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The last time Joe Flacco faced New England in the postseason, he threw just 10 passes.
He’ll almost certainly have to toss more than that in this Sunday’s AFC championship game.
But can Flacco and the Ravens win if they get into a shootout with the high-octane Patriots offense?
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, a big proponent of Flacco, was asked that question Wednesday.
“Yeah, I think so,” Suggs said. “I hope so. If that’s what it’s going to take, if we have to win the game 63-60, then that’s what it’s going to take. We wouldn’t really want it to be a shootout, but if it is, so be it.”
While the Ravens have the league’s No. 3 defense and are allowing just 16.6 points per game, the Patriots offense is scoring 32.1 points per game.
Something’s got to give.
If it ends up being the Patriots offense that gets its way, Baltimore may have to rely on Flacco’s arm to light up New England’s 31st-ranked defense. The Ravens have been in positions like that before this season, and Flacco has succeeded.
Trailing by 21 points late in the first half against Arizona, Flacco rallied Baltimore to a 30-27 win with 31 completions on 51 attempts for 336 yards. He alsoled the Ravens on a 92-yard, final-minute drive in Pittsburgh for a 23-20 victory the following week.
Considering it has a strong run game – led by Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice – and defense, Baltimore doesn’t find itself in many shootouts. And thus, Flacco often isn’t charged with airing it out.
The Ravens finished the regular season, statistically in the middle of the pack, ranked 15th in offensive yards per game.
Cam Wants To Be Balanced
That’s while playing in the strongest division in the NFL, which included three of the top defenses. Baltimore faced eight of the top 10 defenses in the league overall in the regular season.
But Flacco encouraged reporters to look beyond the stats when evaluating how effective Baltimore’s offense can be.
“Obviously we are not very good, statistically, on offense,” Flacco said. “If you look at the statistics, you can say, ‘Hey we don’t score a ton of points. We don’t put up a ton of yards.’ But the bottom line is we get the job done.
“We score points when we need to. We are really good in situational football. … If we need to run the ball, we usually run the ball. If we need to throw the ball, we usually throw the ball. We don’t do a ton of things to be really explosive – in the top of the league statistically – but we have the ability to be a really good offense.”
Another school of thought in facing the Patriots is to get Rice going on the ground, thus eating more clock and keeping quarterback Tom Brady off the field as much as possible.
The Ravens largely rode Rice down their final playoff stretch toward winning the division and getting the No. 2 seed.
He only once had fewer than 20 carries over their final seven games; the only time was in Baltimore’s 34-14 loss in San Diego, when Rice had nine carries but also 10 receptions.
Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron said it’s absolutely important to establish Rice against the Patriots, who own the NFL’s 17th-ranked rush defense.
“That’s who we are, that’s what we do,” Cameron said. “We can be a complimentary offense and situational offense. But our running game sets it all up.”
Cameron spoke about the “style” of the offense being built to with the defensively-strong AFC North, in cold weather. That ground attack should pay dividends in New England.
“We think we have a style that fits this town, this conference,” Cameron said. “We know, obviously, Joe is a big part of our style. This division is a Fu Manchu kind of division. It’s not a clean-shaven one for sure. We’ve got a style, and we like it.”
Rice, who ran 22 times for 159 yards and two touchdowns in the 2009 wild card game in New England, was asked for his thoughts on the notion that he and the running attack will control Sunday’s game by keeping Brady sidelined.
“To a certain extent, that’s very true,” he said. “Anybody will tell you, when you can keep a quick-striking offense off the field, it limits the game.
“But with that being said, I think we have a great balance on this team. I think when we run it effectively, it sets up the pass. When we pass it effectively, it sets up the run. So, in order to keep Tom Brady off the field, I’m just going to say we have to simply execute at a high level. We have to play championship football. In championship football, it doesn’t matter how you win it.”