When Joe Flacco wants to vent, he calls his dad.
After throwing two more interceptions in Chicago – upping his season total to a career-high 13 picks – Flacco dialed him up on his drive home from the Under Armour Performance Center.
"It's annoying," Flacco said.
"I'm a guy that does not like to throw interceptions. Believe me, I don't like the fact that when you look at what we've done, that I've thrown, what is it, 13 interceptions? Yeah, c'mon, I don't like that. That's tough."
Flacco's previous career high was 12, which he threw in his in 2008 (rookie season), 2009 and 2011. Last year, he tossed just 10 picks in the regular season and tied his idol Joe Montana's record with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in the playoffs.
But reporters noticed Flacco throwing more interceptions during training camp this year, and he tossed four in three preseason games. The timing coincided with the loss of tight end Dennis Pitta, one of his most trusted targets.
The trend transferred to the regular season. Flacco opened the year with two interceptions in Denver, then five in Buffalo that contributed to an upset loss on the road.
After that, Flacco looked to stabilize. He tossed just one interception in his next three games. But the picks have come back recently. He has five over the past three contests.
Flacco threw one interception in Cleveland on an ill-advised heave into double coverage. The pass awkwardly came out of his hands and was affected by the wind. Then came two picks in Cincinnati.
On the first, Flacco was trying to step up and make a play under pressure and had his arm hit. On the other, the Bengals had creative coverage, mixing their assignments after the snap. Flacco initially had tight end Ed Dickson on a linebacker (a mismatch in the Ravens' favor), but a cornerback dropped off his coverage and came over the top.
In Chicago, Flacco's first interception was thrown right into the hands of defensive end David Bass. Running back Ray Rice didn't cut Bass' legs and Flacco didn't get the pass high enough over his hands. The Ravens had a 10-0 lead at the time, and Bass' touchdown put them back in the game.
Then, facing third-and-16, Flacco tried a similar pass to the one that got picked the previous week. Again, he had a linebacker on a tight end (this time Dallas Clark). With a safety coming over the top, Flacco tried a difficult pass into tight coverage and the rookie linebacker Jon Bostic made a nice leaping grab. The Bears used it to tack on three points before halftime to trail just 17-13.
Flacco admitted he took a shot in a situation that he probably wasn't necessary, but didn't attribute his high interceptions mark to being impatient.
"Yeah, of course it [ate at me], especially because you've already thrown one that's gone back for a touchdown," Flacco said of the second interception. "No matter what it is, you don't like it.
"Believe me, I'd tell you if I didn't think I was being patient and if I thought I was throwing the ball to the wrong spot or not seeing guys and stuff like that. I've thrown more picks than I'd like to. I've thrown more picks than I should. But at the same time, I still feel like I'm playing patient football, I feel like I'm still taking some chances that I need to take. I've thrown more picks, I have to live with that. It's not something that I like though, no."
Overall, Flacco's stats have dropped this year. The 13 interceptions are the fifth-most in the league. His 58.5 completion percentage is 26th in the NFL among qualified passers. His accuracy percentage, according to Pro Football Focus, is last in the league (67.1).
"We all wish we could play better, and that starts with me," Flacco said. "Up to this point, no, I haven't and we haven't played the way we want to – or should."
The blame shouldn't entirely fall on Flacco. He has been consistently blitzed and under pressure for much of the year, and until last week, hasn't had much of a run game to help him.
Wide receiver Torrey Smith was asked who takes responsibility for the interceptions.
"We all do as an offense," he said. "Obviously, there are some things that are individual mistakes, but [with] interceptions there are a lot of things that happen – batted balls or receivers tipping it or anything. So, it's not all on Joe."
As he said on Monday, Head Coach John Harbaugh told reporters that individual player evaluations will be done behind closed doors, not in the press.
"But I'll tell you this about Joe Flacco," Harbaugh said. "Joe's a great quarterback. Joe is our quarterback, he's my quarterback. Does anybody have any doubt about that at this point?
"Joe has played great football and Joe is going to continue to play great football and even [get] better. Look at the plays he's made, scrambling around and making throws and things like that. That's the answer to that one."