Notebook: Flacco good enough in playoff win

MIAMI -- It wasn't a glittery statistical performance from rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, but that's not what the Baltimore Ravens needed to beat the Miami Dolphins. Flacco did an effective job of managing the game, committing no turnovers in the Ravens' 27-9 AFC wild-card playoff victory Sunday.

It was a major contrast to Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington, who threw four interceptions in defeat.

Unlike the past few weeks, Flacco missed on several deep throws. He completed just 9 of 23 passes for 135 yards, no touchdowns and a 59.1 rating, but he played a smart game.

"I think Joe played like a veteran," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He played like a veteran in the playoffs. He made some tremendous throws, was very poised in the pocket. I thought our offensive line did a great job at protecting him and they allowed him to hold the ball, which he was willing to do.

"He didn't get antsy in there at all. He made some really good throws, managed the game well and didn't turn it over at all, which is big. He played playoff winning football."

Flacco rushed for a five-yard touchdown up the middle in the fourth quarter. It was Flacco's idea to improvise, according to running back Willis McGahee.

His touchdown run was the first by a quarterback against the Dolphins in a playoff game since the San Francisco 49ers' Joe Montana scored on a six yard run in Super Bowl XIX on Jan. 20, 1985 at Stanford Stadium.

And Flacco completed a 31-yard pass in the second quarter to wide receiver Derrick Mason that set up Matt Stover's 31-yard field goal just before halftime.

Flacco bristled noticeably when a reporter suggested that he had merely been a caretaker of the offense and played not to commit mistakes.

"I'm not going out there and trying to just manage the football game, I'm going out there and trying to make plays," Flacco said. "There were a handful of throwaways we had to do and we had a couple where we had them beat deep and we missed them.

"We didn't connect there, but we will make sure to connect in the future. We feel really good about how we played as an offensive unit. We moved the ball early on and kind of killed ourselves with some penalties and things like that, but we will get that cleaned up and be ready for next week."

REDEMPTION: Fullback Le'Ron McClain rebounded from losing a fumble in the first quarter to rush for 75 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.

The Ravens wore down the Dolphins in the fourth quarter behind McClain's bruising runs.

"We kept pounding," McClain said. "We gave up the ball early, but after the fumble everyone gathered around me and told me not to worry and keep running north and south. You have got to keep gutting it out."

KOKINIS TO MEET WITH BROWNS: Ravens director of pro personnel George Kokinis is scheduled to be interviewed for the Cleveland Browns' vacant general manager position by Browns team owner Randy Lerner. The Browns received permission to speak with Kokinis following the Ravens' win. Kokinis said he hadn't spoken with the Browns yet, but one team official predicted that Kokinis could wind up landing a position previously held by former Ravens executive Phil Savage until he was fired prior to the final game of the season.

Kokinis is a close friend of former New York Jets coach Eric Mangini, who recently interviewed with the Browns and has been labeled as a leading candidate for the job in several reports. It's unknown when Kokinis is interviewing, but it's expected to take place soon.

The Browns' top choice to replace Savage is New England Patriots director of player personnel Scott Pioli, who has interviewed as well as former Ravens scout T.J. McCreight.

HAPPY NOW? McGahee ripped off a 48-yard run in the fourth quarter to set up Flacco's touchdown run, a positive development after a week where the mercurial running back seemed morose about his disappointing season and drastically reduced role. He created a mild controversy in interviews when he said, "I'm just going to go out there and play for me."

When asked what kind of mood he's in now, McGahee replied: "I'm cool, man. I'm Willis. As the team is doing, I'm doing."

McGahee said he wanted to avoid saying anything else that could cause any rifts.

McGahee played at the University of Miami, so this game brought back memories.

"It was a great feeling to have a long run in this stadium," said McGahee, whose run was the longest the Dolphins have allowed all season.

BIG BLOCKS: Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata blasted wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. on free safety Ed Reed's 64-yard criss-crossing interception return for a touchdown.

"Honestly, I saw three guys and I looked for the fastest guy that could catch Ed Reed: Ted Ginn," Ngata said. "The best part was he got back and I said, 'Hey, man, you the man for getting back up. He's a small guy. I'm surprised he even got up. That was amazing. He got up like it was nothing."

Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs roughly deposited Pennington on the ground to clear the final bit of interference in Reed's path to the end zone.

"I think it was masterfully set up by Ed Reed," Suggs said. "Ed Reed baited him in. I got the outside leverage on him and we handled our business. That's what we do."

NO VOTES FOR HARBAUGH: As former Ravens assistant and current Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith was named NFL Coach of the Year in edging Dolphins coach Tony Sparano, Harbaugh was ignored in the balloting.

He received no votes from a nationwide media panel despite engineering the Ravens' dramatic turnaround to an 11-5 squad one year after going 5-11 under former coach Brian Billick, who's reportedly being considered by the Jets.

Of course, Harbaugh is the lone rookie coach to win a playoff game this year.

"OK, that's how I feel about it," Harbaugh said. "We've got the best coaching staff in the league, how about that?"

TRAINING ROOM: Cornerback Samari Rolle left the game in the first half dehydrated, but returned after receiving an IV.

The Ravens reported no new injuries, but Reed seemed to be favoring his leg during the game.

NEW RAVEN ARRIVES: Backup middle linebacker Nick Greisen and his wife, Carolyn, celebrated the birth of their first child, a seven-pound, eight-ounce girl named Claire McGuire on Saturday.

Greisen traveled with the team to Miami on Saturday, learning when he arrived that his wife had gone into labor. He immediately flew back to Baltimore to be there for the birth and returned by the team breakfast at 9 a.m. Sunday before the game, according to a team spokesman.

"Unbelievable weekend, very chaotic, but it was all worth it," Greisen said. "Going into a game with only four hours of sleep was tough, but I was running on adrenaline by having a new girl back home. To be able to be there was extraordinary."

QUICK HITS: Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron won for the second time this year in Miami, one more victory than he had before being fired as the Dolphins' coach last year after a 1-15 season. "I think all that stuff's in the past, a playoff win in the National Football League is always special," Cameron said. "Anyone putting something personal ahead of that wouldn't be helpful to the team." ... Reed formed his hands in the shape of a 'U' to honor his alma mater, Miami, after his score. "That was for Miami, I have a couple of fans up there so I was just throwing it up," he said. "Plus, this is a blessing because this is where it all started." ... Middle linebacker Ray Lewis said he had to get as many tickets as his No. 52 jersey to accommodate family and friends. ... Harbaugh saluted the fans that made the long trek to South Florida. "We just wanted to let them know we knew how hard it was to get down here," he said. "I bet some fans just have to get right back in their cars and drive back to Maryland. We're so proud of the fact that they were here. They were loud. We could hear them and it made a difference." ... Pennington acknowledged that Reed had effectively baited him for his two interceptions. "He totally leaves his spot and shows up in a place you would never imagine him being in," Pennington said. "That's why he's special." ... The Ravens deactivated wide receiver Terrance Copper, cornerback Evan Oglesby, running back Jalen Parmale, linebacker Antwan Barnes (chest), linebacker Robert McCune, offensive tackles Oniel Cousins and David Hale and third quarterback Todd Bouman. Running back Ray Rice (shin contusion) was active, but didn't play. … The Dolphins deactivated wide receiver Ernest Wilford, linebacker William Kershaw, offensive guard Shawn Murphy, defensive end Lionel Dotson, linebacker Quentin Moses, offensive tackle Nate Garner, defensive end Randy Starks and third quarterback John Beck. ... The Ravens' game captains were middle linebacker Ray Lewis, special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo, Reed, offensive tackle Willie Anderson and kicker Matt Stover.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.


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