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4. What's going on with quarterback Joe Flacco?

It's been a rough stretch recently for quarterback Joe Flacco, with three interceptions total in the past two games. He's completed less than 60 percent of his throws in that stretch and had a season-low 140 passing yards last week in a 20-17 overtime victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Besides accuracy and timing issues for Flacco, there's been another common thread in the past two games: breakdowns in pass protection. Flacco was sacked five times against the Bengals and Cleveland Browns, meaning he was often looking for escape routes from a collapsing pocket. Without sufficient time to locate his targets, Flacco has had difficulty getting untracked this season. He's completed just 59 percent of his throws, for 2,307 yards and 12 touchdowns, and has a 77.3 passer rating. Flacco already has 11 interceptions this season, one more than he had all of last season. At least Flacco won't have to face Chicago Bears veteran cornerback Charles "Peanut" Tillman on Sunday, who was placed on injured reserve-designated to return this week with a torn triceps. But until Flacco has more time to throw, just who's on the field for the Bears' secondary is something of a moot point. "Teams are coming after us a little bit, and we're kind of letting them," Flacco said. "We're really not doing anything to combat it. We haven't been good enough to stop it and do other things to get them out of it. It makes those guys' jobs tough up front. "Teams have been able to get enough guys up in there to cause a little bit of confusion, and I think that's been the biggest issue. The No. 1 way to stop a good offense or stop any offense is putting pressure on the quarterback. So it definitely affects you in some way." What's the answer? "It's everything," Flacco said. "We've got to be better, but the biggest thing is we've got to be good in the stuff that we do. We've got to hit them with stuff that makes it hurt. You're going to put guys up in there, you're going to double-mug guys and you're going to bring guys off the edge — you're going to do all these things, you're going to play one-on-one coverage. We've got to make it hurt. And we just haven't been good enough to really have teams feel the effect, or the negative effects, of them doing it. It's been pretty positive for them, and that's why they've continued to do it and we've continued to have pressure."
Christopher T. Assaf / Baltimore Sun
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