Watching Joe Flacco is like riding a roller coaster of emotions

September 07, 2014|Mike Preston

Few players can torment a fan base like quarterback Joe Flacco.

Sunday afternoons in Baltimore during the NFL season have become an elevator ride of emotions with No. 5. We cheer him. We boo him. We love him. We hate him.

Sometimes he has the arm strength of Vinny Testaverde and other times he has the brain of Kyle Boller. The suggestion here is for Ravens fans to sit back, fasten their seat belts and get the cat out of the room so you don't kick it.

And, just enjoy the ride because no one knows where it's going to end.

Despite playing a poor first half Sunday in the season opening loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Flacco almost rallied the Ravens from a 15-point first half deficit by throwing for 271 yards in the second half including an 80-yard touchdown pass to receiver Steve Smith with 5 minutes and 46 seconds left in the game.

That will be a part of the Flacco legacy. He is great in crunch time and on that play, he stepped up in the pocket and threw a long touchdown pass across his body while rolling to his left.

But the other part of any Flacco legacy has to include the play at the end of the first half when he took a sack as time expired at the Bengals' 15 for a 5-yard loss. There was no attempted pass or field goal attempt, just boos from the crowd.

No one could defend Flacco, not even Flacco.

"At the end of the first half, that was probably the stupidest play I've ever made in football," Flacco said. "I kind of just got caught up in the play and forgot about the situation. There is no excuse for it, can't happen."

Head coach John Harbaugh agreed, "I'm sure he would like to have that one back."

You think?

It's a play where most quarterbacks should know better, even in high school, but I've come to expect those types of miscues from Flacco. He is to Baltimore what Tony Romo is to the Dallas Cowboys and Andy Dalton is to Cincinnati, except Flacco has won a Super Bowl.

And just when we're about ready to pack his bags and ship him to Siberia again, No. 5 comes up big. Remember that interception he threw to Chris Harris against the Denver Broncos in December 2012, which Harris returned for a 98-yard touchdown at the end of the half in a 34-17 Denver rout?

Flacco gave chase, dove and missed and then laid outstretched on the turf as if he was a kid who didn't get any presents for Christmas. During the next six weeks Flacco went on an amazing hot streak to lead the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory against the San Francisco 49ers and earn a $120 million contract.

Who knew?

On some days there is Bad Joe. On other days there is Good Joe. That pattern can vary from quarter to quarter. Actually, from play to play.

I thought that might change with Gary Kubiak becoming the Ravens' new offensive coordinator. If he worked with Joe Montana, Steve Young and John Elway and helped them to become Super Bowl winning quarterbacks and Hall of Famers then he could put Flacco on the same course for greatness.

After Sunday's performance by Flacco, I don't think so. The loss to the Bengals was not an indictment of Flacco because he played well enough to win. He threw 62 passes which is unheard of in most NFL games and his receivers betrayed him with seven dropped passes, several of them for possible big gains.

"This receiver group has a lot of opportunities to be great and today I think we over thought things and ran before we had the ball. We just got to play better," Steve Smith said.

But Flacco's performance was just as uneven in the first half. He under threw and overthrew receivers. There were times he held the ball too long.

Then there was the Good Joe, the one who threw the long pass to receiver Torrey Smith that Smith dropped down the right sideline in the first half. There were those two rifled passes across the middle that Jacoby Jones dropped, one in the first half and another in the second.

Good Joe was floating and putting touch on passes across the middle with Bengals draped all over him, but Flacco couldn't pull out the win late in the game as he was sacked at the Bengals' 28 with 55 seconds left in the game.

After the game, Flacco got hit with the obvious question about his meltdown at the end of the first half. Flacco answered in vintage Flacco fashion. There were no excuses and he said nothing about his butter-fingered receivers.

That's why I like Joe Flacco. There are no pretenses about him as a person or a player. He is level headed and humble and doesn't pretend to be a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Football is a game, not life and death.

He'll get better as the season goes on. Throughout his NFL career, Flacco has had three coordinators and five quarterback coaches. It will take time to work out some of the kinks in Kubiak's offense.

But there is a question for Kubiak. All of preseason he preached running the football and the Ravens didn't commit to it until the second half Sunday.

"I thought the play-calling in second half was geared toward being physical and running the ball, unlike the first half when we came out throwing," left guard Kelechi Osemele said. "We've had that chip on our shoulder for a year now and we felt that way last year about running the ball. We're still in the elementary phases of the offense and it's only going to get better."

Regardless, enjoy the ride with Flacco. He is a notoriously slow starter who usually heats up as the game goes on. He can break your heart, but most of the time he wins.

In this crazy league, few leads are insurmountable and few games are over until the final whistle.

Especially when No. 5 is playing.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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