15/36, 1 TD, 3 picks.
But it was more than just the numbers that made Joe Flacco’s performance so unnerving in a 27-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers Monday night at Lambeau Field. It was the brutal way in which he seemed to collapse in the game’s most important moments.
With the Ravens trailing 24-14 but still very much in the football game, Tramon Williams intercepted Flacco on a play that will replay in the minds of Baltimore football fans for a long time. The team had an opportunity to pull within 3 points following a 1st and goal at the Packers’ 1 yard line. Instead, they lost 2 yards on a run, called timeout; and then watched Joe Flacco roll to the right side of the field and inexplicably throw the ball off his back foot across his body to the middle of the field-where Williams was waiting to safely corral it.
Flacco went on to add another interception (this one collected by AJ Hawk) with the game still undecided; allowing the Packers to extend their lead to 13. After some more terrible clock management (John Harbaugh should be ashamed), Flacco looked disinterested in a lethargic final drive that appeared as though Harbaugh and Cam Cameron had decided to call off the dogs.
This was the lowest moment in Joe Flacco’s tenure as starting quarterback in Baltimore.
His disastrous performance in Indianapolis last year was forgivable because it was very early in the season; and even EARLIER in his career. It certainly appeared to work as a learning experience that allowed Joe to improve the rest of the way-ultimately reaching the AFC Championship Game.
Tonight’s game was a crucial moment where the Ravens needed to stay on pace in the race for the final AFC Wild Card spot. Instead of remaining tied for the final playoff spot-they now find themselves a game (and a tiebreaker) behind the Jaguars. It was also a game they needed to prove they could still beat good teams on the road. The last time they beat a quality opponent away from M&T Bank Stadium was September 20 in San Diego; and it feels like an eternity longer than that.
Tonight’s was a crucial moment for Joe Flacco, who has never won a game in regulation after trailing in the final minutes. With the Ravens having completely swiped momentum from the Packers in the 2nd half; Joe was primed for an opportunity to do just that on “The Frozen Tundra” before his unthinkable pass floated into the hands of Tramon Williams. He also needed to prove that he could beat another good NFL quarterback. Since out-dueling Phillip Rivers in Week 2 at Qualcomm Stadium, he was 0-5 against Carson Palmer, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Brett Favre. Aaron Rodgers-a statistically very good quarterback had never been a guy who could prove he could win a big game in the 4th quarter. Yet he made the plays when he needed to (including the TD pass to Jermichael Finley in the 4th quarter that gave his team a 2 possession advantage), and the man known as “Joe Cool” faltered under the spotlight of a Monday Night Football audience.
Joe will still be the quarterback Tuesday.
He’ll still be the quarterback Sunday against the Detroit Lions, no matter how many fans went scrambling to WNST.net, Facebook, Twitter and their cell phones to cry out for Troy Smith.
He just has to get better.
It’s not Joe Flacco’s fault that the Ravens are 6-6 right now. Injuries to Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata, Jared Gaither, Todd Heap, Jarret Johnson, Fabian Washington, Brendon Ayanbadejo and nameless others who have missed time or played at less than 100 percent are probably the biggest culprit.
But when a team is in a bad way, the quarterback is the one player who can rally the troops. While quarterbacks like the aforementioned Brady have found success (great success in fact) without getting too high or low emotionally; quarterbacks like Brett Favre, Ben Roethlisberger, Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning have all allowed emotion to be a great part of what eventually made them Super Bowl champions. I’d like to see SOME emotion…..at all…..from #5. It’s an emotional team. They need an emotional leader.
There is an argument that Joe’s ankle is the biggest reason he’s struggled this season, and that might well be accurate.
There is an argument that he is being asked to carry a team despite not really having enough playmakers to be effective offensively.
There is certainly an argument that a season after pushing all of the right buttons-the trio of John Harbaugh, Cam Cameron and quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson had too much faith in a 2nd year quarterback out of the CAA.
No matter the reasoning, Joe Flacco isn’t progressing in his 2nd season-and there’s an argument at this point that he’s regressed. That regression found a signature moment in Green Bay Monday night.
It has to change. It has to change now for the Ravens to have any chance at still getting to the postseason.