There's no way you can pin last night's 26-21 loss of the Baltimore Ravens to the Atlanta Falcons on QB Joe Flacco's broad shoulders, but when you look at the huge differences between the stats of the first thirty minutes versus the final two quarters, it makes you wonder once again,..."what if?"
The Baltimore Ravens have been notoriously slow starters on prime time TV and last night was no difference. Falling behind 10-0 by the end of the first half, the Ravens looked lost, confused and inferior to the Falcons despite both teams sporting 6-2 records entering the contest. While Falcons QB Matt Ryan was 20 of 28 for 160 yards and one TD pass, Flacco was totally out of sync with his receivers, finishing the miserable half 5 of 8 for a measely 31 yards. Even so, the Ravens knew they were only one score away from getting back into the ballgame.
The second half started off the same way the first ended, as Flacco threw an interception on the team's first series on a pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh even though 'Housh' was clearly covered yet Joe insisted on throwing to what appeared to be his primary target anyway. Atlanta turned that turnover into a field goal to give them a 13-0 lead early into the second half. Both Ravens turnovers (the interception and Lardarius Webb's first half fumble on kickoff) were turned into two FG's and those six points were the difference between winning and losing.
After the Ravens fell behind by those 13 points, the "other" Flacco came out onto the field for the remainder of the game. This one seemed determined and focused on unleashing the rocket arm that the Ravens and their fans knew was inside of him but for whatever reason, seemed to have him handcuffed for the first half. Joe Cool finished the second half with these impressive stats: 17 for 26 for 184 yards and two TD passes. That gave him relatively solid stats for the entire game, 22 of 34 for 215 yards, three TD's and one pick, with a 99.5 QB Rating. Looking at just the final stats, one might think that those numbers would usually be good enough to be on the winning end of the game. However, the disparity of the two halves put the team in a difficult position to come back from that deficit on the road off of a short week, especially against a solid team, with a QB that just knows home to win, specifically at home.
Matty Ice is now 18-1 at home in his short two-plus year career, and proved, that at least last night, that he was the better quarterback. That said, had the Ravens historically-stout defense stopped the Falcons on that final game-winning drive, much less from converting 12 of 20 third down opportunities, Flacco's stats would have been sufficient and he would be hailed this morning for leading the team to another last minute victory just like he did at Pittsburgh earlier this season against the Steelers.
But the defensive shortcomings last night is another story for another day. Say tomorrow? Stay tuned.