Late For Work 11/26: Chill Out, Joe Flacco Gave Right Answer

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Chill Out, Flacco Gave Right Answer

The uproar over Joe Flacco's answer about the Ravens' trick plays against the Jets was foreseeable.

The Ravens'* *sixth-year quarterback said of the gimmick plays that lined him up at wide receiver and backup Tyrod Taylor under center: "It's good and fun for a little bit, but that's it. I don't want to be lining up at [wide receiver positions] Z and X. I want to line up behind center."

Some took to Internet message boards to criticize, saying Flacco wasn't being a team player and that he should be willing to do whatever it takes to win. The word "diva" was even tossed out.

"It's amusing how some are blowing the Flacco comments about the Wildcat out of proportion," tweeted WNST's Luke Jones. "Very predictable though."

Not only did Flacco give an honest answer, which is rare in professional sports, but he gave the right answer, says ESPN's Jamison Hensley.

"There should be controversy if Flacco said anything different," the blogger wrote. "You want your quarterback to have this attitude. You want him to believe he's the best option under center. And, make no mistake, Flacco should be the quarterback when the Ravens are facing third-and-10 or a deficit with two minutes left in the game. He has the better arm and has more experience. In case it slipped your mind, Flacco was holding up the Lombardi Trophy nine months ago."

Flacco took a lot of heat last year when he was asked if he was the best quarterback in the NFL. He had the same mentality back then, saying he believes he is the best. Teams want their quarterback to believe they are the best.

And while many think bringing in Taylor is a knock on Flacco, that perception is slightly skewed.

"The easiest way for Flacco to ensure that he doesn't line up at wide receiver is to play better when he's lined up behind center," wrote ProFootballTalk.com's Michael David Smith.

Flacco would be the first to admit he has to improve; he called his career high in interceptions "annoying." But Hensley explained that Taylor's presence on the field was more a statement about the run game than the passing game.

"There was no confidence that the Ravens could get anything going on the ground against the NFL's top-ranked run defense," Hensley wrote. "So, using more of Taylor shouldn't suggest he's supplanting Flacco. It's an indication that the 30th-ranked offense is willing to do whatever it takes to get better."

More Tyrod, Please … But Under One Condition

Analysts were cautious about calling the Ravens' season-best running performance against the Bears a breakout performance. While running back Ray Rice rushed for 131 yards, onlookers were wary that it was more a product of the Bears' league-worst run defense.

After watching the Ravens struggle to rush against the Jets once again, The Baltimore Sun's Matt Vensel is convinced it's the same unit we saw in the first 10 weeks.

"The Ravens' success running the ball against the Chicago Bears was a mirage," Vensel wrote.

"Running lanes disappeared" against the Jets and Rice only picked up 30 yards on 16 carries. His playing time also dropped quite a bit. As Hensley pointed out, Rice was on the field for 75 percent of the snaps in Chicago, but only 54 percent against the Jets.

With Rice and the run game back to its previous ways, Vensel is in favor of bringing out Taylor more … but under one condition: that Taylor makes better decisions.

Taylor did notch a Ravens* *game-high 17-yard run in the first half, but he also lost 7 and 6 yards on two other rushes.

"Taylor needs to make better decisions running the ball," Vensel wrote. "He also said after the game that he thought he could have rushed for a long touchdown on one play, but he made a mistake by handing the ball to the running back instead of pulling it out and taking off into the open field.

"I know Flacco wasn't thrilled about the ball being taken out of his hands to get Taylor involved in the game plan, but I wouldn't be surprised if we see it happen again down the stretch."

Flacco Gives Ravens Edge In Playoff Logjam

Of the nine AFC teams that are still in the hunt for the final wild-card playoff spot, Flacco may give the Ravens' the biggest edge in ultimately winning it.

"Look at the logjam in the race for the AFC's final wild-card spot and you will see a bunch of bad quarterbacks, a mix of guys who are inexperienced, overmatched or erratic – or a combination of all three," Vensel wrote.

The Jets' rookie Geno Smith, the Titans' Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Raiders' undrafted rookie Matt McGloin, the Browns' Jason Campbell or Brandon Weeden, the Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill and the Bills' E.J. Manuel don't meet Vensel's definition of a "competent quarterback."

Only three teams get that designation: the Chargers' Philip Rivers, the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger and Flacco.

"An argument can be made that the Ravens have the best of the bunch in Flacco, the reigning Super Bowl MVP," Vensel wrote. "Of course, the Pittsburgh Steelers can also make the same argument about their big lug under center, Ben Roethlisberger, who has guided them to two Super Bowl titles. …

"Flacco will likely need to out-duel Roethlisberger on Thanksgiving night for the Ravens to beat the Steelers, who are also 5-6, in another game that is a virtual must-win. The Ravens paid him all that money because of his ability to win games like this – cold weather, a nasty opponent and everything on the line."

Defense Believes It Must Carry Ravens

After a dominant performance over the Jets Sunday, The Sun's Childs Walker saw signs of defensive stars starting to express that they must carry the Ravens to the playoffs.

Eleven games into the season, Walker said the Ravens finally found its identity, which is now a "clear defense-first" team.

"Against the Jets, they seemed to embrace this identity, with the team's top defenders dominating on the field and then speaking with great bravado in the locker room," Walker wrote. "The talk in the post-game locker room was striking, almost akin to Ray Lewis' heyday, when the team's top defenders believed they carried the organization's fortunes on their shoulders."

Pro Football Focus Grades

It comes as little surprise that the Ravens defense had 16 of 19 players earn positive grades from Pro Football Focus (PFF) after the unit suffocated the Jets.

Cornerback Corey Graham led the team with highest grade ( 4.3) after his two-interception performance, both coming in Baltimore territory. Outside linebackers Elvis Dumervil (leads NFL outside linebackers in pass-rush productivity), Terrell Suggs and defensive tackles Art Jones and Terrence Cody all finished with grades of 2.0 or higher.

Receiver Jacoby Jones graded very well on offense ( 2.8) and special teams ( 1.8), and got the PFF game ball after his 66-yard touchdown catch and consistently putting the team in good field position. But it was left tackle Eugene Monroe ( 3.8) that led the offense in ratings.

The rest of the offensive line didn't fare as well, with all four starters scoring negative points.

"[Center Gino] Gradkowski (-5.4 overall) was the worst of the bunch, little more than a speed bump to the Jets at times," wrote Thomas Maney. "Likewise [right tackle Michael] Oher struggled to handle the quickness of Richardson and the New York linebackers. It also didn't help that Marshal Yanda couldn't follow up his 6.2 showing a week ago with a similar performance."

OFFENSE DEFENSE
Name Snap Count Rating Name Snap Count Rating
Eugene Monroe 66 3.8 Corey Graham 36 4.3
Jacoby Jones 39 2.8 Elvis Dumervil 41 3.9
Joe Flacco 66 1.8 Arthur Jones 33 2.6
Tyrod Taylor 12 0.9 Terrell Suggs 45 2.5
Ricky Wagner 6 0.5 Terrence Cody 21 2.0
Dallas Clark 9 0.4 Lardarius Webb 55 1.7
Brandon Stokley 9 0.2 Haloti Ngata 27 1.2
Ed Dickson 57 -0.4 Daryl Smith 57 1.2
Torrey Smith 66 -0.5 Jimmy Smith 57 0.5
Vonta Leach 12 -0.5 Arthur Brown 20 0.5
Marlon Brown 45 -0.9 Albert McClellan 2 0.5
Bernard Pierce 31 -1 Courtney Upshaw 20 0.4
Tandon Doss 8 -1.2 Matt Elam 57 0.4
Marshal Yanda 66 -1.3 Pernell McPhee 24 0.4
Ray Rice 36 -1.9 Jameel McClain 23 0.3
Michael Oher 66 -2.2 James Ihedigbo 57 0.3
A.Q. Shipley 66 -2.8 Josh Bynes 14 -0.4
Gino Gradkowski 66 -5.4 Chris Canty 24 -0.7
  DeAngelo Tyson 14 -0.9

Quick Hits

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@TorreySmithWR: RT @BaltimoreBride: A sneak peek at the 2014 issue! COMING SOON to newsstands next month. [Twitter] * @TorreySmithWR: Random Thought...can't wait for my baby to get here [Twitter] * "[Linebacker Daryl] Smith has been quite the bargain for the Ravens this season," wrote Vensel. "It will be interesting to see if he is back in Baltimore next season. The 31-year-old is on a one-year deal and is playing well enough to probably generate interest from other teams in free agency. Plus, Jameel McClain is healthy now and Arthur Brown will have a year of experience under him. Assuming Smith wants to stay and the price is right, the Ravens should bring him back, but that might be assuming too much." [The Baltimore Sun] * "By holding the Jets to an 8.3 percent success rate on third down, the Ravens tied the fourth-best mark in team history," wrote Hensley. "It was the stingiest effort of the season for Baltimore's defense. Three points was the fewest the Ravens have allowed since December 2009 and marked the 20th game in franchise history in which they've allowed three or fewer points." [ESPN] * @JameelMcClain: What would you sacrifice for this? (The dream to become Reality) [Twitter] * @ryanmink: The Steelers drafted WR Antonio Brown one pick after the #Ravens took Ramon Harewood in 2011. I just died a little inside. [Twitter] * @Ravens: Chris Canty invites Baltimore area high school students to the Healthy Behaviors Leadership Conference at Dunbar HS on Dec. 3. It's free! [Twitter] * @EdBouchette: #Steelers Tomlin: Curtis Brown L, ACL. Out for season. McLendon will miss game with ankle sprain [Twitter] * @RavensPromos: The Sunday Night Football on NBC bus pulls in at the Under Armour Brand House [today] from 5-7PM. #SNF #UAHarborEast [Twitter] * @NFL: Moving clockwise, every team has beaten the team in front of them. #CircleOfParity [Twitter]

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