FLACCO GOES WILD ABOUT WILDCAT
Earlier this week, Joe Flacco was asked about the wildcat plays run in last Sunday’s game against the Jets, specifically the ones where he was asked to split out wide as a receiver while backup Tyrod Taylor took quarterback snaps. It came up again yesterday, and Flacco reiterated his dislike for the wildcat, calling it a “high school offense.”
Many have weighed in on Flacco’s comments since then, including Mike Preston of the Baltimore Sun, who feels that Flacco needs to play better if he wants to stay out of the wildcat.
If he wants more snaps, then get the offense to gain more yards and score more touchdowns, not just field goals.
Peter Shmuck, also of The Sun, felt that Flacco should have kept quiet about the wildcat being a one-week deal because it is one more thing for the Steelers to try to prepare for on Thursday night.
Our own Tony Lombardi says Joe should just shut up and play.
John Eisenberg of BaltimoreRavens.com and Jamison Hensley of ESPN are on the other end of the spectrum, feeling that Flacco has earned the right to speak out. Eisenberg’s main argument is that it is refreshing to see Flacco provide a candid response, and that few big-name quarterbacks want to run the wildcat.
In my own opinion, there is nothing wrong with Flacco being clear about his dislike for lining up as a wide receiver. Flacco is a $120 million dollar man, and the most recent Super Bowl MVP. Like Eisenberg says, I can’t see Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Aaron Rodgers willingly giving up snaps to a backup quarterback. Flacco has earned the right to be vocal to the coaches about the offense.
However, the biggest issue is that Flacco was so public with his feelings, because now Harbaugh and the rest of the team will surely be asked to speak about the topic.
OFFENSE NEEDS TO GET IN THE ZONE
Last year the Ravens offense was opportunistic, and prolific inside of an opponent’s 20-yard line as they converted just over 60 percent of their possessions in the red zone to touchdowns, which ranked 6th in the NFL. The team was able to finish drives, and make plays when it mattered most.
After failing to score a red zone touchdown in four trips against the Jets last Sunday, it is clear that this year’s team is not as good at finishing drives. These Ravens are scoring touchdowns on only 51.4 percent of drives that reach the red zone, which is 20th in the NFL. To make matters worse, according to Ray Frager of CSNBaltimore.com, they only score touchdowns on 43.8 percent of drives at home.
This becomes even more important when you realize that eight of the last ten matchups between the Ravens and Steelers have been decided by three points, including the last four in a row. In their 19-16 Week 7 loss to the Steelers, the Ravens scored a touchdown only once in three trips to the red zone, and would have won if they could have converted just one more drive.
Joe Flacco’s quarterback rating in the red zone this year is 77.0, which ranks 39th out of 49 quarterbacks who qualify. No quarterback this year has thrown three red zone interceptions yet, but Flacco is tied for the league lead with two.
To beat the Steelers this week, the Ravens will need to finish on drives every chance they get.
JUSTIN TUCKER BECOMING A HOUSEHOLD NAME
After winning the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors twice in the last month, Ravens kicker Justin Tucker has also been named the AFC Special Team Player of the Month for November.
Tucker is only in his second year, but has been kicking like a veteran all season. So far in November, Tucker has connected on nine out of nine attempted field goals and has made some very important kicks in that span, including a game-winning 46-yarder in OT against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 10. After watching the game-winning kick go through, he broke out the popular “Ooooh kill ‘em” dance.
Against the Jets last Sunday, Tucker made four field goals, including one from 53 yards out in windy conditions. After watching the kick go through, Tucker turned to the crowd and motioned for the fans to give him some love.
Tucker has hit on 24 of 26 field goals on the season and made his last 22 in a row. When Tucker takes the field against the Steelers on Thanksgiving, he will have an opportunity to tie Matt Stover for the second-most consecutive field goals in Ravens history at 23. Stover also holds the longest consecutive field goal record with 36.
FAMILY, TURKEY…AND THE RAVENS?
John Harbaugh is interested in joining the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys, both of whom have played every year on Thanksgiving for many years (Cowboys since 1978, Lions since 1934), as a tradition of Turkey Day.
For the second time in the last three seasons, Harbaugh and the Ravens will host the night game on Thanksgiving. This time, they’ll meet the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday evening. The Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers 16-6 two years ago, and the game between the 5-6 Ravens and 5-6 Steelers is loaded with possible playoff implications.
The NFL added a third game to Thanksgiving in 2006 in an attempt to feature more AFC teams on Thanksgiving, and since then, only the Ravens and New York Jets have hosted the game more than once.
Harbaugh said Tuesday, “If at any point in time the NFL and Roger want to make this tradition, wouldn’t we all be for that in Baltimore?” He later followed up with, “It’s an honor to play on Thanksgiving, we get a chance to play in front of the whole country in a rivalry such as this for Baltimore.”
It’s your move, Roger Goodell.