Quarterback Joe Flacco absorbed his share of criticism this season despite the Ravens’ 12-4 record and AFC North championship.
He passed for 3,610 yards, 20 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions.
Where is Flacco above reproach? Durability.
He also started every game for the fourth consecutive season and has never missed a start since being drafted in the first round out of Delaware.
Flacco played through a bruised hip during the postseason two years ago.
“I didn’t really think about it, but I think one of the things about being a good quarterback in this league is to show up every week and put your team in a chance to win and be that guy that’s there every week for your team,” Flacco said. “And I take a lot of pride into it. Hopefully, I can continue to keep it up. I do realize that I’ve done that.”
DIVISION PRIDE: Three AFC North teams qualified for the playoffs, including the Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals.
And coach John Harbaugh routinely refers to the division as the toughest in football.
“We always think our division is the strongest, and then you get three teams in,” outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “You see we’ve had a lot of great teams and a lot of really good records, and we’ve only won the division twice [prior to this year]. So, it’s always a battle in the AFC North. It’s just a testament. It’s good to see three of our guys in there. It’s a testament to how tough our division is.”
The Ravens took on a different approach to the bye week than they did five years ago when they took a week off from practice prior to playing the Indianapolis Colts in an AFC divisional round playoff.
They wound up losing that game, 15-6.
This year, they practiced Wednesday and Thursday before being given three days off.
“I feel more confident about the way we are preparing this week,” linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “That year, we were 13-3, we had a record-setting, statistically-wise defense, and we took like seven days off. We went home. We didn’t see each other for a long time.
“Was that the reason we lost? I don’t know. Probably not, but I like what we’re doing out here. We had two really good days of working out, got two good lifts, and just being able to be around each other and then get a break, get these next three days off. You never lose your routine, and you don’t get out of whack.”
LONGEVITY: Veteran middle linebacker Ray Lewis is the lone player remaining on the roster from the Ravens’ inaugural season.
Sixteen years later, the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year is still going and was named to the Pro Bowl for the 13th time this season.
At age 36, Lewis missed four games with a right turf toe injury.
To last this long and still maintain a high level of play is rare.
“If you’ve got the opportunity to play seven years in this league, you’re very fortunate,” Suggs said. “If you have the ability to play 16 years at the high level that he’s playing.. People don’t understand that he’s in his 16th year and he’s still outplaying the majority of the guys half his age. Like I said, it’s a different persona when No. 52 is not in the middle, when 52 is not making the calls, when 52 is not lining us up. He’s definitely the leader.”
Lewis led the Ravens with 95 tackles, also recording an interception, two sacks, two forced fumbles and seven pass deflections.
“There’s nobody that has put more blood, sweat and tears into building this Ravens organization than Ray Lewis,” Suggs said. “He’s the general; he always will be the general. I love the man like a big brother, and I always will. What he means to this team, there’s not a word in the dictionary that can actually describe it. He is the backbone, the heart and soul of this team.”