Back on October 3, I wrote an article about how I could no longer defend Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. His stats were horrid, and he was coming off of a loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he only had 4.8 yards per attempt. Flacco definitely earned his criticism at the time.
“He’s just bad,” I wrote. “He’s been bad for three seasons now and other teams would’ve attempted to replace him or bench him because of it. But the Ravens didn’t draft his heir apparent or sign a new quarterback that would have allowed him to sit and work his way back from his back injury. Now they are stuck with Flacco, who currently looks like a glorified J.P Losman.”
He would continue his poor play until the end of November. During Flacco’s first 11 games of the 2017 campaign, he had a completion rate of 65.24%, with 1,875 yards passing, nine touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a passer rating of 74.2. He averaged 170 yards per game, one touchdown and one interception and only had 5.34 yards per attempt.
I’ll be the first to admit when I’m wrong.
When it comes to how I once felt about Flacco’s play this season, it’s one of those many times that I’ve been wrong. He has played some of his best football of this season in recent weeks.
He has gone 69-for-113, passing for 826 yards, five touchdowns, one interception and has rushed for a touchdown. He has also has averaged 275 yards, two touchdowns, less than one interception and 7.31 yards per attempt over a three-game span.
Why has he played better? I believe that it’s due to a number of different reasons.
First is that, he has had more time to work with his receivers, as the year has gone on. Many times during this season, injuries affected both Flacco and most of his wide receivers. Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Chris Moore and Michael Campanaro have all dealt with the injury bug during the season. Flacco’s back has recently gotten back (no pun intended) to full strength, according to Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhiweg.
“I think he’s a little bit more healthy than he has [been],” Mornhinweg said after the game against the Detroit Lions, via the team’s website. “I think people forget [that] he came in with a little back issue. Three or four days of practice to start the season.”
Due to his back issue, Baltimore’s offensive play calling was lackluster. Mornhinweg often called a conservative game, relying on rushing the ball with Alex Collins and Javorius Allen to begin the year. As Baltimore gotten healthier, with the return of Danny Woodhead, Ronnie Stanley and others, Morhinweg has allowed for Flacco to take more shots downfield.
Flacco and Wallace have made for a very good duo recently. Wallace has 14 catches for 277 yards in the past three games. Though Wallace hasn’t had a touchdown since the Green Bay Packers game, he has been quite valuable in blowing the top off of the coverage, which works to Flacco’s advantage.
Also lost in the fray is tight end Ben Watson’s play. Watson has been good for Baltimore this season and though he didn’t have a catch during the Pittsburgh game in Week 14, Watson has caught two touchdowns in three weeks. The 37-year old (happy birthday) has been one of Baltimore’s best receivers.
Baltimore’s passing offense has gotten better due to the running game as well. Collins, Allen and Woodhead have been a part of Baltimore’s 12th ranked rushing offense (116.8 yards per game). When the running game is good, it means that the play action pass will be wide open, especially deep downfield.
Baltimore’s playoff hopes ride on the shoulders of Flacco and through the past three games, he’s done his part. If Flacco and company can continue to put up these type of numbers against the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals, they will make the playoffs.
What’s even more encouraging is that they’ve put up good stats against two solid teams in the Lions and Steelers. The Lions could make the playoffs and the Steelers are already in. The Steelers have the number four defense in the NFL (allowing 307.8 yards per game). Though Detroit’s defense is lacking (362.3 yards per game), they boast the fifth-ranked passing offense in the NFL (263.5 yards per game).
For a Flacco-led offense to be able to go toe-to-toe with these two teams is a good sign. The disapproval that I had of his play at one time doesn’t hold at the moment.