- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 9, 2008

HOUSTON | The first time the Texans prepared for the Ravens, they hoped to rattle rookie Joe Flacco, who had one game of experience and hadn’t played on the road.

Things are much different now after Hurricane Ike postponed the game for almost two months. The Flacco that Houston will face Sunday has gained experience and led the Ravens to three straight victories to match their win total from last season.

Flacco said he’s much more confident and relaxed than in Week 2.

“When you have eight games under your belt you’re definitely a little bit different as a quarterback,” he said. “You’re more experienced, and you feel better with your guys. Just as an offense, we’re jelling more than we would have been.”

Coach Gary Kubiak agrees and doesn’t think of him as a rookie anymore after what he’s done this season.

“He’s getting better each week,” [They’re] asking him to do a lot. They’re presenting a lot of problems for … the defense. I’m going to have to worry about him all day long.”

Flacco was chosen AFC offensive player of the week after throwing for 248 yards and two scores in a 37-27 come-from-behind win over Cleveland last week.

While the Texans get ready for a more experienced quarterback than they would have seen in September, the Ravens must prepare for a different quarterback altogether. Sage Rosenfels will get his second start of the season in place of Matt Schaub, who is out two to four weeks with a knee injury.

Rosenfels gained some unwanted notoriety earlier this season when he started for an ill Schaub against the Colts. He lost two fumbles and threw an interception in the last four minutes of the fourth quarter to allow Indianapolis to erase a 17-point deficit and win 31-27.

Rosenfels, 4-1 as a starter last season, threw for both of Houston’s offensive scores after taking over in the second half of last week’s loss to Minnesota. He also threw an interception in the end zone and was sacked twice on Houston’s final drive.

The 30-year-old Rosenfels, a career backup, said he sometimes tries to do too much to prove he should be a starter.

“To try to overcome the stigma of a backup quarterback, you want to go in there and make things happen,” Rosenfels said. “You want to make great plays and I’ve been able to do that a lot of times. The hardest part is when you don’t have plays there is to have the mental toughness to just throw the ball in the dirt and just move on.”

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said the quarterback change alters Baltimore’s preparation a bit, but the Ravens aren’t expecting a drop-off with Rosenfels playing.

“We think Sage Rosenfels is a starting quarterback in the NFL,” Harbaugh said. “He’s proven that. We think people in Houston feel that way. We think people all around the league feel that way.”

Rosenfels will try to help Andre Johnson get back on track against the second-ranked defense in the NFL. The Ravens are allowing just more than 246 yards a game. Johnson, who leads the NFL with 834 yards receiving, had four straight 10-plus catch, 130-yard games before Sunday’s 62-yard performance.

“I think Sage is going to do well for us,” Johnson said. “He came in last season and helped us out. We feel comfortable with both quarterbacks. I don’t think we’ll miss a beat.”



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