By Khalil Garriott, NFLPA.com
Joe Flacco doesn't display much emotion publicly, nor does he have much of a mean streak on the exterior. But behind the scenes, Flacco is an ultra-competitive rookie quarterback who offers no excuses when he makes a mistake.
"There's a fire that burns inside of him, just like most of the guys around here," said Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. "He's accountable."
For playing his part in breaking the Ravens' three-game losing streak, which included leading scoring drives of 42, 67, 67 and 68 yards, Flacco is the featured player in NFLPLAYERS.COM's Rookie Spotlight for Week 7.
"Joe goes to work every week and he tries to improve," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. "There's a little bit of a roller-coaster ride to an NFL season, with a rookie quarterback in [his] first season. But there's going to be dips, and he's going to have to bounce back for the next play and play the next game."
Bounce back is precisely what Flacco did on Sunday. Following a turnover-laden 31-3 drubbing by Indianapolis the previous week, Flacco and the Ravens went to Miami and posted a 27-13 win over the Dolphins. The victory was a much-needed one for the Ravens (3-3), who won for the first time in nearly a month and for the first time in their five visits to Miami. It was a game which Baltimore had to have, and with Flacco behind center, the road team got back to .500.
"We just wanted to go out there and get another win under our belts," said Flacco, who was 17-for-23 for 232 passing yards, one touchdown and a 120.2 quarterback rating. "We've been working hard all week to get another win and we went out there and did that."
Perhaps more important than his second touchdown pass of the year were the zero turnovers that Flacco committed. For the most part, Baltimore's young offensive line did a respectable job containing the Miami pass rush as Flacco led 7-of-14 successful third- and fourth-down conversions.
"I think we all felt confident going into the game. We wanted to get another win and we all knew the only way to do that was to work hard all week and be confident," Flacco said.
With Cameron's offensive game plan against his former team earning rave reviews from Harbaugh, Baltimore put together a total team effort to hand the Dolphins their fourth loss of the season. Behind 140 net rushing yards—and Flacco's 73.9 completion percentage—Baltimore was able to seal the victory with a fourth-quarter touchdown run by Willis McGahee.
"It's a huge win," Flacco said. "Coming off of a couple losses, we had to get back out there and be confident and get back to winning ways, and that is what we did," he added.
A key play in the game came with just 30 seconds remaining in the first half. Showing poise and savvy unbefitting of his rookie status, Flacco appeared confident running the no-huddle offense and two-minute drill as he found Derrick Mason for an 11-yard touchdown which extended his team's lead to 17-6 before halftime. Harbaugh praised Flacco for his ability to perform under pressure on Sunday.
Coming off of a couple losses, we had to get back out there and be confident and get back to winning ways, and that is what we did.
-- Joe Flacco "He's got to be able to run our offense for us to have the best chance to win, and we need to get everybody involved," Harbaugh said of the pocket passer who started his college career at Pittsburgh before transferring to Delaware. "We've got some guys running around out there that we think can make plays, and it's really Joe's job to get those guys in the mix."
The offense's hurry-up tempo used often on Sunday is an example of how Flacco is learning every single snap, Cameron said. The team's two-running back system has carried Baltimore's offense as the 2008 season approaches its midway point. McGahee, a six-year veteran, is complemented by rookie Ray Rice, as each tailback provides a different running style.
"They are both good backs and anytime you come down here to Florida you have to rotate backs and you have to be able to use multiple guys," Flacco said after the game. "They did a great job. There is definitely a difference between them. Ray is a littler guy that gets a tempo going, but at the same time Willis is a big guy that can move. And you have Le'Ron (McClain) back there who you can get the ball to and have him hammer away."
The Ravens coaching staff has noticed in Flacco an ability to take the underneath routes and easy completions—checking down so as not to get "too greedy"—and as a result, Flacco has grown tremendously since his first NFL start in Week 1. As he adjusts to more defensive coverages being thrown at him each week, Flacco hopes to keep putting up performances like he did in Week 7.
"The great thing you want in any quarterback [is] you want him to be aggressive. One thing about Joe—he's not afraid," Cameron said. "You're watching the evolution of a guy based on what coordinators are seeing in him and what they're trying to take away."
Coming off the best game of his young NFL career, don't be surprised if that evolution continues when the Oakland Raiders come to Baltimore this Sunday.
*This article was featured on www.nflplayers.com. *