Joe Flacco has been a regular target of the media and fans this season, a reality the Ravens quarterback has been quick to point out.
But the pitchforks weren't out Monday, one day after Flacco outplayed Tom Brady during a painful 23-20 loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
Had Lee Evans been able to secure Flacco's beautifully thrown pass late in the fourth quarter, the Ravens would be off to Super Bowl XLVI, with the quarterback being hailed as a hero. It didn't work out that way, but Flacco raised his stock in defeat nonetheless.
This is important because Flacco is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2012 season. He was asked Monday if he'd like to a new deal with the Ravens this offseason.
"Definitely," he said, according to the Ravens' official website. "We'll see how it goes. If it goes, it goes. If it doesn't, it doesn't."
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Flacco's numbers dipped a bit from his career-best 2010 season, but he still finished with 20 touchdown passes against 12 interceptions for a Ravens team that remains a run-first operation. He has been remarkably consistent, throwing for just over 3,600 yards in each of his last three seasons.
"I've said it all along: I think I'm the quarterback that I am," he said. "I think the first four years that I've played here, we've gone to the playoffs every time (and) won a game. I think the last two years that I've played in the playoffs, I've played well in the playoffs."
Flacco remained vocal but good-natured during a trying season, but his pleasant demeanor could be seriously tested if the Ravens don't extend his contract. Being the first quarterback to make the playoffs in each of his first four seasons, Flacco would have the right to seethe if Baltimore turned his fifth season as the starter into a 16-game audition.