In other areas, the results have been mixed. Flacco's completion percentage (59.2) is up from last season but down significantly from his first three years in the league. His quarterback rating (85.0) has improved from 2011 but is still lagging compared to 2009 and 2010, his best two seasons statistically.

Against Pittsburgh, he badly overthrew Torrey Smith on an out route in a big third-down situation and then he underthrew the wide receiver on a couple of deep balls. With his team holding a one-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter, Flacco held onto the ball too long and was stripped by James Harrison, the turnover deep in Ravens territory setting up the game-tying touchdown.

"One thing I notice in Joe Flacco is he doesn't get the ball out in rhythm all the time. That has to do with indecisiveness," said broadcaster and former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, a longtime Flacco advocate. "Throw it away, do something with the ball. Good things aren't going to happen."

Cameron said the team's trust in Flacco is "unwavering" and several players strongly defended the quarterback, pointing out that the offense has had other issues. The offensive line has struggled at times with Flacco having already been sacked 29 times, two fewer than all of last season. The receivers have had trouble separating from press coverage. Penalties have been an issue.

"If you watch film, there's always this one guy out of place or who kind of messed up on his assignment. We just have to get that fixed," said second-year wide receiver Tandon Doss, who has five catches for 95 yards and a touchdown. "Joe has broad shoulders, so he can take some pressure, but we have to help him and make plays for him."

Said veteran center Matt Birk: "Quarterbacks are only as good as the guys around him. He's only as good as his protection, his receivers, his running backs. We know Joe takes a lot of the heat, but it would be more appropriate if it was directed at our entire group. He is the guy you want at the trigger."

The Ravens still want to reach a long-term deal with the quarterback after the season even though it currently looks more likely that he'll be given the franchise tag. His contract status ratchets up the attention on him even more as the Ravens hit the home stretch of the regular season, hoping their quarterback breaks from a frustrating stretch and takes them where they want to go.

"It's not like the Ravens want to cut bait and move on. They've invested a lot of time and money in Joe Flacco. Joe Flacco has invested a lot of time and effort for the Baltimore Ravens. The best thing for this football team is to work out a deal," Theismann said. "The Ravens are probably taking the approach over the next four weeks of this season against these playoff teams: 'OK, show us you're worth these millions of dollars you're asking for.'"

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun reporter Aaron Wilson contributed to this article.

Joe Flacco's career numbers (through 12 games each year)

This was the year that Joe Flacco appeared poised for a breakout. While there have been some flashes, his numbers through the Ravens' first 12 games haven't shown a significant jump from his previous four seasons.

Yr. Comp. Att. Yards Yards per att. Comp% TDs INT Sacked Record

2008 202 331 2,276 6.9 61.0 12 9 23 8-4

2009 257 406 2,881 7.1 63.3 14 11 26 6-6

2010 248 398 2,988 7.5 62.3 19 8 27 8-4

2011 240 434 2,895 6.7 55.3 13 8 22 9-3

2012 252 426 3,038 7.1 59.2 15 8 29 9-3

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