Baltimore fans are spoiled and rude sometimes when it comes to fairly analyzing a rough performance. I cringe a little when I hear folks on the radio blaming Joe Flacco's big contract as the reason the Ravens' offense stalled out in Buffalo.
I don't need to hear the nickname "Joe Sack-o" anymore, either.
Fans with real football knowledge understand what went wrong in Buffalo, and it had very little to do with Flacco as the cause.
The Ravens' offensive line is getting pushed around, shoved around and pummeled. Opponents have learned to run stunts and pressures right into the middle of the line.
Pass protection has been horrid lately. That goes for the running backs and tight ends, too.
Flacco has had to release the ball on many pass attempts way too quickly to worry much about accuracy. He's had to throw the ball before guys have even finished their route– and hope his receivers get to the right spot.
And without a running game right now (again largely due to the O-Line's current inability to get any push from scrimmage) Flacco is pitching without a foundation. Since he has no running game at the moment, he can't keep bull-rushing defenses off balance…and the word is out now that you can tee off on Joe and the Ravens with your pass rush.
Flacco threw a career-high five interceptions in Buffalo. His pick in the final two minutes essentially sealed the 23-20 loss. Afterwards, true to his character, Flacco put the loss on his own right shoulder.
“We’re definitely going to get better, and we have to get better,” Flacco said. “A lot of that falls on me today just throwing the ball to the wrong team.”
The Bills had a banged-up secondary missing their top four defensive backs. They were thrashed by New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith the week before. But the Ravens' offensive line broke down in protection way too often to give Flacco any prolonged series of free shots at the Bills' secondary.
Flacco saw a lot of pressure throughout the game as the pass protection had assignment problems and simply got beat at times. Flacco was sacked four times and hit eight more.
The Ravens run game was also not effective at any point, forcing the ball into Flacco’s hands. The sixth-year quarterback didn’t blame the passing game’s problems on the run game, however.
“We probably threw the ball for 200-something yards in the second half,” he said. “So it’s obviously not hard to get the passing game going. If I don’t throw picks, then the passing game probably would have thrown for 300-some and we would have scored a couple touchdowns and maybe won the game.”
The Ravens leaned on Flacco throughout the second half. “I believe we have a quarterback that can keep you in any game at any time,” Harbaugh said. “When you have five turnovers, that’s going to challenge you.”
Flacco explained what he saw on each interception:
The first came with five minutes, 37 seconds left in the first quarter. Bills cornerback Aaron Williams left his man and came underneath a pass intended for Tandon Doss. “The corner fell off. I didn’t see him at all,” Flacco said.
The second came midway through the second quarter. It bounced off tight end Ed Dickson’s hands and was picked by safety Jim Leonhard. Dickson’s problems with his hands continued.
Flacco’s third interception came with the Ravens in the red zone. He was facing pressure up the middle and tried to loft a touchdown pass. “I had a one-on-one with Torrey in the back of the end zone. I was getting hit, didn’t make a good enough throw,” Flacco said.
The fourth came with 5:01 left in the third quarter. The Ravens were just beyond midfield and trailing by six points. Linebacker Kiko Alonso didn’t follow Smith as he came across the field and Marlon Brown was crossing behind Smith. Flacco seemed to think Alonso would follow. “I didn’t see that guy at all,” he said. “I thought Marlon was going to come underneath and I didn’t see that guy at all.”
The final interception was the back-breaker. It came with 1:04 left and the Ravens in Bills territory. The Ravens needed just a field goal and were facing a third-and-8 when Flacco tried to go over the middle to tight end Dallas Clark. The pass was tipped by Da’Norris Searcy and Alonso made a diving interception. “We were just trying to make a play,” Flacco said. “I was just trying to have Dallas come across the safety’s face and stick one in there and keep the chains moving. They made a nice play, nice catch.”
Flacco now has seven interceptions in four games this year. His career-high is 12 interceptions in a season from 2011. Flacco hadn’t thrown any picks the past two games after tossing two in Denver to open the year.
Joe Flacco won't come out and throw his pass-pro guys under the bus. And he won't say one bad word about his current set of bad hands at tight end. But I will do it for him. The Ravens' O-Line played like a mess in Buffalo. Their new zone-blocking techniques are a disaster right now. Juan Castillo has to get his offensive line unit fixed and fixed fast, or Flacco will be having quite a few outings like he had in Buffalo.