He threw 3 interceptions.
He looked confused at times.
He was instrumental in his team losing a road game against a team almost everyone thought they should beat.
He completed 18 of 28 passes for under 200 yards (196).
The final score was Cleveland 35, New York Giants 14.
Yeah, while his big brother Peyton beat up on us last weekend, Eli Manning, a 5-year veteran, struggled in Cleveland on national television Monday night.
Eli helped the Giants win Super Bowl XLII over the Patriots last February by completing 19 of 34 passes for 255 yards with 2 touchdown passes and 1 interception. For his efforts, he was named the game's most valuable player.
I'm not picking on Eli. Everyone knows he's a winning quarterback. He could eventually be a Hall of Fame quarterback. His big brother has already played at the Hall of Fame level. But, did you see the articles last week and the talk on ESPN: "Who's better? Peyton or Eli?"
Shows perspective can change in a hurry in this league.
Remember when Eli and the Giants came to M&T Bank Stadium his rookie season in 2004? We were on our way to a 9-7 season, falling one game short of the playoffs. It was Dec. 12, and Eli was starting his 6th game as a pro after being the 1st player taken in the '04 draft. He did not have a good day, completing just 4 of 18 passes for 27 yards with 2 interceptions.
I remember seeing Ozzie Newsome after the game and saying that I thought that that was one of the worst performances by a quarterback I had ever seen, adding something like: "They're never going to win with him." Oz made a joke about my evaluation skills and told me that he thought Eli was going to be fine. He offered that rookie quarterbacks have to go through a process. There's no way to prepare for it except to play and learn.
Well, Joe Flacco is learning. You could even argue that he played better than Eli did last weekend. But, as Ozzie said, Joe's going through a process right now. The first thing you hear in-house is how quick he learns. You also hear that he's intelligent, highly competitive and doesn't repeat mistakes. We also see that he's a gifted athlete – big arm and quick feet – with a "real feel" for the game.
Joe will likely have games similar to the one he had in Indianapolis when he threw 3 interceptions. He'll have games like Eli Manning had in Cleveland on Monday. That happens in the NFL.
But, Joe is going to be fine…better than fine. As coach John Harbaugh said last week: "Joe's not a rookie quarterback, he's our quarterback. He's a Raven." I like everything I see with Joe. I like even more what I hear from the football experts here, from former players and from coaches and personnel experts on other teams. I keep hearing a lot of good things about Joe.
THE BLAME GAME
After coach Harbaugh finished meeting with reporters after Sunday's loss at Indianapolis, he told me, "I'm never going to throw a player under the bus. Don't they understand that?"
John was referring to questions from reporters about Chris McAlister seemingly getting beat on a couple of Peyton Manning touchdown passes. Harbaugh's belief is that no good comes from pointing fingers at a teammate. He has told reporters and me: "That's not what we're about. We're a team. We fight for each other. We have each other's back. You can keep asking the questions, but I'm always going to give the same answer."
The reality is that we all want to blame someone. Reporters are only doing their jobs when they ask questions about who is to blame. They demand answers. You, as fans, want answers. You, however, are not going to see or hear that from coach Harbaugh. Players admire him for this. And, it is like family. He and his coaches will handle things internally and won't be telling all the neighbors or the world about mistakes made by individual players.
Some of the mistakes are obvious. Reporters who know the game and fans who watch closely usually know who failed. It's just not going to be verified on the record by anyone from the team.
SPEAKING OF MEDIA
I wouldn't want to be a reporter who has to predict who wins in the NFL. It's too hard. The NFL has so-called upsets every single week. It'd be hard to find very many who predicted the Giants would lose to the Browns. Did anyone call the Rams over the Redskins upset at FedEx last Sunday? I highly doubt it.
We've said it before. It's hard to win every week in this league. There are no "gimmes," no lay-ups, no games against East Nowhere. That's one of the reasons so much attention is paid to every NFL game. Every game has drama. Every game has potential for the unusual.
And, that sure makes this business nerve-wracking. Exciting. But, nonetheless, a bit terrifying, even for the most confident player, coach, or front office person. My belief is that every team is good. Every team can beat us. And we can beat every team.
I do believe that if you have good defense, you'll have a shot to win every game you play. Offenses go up and down. (Again, see the Giants last Monday.) Defense in every sport is the constant. If you can play defense, you can play it well every game. Cal Ripken always played great defense. He got a hit less than every 3 out of 10 at bats.
Despite Peyton Manning and the Colts' success against us last Sunday, we remained as the NFL's best defense overall, including No. 1 against both the run and pass – a very unusual trifecta for an NFL team.
When I checked to see where we were ranked this week, I couldn't help but notice the rest of the league's top 10 defenses. We play games against 7 in this elite group. Pittsburgh is No. 2, and we play them twice. Tennessee is 4th, followed by Philadelphia, who we play at M&T on Nov. 23. The Giants, who host the Ravens on 11/16, are 6th. The Redskins, who come to Baltimore on 12/7, are 8th, while the Cowboys, who we visit on 12/20 in the final regular season game at Texas Stadium, are 10th.
Not an easy journey, for sure.
After I checked the defensive stats, I read Peter King's Monday blog on SI.com. He lists his top teams in the NFL each week. He calls it the "Fine 15." This week's top 4:
1 – New York Giants
2 – Tennessee Titans
3 – Pittsburgh Steelers
4 – Indianapolis Colts
We've lost to 3 of those, 2 by 3 points each. Still have a chance to get the Steelers here and the Giants at their home.
YOU LIKE US, YOU LIKE US
Sports Illustrated gauged how happy the paying customers are around the NFL. It wanted to find out what fans for every team think about their game-day experiences at their home stadiums. Fans were asked about everything from prices of the tickets, to hospitality, quality of food, tailgating and the product on the field.* SI* surveyed season ticket holders and some who bought individual game tickets.
We were excited to find out that our fans ranked us as the 4th best of the 32 NFL teams. Pretty cool. Green Bay is 1st, followed by Pittsburgh and Denver. The Dolphins, Jets, Vikings, Lions and Rams ranked as the bottom 5, 28th through 32nd, respectively.
One more game on the road, and we get to come home for 1 game on Oct. 26 against the Raiders. We're looking forward to getting back in front of you. And, thanks for grading us so high.
Talk to you next week.
Kevin Byrne is the Ravens' Senior Vice President – Public and Community Relations. He has worked in the NFL since 1977, when he was the then-youngest public relations director in the league (for the then-St. Louis Cardinals), except for the two years he was the Director of Public Affairs for TWA (Trans World Airlines). He has been with the Ravens since they began, and before that was a vice president with the Cleveland Browns. He has won a Super Bowl ring with the 2000 Ravens and an NCAA basketball championship with Al McGuire's Marquette team in '77. He was on the losing end of historic games known for the "Drive" and the "Fumble." He has worked closely and is friends with some of the best in the game: Ozzie Newsome, Brian Billick, Ray Lewis, Bill Cowher, Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, Marty Schottenheimer and Shannon Sharpe to name a few.