OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The most telling image of Baltimore's 34-17 home loss to Denver on Dec. 16 was its quarterback, Joe Flacco, lying near the goal line after his futile pursuit of cornerback Chris Harris.
Down 10-0, Baltimore was poised to score late in the first half. Instead, Harris intercepted a hurried Flacco pass and took it 96 yards into the end zone.
"Stuff like that happens sometimes," Flacco said of the interception. "But you've got to go out there and keep your head up and play the game. I think I did a great job of rebounding from that, and I think our whole team did. That's why we are where we are right now."
Three weeks later, the Ravens reached the division round of the playoffs by defeating the Colts 24-9. That set up Saturday's rematch at Denver.
"They beat us up pretty good," Flacco said. "But I think you always have that little chip that you want to go out there and prove to people that you're a good football team."
This season, Flacco set career highs in completions (317), passing yards (3,817) and 300-yard games (five). That is partly why he found it easy to quickly forget about Harris' interception.
"It stuck with me a couple minutes, and then I moved on," he said. "And then when we lost, it stuck with me for a couple minutes again. Then we started getting ready for the next game."
Flacco rebounded to throw for 309 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-14 rout of the Giants. He played briefly in the meaningless finale then threw for 282 yards and two scores against the Colts on Sunday. Flacco was sacked only once against Indianapolis, two fewer than against Denver.
"Whenever you have great edge pass rushers, you need to move the pocket," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Joe can run. He's faster than people think."
Perhaps the biggest obstacle for Baltimore is playing on the road. It went 4-4 on the road, and Flacco threw only seven of his 24 touchdowns on the road.
"You just have to be ready to go into a hostile environment and play your best football," Flacco said. "It's not going to be up and down with the crowd. They're going to be in it 100 percent for the whole game.
"The bottom line is we have to go in there and just make sure that we have a good, sound week of practice and we work on all the things that could possibly go wrong — just because of all the noise and things like that — and make sure we have an answer for it."