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News » Ravenous success

Ravenous success

Ravenous success
Joe Flacco gets the "speed" question at least once a week.

It's the one about whether he's been able to "slow the game down" enough to the point that he feels comfortable. For an NFL rookie quarterback - never mind one who a year ago this weekend was getting sacked three times in a 16-10 loss to Villanova - it's a fair question.

He tries to give fair answers.

"I've been saying from the very beginning, if you let it get to you, if you let it get to your head, things are going to be real fast out there and you're not going to see things you really want to," he said in this week's installment. "So you've got to go out there and make sure you know what you're doing during the week. Preparation is everything."

But even Flacco might not have been prepared for the success he's found. Drafted with the 17th overall selection last spring from the University of Delaware, he found himself the starting quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens by default when the season began in September.

After he began the season with limited responsibilities, the Ravens took the handcuffs off him and allowed him to actually lead the offense. In the last four games, the Ravens have averaged 33.5 points. Baltimore (6-3) will try to keep that going against the 8-1 Giants today.

"Joe has handled the bigness of the NFL and he has proven that it is not too big for him," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

Even the Giants have been impressed. Cornerback Sam Madison said Flacco reminds him of another rookie quarterback he once faced who also scared him: Peyton Manning. Said defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka: "He definitely doesn't look like a rookie."

The Giants hope to change that. Their defense is predicated on quarterback pressure, and they have 30 sacks, second in the NFL. So all of those compliments about Flacco looking like a composed veteran, well, the Giants gave them out with a we'll-see-about-that wink.

"He's a good rookie right now," linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "Obviously, we have to do some things to change that up for him a little bit and get him a little confused."

There's some history of that between these two teams. Four years ago, Eli Manning came in as the rookie against Baltimore. He left with a 0.0 passer rating.

But the Ravens have every reason to be confident in Flacco. In the last four games, he has completed 61 of 99 passes for 805 yards, six TDs and no interceptions (he has no picks in his last 112 throws). That's a four-week passer rating of 107.5.

"From Day One, I always felt like I saw things well and was going to the right place with the ball," Flacco said. The Ravens have rallied around him. Plaxico Burress knows something about that. In 2004, he was on a Steelers team that turned to Ben Roethlisberger early in the season.

Burress knows there is a learning curve for every quarterback. "You have to really get out there and mess up to gain experience, so to speak," he said. "That's just how it is at that position."

It helped Flacco that when he was named the starter, he had a strong running game and a stingy defense to help cover up some of his early mistakes.

"I told him, 'You don't have to be Joe Montana your first year. All you have to do is come in and be Joe Flacco,"' linebacker Ray Lewis said. "'We have your back. Always understand that.'"


Coach: John Harbaugh, first season (6-3).

Last week: Beat Texans, 41-13, in a game rescheduled because of Hurricane Ike.

The skinny: The Ravens appear to be a team built just like the Giants in that they run the ball with three backs, rely on their defense to disrupt opponents, and come in with a four-game winning streak. It's an easy comparison to make, but not one Tom Coughlin wants. "You always want to see similarities, but the styles and the approach are a little bit different," he said. Any defense that has Ray Lewis, the reigning AFC defensive player of the week, along with Ed Reed at safety, is tough to beat, plus they have defensive tackle Haloti Ngata at 345 pounds plopped in the middle of the line. Offensively, quarterback Joe Flacco has not looked much like a rookie this season and has not thrown an interception in his last 112 attempts. The Ravens are the NFL's top-scoring team in the last four weeks at 33.5 points per game.


Giants - Out: LB Gerris Wilkinson (knee); questionable: S James Butler (knee), CB Kevin Dockery (back), CB Corey Webster (groin), LB Jonathan Goff (concussion); probable: RB Reuben Droughns (neck).

Ravens - Out: WR Terrance Cooper (neck/shoulder); questionable: T Willie Anderson (ankle), WR Derrick Mason (shoulder), S Ed Reed (thigh), CB Samari Rolle (neck), TE Daniel Wilcox (thigh), S Tom Zbikowski (thigh).



As dominant as the Ravens are at stopping the run, they have one of the NFL's top playmaking safeties to help slow the pass. Giants receiver Plaxico Burress had many games against Reed when he played for the Steelers, a division rival. "He's a guy that really knows route combinations and understands the concept of the offense and what the offense is trying to do," Burress said. "He's a big-time studier, so being the athlete that he is, he can get away with some of the things that other guys can't get away with." And when Reed gets near a ball, he more often than not comes away with it. He has 35 career interceptions, including four for touchdowns. "He's a ball hawk," Burress said. "If the ball is coming to him, he will catch it. Hopefully, we won't put balls close enough for him so he can grab them."

Joe Flacco AT A GLANCE

151-243 Comp-att.

1,649 Passing yards

7 TDs

7 INTs

79.7 QB rating

Ravens at Giants, 1p.m.

TV: Ch. 2

Radio: WFAN (660)

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 16, 2008

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