Game Preview: A Bigger Test For Flacco

ef61bf2164c44f23ac8e70b7652833e4.jpg


Joe Flacco took a major step towards the top tier of NFL quarterbacks by taking control in the Ravens' 30-7 win over the Kansas City Chiefs last week.

And if he can play a similarly-standout game Saturday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Flacco could find himself among that group.

In order for the third-year signal caller to reach elite status, he doesn't just have to defeat the Steelers. Flacco will have to outshine Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

"This game will really make up people's minds outside of this building," said Ravens wideout Derrick Mason. "In here, we know what Joe can do. He's going to be one of the best quarterbacks in this league as he continues to develop. But, I think Saturday will shape people's view of Joe.

"If he wins this game, I think he takes the next step into becoming not only one of the best young quarterbacks in this league, but one of the elite quarterbacks, period."

Flacco opened a lot of eyes on a national scale by completing 25 of 34 passes for 265 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in Kansas City, notching his fourth playoff win in six appearances.

Still, he has yet to take over a postseason game when one of the best at his position is standing on the opposite sideline.

Last year, the Ravens defeated Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the wild-card round, but Flacco was dealing with a painful hip bruise and only attempted 10 throws.

The Ravens made it to the AFC Championship in 2008, but Baltimore was a run-heavy team and a rookie Flacco completed only 44.0 percent of his passes and threw three picks over three playoff contests.

With a hot and confident start against the Chiefs, Flacco's teammates believe he will continue the upward trend when the lights are even brighter in Pittsburgh.

"It wasn't anything that I haven't seen or thought that he was capable of," said tight end Todd Heap. "I think he does some spectacular things some times, and I don't think of them as spectacular, because I see it all the time in practice and in games.

"We're getting used to that type of play, and I think it's going to show up this weekend."

Flacco offered glimpses of greatness all season. He set career highs with 3,622 yards, 25 touchdowns and a 115.4 passer rating.

The University of Delaware product has been anything but a game manager, leading two game-winning drives – including a defining four-play, 40-yard march with less than one minute remaining against the Steelers in Week 4.

Surely, it be* *won't just Flacco versus Roethlisberger at Heinz Field. There are 52 other men on both rosters who will contribute in some fashion.

But Roethlisberger has won the last six times he's faced the Ravens. This time, "Joe Cool" is in the best position to make sure "Big Ben's" streak stays at six.

"Playoff games are huge for anyone's career," Heap opined. "That's where you make your name, so obviously it's big for him. But from what I've seen in Joe, he doesn't let that bother him. He's going to have confidence in himself no matter what, just because that's the guy that he is."

Three Things For a Ravens Win

  • Protect Flacco

The Steelers' second-ranked defense starts with their pass rush. Keyed by menacing outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, Pittsburgh brings a lot of heat off the edges. That duo did not record a sack against the Ravens in two meetings* *this year, but the stakes are higher in the playoffs. It's going to be a big day for tackles Michael Oher and Marshal Yanda, and the Ravens may want to keep a running back or tight end in to help with blocking.

  • Contain Roethlisberger

At 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, Roethlisberger is one of the toughest quarterbacks to bring down in the NFL. He simply sheds tackles as he buys time scrambling behind the line of scrimmage. The Ravens must contain him within the pocket and take him down when they reach No. 7.

  • Win The Kicking Game

Billy Cundiff led the NFL with 40 touchbacks, and Sam Koch has been masterful in dropping punts inside the 20-yard line. With conditions that are expected to be snowy and windy – not to mention a newly resodded field – the position game is going to be critical. What's more, Ravens/Steelers matchups typically are decided by a slim margin, so field goals are really going to count.

Ravens

Steelers

Category

Stats

Rank

Stats

Rank

Total Offense

322.9

22

345.3

14

Rush Offense

114.4

14

120.3

11

Pass Offense

208.4

20

225.1

14

Points/Game

22.3

16

23.4

12

Total Defense

318.9

10

276.8

2

Rush Defense

93.9

5

62.8

1

Pass Defense

224.9

21

214.1

12

Points/Game

16.9

3

14.5

1

Ravens                          Category                           Steelers

12-4. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2010 Record . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12-4

Won 4. . . . . . . . . . . . Current Streak . . . . . . . . . . . .Won 2

  1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Points Scored . . . . . . . . . . . . .375
  1. . . . . . . . . . . . Touchdowns Scored . . . . . . . . . . .41
  1. . . . . . . . Rushing Touchdowns Scored . . . . . . . .15
  1. . . . . . . . Passing Touchdowns Scored . . . . . . . .22
  1. . . . . . . . . . Touchdowns on Returns . . . . . . . . . .4

270 . . . . . . . . . . . . Points Against . . . . . . . . . . . . .232

  1. . . . . . . . . . . Touchdowns Allowed . . . . . . . . . . .22
  1. . . . . . . . Rushing Touchdowns Allowed . . . . . . . .5
  1. . . . . . . . Passing Touchdowns Allowed . . . . . . . .15
  1. . . . . . . . . . . TDs Allowed by Return . . . . . . . . . . .2

30:42. . . . . . . . . . . Time of Posession Avg.. . . . . . . . . . .31:53

+7. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Turnover Ratio . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .+17

49.0%. . . . . . . . . Red Zone TD Pct. For . . . . . . . . .48.0%

42.5%. . . . . . . . Red Zone TD Pct. Against . . . . . . .40.0%

24.7. . . . . . . . . . . . . KOR Avg. For . . . . . . . . . . . . .23.5

26.0. . . . . . . . . . . . KOR Avg. Against . . . . . . . . . . .20.0

7.4. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . PR Avg. For . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6.1

8.1. . . . . . . . . . . . . PR Avg. Against . . . . . . . . . . . .9.2

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content

Advertising