Joe Flacco Rebounds With His Best Game of the Year


Ravens fans should know this by now.

Joe Flacco can turn it on at any time.

Coming off back-to-back duds, Flacco played a brilliant first half that gave the Ravens a 14-point halftime lead and orchestrated an efficient offense the rest of the way for a 30-17 victory in Oakland.

Flacco entered the game ranked 32nd among NFL quarterbacks in passing yards (601) and No. 31 in quarterback rating (65.0). He carried the league's longest streak of consecutive games with at least one interception thrown (10 games).

He hardly pays attention to it and doesn't care much, but Flacco was taking more hits in the media than he was on the football field.

But Sunday in the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Flacco showed why he's so valuable to Baltimore. He bounced back to show why he's the Ravens' franchise quarterback.

Flacco didn't end the day with dazzling numbers – he completed 19 of 26 passes for 222 yards and didn't throw a touchdown – but he snapped that picks streak and made huge plays when he needed to.

Baltimore's rushing attack, which churned out 143 yards on the ground and salted away the final eight minutes of the game, did all the scoring. But for an offense that has struggled to get its passing game on track, Flacco's rebound is crucial.

"I was happy for Joe because sometimes there's pressure in that position and he handles it so well, which we're always very proud of," Head Coach John Harbaugh said.

"Play the next game. That's the way it works. Joe's always going to do that and he's going to try to put the best game together he can each week."

Flacco didn't quite look himself in the first quarter of the season, which wasn't surprising considering he missed all of training camp and the entire preseason with a back injury.

On Wednesday, he said he'd been getting rid of the ball too fast and needed to trust his pass protection more. Flacco was hit the fifth-fewest times in the league entering the game.

Despite losing yet another offensive lineman – starting right guard Matt Skura (knee) – to injury during Sunday's game, Baltimore's patchwork line held up well once again against a dangerous Raiders pass rush. And this time, Flacco took advantage.

He seemed more comfortable than in previous weeks and stepped into his throws with more confidence.

His day couldn't have started any better than a 52-yard pitch and catch to wide receiver Mike Wallace on the first play from scrimmage. It was vintage Flacco, as he was protected well and effortlessly flicked the ball to Wallace in stride.

"It definitely feels good, but it felt better to get the ball in the end zone at the end of the drive," Flacco said, showing his usual modesty and team-first attitude.

Flacco added a 54-yard bomb to Wallace, which set up a field goal, and a 27-yard strike in a clutch third-and-8 situation in which he maneuvered well within the pocket.

But the play that may have been most impressive, and summed up Flacco's gritty effort, was a third-down conversion near the end of the first quarter.

Flacco's foot was stepped on by left guard James Hurst as he tried to roll away from pressure. Flacco stumbled to the turf, but picked himself back up and stepped out of a sack as a Raiders defender clung to his jersey. As two more Raiders pass rushers closed in to simultaneously crush Flacco, the quarterback kept his eyes down the field and floated a pass as he went down.

He got just enough power on it to reach wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who was waiting at the first-down marker.

"He made some incredible throws out there that shows why he can be one of the best when he's playing like that," safety Eric Weddle said. "That's what we need from him. He knows that, we all know that. When he plays like that and we get a lead, we're tough to beat.

"It doesn't surprise me at all. Joe is a competitor, he's a fighter. He takes all the criticism; when the offense struggles it's on him. As a team, we respect that and we believe in him."

Other Ravens players also expressed their respect for the way Flacco handled his tough two-game skid. Point blank, Flacco said he "sucked" after last week's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Flacco said he doesn't hear much of the criticism – just sometimes when scrolling through Instagram when he's bored, he joked.

"Hey man, part of being an NFL quarterback is dealing with tough times," he said. "If you don't play well, you own it and move on to the next one. I have confidence in who I am as a player and person and I have confidence in our football team. So I'm never going to waver. I may not play well one week, but it's not going to change who I am and who I believe I am."

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