Flacco’s Return Looms Large

Street Talk Flacco’s Return Looms Large

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All eyes will be on Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco this week.

He suffered a concussion on a hard hit by Miami linebacker Kiko Alonso in Baltimore’s dominant 40-0 victory Thursday night. It was a critical result for the Ravens, who moved to 4-4 and are still alive in the AFC playoff race heading into the second half of the season.

It’s still uncertain whether Flacco will be ready for this week’s road game against the 4-3 Tennessee Titans. While coach John Harbaugh was non-committal about Flacco’s status, the players are confident he will be ready to play when the Ravens land in Nashville.

“He’ll be back. He’s fine. He’ll be ready,” safety Eric Weddle said. “He has 10 days. I’m not going to worry about him not being out there. He’s one of the toughest guys I know.”

The hit on Flacco appeared to galvanize the Ravens, who had one of the most dominant performances in franchise history against Miami.

Immediately after the hit, center Ryan Jensen knocked off Alonso’s helmet and drove him into the ground. Harbaugh also had to be restrained from going after him. Receiver Jeremy Maclin traded words with Alonso at midfield.

It was a unified showing for the players protecting their quarterback.

“I felt it was a dirty hit and Joe’s our franchise guy,” Jensen said. “We’ve got to go out and protect him. Joe getting ‘cheap-shotted’ like that, I felt I had to do something to protect him and show him that I’ve got his back.

“It got chippy out there, but that’s okay. That’s the kind of offensive line we want to be. We want to get those guys frustrated, but from that point on when Joe got hit it got chippier and chippier.”

The Ravens need to “stack wins” to avoid missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five years, according to Harbaugh. Baltimore likely has to go 6-2 the rest of the way, so this upcoming game against Tennessee is critical.

If Flacco cannot play, the Ravens will go with Ryan Mallett at quarterback. While Mallett struggled in the preseason, he appeared to have more confidence running the offense against Miami and threw a 2-yard touchdown pass.

Regardless of who plays quarterback, the Ravens could lean heavily on running back Alex Collins, who has been a main spark since being signed off the practice squad in late September. Collins had his best game against the Dolphins, running for a career-high 113 yards on 18 carries.

After some early struggles with fumbles, Collins appears to have corrected those problems. He is ranked 9th in the NFL with 478 yards. However, he has about 50 fewer carries than the players ranked ahead of him.

Collins hopes that he has found a home in Baltimore.

“I just give a lot of credit to the staff and the head coach and everybody for giving me that opportunity coming in, and trusting and believing in me,” Collins said. “I had a few mishaps earlier in the season and just sticking with me. It’s a great feeling. I feel the family atmosphere.

“Everybody’s got your back, and I love it here. Just the perseverance of coming to a new team and learning a new system. Just definitely just kept my head down and just worked hard to get where I am.”

Another good sign for Baltimore is the run defense, which also appears to have fixed some of the problems that hurt them over the past few weeks. The Ravens struggled when tackle Brandon Williams missed four games with a foot injury. Baltimore allowed 169.5 yards per game and went 1-3 over that stretch

Baltimore still struggled when Williams returned Week 7 against Minnesota and allowed 169 rushing yards. However, with that game under his belt, Williams had more footing against Miami and running back Jay Ajayi, who scampered 21 yards on his first carry, but then managed two more yards the rest of the game.

Tennessee is tied with New England and Buffalo for the 10th-best running attack. The Ravens’ run defense could pave the way for another victory.

“We have a standard to keep in Baltimore,” Williams said. “We need to get back to what Baltimore does: that is hard-nosed defense and that’s stopping the run. It just feels amazing. Obviously, people on Twitter, they’re a bunch of keyboard ‘whatevers.’ What are you going to say now? We are who we are.”

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Todd Karpovich

About Todd Karpovich

Todd Karpovich has been a contributor for ESPN, the Associated Press, SportsXchange, the Baltimore Sun, among other media outlets nationwide. He is the co-author of “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Baltimore Ravens Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box,” “Skipper Supreme: Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles,” and the author of “Manchester United (Europe's Best Soccer Clubs).” Karpovich lives in Towson with his wife, Jill, daughters, Wyeth and Marta, and a pair of dogs, Sarah and Rory. More from Todd Karpovich

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