Ravens fans must be thinking, 'Can Flacco do that?'

February 07, 2011|Mike Preston

While watching the Pittsburgh Steelers lose to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV Sunday night, I recalled several memories of the Ravens' 2010 season.

But the major question coming out of the game was if Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco will ever reach the top level in the NFL?

Those were two of best slinging it around in Green Bay's Aaron Rogders and Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger. They were consistently making throws that Flacco makes only on occasion. Rodgers is a magician who can complete darts across the middle in tight windows.

Roethlisberger is a tight-end-playing quarterback. He has a strong arm to make any throw but is the master of improvisation. Both Rodgers and Roethlisberger have great pocket awareness and are fiery, emotional leaders.

After three seasons, Flacco has improved but still appears to be another year or two away from those two, if he can in fact close the gap. There is enough evidence to give you hope, , but enough inconsistency to make you pause.

In all honesty, we still don't know yet if Flacco is the answer.

Spread and conquer

It was predictable.

If the Packers beat the Steelers, you knew there were going to be Ravens fans who would say the best way to beat Pittsburgh's defense was to spread them out with four- and five-receiver sets

Ravens wide receiver Donte' Stallworth even wrote it on Twitter.

Green Bay's attack wasn't exactly earth shattering. But to be able to run spread offenses, you have to be able to block Pittsburgh's front seven. Green Bay handled that part of the game well enough to win, but the Ravens didn't get it done in their last two games against the Steelers.

There is also one other small issue: Rodgers plays quarterback for Green Bay. Enough said.

Run game shelved

Because of the combined passing yards, the experts will say that you don't have to run the ball to be successful. That's true, but running sure makes winning a lot easier.

Pittsburgh wanted to pound the ball with running back Rashard Mendenhall, but they couldn't after falling behind 21-3 in the second quarter, and 21-10 at the half.

If Green Bay had a running game, they could have taken some of time off the clock in the second half instead of almost having several passes intercepted, or watching receivers drop numerous passes.

Ideally, Pittsburgh wanted to run, and Green Bay wanted balance. Neither could run the ball not because they didn't want to, they couldn't.

Look familiar?

Watching Pittsburgh self destruct was like watching the Ravens give the AFC divisional game away to the Steelers.

Three Pittsburgh turnovers led to 21 Green Bay points, and that is usually the recipe for getting blown out. Those turnovers brought flashbacks of the Ray Rice fumble and the Flacco interception and fumble in the second half against Pittsburgh after the Ravens led, 21-7, after two quarters.

To even be close in the game at the end is a testimony to the Steelers' resolve, but it just proves that more games in the NFL are lost on Sundays than won.

Rotten from the start

When Pittsburgh took control of the ball at its own 13 with about two minutes left, most of us started thinking, "Big Ben is going to do it again."

I didn't think he could pull it off. Once Mendenhall fumbled early in the fourth quarter to halt a drive around midfield, you could tell it just wasn't Pittsburgh's day.

During that last possession, Roethlisberger couldn't get his receivers lined up correctly, and Pittsburgh looked totally unorganized.

It smelled bad from the start.

Turf battle

Dallas might have the new stadium, but league officials have to take a serious look at the playing field.

It was a revolving door as far as injuries once players made contact with the surface, and Green Bay had to play the second half without two top players, cornerback Charles Woodson and receiver Donald Driver. Green Bay won, which tells you about the perseverance on that club.

CBA? TBA

A league official recently said the NFLPA and the owners won't come to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement until there is a watershed moment that forces both sides to sit down at the negotiating table.

And right now that moment doesn't appear to be on the horizon because there still isn't a sense of urgency yet.

Coaching laurels

The voting for NFL Coach and NFL Executive of the Year have become like the Pro Bowl voting. Once you're in, it's easy to repeat.

New England coach Bill Belichick won the award and is the best coach in the NFL, but Green Bay's Mike McCarthy should have finished second in the voting, and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin should be the winner.

McCarthy took a young team that overcame numerous injuries to the Super Bowl title. Tomlin played without his starting quarterback for the first four games, and played with as many injuries as McCarthy including reshuffling his offensive line three times this season.

In the preseason, Green Bay was at least expected to challenge Minnesota and Chicago for first place in the NFC North. Pittsburgh was picked by many to finish third in the AFC North behind Baltimore and Cincinnati.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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