OWINGS MILLS - More so than probably any other position in football, quarterbacks are judged based on their numbers, especially one as highly paid as Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.
And through two games this year, Flacco's numbers have been largely unspectacular. Just three touchdown passes to go along with two interceptions. A completion percentage below 60 percent. And a quarterback rating that is just 24th-best among NFL starting quarterbacks.
But Flacco's teammates and coaches believe he is playing better than his numbers show.
"The first game for sure because he had all the drops," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. "[Sunday], he played well [enough] to win the game. He made some throws that could have been game-changers in the first half if we come up with those catches. ...
"The second half, he converted the third downs. That was big. I don't know if the numbers, they might not have been that [special], but they were pretty darn good, and they were good enough to win the game."
Flacco did make some poor throws against the Denver Broncos in Week 1, and he was intercepted twice during that game, but the lack of better numbers so far has to do with more than just his own play, as Harbaugh alluded to.
According to Pro Football Focus, Ravens pass catchers have seven dropped passes through Baltimore's first two games, and there have been several other passes that Ravens pass catchers have gotten their hands on but have been unable to bring in.
Against the Cleveland Browns for example, rookie wide receiver Marlon Brown dropped what would have been a 32-yard touchdown catch on a third-and-7 during Baltimore's opening possession.
Later in the first half, Torrey Smith couldn't bring in what would have produced a 27-yard touchdown down the right sideline. Browns cornerback Joe Haden did have tight coverage on the play, but the ball was placed perfectly by Flacco over Smith's outside shoulder and Smith did get both hands on it.
"It just is what it is," Flacco said of the drops. "You've got to have confidence that your guys are going to catch the ball. If that's our problem right now, then I have a lot of confidence that we'll be good because these guys are going to catch the ball."
But despite the drops, Flacco's numbers aren't horrible, especially considering how many missed opportunities there have been.
He's on pace right now to throw for more than 4,500 yards.
His stats were padded some late against the Broncos, but he was 22 of 33 for 211 with a touchdown and no interceptions against Cleveland.
The Ravens trailed the Browns 6-0 at halftime, but Flacco completed 10 of his 12 pass attempts during the second half and led two second half scoring drives to help lift Baltimore to a 14-6 win.
On the Ravens' opening drive of the third quarter, Flacco was 3 of 3 for 44 yards in helping to set up a short Bernard Pierce touchdown run. Each of the three completions converted a third down of six yards or longer.
Baltimore fumbled on its next drive and went three-and-out on the possession after that, but Flacco led another scoring drive early in the fourth quarter. He completed three passes on the drive. The first was a 16-yarder to Brandon Stokley to convert a third-and-10. Three plays later, he connected with Brown for an 18-yard pass to pick up a third-and-8 and move the ball to Cleveland's 8-yard line. And two plays after that, he found Brown for a 5-yard touchdown pass.
"Joe's playing well," Baltimore tight end Ed Dickson said. "Playing with new guys like he is, and trying to build chemistry with those guys, that's hard on Joe because he doesn't have timing and stuff yet with those guys.
"But he's working countless hours to get that timing down. And with that said, Joe is one of the better quarterbacks in the league, and we know he's going to get the job done."
Flacco's numbers may not rank among the better quarterbacks in the league right now, but that has to do with a lot more than just the play of Flacco.