Ravens, Bengals defenses don't make it easy for Dalton, Flacco

September 05, 2014|By Aaron Wilson, The Baltimore Sun

The last time that Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco squared off against the Cincinnati Bengals, he trudged off the field with an aching left knee and a frustrated look on his face.

Besides absorbing brutal hits from Bengals pass rushers, Flacco was intercepted three times, with his final one returned for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter of a 34-17 road loss in December. The defeat in their season finale prevented the Ravens from reaching the NFL playoffs.

Despite winning the game, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton wasn't feeling much better than Flacco after an uneven performance in which he threw four interceptions.

This hasn't been an uncommon sequence for the two quarterbacks in a key AFC North rivalry that resumes Sunday, when the Ravens and Bengals open the season at M&T Bank Stadium. Flacco and Dalton have struggled mightily of late in this series, often overmatched against stout defenses that have dominated the action.

"It's tough to look back and say that I and we didn't feel very confident going into that game, because we had a lot riding on it," Flacco said of the last game against the Bengals. "We always feel pretty confident, but they got after us a little bit last year, and we didn't play very well in that final game."

Flacco has gone 7-5 in his career against the Bengals, completing 60.9 percent of his throws for 2,134 yards and 12 touchdowns while being sacked 26 times. He's thrown 15 interceptions against the Bengals, including a combined five interceptions in last season's two games. Flacco's career interception total against the Bengals is more than he's thrown against any other NFL team.

"They're a good team, and they've been a good team," Flacco said of the Bengals. "They've always had a good defense. I think when we aren't successful against them, we allow them to get comfortable and do what they like to do. They get after the quarterback, they stop the run game, they get into some of their looks that they feel comfortable playing in and throw offenses off.

"When we've had success against them, we've gone out there and worried about us and played our game and executed, operated quickly. We're confident that we're going to do it our way and focus on us, and that's all we can do."

Dalton has had an even rougher time against the Ravens.

His problems have been glaring, going 2-4 against the Ravens. He's never won a start in Baltimore, with seven interceptions against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.

Overall against the Ravens, Dalton has completed just 53.9 percent of his passes for six touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a 62.4 quarterback rating. He's been sacked 14 times, including five times in November during a 20-17 overtime loss in Baltimore.

"It starts with our defensive line, how they put pressure on [Dalton] and rattle him and make him do uncomfortable things," Ravens strong safety Matt Elam said. "They always rattle him and keep him uncomfortable and help us on the back end."

Dalton has averaged just 243 passing yards per game against the Ravens.

Although he's a respected young quarterback with 11,360 career passing yards, 80 touchdowns and 49 interceptions for an 85.7 quarterback rating in three NFL seasons, that track record hasn't stood up against the Ravens. Dalton has performed worse statistically against only one other NFL team, with an average quarterback rating of 59.0 during a pair of starts against the Miami Dolphins.

"The Ravens have been good for a long time on defense," Dalton said. "They have a really good scheme with really good players. They present some challenges. They do a good job in some of their blitz packages getting guys free, and they're able to do it with just four guys up front as well. The big thing is you have to stop the pressure up front to have a chance to get down the field on them."

Dalton has had persistent problems on third downs against the Ravens, completing 45.4 percent of his throws against them. Three of his 11 career interceptions against the Ravens have come in the fourth quarter.

The Bengals essentially won in spite of Dalton in December when he completed 21 of 36 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns for a 62.2 passer rating.

Despite Dalton's history of breakdowns against the Ravens, Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs doesn't take the former Texas Christian star lightly. And the 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year didn't accuse Dalton of being intimidated by the Ravens.

Especially not after how Dalton threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green at the end of regulation to force overtime in November. Especially not after Dalton delivered a strike to Green for a 53-yard touchdown over Elam's head last December.

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