Like cars driving through the slippery streets of Baltimore, the players on the snow-covered turf at M&T; Bank Stadium on Sunday had trouble gaining traction and were forced to slow down to avoid spinning out.
Those weather conditions made it easier to run with the ball, as running back Ray Rice showed on a few occasions when he waited for Minnesota Vikings defenders to slide by him after catching short passes. It also benefited the offensive line because there was no way that defensive linemen could blow by them.
But the sluggish speed of the game in the first half was apparently a detriment to Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who completed just nine of his 22 attempts for 82 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
“One of the things that was a little bit of an issue in the conditions was the game speed was hard to evaluate, especially for Joe,” head coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “The progressions are so much slower probably than, obviously, your mental clock says. So the timing of those routes is really different. Guys are coming open but probably not when Joe expected them to come open as much. Figuring that out was something that was a challenge for him. He did a pretty good job with it, but that was probably a challenge.”
Flacco completed three of his first four passes on the first drive before getting picked off by Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway while trying to hit running back Bernard Pierce on a wheel route down the left sideline. No one else was open, so Flacco lobbed it to Pierce, but he misjudged how fast the players were moving and threw it short.
Still, when Flacco walked to the sideline after throwing that interception, he thought the offense would have a “pretty good advantage” in the snow all game because the Vikings’ pass rushers were spinning their wheels at the line of scrimmage and their cornerbacks were not able to break on the ball quickly on throws underneath the coverage.
“It didn’t prove that way obviously,” Flacco said Wednesday. “We were hitting some things in front of them and they weren’t really able to react to it quick enough. In order to take that away, they kind of moved up on us and took the six-yard route away by playing [closer to the line of scrimmage]. Rather than run by them at times early in the game, we probably didn’t try to do that enough.”
The snow died down by halftime and the grounds crew at M&T; Bank Stadium “did a great job of clearing off the field,” according to Flacco. The field was still a little slick, but the speed of the game picked up significantly. Flacco completed 19 of his 28 pass attempts after halftime for 163 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
This week, Flacco won’t have to worry about inclement weather, just a formidable front four. The Ravens take on Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and the Detroit Lions indoors at Ford Field on Monday night. While Flacco said he never makes a big deal about playing outside during the wintertime, he admitted that playing in a dome has its perks.
“Every time you go into a dome and start warming up, you realize how awesome it is to be able to throw the ball inside,” said Flacco, a Jersey guy who is used to throwing in a little cold weather. “It won’t have too much of an effect on the outcome of the game, I don’t think. As a quarterback, you always want great conditions and a dome presents that.”