Ravens' Mvp? Go With Joe

November 05, 2009|By Kevin Cowherd

Joe Flacco stood in the warm sunshine outside the Castle on Wednesday, in the only place where he doesn't look totally comfortable: in front of a microphone.

The Ravens had just finished their morning walk-through in preparation for Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Now it was time to talk to the media. Flacco looked like a man who had just discovered a flat tire.

"Joe," went the first question, "was the way you played last week especially satisfying?"

Flacco shook his head no.

Wait a minute, you wanted to say.

Fourteen straight completions in a 30-7 rout of the Denver Broncos, 20-for-25 passing for 175 yards, including a 20-yard laser to Derrick Mason for a touchdown - that didn't give you an extra thrill?

"I don't think so," he said. "A win's a win. ... I think we played well as an offense, well as a team, and that's good to see. We've felt like we played well all season."

It was vintage Flacco: never the "me" guy, always the ultimate team player after just a year and a half in the NFL.

You want a lot of la-di-da introspection?

You want someone to go all diva on you and talk himself up?

Go call Chad Ochocinco. Or better yet, text him, since that seems to be his preferred method of communication these days.

But asking Flacco to open up or delve too deeply into his emotions is a lost cause. That's why they have the "Dr. Phil" show.

Still, the fact is that no one on the Ravens is playing better than their whipcord-tough quarterback right now.

Team MVP after seven games?

My vote would go to Flacco.

Sure, Ray Rice is having a tremendous year. And Ray Lewis is still Ray Lewis - a step slower, maybe, but still the great intimidator in the middle of the football field, still the heart and soul of the defense.

And Mason is still the one wide receiver who's absolutely indispensable to this team. If they ever carry him off the field on a stretcher, say goodbye to the passing game.

But Flacco has played better than all of them, it says here.

You want numbers?

Here you go: He has completed 165 of 250 passes to tie for seventh in the league in completion percentage. His 12 touchdown passes tie him with Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys and Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons for ninth in the league.

And he has thrown only five interceptions.

"I think the biggest difference is he's got more games under his belt, experience-wise," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday. "He gets better every week."

Here's another reason Flacco has been so valuable this season: the no-huddle offense.

Maybe you've noticed that the Ravens kind of like the no-huddle.

They used it 31 times in the win over the Broncos. And they used it even more - 42 times - in their opening win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

The reasons for running the no-huddle are obvious: prevent the other team from changing personnel and switching formations, wear out their fat guys and thereby limit the pass rush.

But to run it effectively, you need a certain type of quarterback.

Someone who doesn't run around with his hair on fire when things get hectic, as they often do.

Someone with presence.

Someone like, oh, Joe Flacco.

"Joe does a great job running it," Rice said. "He's poised. One thing about running the no-huddle offense: You have to be poised at quarterback."

And the quarterback can't be a lunkhead, Harbaugh said.

"The main thing is the ability to operate and manage the whole deal," he said. "He's just got to have a tremendous grasp of the offense."

Here's all you have to do to be an effective no-huddle quarterback in the NFL:

Listen for the play (or plays) the offensive coordinator sends in via your helmet receiver and process it immediately.

Get your team to the line of scrimmage. Make sure all the players are where they're supposed to be. Analyze the defensive formation in front of you.

Kill your intended play and check off to another if it looks like the other team is rushing everyone except the beer vendor and you're about to be decapitated.

All this amid the swirling chaos of noise that a stadium packed with beer-swilling fans generates.

Piece of cake, right?

Um, maybe not.

But, as Harbaugh said: "Joe, at a young age, has a pretty amazing grasp of it."

That's why he's the Ravens' MVP so far.

That's why this team is 4-3 and has its swagger back.

Just don't ask how he feels about all this. You'll be wasting your time.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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