As Flacco goes, so go the Ravens

As Flacco goes, so go the Ravens
September 29, 2013, 8:15 pm
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Flacco: 'We let them create too many turnovers'

ORCHARD PARK, N. Y. – Five interceptions.

Joe Flacco will get plenty of flak this week, and he deserves it. Maybe if he threw just one less pick Sunday, the Ravens would be 3-1, not 2-2.

However, here is the worrisome part for the Ravens. Flacco has never been asked to carry this much of a load offensively.

The Ravens’ running game looks terrible. Torrey Smith has been terrific at wide receiver, but after that, Marlon Brown is the only other receiver with a touchdown reception through four games.

It looks like Flacco may have to play lights out for the Ravens to win consistently, especially on the road, where they are already 0-2. In both road games, Flacco has thrown at least 50 passes. That has never been his game. That has never been the Ravens’ game, but it might be this season.

Throwing so often, to receivers that Flacco is trying to build chemistry with, has led to mistakes and inconsistency. Interceptions. Dropped passed. Forced throws, along with miscommunication between Flacco and receivers.

Watch the Broncos play offense and you see precision. Watch the Ravens’ offense and you see dysfunction.

Flacco can’t do anything about the running game, except hope it gets better. If the running game improves, it will make his life much easier.

If it doesn’t, Flacco’s going to face more of what he faced Sunday against the Bills. Teams ignoring Flacco’s play action fakes. Throwing into tight windows. Throwing in obvious passing situations. Throwing against a heavy pass rush. Throwing it 50 times a game, or more.

Expecting Flacco to play as well as he did during the Super Bowl run over a 16-game season is unrealistic. But asking Flacco to have his best regular season ever is what the Ravens need and should expect, after signing him to his six-year, $120 million deal during the offseason.

Having his best season is a challenge Flacco regular accepts, and you can believe he will spend ample time dissecting Sunday’s game tape, critique himself harder than the coaching staff will. Flacco already started that process after the game Sunday, recounting what happened on every interception.

“The first one the other corner fell off, I didn’t see him at all,’’ Flacco said. “The second one was off Ed’s (Dickson’s) hands. The third one I had one-on-one with Torrey the back of the end zone, I was getting hit, didn’t make a good enough throw.

“The fourth one I didn’t see that guy (Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso) at all, I thought Marlon was going to go underneath, and I didn’t see that guy at all.

“That last one, I was just trying to make a play. I had Dallas (Clark) across the safety’s face, he (Alonso) made a nice play.”

The last throw is the one that Flacco wants back the most. Somehow, the Ravens were still in the game, down by just three points. They got the ball back with 2:20 left to play, at their own 37, plenty of time for Flacco to lead a game-tying or game-winning drive.

This is where the big-time quarterbacks make their money. But Flacco made another turnover, trying to hit Clark who was tightly covered, and the end result was a tipped pass, and Alonso’s final interception.

Forget Flacco’s stats and quarterback rating, which have never been his most impressive attributes. What Flacco has done impressively since entering the NFL is win. His teams have never missed the playoffs in five seasons. He has always won at least one playoff game in every season.

That’s a track record for any quarterback to envy, and a streak that Flacco wants to continue. With 12 games left, it’s too early to say whether the Ravens will get back to the postseason or not. But one thing is clear. The Ravens’ fate has never looked more tied to Flacco, for better, or for worse.