Brown: Offensive efficiency pushes Ravens to win
That was no high school offense.
The Ravens kept the wildcat offense on the shelf on Thursday night, handing the keys to the offense exclusively to quarterback Joe Flacco, which is exactly how he wants it.
And Flacco delivered perhaps his most complete game of the year in leading the Ravens to a 22-20 win over Pittsburgh that evens the Ravens record at 6-6 and keeps them right in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Earlier this week, Flacco openly expressed his disdain for the Ravens so-called wildcat look they unveiled against the Jets on about a half-dozen snaps, with backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor lining up at quarterback and Flacco splitting out wide as a receiver.
Flacco likened it to a "high school offense" and said he hoped the Ravens wouldn't use it any more.
"I’m the quarterback," Flacco said. "I want to be behind the line of scrimmage, and I want to be taking the snaps."
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They didn't hand him the $120 million contract to go stand off to the side and pretend he's a split end.
Against the Steelers, Flacco wasted no time asserting himself, throwing bombs on two of the Ravens' first five plays from scrimmage. He underthrow Jacoby Jones on the first one, but hit Torrey Smith for a 54-yard gain on the second, setting up the Ravens lone touchdown, a 7-yard throw from Flacco to Smith.
Flacco finished 24-for-35 for 251 yards with no interceptions. He converted seven of 11 third-down throws, often sidestepping pressure and using good footwork to make strong throws downfield.
The Ravens still struggled to find the end zone, settling for five field goals from Justin Tucker, but Flacco by and large played an error-free game.
"I thought our quarterback made some incredible plays," coach John Harbaugh said.
"Joe of late has really been moving around and making some incredible plays outside the pocket."
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Flacco's protests aside, Harbaugh did say after the game that the Ravens had the Wildcat look in the gameplan, but that "it wasn't in our best interest to put it out there."
If Flacco's comments about the wildcat served to put any added pressure on him, he didn't show it.
Flacco's career has been pockmarked with inconsistency, but he has consistently performed well on the biggest stage. And Thanksgiving night, in front of a national television audience with the Ravens season hanging in the balance, he delivered once again.