Even in victory, God bless him, Joe Flacco—new N.F.L. record-holder for most road playoff wins by a quarterback—is still Joe Flacco, big-armed oaf. After the Baltimore Ravens’ victory in the A.F.C Championship Game on Sunday night, as his teammates celebrated in the visitors’ locker room, Flacco stood, tall, gawky, and nearly expressionless—like Mike Teavee after Willy Wonka got done with him—watching Ray Lewis do his full-on thing (“Wow. Words, man...”) for the benefit of CBS’s cameras. When Lewis finished, CBS’s Jim Nantz turned to Flacco, and asked him about the win. Some players, having just won the biggest game of their careers, might follow a speech by one of the more electrifying leaders in the N.F.L. by rising to the occasion. But Flacco, he just said, in that loveable meathead monotone of his, “It was awesome.”
It’s been hard for Flacco to get the respect he deserves, and seems to crave, and that victory celebration was as good a summation as any of why that is. He’s awkward and a little goofy, with few traces of born leadership to him, and he’s on a team with players like Lewis and Ed Reed and Ray Rice, which makes it easy for observers to focus on all the downsides to his play, without giving him credit for the victories. But in the past two weeks, Flacco didn’t just win against Peyton Manning and Tom Brady—he beat them.