If Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is going to bounce back from a game in which he recorded his worst passer rating of the season, history suggests that Baltimore's upcoming opponent is a good way to get back on track.
Flacco had a rating of 48.3 in last week's 17-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, who also accounted for his second-lowest with a 70.1 mark in Week 5.
But next Monday night, Flacco will face the Cleveland Browns, against whom the second-year signal-caller compmleted 25 of 35 passes for 342 yards, one touchdowns and a season-high 111.8 passer rating.
While the first meeting between Cleveland and Baltimore ended in a convincing 34-3 Ravens victory, head coach John Harbaugh believes Flacco must rebound in order for his 4-4 team to rise above .500.
"It wasn't good enough to win," Harbaugh said regarding Flacco's performance. "That's probably the same evaluation that I'd have of myself and everybody else on the team. That's probably the same one that Joe would give you. He's going to have to play better. [He] would have had to play better for us to win that game."
If there is anybody on the Ravens that can bounce back, it would be Flacco.
As one of the hardest working players in purple and black, Flacco spends countless hours at the Ravens' training facility in Owings Mills, Md., studying film and spending time with his coaches.
A Bengals defense that has been playing well all year simply found a formula for stopping Baltimore's previously prolific offense on both occasions.
"They didn't do anything different than they've been doing," noted Harbaugh. "They're playing their base defense. They're playing their base coverages. They're playing their base pressures – all things that we've seen. I think they played them better than we played them. We didn't see anything we didn't expect to see."
"I don't think they're more problematic," Flacco said of the NFL's 14th-ranked unit. "They've played well all year. They play good team defense. They stay around the ball to make plays and give themselves chances to make plays."
Two players that stayed around the ball more often than not were Cincinnati cornerbacks Jonathan Joseph and Leon Hall.
Both of the defensive backs intercepted Flacco, and both picks came on the only two times Flacco launched a deep ball.
Other than those two throws, the Ravens mainly relied on short passes to running back Ray Rice, who caught eight balls for 87 yards. In fact, the receivers were blanketed so tightly that only four completions to wideouts.
"We had a lot of singles [coverage] on the outside on comebacks and things like that, but give them credit," Flacco said. "For a lot of the game, they did a good job with the coverages. They were around the ball and right with our guys. As soon as the ball got there, they were ready to hit them."
In addition, the Bengals were able to apply constant pressure to Flacco, delivering four sacks and eight quarterback hits.
"There were times when guys had separation and were open and we didn't get it to them," explained Harbaugh. "There were times when there was no separation. There were times when Joe had some people in his face. There were times when he scrambled. It's always a little bit of everything.
"Really, what it comes down to is we're not doing the things we need to do consistently. If you do everything well – if you protect, if you run great routes, if Joe sees it the right way and gets the ball where he's supposed to go – then you'll convert against anybody, no matter what kind of defense they're playing."
Whatever the case, Flacco said he was fine in reading the coverages.
"I was seeing it well," he stated. "They just did a good job of playing."
Despite his two hiccups against Cincinnati – four of Flacco's seven interceptions on the year have gone to Bengals – the former 18th-overall selection is having a stellar year. He has produced three 300-yard passing days this season and become known as a clutch fourth-quarter playmaker.
Flacco is completing 67.5 percent of his passes in the final period of games in 2009, as he has racked up 803 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions for a rating of 118.9, which is behind only Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints for the league's highest mark.
In Cincinnati, Flacco was 10-of-14 for 119 yards in the fourth quarter as he got into a rhythm operating a no-huddle attack out of the shotgun.
"I don't think we had the urgency we needed to be successful, and we realized that we needed to get it going," Flacco said. "We came out in the second half with some urgency, but weren't able to get it done."
Last week was Flacco's first loss in Ohio. As he prepares to travel back there for a prime-time matchup on "Monday Night Football," Flacco is not expecting a second loss in the Buckeye State quite yet.
"It's not going to be tough," Flacco said when asked about turning it around. "We just have to go back to work and get ready to be 5-4 after Cleveland."