Rather than treat it as a daunting task, Flacco is practicing this week as if last Sunday’s debacle against the Cincinnati Bengals never happened.
“For us players, the game’s over as soon as we leave the locker room. There’s not much you can do about it after the fact,” he said Wednesday. “You have to move on to the next week, focus on that opponent and try to get a win.”
Flacco’s career-high four interceptions contributed heavily to a 15-10 defeat. After poring over the game film and studying each one of the pickoffs, the third-year quarterback lamented only one of those errant passes.
“The second one I threw was bad. Other than that, they made some plays,” Flacco said, noting that one pass was batted by a lineman and another came on fourth down. “I don’t want to throw any of them, but I don’t think they were bad throws.”
Two games into the season, Baltimore (1-1) has scored only two touchdowns and is a .500 team despite fielding a defense that has not yet allowed the opposition to reach the end zone.
The offense has thus far received plenty of criticism, and Flacco understandably is the one getting most it.
“Quarterbacks get too much credit when things go well, and they take way too much of the blame when things go bad,” Houshmandzadeh said.
Perhaps not this time. The defense played soundly at Cincinnati and Baltimore’s running game averaged 4.7 yards per carry, but that wasn’t enough to overcome Flacco’s four turnovers and miserable 23.8 quarterback rating.
Flacco threw 12 interceptions all last season and had an average quarterback rating of 88.9 — the best in team history.
And now … this.
“You have a couple of slip-ups. It happens,” he said. “Everybody plays bad games, and I’m going to have more bad games. But the majority of them, I’m going to play well and I expect myself to. You’ve just have to bounce back, keep your head up and know that you have the ability to do that.”
His teammates believe Flacco will do just that, beginning Sunday in the home opener against winless Cleveland.
“If you don’t make these mistakes, you’ll never get them corrected. He’s a guy that’s willing to work,” running back Ray Rice said. “He’s a playoff quarterback. He’s a winning quarterback. I know he’s going to get the job done. I have full faith in him.”
Center Matt Birk said, “What he’s accomplished in a short amount of time in this league, it’s not just a credit to him as a player but his mentality. That’s where Joe is really special. I love Joe. I believe in Joe. Obviously if there’s four interceptions on the stat sheet, people will come down on the quarterback. But everybody knows it’s a team thing.”
And on this team, Flacco is the starting quarterback. Period.
“You want to put the best guy out there that you feel gives you the best chance to win from week to week,” coach John Harbaugh said. “That’s why we feel Joe is our guy.”
Maybe that’s why Flacco appears to have put Sunday’s mess behind him.
“I haven’t noticed anything different in him at all. He’s about the same to me: real quiet, real chilled,” Houshmandzadeh said. “They say you want your quarterback to keep an even keel — not too high, not too low. That’s him all the way. That’s a good thing. You never want to get too emotional.”