Sometimes I wonder if Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco's performances each week have more to do with nature or nurture.
The numbers clearly show that Joe is a better over all passer in the friendly confines of M&T Bank Stadium. One big point for Nature. However, when his back is against the wall, in the fourth quarter with the game on the line, whether it be at home or on the road, He tends to come through for his team more often than not. One big point for nurture.
There is no question about it, Joe Flacco is a gamer. When the team needs a drive at the end of the game to put an other "W" in the win column, he is capable of stepping up big time. The problem is, getting there. Sometimes his poor play from the beginning of the game has left the team in quite a hole. These holes can sometimes be insurmountable leaving fans wondering, "who is this guy and what happened to the one who threw for 350 yards and three touchdowns last week."
Joe's biggest issue seems to be creating momentum on the road. At home momentum is almost a given as is it injected into the team as they take the field in front of 70K plus at M&T Bank Stadium cheering and going crazy for their beloved purple and black. The players and the fans thrive on the interaction and the 12th man definitely plays a big part here in Baltimore. Now, it's not just Joe mind you. The entire team tends to look a bit shell shocked on each road game right from the start. Easy passes are dropped. Key blocking assignments are totally disregarded, tackles are missed and what should be three yard runs against our defense turn into seven and eight yard gains on first and second downs.
There is no question that all of this blame cannot be placed firmly on the shoulders of the Ravens talented young quarterback but a team will, over time, take on the personality of it's leaders. For a long time, here in Baltimore, the team fed strictly off linebacker Ray Lewis and that was a great thing, especially because the offensive units they have put on the field over the past decade had left much to be desired. So, it was up to Ray and the defense to pump themselves up and try to win the game for the mostly inept offense.
So, the question looms, how do we get Joe started on the right track right out of the gate on the road. Some say we need to start out in three wide sets, in the shotgun and just air it out from the start. Some say that the team needs to star with establishing the running game by getting your Pro Bowl backfield involved. Maybe they should all wear each others socks before the game and eat chicken with a side of skittles for super the night before game night.
I am of the belief that, when on the road, Joe needs to be worked in slowly buy running the ball and developing big plays in the passing game off of play-action and what not. However, after watching the way he carved up the secondary in San Diego once the leash was taken off I may have to reconsider my initial thought on the matter. Then again I have seen the team come out with that aggressive play calling early on and end up starting the game three and out on their first four possessions. So I guess what it really comes down to is, unless you want to rely heavily on your run game solely on the road they must find a way to wake Joe up more early on.
I'm not too sure what you would do to accomplish this but that's why guys like Jim Caldwell, Cam Cameron and John Harbaugh get the big bucks