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Flacco isn’t ready to put a game on his shoulders…yet.
The Packers shut down the Ravens’ running game and one of the leagues’ best overall gainers in running back Ray Rice. Green Bay practically dared quarterback Joe Flacco to win the game. Tonight, Flacco couldn’t deliver. Monday Night Football marked Flacco’s worst game of the season. He set several personal season lows: most interceptions (3), worst passer rating (27.2) and worst completion percentage (41.7 percent).
Flacco showed tonight that he still needs to work on his decision-making skills in pressure situations if he is going to put his team and games on his shoulders. This wasn’t the first time a Flacco interception spoiled a potential comeback – it happened in Week 11 vs. the Colts and in last year’s AFC Championship game against the Steelers.
Flacco is still an excellent quarterback. He probably knows better than anyone what is required to take the next step, and he will do it. These are the growing pains of the NFL.
Packers’ No. 1 defense exploited the Ravens’ youth.
When an offense musters 119 yards in the air, one wonders what caused the lack of production. Was there a shortage in the run game? A breakdown in protection? A problem with receivers getting open? Yes, yes and yes. Only 66 yards on the ground, 10 quarterback hits and three sacks. And when Flacco did have enough time to throw the ball, he had few open options. The No. 1 and No. 2 receivers, Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton, were held to a combined three catches for 29 yards.
It was a dismal outing for the offense, but the next generation of Ravens emerging stars are still infants in NFL time, and the Packers’ top-ranked defense exploited their youth.
Penalties got in the way of playing football.
Baltimore and Green Bay committed a combined 23 penalties for 310 yards, tying for the second-highest yardage total in an NFL game. Some were warranted, others weren’t. But how many times did you hear the ESPN commentators suggest a quarterback lob the ball down field in hopes of a pass interference penalty?
Really? That’s the strategy? They were joking, but there was truth behind the laughs. Turns out, three of tonight’s touchdowns were aided by pass interference calls. But just like I hate watching players “flop” in the NBA to try to draw a foul, I don’t like watching NFL players and coaches trying to bait officials into throwing a yellow flag. Let’s just roll up our sleeves and play football.
Standards for the defense have lowered.
Perhaps it’s because the defense was without key players tonight. In addition to the game-time scratches of safety Ed Reed and defensive end/linebacker Terrell Suggs, the Ravens’ defense had already suffered the losses of linebacker Brendon Ayanbendejo, cornerback Fabian Washington and safety Haruki Nakamura (and you can even throw Samari Rolle in that list).
I found myself thinking the Ravens’ defense was having an excellent game. But giving up 350 total yards and 27 points isn’t exactly stellar. Maybe they are playing with one hand tied behind their back, but at the end of the day, the defense isn’t performing well enough to get this team to the playoffs. And speaking of the playoffs…
Ravens not yet deserving of the Wild Card.
After tonight’s loss, head coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens are “still breathing” in the playoff race. Coach is absolutely right. However, Baltimore has received a lot of help from a mediocre AFC middle-of-the-pack group of teams. Wild Card contenders keep losing, so the Ravens still have a chance. But at some point, Baltimore has got to start winning back-to-back games to show they are worthy of the playoff hunt.