is. We’re going to go and we’re going to do our best to try and win it, and it doesn’t really matter what the reason is.”

Make no mistake, the Ravens will need to use its effective running game and a top-flight defense to reach their ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl, but Flacco will need to be at the top of his game for Baltimore to ultimately prevail. He may not need to play at a level comparable to Brady or Rodgers or Brees, but the former Delaware star will need to make plays and to be at his best — which is pretty darn good, mind you.

His teammates certainly agree.

“I will put him in the top [with any other quarterback],” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “I think his play is kind of going to play out, and Joe will show you all where he’s at. We’re only going to go as far as he takes us, and I think there’s no gray area in that. We’re going to ride Joe all the way to Indianapolis.”

The front office, coaching staff, and teammates all believe in Flacco, even if a certain segment of media and fans may not. That’s what makes this latest need to fire back at his critics a bit concerning, as you wonder if it might be a lingering distraction in the back of his mind. Or, perhaps it’s a crafty way to rally his teammates around the “us against the world” mantra nearly every team in professional sports tries to use in these types of situations.

Either way, the timing just appears odd.

If Flacco shows up on Sunday — or the following week — and turns the ball over three times and fails to perform at the level the Ravens need him to, he’s only set himself up for more biting criticism than he already would have faced.

And this time, there would be more legitimacy to the claims.

“It all comes down to three games now,” Flacco said. “Win this one, win the next one, win the Super Bowl. Then, what are they going to say? That’s what we’ve got to do, that’s what I’ve got to do. I’m not thinking about anything else.”

Put in those terms, it sounds so simple, yet it’s the most difficult task he’s ever faced.

Flacco wants so badly to silence his critics, and understandably so, but wanting it and actually doing it are two different ideas.

His best chance yet begins on Sunday.

With all eyes squarely on him.