Quick Links

Flacco seeks redemption in rematch with Broncos


Flacco seeks redemption in rematch with Broncos

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) The most telling image of Baltimore's game against the Denver Broncos last month was Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco lying flat on his stomach near the goal line after his futile pursuit of cornerback Chris Harris.

Baltimore was poised to score a touchdown in the closing seconds of the first half to pull within 10-7. Instead, Harris intercepted an ill-advised, hurried pass from Flacco and took it 96 yards into the end zone.

Denver won 34-17.

``Stuff like that happens sometimes, and believe me, I'm the last guy that wants it to happen,'' Flacco said of the interception. ``But you've got to go out there and keep your head up and play the game. I think I did a great job of rebounding from that, and I think our whole team did. That's why we are where we are right now.''

In spite of that lopsided defeat, the Ravens won the AFC North title and advanced to the second round of the playoffs by defeating the Indianapolis Colts 24-9 last weekend. That set up Flacco and Baltimore (11-6) for another shot at the Broncos (13-3) on Saturday.

``They beat us up pretty good a couple weeks ago,'' Flacco said. ``But I think you always have that little chip that you want to go out there and prove to people that you're a good football team.''

Flacco is the first starting quarterback in NFL history to lead his team into the playoffs in each of his first five seasons. He's never missed a game since taking the reins at the outset of his rookie year, and this season he set career highs in completions (317), yards passing (3,817) and 300-yard games (five).

There have been more highs than lows for the former University of Delaware star, which is why Flacco found it easy to quickly dismiss that awful sideline pass against the Broncos on Dec. 16.

``It stuck with me a couple minutes, and then I moved on and went out there and played some more snaps,'' he recalled. ``And then when we lost, it stuck with me for a couple minutes again. Then we started getting ready for the next game and we went out and won it.''

Flacco rebounded to throw for 309 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-14 rout of the New York Giants. Flacco made a brief appearance in the meaningless finale at Cincinnati, then threw for 282 yards and two scores against the Colts last weekend.

It's been nearly a month since that awful interception against the Broncos, enough time Flacco and the Ravens to put it behind them.

``That's not in my mind at all going up to Denver,'' Flacco said. ``We feel confident, and I think we should.''

Taking advantage of a moving pocket, Flacco was sacked only once against Indianapolis. That should work to Baltimore's advantage against Denver, which registered three sacks for 32 yards in the first game between the teams.

``Whenever you have great edge pass rushers, you need to move the pocket,'' coach John Harbaugh said. ``Joe can run. He's faster than people think, so he can get out of there and run for some yards, too. Yes, it's something they have been working on.''

Much of the talk leading up to Saturday's game has been about Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, who will be making his first playoff start for the Broncos after a splendid run with Indianapolis. Flacco knows that his team's success will depend heavily on whether he can generate enough offense to outdo Manning - while at the same time keeping the ball out of his counterpart's hands.

``Our goal is to go in and score touchdowns,'' Flacco said. ``Obviously, they have a high-powered offense and can score at a pretty high rate.''

Perhaps the biggest obstacle for Flacco and Baltimore is playing on the road. The Ravens went 7-2 at home (including last week) and are a very mediocre 4-4 on the road. In addition, Flacco has thrown 17 of his 24 touchdown passes this season in Baltimore.

``You just have to be ready to go into a hostile environment and play your best football,'' he said. ``It's not going to be up and down with the crowd; they're going to be in it 100 percent for the whole game. The bottom line is we have to go in there and just make sure that we have a good, sound week of practice and we work on all the things that could possible go wrong - just because of all the noise and things like that - and make sure we have an answer for it.''


Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

John Harbaugh defends Joe Flacco's play during difficult season for Ravens

John Harbaugh defends Joe Flacco's play during difficult season for Ravens

OWINGS MILLS – Ravens coach John Harbaugh strongly defended quarterback Joe Flacco after Wednesday’s practice, in the midst of a difficult season for his franchise quarterback, and with the Ravens (3-4) riding a four-game winning streak.

Flacco’s current quarterback rating is 75.4, which would be the second-lowest of his nine-year career if the season ended today. He has thrown more interceptions (six) than touchdown passes (five).

So does Harbaugh think Flacco is “elite”? Asked how he assessed Flacco’s play at this point in the season, Harbaugh did not hold back.

“I’m a Joe Flacco guy, and I believe in Joe,” Harbaugh said following Wednesday’s practice.  “Joe Flacco is a great football player. Joe Flacco is the key to our success. So we need to all do everything in our power, so all the things fall into place for him. He can play. He can throw it, he can make decisions, he can score touchdowns for us, he can do all the things we need to do. We need to make sure that we give him a chance to do that. Joe will take care of what he needs to do.

“I’m not worried about Joe taking care of what he needs to do. Joe works on it harder than anybody, cares about it more than anybody. But we need to protect him, we need to run routes, we need to create confidence in our passing game, we need to run the ball well.”

But after Wednesday’s practice, Flacco admitted he needed to play better, regardless of injuries along the offensive line, or struggles with the Ravens’ running game.

“I am obviously not playing good enough,” Flacco said. “We are not a good offense, and it starts with the quarterback. I have to be better. We have to be more precise, and that starts with me – just more consistent overall.”

How well Flacco performs after the bye will be a major key to the Ravens’ fate. But despite Flacco’s recent struggles, his coach still has his back.

MORE RAVENS: Hester counting on bye week to rehab groin injury

Quick Links

Ravens' Devin Hester hopes to use bye week to overcome groin injury

Ravens' Devin Hester hopes to use bye week to overcome groin injury

OWINGS MILLS – Dealing with a groin injury that has severely hampered his play, Ravens returner Devin Hester planned to rehab during the bye week, hoping for a better second half of the season.

“I’m spending tomorrow here, get some more treatment,” said Hester following Wednesday’s practice. “I’m not going to really treat it (the bye) like a vacation.

“It’s tough. You can’t really be yourself. But it’s the NFL. Things like this come up all over the league. There’s not one team that’s out there that’s injury free. You got to spend more time in the training room, get your body right.”

Hester said he originally injured his left groin Week 2 against the Browns, and aggravated his right groin two weeks later during practice. Not only has Hester fumbled four times, he has not shown the explosiveness that made him the NFL’s all-time leader in return touchdowns.

Hester will turn 34 years old Nov. 4, which raises the question if he is too old, or too injured, to be a consistent returner anymore.  Hester remained optimistic he could use the bye week to get healthy.

“I just want to contribute and do my part,” Hester said. “There’s always going to be a clock ticking. During this bye week, hopefully I can bounce back next week and be up to par.”

MORE RAVENS: Ravens anxious for Perriman to ramp up production