FOXBOROUGH - After swallowing the bitter pill that was a 23-20 loss to the Patriots that ended the Ravens’ season, Joe Flacco couldn’t have cared less about the criticism, about the scrutiny, about proving anything to anyone who doubted him as a quarterback.
Flacco yesterday threw for 306 yards and two touchdowns with one interception on 22-of-36 passing in the Ravens’ AFC Championship game loss.
All week Flacco had heard this was a chance to silence his doubters, and after outperforming Tom Brady (239 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions) only to lose, it wasn’t about proving anything anymore.
“I don’t care,’’ Flacco said. “Look at the film. If you look at the film you see how I play. I pretty much play the same every week. If you think I played better this week than other weeks, then I think you’re wrong. This is the way I play every week and I really don’t care.
“I don’t know if I will ever prove anything. That’s not up to me. My job is to go out there and play and give our team the best shot to win.’’
Flacco threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Dennis Pitta in the second quarter that tied the game at 10, and later connected with Torrey Smith on a 29-yard score, with Smith going down the sideline, then leaping and stretching the ball over the pylon.
With 1:44 left and the Ravens down by a field goal, Flacco drove them downfield.
He found Lee Evans on the right side of the end zone on second and 1 from the 14, but the play was broken up at the last second by Patriots defensive back Sterling Moore.
“On that last drive, not one guy doubted what Joe was going to be able to go and do, to march the ball down the field,’’ linebacker Ray Lewis said. “All the hoopla all week, Joe played his tail off. Our offense played their tail off. Our team played their tail off.’’
After being criticized by people on the outside, then hearing all week about comments made by his own teammate, Ed Reed, Flacco got support yesterday from inside his locker room.
Cornerback Lardarius Webb walked up to Flacco and said, “Joe, man, you’re everything I thought you were.’’
Not retiring type
Lewis quieted the speculation that he might retire after 16 years in the league, saying the loss only made him want to return more next season.
“For us to be here now, I’m hungry again, I’m thirsty again,’’ he said. “Is this my last time as a Raven? Absolutely not. Let me answer that question before somebody asks me. Absolutely not. It’s just too much.’’
Lewis, 36, has been a Raven since the franchise’s inception in 1996. He is the only player remaining from the Super Bowl XXXV-winning team. After recording 100 tackles for the eighth time in his career in 2010, his numbers went down this season. He missed four games and recorded just 79 tackles. But he has been the face of the franchise and the backbone of a defense that’s been in the top 10 in all but four of his seasons.
“Every time you go through something like this, it has to drive you,’’ Lewis said. “I truly believe that’s the only thing that makes people great.’’
Coach John Harbaugh said he tried to get the officials’ attention after the pass to Evans in end zone was ruled a drop. “I thought it would be looked at,’’ he said. “I thought they would at least look at it. I have not talked to anybody. Didn’t get a chance to. So I don’t know what the explanation is on that.’’ Evans, who caught three passes for 39 yards, said, “It was an opportunity for us to go to the Super Bowl and I let it go. I felt like I had it but it came out. I don’t really know how to put it in words. This is the greatest team I’ve been on and I feel like I let everybody down.’’ . . . Ray Rice entered the game with 377 career rushing yards in the postseason thanks largely to his 159-yard coming-out party in 2009 against the Patriots, but yesterday he was held to just 67 yards on 21 carries. “They did commit to stopping the run,’’ Harbaugh said. “We started wearing them down a bit, had a little more success in the second half, but give them credit.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.