Joe Flacco was nearly perfect last week in the season opener. He had a tougher outing Thursday night on the road against his nemesis, the Cincinnati Bengals.
Flacco was picked off twice and fumbled once in the 34-23 loss to the division rival, and Baltimore's red-hot offense from a week ago struggled to get out of the gates at Paul Brown Stadium.
"It was tough sledding early on and it just wasn't very precise," Flacco said after the game. "We turned the ball over, got their momentum going. You do that in somebody else's territory on a Thursday night, you better be ready to bounce back real quick and we just didn't do it quick enough."
The miscues started early for Flacco and the offense, as he was picked off by safety Jessie Bates deep in Baltimore's territory on the offense's second series of the game. Flacco's pass intended for wide receiver Michael Crabtree sailed beyond his reach and landed right in the defender's hands.
Just five plays later, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton found wide receiver A.J. Green for their first score of the game.
"The first one is on me," Flacco said. "The safety was kind of up high; we were kind of looking to take a shot there to [wide receiver John Brown] over top of him. But he played it so high and brought my eyes to [Crabtree] and [Bengals cornerback William Jackson] has a lot of speed, so I was trying to make a safe throw to him, and in the meantime the safety just drove it, and cut it and picked me off. That's not a very good play on my part."
The Bengals capitalized on Baltimore's slow start and built a 21-0 lead before the Ravens had picked up a second first-down. From that point on, the Ravens had to play catch-up, which meant leaning on the passing game to try to erase the early deficit.
Flacco's final numbers weren't bad; he went 32-of-55 for 376 yards with a pair of touchdowns and the two interceptions. He topped 300 passing yards for the first time since Dec. 12, 2016, but yardage numbers were bit skewed by his highest volume of pass attempts in more than four years.
Baltimore's offense started to find its groove in the second quarter, and Flacco connected with tight end Mark Andrews for a touchdown just before the end of the half. He had a shot at a big play to John Brown on a deep pass, but defensive end Carlos Dunlap hit Flacco's arm as he was throwing and the pass sailed into the hands of a Bengals defender.
"Without [the pass rushers] doing those things, that play might be a touchdown," Flacco said. "You just have to give them credit."
The pass rush was a problem for the Ravens, as Flacco spent much of the night under duress. He constantly had to escape pressure by sidestepping defenders or running outside the pocket, and he was also sacked four times.
The costliest sack was a strip-sack in the fourth quarter with the Ravens trailing by eight points. The turnover ended Baltimore's hopes of a comeback.
"Look at the guys they have up front – they're really good guys. Geno Atkins, you could argue, is the best in the league as his position," Flacco said. "[Carlos Dunlap] is a monster out there. He deflects balls. He gets after the quarterback when he can pin his ears back."
Cincinnati has been Flacco's Achilles heel throughout his career. He came into the game with a 72.3 overall quarterback rating against the Bengals, compared to his overall quarterback rating of 84.3.
The Bengals once again found a way to get to Flacco and force critical turnovers, which has been their calling card against the Ravens.
"They play great defense," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "They have talented guys. They have pass rushers. They're a team that turns people over."
Flacco stressed after the game that he's still confident in the offense. The group put up 47 points in the opener against Buffalo, and the unit has exuded confidence throughout the summer. Thursday's outing is certainly a disappointment, but Flacco's optimism isn't wavering as the Ravens drop to 1-1.
"You have to give these guys credit for what they do and what they do well," he said.
Check out all the action from the Thursday Night Football Week 2 game.