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Flacco balances fatherhood and quarterback duties during a 'pretty special day'

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco lived up to his nickname during one unforgettable game day.

At 5:30 in the morning last Sunday, Flacco got a phone call from his wife, Dana. She was going into labor, poised to deliver the couple's second child. Dana was in New Jersey and Flacco n Baltimore, less than eight hours from taking the field against the Cleveland Browns.

"You obviously don't know how you're going to react when you get that call," Flacco recalled Wednesday. "It's always a game-changer."

Even for a guy known as Joe Cool.

Dana gave birth to a boy around 11:30, 90 minutes before the start of the game.

"The fact that it happened before the kickoff was settling for my mind. I was able to relax a little bit," Flacco said. "I'm usually pretty reserved before the game, and I was walking around the locker room way more fidgety than I normally am. So it was definitely soothing to know she had the baby. It was a lot easier to deal with."

Following the national anthem, Flacco was all business. Baltimore was held scoreless in the first half, but Flacco directed two touchdown drives over the final 30 minutes to help the Ravens pull out a 14-6 victory.

In the huddle, Flacco was able to hide the emotions of only hours removed from welcoming a new child into the world.

"On the field you couldn't tell," center Gino Gradkowski said. "Definitely, in the locker room before the game you could tell he was excited. All smiles. We were all happy for him. But during the game, he was same old Joe."

The only real difference in his schedule was that Flacco skipped the postgame interviews so he could get on the road to join with his wife and newborn child.

"It was a pretty cool day, a pretty special day," Flacco said. "It definitely helps that we won, but it probably wouldn't have been that bad of a loss knowing that I was going to be able to go back to that. Still couldn't believe it, really. Just wanted to get back there, see if she was doing OK and he was doing all right. Everything was good."

Flacco was so calm under pressure that morning that he considered playing a joke on coach John Harbaugh, telling him he was going to leave before the game to be with his wife.

The quarterback decided against it.

"I'm so glad he didn't do it," said Harbaugh, who had plenty on his mind that day with the Ravens coming off a 49-27 loss at Denver.

Flacco and the Ravens struggled for a half, but after intermission Baltimore went 7 for 8 on third-down conversions in an important AFC North win. That certainly made the drive back to New Jersey easier to take.

"It definitely helps that we won," Flacco said, "but it probably wouldn't have been that bad of a loss knowing that I was going to be able to go back to that."

Everything fell into place perfectly.

"I wouldn't have it any other way. It was a really special day the way it worked out," Flacco said.

"Obviously all of us have landmark days in our lives, and for Joe, that was one of them," Harbaugh said. "I'm sure he'll remember it for the rest of his life. To be able to play the way he did, especially in the second half with the third-down conversions and that kind of thing to get us the win, and then to bring his wife and newborn son home from the hospital the next day is pretty neat."

Now that he's gotten that out of the way, Flacco is preparing for a matchup Sunday against the unbeaten Houston Texans, who beat Baltimore 43-13 last year.

In that game, Flacco was sacked four times and threw two interceptions.

"They got ahead early, they batted some passes," Flacco said. "They got a couple turnovers and were able to get after me a little bit. We just didn't have a good day. It's definitely frustrating when you don't have a good day."

The Texans (2-0) come into the rematch as a slight favorite on the road, which doesn't happen in Baltimore (1-1).

There was no update Wednesday on the status of Ravens running back Ray Rice, who strained his left hip flexor on Sunday. Rice did not practice Wednesday.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org