The mounting number of interceptions isn’t lost on Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. His frustration with the miscues even came up in a phone call with his father, Stephen Flacco, while driving home from team headquarters this week.
This is all new territory for Flacco. He has thrown a career-high 13 interceptions, including five during the past three games. He's now the 26th-ranked quarterback in the NFL with a 75.3 passer rating, his lowest in six seasons.
During a candid news conference Wednesday, Flacco struck his most self-critical and introspective tone of this season.
“I'm a guy that does not like to throw interceptions,” said Flacco, who's on pace to finish the season with 21 interceptions and has the fifth-most interceptions in the NFL “... I was talking to my dad driving home from the facility one day and, yeah, it's annoying. That's tough.
“Believe me, I'd tell you if I didn't think I was being patient or I thought I was throwing the ball to the wrong spot or just not seeing guys. I've thrown more picks than I should. I still feel like I'm playing patient football. I still feel like I'm taking some chances that I need to take.”
Flacco had never thrown more than a dozen interceptions in a season before this year and had just 10 interceptions last season.
On Flacco's first interception, which was returned for a touchdown by rookie defensive lineman David Bass, running back Ray Rice failed to execute a cut-block on Bass. That allowed Bass to leap up to snatch away the Flacco pass meant for fullback Vonta Leach and not thrown high enough to elude Bass' grasp.
His second interception was clearly his fault, trying to force a throw into heavy traffic to tight end Dallas Clark and getting picked off by rookie middle linebacker Jon Bostic.
“Of course it did," said Flacco when asked if the second interception bothered him. "Especially since you’ve already thrown one that’s gone back for a touchdown. No matter what it is, you don’t like it. I was trying to take a shot on a situation where you probably don’t need to. They end up getting three points on it so, yeah, that eats at you.”
Flacco had never thrown more than a dozen interceptions in a single season in 2008, 2009 and 2011 and had just 10 interceptions last season.
Among the quarterback ranked ahead of Flacco: benched Houston Texans starter Matt Schaub (77.8) as well as Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel (82.1) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie quarterback Mike Glennon (88.4).
The only quarterbacks with lower ratings than Flacco are the Minnesota Vikings' Christian Ponder (74.9), the Jacksonville Jaguars' Chad Henne (72.2), the New York Giants' Eli Manning (70.8), the Oakland Raiders' Terrelle Pryor (69.0), the Cleveland Browns' Brandon Weeden (66.2), the New York Jets' Geno Smith (65.1) and the Minnesota Vikings' Josh Freeman (52.6).
Flacco was signed to a $120.6 million contract in March that included a $29 million signing bonus following a stellar playoff run with 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions capped by being named the Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player.
However, Flacco has completed only 58.6 percent of his throws, the second-lowest of his career, for 2,469 yards and 13 touchdowns with two lost fumbles for the 4-6 Ravens. He threw five interceptions in one game in a loss to the Bills.
"One person's mistake, it's really on all of us to make up for it," wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "Obviously, there are some things that are individual mistakes, but with interceptions there are a lot of things that happen, batted balls or receivers tipping it or anything. So, it's not all on Joe."
Through 10 games last year, Flacco had completed 60.4 percent of his throws for 2,495 yards, 13 touchdowns, seven interceptions and one lost fumble for an 8-2 squad.
"I will tell you this about Joe Flacco: Joe is a great quarterback," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Joe is our quarterback, he's my quarterback. Does anybody have any doubt about that at this point? I know we don't.
"Joe has played great football, and Joe is going to continue to play great football. Look at the plays he's made scrambling around, making throws and things like that. That's the answer to that one."
With wide receiver Anquan Boldin traded to the San Francisco 49ers during the offseason and tight end Dennis Pitta still on injured reserve-designated to return after returning to practice Wednesday from a fractured, dislocated right hip, Flacco hasn't had the weapons he grew accustomed to last season.
His performance has regressed this year, struggling mightily as he ranks 14th in passing yards, 19th in touchdown passes, 26th in completion percentage, 27th in yards per attempt and 15th in yards per game. He's been sacked 33 times, fourth-most in the NFL.
“We all wish we could play better, and that starts with me,” Flacco said. “Up to this point, no, I haven’t and we haven’t played the way we want to or should.”
Two years ago, Reed was critical of Flacco's performance during a playoff win over the Houston Texans. He praised him on Wednesday during a conference call with Baltimore reporters.
"He's throwing the ball, he's a quarterback now," Reed said. "He's been letting it fly. Joe is growing. He's still a young quarterback with some years under him, but he's going to be around this league a long time because he has all the attributes of a great quarterback."
With the Ravens in danger of not making the playoffs for the first time in his career, Flacco said this isn’t the time to be cautious.
“When you’re a 4-6 football team, obviously you haven’t played the way you wanted to or the way you think you could,” Flacco said. “But everything we want to do is still ahead of us. We don’t have anything to lose right now. We can’t really be in any worse of a sitution and still have hope.
“What do we have left to lose? We’ve dealt with as much crap as you can deal with. We’ve had to stand up here and talk about not playing well and staring it straight in the eye and dealing with it. We’ve just got to go let it loose.”
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