Too Early To Say Pro Bowl For Flacco, Smith?
With just four games in the books, could quarterback Joe Flacco and receiver Torrey Smith already be making their case for their first Pro Bowl appearances?
That's what some pundits are saying.
"I'm calling it now: Torrey Smith is going to the Pro Bowl. Too early?" The Baltimore Sun's Matt Vensel tweeted after the second-year receiver notched four catches for 79 yards and a touchdown by just the second quarter. Smith finished the game with six catches for 97 yards.
"It is impossible to over-emphasize how well [Flacco] is playing. His statistics speak volumes and have him on course for his inaugural Pro Bowl appearance, but really, you have to see the games to understand the level he is reaching," our own BaltimoreRavens.com's John Eisenberg wrote after the game. "He is repeatedly making bullet throws into tight spaces, passes that leave football insiders saying, 'Are you kidding me?'"
Smith has caught 16 passes for a team-high 332 yards and three touchdowns (average of 20.8 yards per reception) in just four games of the season. He's on pace for 64 receptions, 1,328 yards and a dozen touchdowns, according to The Sun. He is now the league leader in receptions of at least 25 yards this season, with six, according to ESPN.
Oh, and Flacco also has the stats (and wins) for a Pro Bowl year if he keeps up his current production (see below).
But what do you think, Baltimore? Will the Flacco-Smith duo make the Pro Bowl this year? Or is it too early to even discuss?
Flacco Stats That Are Just Crazy Good
The Ravens fifth-year quarterback is putting up crazy good numbers, per ESPN Stats and Information:
- Flacco is now 30-5 in his career at home. Since his rookie season in 2008, no other quarterback has more home wins.
- Flacco improved his career record against Cleveland to 9–0. Only two other quarterbacks since 1970 were undefeated in at least nine starts versus a team: John Elway (10–0 vs. Patriots) and Daunte Culpepper (9–0 vs. Lions).
- Before this season, Flacco had passed for over 350 yards just twice in 64 career games. He's now matched that total in the first four weeks of 2012, throwing for 356 yards Thursday night.
- Flacco is the only quarterback this season with multiple games of at least 350 passing yards. He threw for 382 passing yards last week against New England and* *has thrown for an NFL-high 1,269 yards this year (he has played one extra game than everyone else), which puts him on pace for 5,076 yards for the season.
Flacco's Spike Could Use Some Work
I guess you can't be good at everything.
Flacco capped off a beautiful 89-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run into the end zone. Tight end Dennis Pitta fell in the back of the end zone, leaving Flacco with no option but to run it in himself.
The fifth-year quarterback will be praised in film study for a little juke move he put on linebacker Scott Fujita to walk in untouched. But he will be teased for his celebration, which you can enjoy again and again in the video below.
"Flacco's celebratory spike does need some work," wrote Hensley.
But Flacco had a perfectly logical defense:
"I was just excited, and that's what white guys do when they get excited, I guess."
Resiliency, Perseverance Define 2012 Ravens
Let's review the Ravens' last 18 days.
They played four games in that short span.
They had to deal with the passing of former owner Art Modell.
They had to deal with the death of Torrey Smith's 19-year-old brother, Tevin, in a motorcycle accident Monday.
They notched an emotional win over the New England Patriots on a national stage in an AFC title rematch, and followed it up with a win over an AFC North rival four days later despite playing in a classic trap game.
"Where the Ravens stand above everyone else in the NFL is resiliency," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "The Ravens are 3-1 and have put themselves in position for another Super Bowl run because they refuse to wear down physically and mentally.
"Overcoming adversity has been the calling card for a team that spent an entire offseason facing questions about falling short in the AFC championship game. Perseverance was the reason why Baltimore came from behind to beat the Patriots on Sunday and held off the Browns on Thursday night."
Mental toughness is what the Ravens lacked at times* *last season, says Hensley, pointing to deflating losses against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks following big, emotional wins the week before.
Baltimore could have suffered the same fate Thursday night against the winless Browns, but the 2012 squad doesn't appear susceptible to those type of let downs. Instead, Flacco overcame an early interception in the end zone (his first since 2009) to both throw and run in a touchdown. And cornerback Cary Williams surmounted intensifying media and fan criticism to nab a game-changing pick six.
"To put in perspective what Baltimore has gone through, Thursday night was the first home game in which the Ravens didn't have a moment of silence for someone they lost," wrote Hensley. "The Ravens have done all of this under the national microscope. They've had prime-time games on Monday night, Sunday night and Thursday night. The reward is some well-deserved rest."
Must Address Lack Of Composure
The Ravens had two heated exchanges during their division win last night.
One was with outside linebacker Paul Kruger pushing tackle left tackle Joe Thomas that drew an unnecessary roughness penalty and gave the Browns an extra shot at a game-winning touchdown attempt with two seconds remaining in the game. Luckily the Browns' attempt fell short.
Earlier in the game, fullback Vonta Leach had to restrain tackle Michael Oher from yelling at a referee after he was called for holding and wiped a 21-yard Ray Rice run off the boards.
"John Harbaugh is going to have to address the lack of composure by a few of the Ravens veterans, namely Paul Kruger and Michael Oher, who picked up ill-advised penalties to keep Cleveland drives alive," wrote Sun columnist Kevin Cowherd.
O-Line Takes Step BackThe Ravens offensive line surprised many with their play through three games, especially considering they were once thought of as the team's weakest units heading into the season.
But the unit took a "step back" in a shaky performance against the Browns, says the Carroll County Times' Matt Zenitz.
"[Flacco] was under pressure most of the night – sacked four times and hit plenty more," wrote Zenitz. "Center Matt Birk and left guard Ramon Harewood both surrendered pressure during the first half while left tackle Michael Oher and right tackle Kelechi Osemele both yielded pressure later on. Oher and Osemele also combined for five penalties. In addition, this group struggled to create much in terms of running lanes for running back Ray Rice, who picked up just 49 yards on 18 carries."
Here's an awesome picture capturing Rice's stiff arm to the Browns' Craig Robertson for a first down in the first quarter from @baltimoresun. [Twitter] * @richeisen: The Ravens just blasted "Must Be the Money" on the stadium speakers. This was the @DeionSanders reax [Twitter] * @pmgleason [Ravens PR]: Congrats to Matt Birk, who started his 100th-consecutive game tonight – the longest active streak among NFL centers. #Ravens [Twitter] * @pmgleason: In the past 2 games #Ravens have 941 total yards of offense, [the most yards registered in back-to-back games in team history](http://twitter.com/PMGleason/status/251564688213676032 '). [Twitter] * A follow up to Smith limping off the field late in the game … @jasonbuttcbs: Torrey Smith: "you saw me walking around after the game, I'm all right." wouldn't say what it was but appears to be fine. [Twitter] * Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor lined up at wide receiver during the second quarter, and although a ball wasn't thrown to him, Taylor said he was not a mere decoy. [The Baltimore Sun] * Stat of the game: How important was this win for the Ravens, who now stand 3-1? Since 1990, almost 65 percent of teams starting 3-1 have made the playoffs. Only 35 percent of the teams that start 2-2 have reached the postseason in that same span. [ESPN]