There’s something missing, despite the great numbers Joe Flacco posted, which put him on top of the AFC in passing yards this season. An opponent like the Cleveland Browns should have been easier to crack for a quarterback who sees himself as the best in the NFL, instead of struggling for a 23-16 win.
Brandon Weeden is a confident rookie quarterback who isn’t afraid to throw and throw despite seeing most of his passes missing their targets. This time, he went 25-52, not throwing a single touchdown and getting intercepted once. Flacco was a bit more accurate (28-46), and made one more, decisive throw for a touchdown. Cleveland struggled in the red zone, getting 9 of their 16 points through Phil Dawson’s kicking.
It’s interesting to see the Ravens becoming more and more of a passing team, which usually doesn’t fit the style of an AFC North smash-mouth team that has a great and proud defense, that’s usually complemented by a running back that knows how to keep them rested and off the field for as long as possible.
The Ravens know how to stop the run, keeping the Browns at only 43 yards and Trent Richardson to another terrible output – 47 yards on on 14 carries, although he did get a touchdown to his name. Ray Rice was a lot more useful as a receiver on the day, because his running was pretty much the same as Richardson’s, 49 yards on 18 carries. The Ravens did get four more first downs through rushing plays than the Browns, another big differing factor, being just slightly better on third down conversions for it, but it was mostly through Bernard Pierce.
Flacco is getting there; that place where he’s among the best in the NFL. Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers are both having rough starts to their seasons. Tom Brady lost in the QB duel to Flacco four days previous to the win over the Browns. Peyton Manning is no longer elite, while Ben Roethlisberger can’t get his offensive line to protect him for long enough and show how good of a quarterback he’s turned into, without the help of a dominant running game.
That leaves Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers and Eli Manning and Tony Romo. But Flacco is just as good these days, supported by a better defense and probably a better team in general than the rest of these guys. He just needs to start playing consecutive great games, like he had against the Patriots and failed to completely follow through against the Browns; a team with a good defense, but such that a great quarterback should do better against.