Troy Smith leaps into the arms of Joe Flacco after Smith completed… (Baltimore Sun photo by Elizabeth…)
It was only recently that linebacker Terrell Suggs wondered whether the Ravens should stick with rookie Joe Flacco as the starting quarterback.
After witnessing the Ravens' 29-10 pummeling of the Oakland Raiders yesterday, Suggs and the sellout crowd at M&T Bank Stadium had another question on their mind.
What can't Flacco do?
In what likely will go down as a unique performance by a Ravens quarterback, Flacco showed off his arm (throwing for a 70-yard touchdown), his hands (catching a 43-yard pass) and his legs (running for a 12-yard touchdown).
"Is that a record?" Ravens coach John Harbaugh playfully asked after a second straight victory improved the Ravens to 4-3.
Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has had one other quarterback hit the unusual triple crown (Antwaan Randle El at Indiana University) but never before in his nine seasons in the NFL.
"Joe's a good athlete," Cameron said of his 6-foot-6, 230-pound quarterback. "He's a big man who moves around like a guy who is 6-3. I think those guys are hard to find."
It's hard to figure out where the Ravens will line up Flacco these days.
In the new "Suggs Package" - Harbaugh's name for the offensive wrinkle that jokingly refers to Suggs' assertion that Troy Smith should be the starting quarterback - Flacco and Smith are on the field at the same time.
Although they used the formation a handful of times, it wasn't until the third quarter that Flacco got his big chance and delivered the highlight of the game.
After taking the shotgun snap, Flacco flipped the ball to Smith and rolled out left, where he got behind Raiders linebacker Ricky Brown. He then extended to make the third catch by a Ravens quarterback (but the only one for positive yardage).
"I trusted myself that if they threw it, I would catch it," said Flacco, who hadn't caught a pass since he was a senior in high school. "I was hoping I would catch it. I didn't want to make a fool of myself."
His only regret was failing to reach the end zone.
Because he leaned forward to reach for the ball, he lost his balance and eventually fell at the Oakland 6-yard line. The Ravens settled for a 30-yard field goal by Matt Stover to go ahead 22-3.
"I tried to stumble as long as I could," Flacco said. "My feet were just getting drug by the rest of my body. They were trying to keep up, but they couldn't."
While his legs failed him on that play, his arm didn't in the second quarter.
On Flacco's first big play - the 70-yard touchdown pass - it seemed as if it was hard for the first-round pick to find wide-open receiver Demetrius Williams.
It was a breakdown in coverage by the Oakland defense that allowed Williams to stand uncovered at the Raiders' 35. After a Raiders cornerback let Williams run past him on the left sideline, their safety moved to the inside instead of picking up Williams.
At one point, Williams wondered whether Flacco would find him.
"Sometimes when you're that wide open, the quarterback can miss you," Williams said. "In the NFL, it's very difficult to be open like that."
Flacco had enough protection to scan the field inside before turning his attention to the sideline, where he delivered his longest pass of the season to put the Ravens ahead 16-0 in the second quarter.
"I told the offensive linemen that's their touchdown," said Flacco, who was 12-for-24 for 140 yards, half of which came on that touchdown pass. "They gave me so much time in there."
Flacco finished his impressive day with a 12-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that surprised the announced 71,254 fans at the stadium and his 10teammates on the field.
The third-down play called in the huddle was originally designed to be an inside handoff to running back Ray Rice.
But Flacco decided to change it before the snap. He noticed that the right side of the field was open after watching an Oakland cornerback follow receiver Derrick Mason, who was in motion to the left.
So instead of giving Rice the ball, Flacco faked the handoff and took off. He bounced off safety Gibril Wilson near the goal line before scoring his second rushing touchdown of the season, putting the Ravens up 29-10.
"Me and the coaches were the only ones that knew," Flacco said. "I still could have handed it off, but they gave me the option. I said, 'All right, I'm going to take you up on that one.'"
Flacco's all-around effort was underscored by the fact that it came shortly after Suggs had suggested twice that Smith should be starting over the rookie.
But apparently Suggs has been won over.
"I went to him and told him that I really don't care who our quarterback is as long as we're winning," Suggs said. "He has some run and catch in him. It was really great to see he's multitalented."