The first half in San Diego wasn’t
But there’s an aspect that makes the fifth-year veteran difficult to pin down.
Flacco’s a rhythm quarterback – meaning he hits cold spells but can also heat up in a hurry.
It was on display in San Diego. After completing just eight of 16 passes for 59 yards in the first half, Flacco connected on nine of ten passes during one second half stretch. Then he connected on six of seven attempts in overtime to push the Ravens to a 13-10 comeback victory.
Flacco caught fire.
“When Joe can get a little rhythm and get started …,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said, trailing off during his postgame press conference.
“I’m sure people game plan against him to keep him from getting started. Once he gets started, he’s difficult to deal with.”
Flacco has had distinct hot stretches this season.
Against Cincinnati in the season-opener, he hit 11 of 13 passes in the first half as Baltimore put up 17 points. Against the New England Patriots, he hit six straight to bring the Ravens back from an early hole.
Flacco didn’t get in any stretches in high-scoring games against Dallas (31 points) or Oakland (55 points), but had his two of his best days in terms of completion percentage at (65.4 and 63.6, respectively).
So what gets Flacco going?
“It’s what gets everybody going. You come out and get completions and move the chains from the very beginning,” he matter-of-factly said.
It may sound simple, but Flacco said he and the offense get on a roll when players are catching the ball, they’re getting a feel for the game on the offensive line and when they can get the defense on its heels a little bit, generally by picking up the pace.
“Everybody gets into a rhythm on offense and everybody can feel that and we all just surge forward,” Flacco said. “It doesn’t feel like it is; everything is more open. It’s really the way it should be all the time. There is no reason it shouldn’t be like that all the time.”
Unfortunately for Flacco and the Ravens, the switch isn’t always on. There have been a number of cold spells too.
In Philadelphia, Flacco was incomplete on eight of nine straight passes in the second half. In Houston, he missed on nine of 10 passes in the first half. In Cleveland, seven of eight consecutive passes hit the turf between the second and third quarters.
Flacco said the Ravens “definitely need to become a little more consistent.” But he said that applies to the entire offense, not just himself.
There’s a lot that goes into completions and incompletions – from separation by receivers, to drops, pressure on the quarterback and just good defense.
“It’s not necessarily myself,” Flacco said. “When our offense gets into a rhythm, we’re tough to stop. We’re going out there, calling things quickly, running things quickly. Everybody has confidence. When you go out there and you’re playing slow, you’re not getting first downs, it just doesn’t feel right to the offense. It’s just not the same.”
Flacco said he didn’t exactly have a specific answer for why the Ravens can be so hot and cold. He and coaches look at specific reasons on film after each game.
“You guys can see. You guys know just as well as I do,” Flacco said. “It’s frustrating out there a little bit when we’re not playing the way we would like to.
“It shouldn’t be difficult to get over. I don’t really understand why it is like that for us. It should be very easy for us to get into a rhythm.”
Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron boiled it down to two factors: false starts and third downs.
The Ravens are tied for the eighth most false start or offsides penalties in the NFL with 15 this season. After a rough game on third down in Pittsburgh (3-for-14), Baltimore improved in San Diego (12-for-24).
“You can go out there and do some good things, but the minute you don’t convert on third down, you are on the sideline,” Cameron said.
“When you’re really going good, you’re converting on all three downs and that’s where we all want to be. I’m not dodging that one bit. That’s what good offenses do. You convert on all three downs and then everybody is happy.”
Despite Flacco and the offense’s inconsistency as a whole, it’s still ninth in the league in points scored per game (25.7), and the Ravens have a 9-2 record overall.
“If we stub our toe, let’s just make sure we keep winning,” Cameron said. “It’s about ball security and scoring points. … If we’re not doing those two things, then I think we have real issues on offense. We’re doing two things that we can win with so far. All of these other things will make it a little bit easier.”