All eyes on Flacco as he begins next phase of NFL career

December 12, 2012 | Luke Jones

“You turn the ball over, you put yourself in jeopardy,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I don’t care what position it is. When you play that position and you’re in the pocket, you need to protect that football. That’s something that we need to be better at going down the stretch.”

With the Ravens sputtering the last two weeks and the defense decimated by injuries, Flacco can show his team they can count on him in crunch time as he did last January in Foxborough. His command of the offense will be a necessity with hiccups likely to occur as the Ravens transition from Cameron to Caldwell for the remainder of the season.

If they’re to receive the boost they desperately seek, Flacco must take the reins as the Ravens try to clinch their second straight AFC North title with a win on Sunday. It doesn’t have to be a quantum leap, but it needs to be steadier than what we’ve witnessed over the first 13 games of the season.

A spark is what they’re looking for, but Flacco must be the one to strike the match Caldwell provides.

“I don’t think you’re looking for anything else,” Flacco said. “I think that’s kind of what you’re looking for and you’re looking for us to kind of take that next step and go. Obviously, this is what [Harbaugh] kind of felt needed to be done at this point. So, hopefully it works like that.”

No one knows if it will.

For all the criticism Cameron took in his five seasons with the Ravens, his play-calling was only one piece of the puzzle that’s now been removed from the equation. Cameron was simply the first to fall in a signal that the Ravens weren’t sure how to fix their offensive woes. Only time will tell what other changes might come this offseason.

But the Ravens are focused on the present for now, with Flacco heading the list of variables needing to improve with January approaching.

“I don’t think one person is to blame for the way our offense has been,” fullback Vonta Leach said. “But that’s the business of it.”

Leach is right. The blame shouldn’t have fallen solely on Cameron’s shoulders just like it shouldn’t now default to Flacco.

But it’s the reality of the business as the quarterback looks for a major payday while moving to the front of the accountability line.

The Ravens’ 2012 fate hangs in the balance.

And they need better from their quarterback now more than ever.