Baltimore Ravens fans have a question: which Joe will show?

Written by on October 26, 2011 in Ravens - No comments

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco rolled right, looked up and quickly noticed receiver Anquan Boldin was a step ahead of his defender. He launched a pass across the field for 54 yards, one that was perfectly placed so that only Boldin could catch it.

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Joe Flacco, shown here in preseason practice, was not Joe Cool Monday night. Photo by Jason Butt

This play was against Houston, a game Flacco and the Ravens won 29-14.

A week later, on Monday Night Football, Flacco, in need of a touchdown on Baltimore’s final drive, stared down tight end Ed Dickson before throwing a pass on second down. Jaguars cornerback Drew Coleman read Flacco’s eyes, stepped in the passing lane and came up with a game-clinching interception for Jacksonville. The Jaguars won in a defensive slugfest 12-7.

These are two plays among a significant body of work thus far that show how Flacco can be up one game and down the next. Through six games, Flacco has only completed 52.1 percent of his throws. However, he’s thrown for over 300 yards twice (against St. Louis and Houston.)

Against Pittsburgh in Week 1, Flacco threw for 224 yards and three touchdowns in a resounding 35-7 win. The following week against Tennessee, Flacco completed just 46.9 percent of his passes and threw two interceptions in a 26-13 loss.

While both of Baltimore’s losses have come on the road, Flacco also struggled mightily against the Jets at home — finishing 10-31 for 163 yards and an interception. The Ravens’ defense bailed out Flacco and the offense that game, scoring three defensive touchdowns.

While focusing on the bad after a loss can come easy to any fan or reporter, Flacco’s done plenty of good things this season. Against St. Louis, he threw for a career-best 389 yards and three touchdowns. He displayed excellent touch on the ball and poise in the pocket. The same goes for the Houston game. Flacco took plenty of hits from a Texans team that put pressure on him all day.

The good — Flacco’s arm strength, durability, pocket presence — is what ultimately focuses attention on the bad. Why is it that Flacco has been unable to display consistency on a week to week basis? This season, it’s been an every other week ordeal. In Weeks 1, 3 and 6, Flacco was spectacular. In Weeks 2, 4 and 7 much was left to be desired.

It must be noted Flacco hasn’t received top notch protection from his offensive line, which clearly misses injured left guard Ben Grubbs (toe). He’s also had to break in three rookie wide receivers (Torrey Smith, LaQuan Williams, Tandon Doss) due to an ankle injury to veteran free agent signee Lee Evans.

But at the end of the day, the NFL is a quarterback’s league. Flacco has to shoulder more of the blame now that he’s in his fourth season. That’s not to say he won’t be a great quarterback for the Ravens in the future. He’s led the franchise to three postseason wins in three seasons and has all the physical tools to succeed.

Now’s the time for Flacco to respond, and not to his critics. He needs to respond to his team, to show he’s the quintessential leader in the huddle. If the Ravens want to get past Pittsburgh and win the AFC North, they’ll need to get more out of their field general.

by Jason Butt

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