"I thought the whole team did a really good job adjusting throughout the game and making the plays we had to," said QB Joe Flacco after the Ravens 29-7 win over the Atlanta Falcons. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
A week ago, facing a vanilla and vulnerable Tampa Bay Buccaneers pass defense, Joe Flacco threw for more than 300 yards and five touchdowns. Facing a more complex Atlanta Falcons defense at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens quarterback turned in a more modest performance Sunday.
"They threw the kitchen sink at us, defensively, scheme-wise — we had every blitz and every kind of front coverage," coach John Harbaugh said. "I thought [Joe] did really well. The thing that Joe handled very well in this game was all the looks we were getting. … I thought he did a really good job of sorting it out."
Flacco completed 16 of 25 passes for 258 yards, with a pair of touchdowns against vastly different coverages, but also threw two interceptions in a comfortable 29-7 win over Atlanta. On the season, Flacco is completing 63.7 percent of his passes for 1,854 yards, 14 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Playing against a team led by his 2008 draft classmate, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, Flacco did well in recognizing the Falcons' schemes on his touchdown tosses.
He opened the Ravens' offensive day with a quick-strike scoring drive that started near midfield, moved into the red zone on a well-thrown ball to Torrey Smith that drew a long pass interference penalty and ended with Flacco's third touchdown pass of the year to tight end Owen Daniels.
Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak sent five men into the end zone from five yards out, and Atlanta dropped eight into staggered zone coverage. Daniels settled into a small space between three defenders and Flacco delivered a bullet to take an early lead.
At the end of the game, with long snapper Morgan Cox out with a knee injury and no long snapper to facilitate a punt, the Ravens went for it to try to extend the game. Flacco and Smith recognized press man coverage and took advantage of it on fourth down for a 39-yard touchdown over cornerback Robert Alford.
In between, Flacco saw all kinds of zone and man coverage, with blitzes targeting the young left side of his offensive line, and adjusted accordingly.
"There were a lot of plays that not only pressure-wise…but coverage-wise they switched it up a lot," Flacco said. "They played a lot in multiple coverages and did a lot of different things. … I thought the whole team did a really good job adjusting throughout the game, and making the plays we had to."
Flacco completed passes to seven receivers, with attempts to two more that didn't connect in a performance that didn't reach the heights of last week's five-touchdown performance, but led to the same result.
"The biggest thing with that is when teams are doing that to you, and they're trying to give you different looks, you're going to have to get the ball out quickly at times, "Flacco said. "The fact that guys are getting open quickly is a huge help to that."
Unlike his impeccable performance a week ago, Flacco threw a pair of interceptions. Smith took responsibility for the first one, a deep ball similar to his touchdown where Alford muscled him to the sideline and picked off Flacco in his own end zone.
"I should have tackled the guy and taken a pass interference penalty," Smith said. "I kind of lost track of the ball myself, so one of those interceptions is my fault. … He still did a great job."
On the second interception, Alford was in man coverage on third down and jumped the route he was covering to step in between Daniels and Flacco to pick him off a second time.
But Flacco had success on third down, especially in the third quarter. His longest completion of the day was a quick 49-yard screen to Steve Smith on third-and-six on the first drive of the third quarter. He extended the first drive of the final quarter with a 17-yard catch-and-run to Michael Campanaro that set off a run-heavy, five-minute drive.