From Comcast SportsNetFOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- No doubt about it.When you beat the best -- and Joe Flacco did that in consecutive games -- the skeptics should be silenced."I'm so glad we're going to the Super Bowl right now," Baltimore wide receiver Torrey Smith said, "so people can get off Joe's back."Flacco threw three touchdown passes in the second half, helping the Ravens reach the Super Bowl for the first time in 12 years with a 28-13 win over the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game Sunday.He beat two-time NFL MVP Tom Brady one week after outplaying Peyton Manning, who has won the award four times, in a 38-35 double-overtime win over the Denver Broncos. And that followed a 24-9 victory over budding star quarterback Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts in the wild-card round."We've always believed in Joe," coach John Harbaugh said, "and for Joe to come out and to have this kind of a game and this kind of a stage three weeks in a row -- Luck's a pretty good quarterback, Manning's a pretty good quarterback and Brady's a great quarterback."All those guys are great players, but Joe's a great quarterback. And Joe has proven that. He's not just proven it this year, he's proven it for five years."No NFL quarterback -- not Brady, not Manning -- has more than Flacco's 62 victories, including the postseason, since the start of the 2008 season. No NFL quarterback has more than his six postseason wins on the road. And no other quarterback has a postseason victory in each of his first five seasons during the Super Bowl era."He's a great quarterback," said wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who caught two touchdown passes. "I don't know why people keep doubting him because the bigger the situation is, the bigger he plays, and he's proven that time and time again. So maybe they'll get off his back now."Finally, he will be the most accomplished quarterback in one of his playoff games when he faces the 49ers, who are favored by 4 points, in New Orleans on Feb. 3.San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick may have made a splash with his running and passing skills, but he's started just nine games in his two pro seasons.Flacco has started every Ravens game -- 80 in the regular season, 12 in the postseason -- since they took him with the 18th pick of the 2008 draft out of Delaware.As a rookie, he played poorly in a 23-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC championship game. He got back to that game last season, but the Ravens lost 23-20 to the Patriots.But on the same field Sunday, Flacco completed 21 of 36 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Brady went 29 for 54 for 320 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions."These games are tough to win and we've put ourselves in the position to win these games and, eventually, you're going to push through and play the way you need to," he said.A week earlier in a 38-35 double-overtime win over the Broncos, he went 18 for 34 for 331 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. That beat Manning's 28 for 43 for 290 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.Flacco's passer ratings in this year's postseason games highlight his superiority -- 125.6 to Luck's 59.8, 116.2 to Manning's 88.3 and 106.3 to Brady's 62.3."I've always been a Joe Flacco fan," Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said.The Patriots led 13-7 at halftime but in a span of 10 minutes and one second Flacco threw touchdown passes of 5 yards to Dennis Pitta, and 3 and 11 yards to Boldin."They do a good job stopping the run and we knew we had to come out here in the second half and make some plays in the passing game," Flacco said.He sure did.After completing just 6 of 12 passes for 81 yards with no touchdowns before the break, he went 15 for 24 for 159 yards in the second half. He was 14 for 18 on the three touchdown drives and even scrambled once for 14 yards and a first down.In three playoff games this season he's thrown eight touchdown passes and not a single interception."He's been great all year, especially in these playoffs," Pitta said. "He deserves this more than anyone."Safety Ed Reed saw great potential in Flacco from the quarterback's rookie season."From the first snap (when) he went against our defense, I knew he was a smart guy," Reed said. "We blitzed him and he threw it straight to the sideline out of bounds because he knew we were coming. He's always been a leader (with) more than potential to lead us to where we're going right now."That should have been clear when Flacco guided the Baltimore offense to three AFC championship games in his five seasons.His opponents see it now that he's helped take the Ravens to the Super Bowl for the first time in his career."He is one of the elite quarterbacks," Patriots safety Steve Gregory said. "I know he gets a lot of flak for possibly not being that type of guy, but he is."And now Flacco can look to pad his resume with his first Super Bowl championship."It's about who can get ready and who can become their best at the right time and hit the ground running," he said. "And that's what we're doing."
0:41 - Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their thoughts on Kyrie Irving’s struggles, not having Gordon Hayward, and the Celtics losing for the 2nd time in as many nights.
6:31 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins BST to discuss the message delivered by Hayward to the fans before the game, what was going on with Kyrie’s shot, and why they failed in stopping The Greek Freak.
10:33 - Albert Breer joins BST to preview the Falcons/Patriots Sunday night game and if Atlanta is in the middle of a Super Bowl hangover.
15:40 - In a new game called On The Clock, each person gets 40 seconds to rant on their selected subject including if Red Sox fans can root for the Yankees if the playoffs and how painful the Bruins season will be.
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BOSTON – When Kyrie Irving asked Cleveland to trade him this summer, he did so in part to be more of a navigator when it comes to charting out the rest of his basketball career.
But he knows for him to achieve the kind of individual and team success that he wants, he can’t do it alone.
And that maybe more than anything else, is why Irving has struggled in these first two games as far as shooting the ball.
In Boston’s first two games – both losses – Irving has averaged 19.5 points, 4.0 assists and 6.5 rebounds. Those are decent numbers but pale in comparison to what the 25-year-old has been able to do most of his NBA career.
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And while the team is committed to moving on and focus on winning the next game, there’s no getting around the emotional tug they all feel towards Hayward.
“You can throw as many emotions in there as you want, man,” Irving said. “We know how much G (Gordon Hayward) meant to this team and means to this team. Without him on the floor creating those opportunities we were going over in practice, and we saw in preseason and in the first game, that’s a big void to fill. When you think of it in that aspect, of course you want to be frustrated and disappointed. I’m pretty sure that’s not what G wants. So, for us, you just have to continue to exude confidence in the young guys and be ready to step up to the plate. It’s going to be even higher expectations on our guys in this locker room now to try and fill that hole that G (Hayward) left for us. As one of the leaders on this team, it’s my job to pick us up, as well as with Brad and the team with all the guys. We have to look each other in the eyes and know what to expect every single night.”
That’s a lot easier said than done, especially when you consider how quickly things changed for the Celtics at least in the short term with Hayward’s energy.
“I just … as you can see its’ not an ideal situation,” Irving said. “So, as cliché as it is, everybody is probably going to say that’s life. But it is, man. [expletive] happens. Excuse my language. But it does, man. The individual that we have in Gordon, he’s very special. He’s going to fight like hell to get back on the floor. I know he’s already … there’s a fire burning inside of him. You see the amount of support he got. That should tell you the type of person he is. Not only to the Boston Celtics but to the rest of the league. We want him to get back healthy but we all understand that his health comes first. He’s going to do everything possible to get back on the floor and it’s our job to lift him up.”
Irving was asked whether the team would need to go back to Square One due to Hayward’s injury which will keep him out indefinite at this point.
“No. We don’t have time for square one,” Irving said. “I can tell you that right now. We don’t have time to go back to square one. It’s time to just figure it out, moment to moment, and we’ll be alright. I’ve had the unique opportunity to be in some situations that test your character and this is one of those times.”