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Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Colin Kaepernick good under pressure

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Cheers and Jeers,Sports,NFL,Kevin Dunleavy

One of the go-to sayings of Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is "no pressure, no diamonds."

In three of the NFL playoff games this weekend, the quarterback who entered with the most pressure kept alive his hope for a diamond Super Bowl ring.

In Denver, the Ravens' Joe Flacco shed his reputation as a quarterback whose team wins despite him. In Atlanta, the Falcons' Matt Ryan directed the game-winning drive after three playoff losses. And in San Francisco, Colin Kaepernick justified his much-questioned midseason promotion.

All three were ready to be skewered if their teams lost, though it could be argued that the heat in San Francisco was more on coach Jim Harbaugh for his unusual decision to bench winning game-manager Alex Smith and remake the 49ers' offense with the more dynamic Kaepernick.

All the second-year player did Saturday was rush for 181 yards, the most by a quarterback in history, and throw for 263 yards, leading a new-age offense that rolled up a Big 12-like 579 yards. With Kaepernick outplaying reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers, the 49ers showed they can win a shootout. We already know they can win with defense.

Earlier Saturday, the much-maligned Flacco had the highlight of the postseason with his 70-yard touchdown heave to Jacoby Jones. It came as the Ravens appeared down and out, facing third-and-3 with 41 seconds left and trailing by seven.

Despite all the criticism Flacco has endured for his shortcomings -- his lack of fire, lack of touch and lack of feel in the pocket -- there may be no quarterback better equipped to deliver such a bomb. This summer, Ron Jaworski called Flacco's arm the best in the NFL. He proved it Saturday night by outplaying perhaps the best quarterback in NFL history.

While Flacco had a clean night with no interceptions, Peyton Manning threw two picks. One was returned for a touchdown, and the other set up the game-winning field goal in overtime.

On Sunday, Ryan finally had the touch in the playoffs, throwing three touchdown passes and directing a clutch drive that started with only 31 seconds left with his team down by a point. His two throws produced 41 yards, setting up Matt Bryant for the winning 49-yard field goal against Seattle.

- Kevin Dunleavy

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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