Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) throws a pass as he is pressured by Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (98) during the first half of an NFL football game in Tampa, Fla., Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) looks for a receiver as he is pressured by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense during the second half of an NFL football game in Tampa, Fla., Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)
OWINGS MILLS, Maryland — Joe Flacco's list of accomplishments now includes five touchdown passes in a game, a feat that fits quite nicely in an already impressive resume' topped by a Super Bowl MVP trophy.
Flacco's flurry of TD passes occurred within the opening 16:03 of the Baltimore Ravens' 48-17 win over Tampa Bay on Sunday. No quarterback in NFL history ever threw five TDs so early in a game.
"I mean, shoot, I looked up at the clock and there was almost 14 minutes left in the second quarter and we already had five touchdowns," Flacco said Wednesday. "You don't come across those too often, and you take them when you can get them."
Now in his seventh NFL season, Flacco has put up numbers that put him in elite company among quarterbacks.
His 75 wins (including postseason) during that time are more than any other player at the position. Flacco is the only starting quarterback since the 1970 merger to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons; he threw 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions during the 2012 postseason; and he has engineered 20 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime.
Just as impressive: Flacco hasn't missed a start since being drafted in the first round out of Delaware before the 2008 season. That was also coach John Harbaugh's first year with Baltimore, and together they've made three appearances in the AFC championship game and won a Super Bowl.
"I feel blessed. It's pretty amazing to have your quarterback take every single rep since he got here," Harbaugh said. "It's a credit to Joe, how hard he works, how tough he is. He's a special guy."
Flacco is the franchise leader in career yards (23,141), touchdown throws (133), completions (2,009) and 300-yard games (19).
What sets him apart from others, in his view, is his ability to win. Baltimore reached the postseason in his first five years before going 8-8 last season, but the Ravens (4-2) appear back on track heading into Sunday's home game against Atlanta.
"We've gone out and won and we've won consistently," Flacco said. "We didn't necessarily do that last year, but we've won consistently and we continue to do that this year. We've just got to keep it up."
One problem last season was that Flacco was sacked 48 times. This year, he's been collared behind the line only seven times.
Regardless of whether he's tossing a touchdown pass every three minutes of dusting himself off after a sack, the quarterback known as "Joe Cool" rarely changes his demeanor.
"Joe's been the same since I've been here," eighth-year guard Marshal Yanda said. "He's cool and collected and confident. Never high or low. I've never seen him sad or discouraged or even too happy. He's been the same."
Veteran Steve Smith recalled a preseason game in which the Ravens' receivers were awful, and he fully expected Flacco to throw a tirade in the huddle.
"I assumed that Joe would be doing something to try to get us started, and he was Joe," Smith said. "He just said the play, he told us what we had to do, and it was, 'Break!' I kind of left like, 'That's it?' I expected someone to, quote-unquote, 'Step up and be emotional,' and it was nothing like that. It was refreshing."
This Sunday, Flacco will make his 116th consecutive start. That means more to him than his history-making outing last week.
"Five TD passes, who knows, that can just happen to anybody at any point," he said. "But I definitely take pride in being there for my team and showing up every week, letting these guys know they can count on me."