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Flacco Only Needs to Improve by 100 Yards

Now that the Baltimore Ravens have traded for Anquan Boldin and re-signed Derrick Mason, every fan is expecting QB Joe Flacco to improve by leaps and bounds over his first two years in the NFL. They are now talking about 4,000 yards, 30 touchdown passes and Flacco becoming an All-Pro QB and spoken about as one of the top in the league.

Whoa, hold on there folks, talk about setting the bar way too high and also setting the third year pro up for failure. The team just added one more player and while he is a very, very good one, he is still just one guy and no sport is more of a team game than pro football. The needs of the eleven guys on the field at one time and the team as a whole lessens the effect of one guy in football more than in any other professional sport.

Every time that Flacco throws the ball to Boldin, that is just one throw that would have gone somewhere else and the difference between those throws will be the difference in our level of improvement. So what can we reasonably expect as far as improvement from Flacco and what does Joe really need to do to reach the next level for himself as well as the team?

To me, this is a pretty easy question to answer as I look back to the 2009 season. Trying to figure out how many more yards and touchdowns as a result of adding Boldin to the mix with Mason, Stallworth, Heap, Clayton and who knows who else is pure conjecture at this point, as their mere presence will also open up the run game as I stated in a recent story here on Baltimore Beatdown. However, the simple answer I speak of is that Joe only needs to throw for around 100 more yards over the course of the season than he did in 2009 and the difference will be disproportional to the results.

"Are you kidding me?" is what you're saying to my 100 yards statement. You're probably part of that 1,000 more yards and 5-10 more TD passes. I can't see the 1,000 more yards as this team's offensive identity will still be the strong running game backed up by a solid passing attack that just can't be ignored anymore. However, to expect Head Coach John Harbaugh to allow Cam Cameron to turn the offense into the "Greatest Show on Turf" is just ridiculous. You can dream, however.

The 100 yard comment is broken down by this: In 2009, the Ravens finished 9-7 and just squeaked into the post season. During the season, there were four specific games that the Ravens were in until the last moments only to lose. Three of those games were lost by less than a touchdown and the fourth was a 13 point loss (Monday Night Football game in Green Bay.

In each of those three losses by less than a touchdown, Joe Flacco threw a critical Red Zone interception. The first Red Zone pick came in game four of the season when we went into New England to face the Patriots after opening the season 3-0 and on an offensive roll. After a rocky start, the Ravens were driving towards the end of the first half and were in the Red Zone looking for a touchdown or at least a field goal. Flacco threw a terrible pass that was intercepted and kept us form closing the gap in the score. At the end of the game, we had a fourth and goal play where Mark Clayton dropped the ball and the game was lost. Had Flacco not thrown that pick and we had put up even three points before the half, we have been driving for the tying or winning score and would not have even gone for the ill-fated fourth down play, as we would have kicked the game-tying field goal at that point and who knows what could have happened.

The next came on the very first offensive drive of the next game against the eventual AFC North Champion Cincinnati Bengals. The Ravens ended up losing that game by three points on a late TD pass by the Bengals' Carson Palmer. Cincinnati would have still be down after that score with seconds left in the game had the Ravens put a TD on the board on that opening drive.

Most people still cringe when they remember the Red Zone pass that was intercepted in the Ravens 17-15 loss to the Indianapolis Colts last season. Flacco threw a pass into triple coverage as it appeared he was set on throwing that ball to that spot as he broke the huddle and never looked anywhere else. One touchdown that day instead of five field goals would have more than likely given us a win over the Colts and changed the entire outlook of the season for the Ravens and ended the Colts unbeaten season up until that point.

Flacco also threw a poor Red zone interception on that Monday Night Football debacle against the Green Bay Packers. With 12 penalties, including five pass interference calls against the team, I doubt Flacco's pick cost us the game, but throwing three interceptions in that game it certainly contributed to the loss.

Turning those three specific Red Zone picks into wins might very well and probably would have also turned those losses into wins. Three more wins would have put us at 12-4 and with one of those wins being over the Bengals, would have easily given us the AFC North title and a #3 seed in the post season. A victory over the Colts in the regular season would have given us the confidence to know we could beat them and a date in the AFC Championship Game would have been a real chance to advance to the Super Bowl for the Ravens after getting so close the prior year. No one knows what might have happened but my entire point of this story is to simply state that an improvement of only approximately 100 yards and the elimination of those critical Red Zone interceptions can be the difference between barely sneaking into the playoffs or stomping in to fight for a Super Bowl berth.