Ravens seem set to keep Flacco long term

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Ravens are talking like they are ready to lock up quarterback Joe Flacco for the long term.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said last year that he anticipated a contract extension for Flacco in 2012, even though Flacco thought he had proven enough to receive one last year. Based on coach John Harbaugh's comments after the loss in the AFC Championship Game, the Ravens sound prepared to follow through with the new deal.

Flacco, who became the first NFL quarterback to win a playoff game in each of his first four seasons, is set to make $4.61 million in 2012, the final year of his rookie contract.

"Obviously, he played well enough to win this game. I think his best football is in front of him," Harbaugh said. "He's only getting better. He's our kind of guy. He's a tough guy, a competitive guy. He's a leader, and I just can't wait to see where this thing goes with him. The plays that he made down the stretch, I think it says a lot about him and his future."

Asked whether he would like an extension, Flacco told Baltimore reporters on Monday: "Definitely. We’ll see how it goes. If it goes, it goes. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”

Flacco isn't going to the Super Bowl, but the Ravens quarterback did enough to prove he can take a team there.

He was composed in the pocket. He rolled away from pressure, making plays by throwing on the run and scrambling for first downs. Flacco hardly looked like a "rattled" quarterback, which is how teammate Ed Reed described him in last week's playoff game.

No one can blame Flacco for the Ravens' 23-20 loss at New England. He set team postseason records with 306 yards passing and a 95.4 quarterback rating. He even threw for 67 more yards than Tom Brady and had two more touchdown passes than the three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback.

Flacco would've been praised for throwing the winning touchdown pass with 11 seconds remaining in the game if wide receiver Lee Evans was able to hold onto it. The pass was incomplete, but the significance of it was not lost on Flacco's teammates.

"Joe came in here and proved again that Joe is the quarterback to put you in position to go to a Super Bowl," linebacker Ray Lewis said.

In his four NFL seasons, Flacco showed that he was good enough to guide the Ravens into the playoffs. But there were questions about whether he could take them to the Super Bowl.

He did more than validate himself in the AFC Championship Game, where he carried the Ravens. With running back Ray Rice limited to 67 yards rushing (a 3.2-yard average), Flacco took control and directed the Ravens on long drives by converting 9 of 17 third downs. In the fourth quarter, he completed seven of 13 passes for 87 yards.

But Flacco didn't seem concerned about whether he convinced any of his doubters with the best performance of his career.

"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'll ever prove everything. That's not up to me. My job is to go out there and give our team the best shot to win."