Notebook: Flacco improved his fundamentals

OWINGS MILLS -- How did Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco go from throwing four interceptions against the Cincinnati Bengals to delivering three touchdown passes one week later against the Cleveland Browns? Besides the quality of the secondary with the Bengals featuring cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph, Leon Hall and Adam Jones, there was a marked change in Flacco in terms of his mechanics

Flacco entered the game leading the league with five interceptions and ranking last in the NFL with a 41.2 quarterback rating.

Now, he ranks 26th in interception percentage and 27th with a 66.7 quarterback rating.

Against the Browns, Flacco completed 22 of 31 passes for 262 yards with no interceptions.

"Every play is a little bit different," Harbaugh said. "Maybe it's a coverage that surprised him a little bit, maybe it's a little bit of pressure, maybe it's some push, maybe the route wasn't run quite as deep as he thought it was going to be run. Maybe it's him just being a little more anxious than he should be, maybe he's in a little too much of a hurry. ..



"As a coach, you look at spacing and leverage and positioning and body position, body mechanics. It's really different for every single position, and it applies to the quarterback position as well. If you don't see those things, then you have to ask yourself, 'Well he knows that. He understands that. He practices it every day. 'What is he doing that's getting him away from that?' It's not just that he's forgetting technique. There is something that's taking him out of that."

For Flacco, being sound fundamentally is more of a challenge as a 6-foot-6, 240-pounder. "I think it's more natural for some guys because they're further along," Harbaugh said. "Joe's a taller guy, so it's going to be tougher for a taller guy to get lower. The things that make him so good, those levers that make his arm so strong, and he's a great athlete, that's why he's so accurate for being a long guy, make it tougher for him to be compact," Harbaugh said. "Six-foot-one quarterbacks, they're more compact, but it's tougher for them to get the ball up and over people and they usually don't have as strong of an arm. Nobody gets everything."



RICE FEELING BETTER: Ravens Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice suffered a significant knee contusion against the Cleveland Browns, but says he's feeling better.

Rice's status for Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers remains uncertain, but he hasn't been ruled out by coach John Harbaugh. "Knee feeling a lot better," Rice posted today on his official Twitter account. "I was so happy when I found out it was just a bruise. No worries, I will be back asap." BATCH TO START: The Steelers announced that Charlie Batch will start at quarterback Sunday against the Ravens.

Batch, 35, had three touchdown passes in a win last Sunday over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Byron Leftwich will back up Batch in the final game before Ben Roethlisberger's four-game suspension ends.

"Guys have a great deal of confidence in him," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. Batch has two touchdowns and three interceptions in four games against Baltimore with a 53.4 rating.



RUN DEFENSE REELING: Harbaugh challenged the notion that the Ravens are suddenly vulnerable against the run after giving up 144 rushing yards to bruising Browns running back Peyton Hillis. "I would love for our opponents to think we can't stop the run," Harbaugh said on his weekly radio show. "Opponents listening, Ravens can't stop the run. Just run it at us and we'll see how it turns out."

The Ravens rank 23rd in the league in rushing defense, allowing 127.7 yards per contest and 4.8 yards per carry.

This week, they square off with Steelers runner Rashard Mendenhall. He has rushed for 120 yards against the Atlanta Falcons and 143 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"Anytime you rush for that many yards, we're going to be watching the film this week, probably until about six o'clock in the morning," Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson said.

QUICK HITS: Against the Browns, wide receiver Derrick Mason was penalized for delay of game for tossing a ball high into the air after an incompletion. Plus, safety Tom Zbikowski tackled Hillis out of bounds and offensive tackle Michael Oher drew a penalty when he went after Robaire Smith after the defensive end pushed tight end Todd Heap. "You have to focus your energy and channel your emotion to the next play," Harbaugh said. "When you move out of that, that doesn't help you play well. We have a passionate football team. We want to use our emotions as an advantage. Let's use them to help us win the game." .. The Ravens have five sacks in three games. "We want more sacks," Harbaugh said. "We want more pressures. We want more quarterback hits." … Zbikowski is averaging 5.5 yards per punt return. The team ranks 27th in the league in punt return average. Besides Zbikowski, the Ravens could go with Chris Carr, Prince Miller or Lardarius Webb. "I think he's making better decisions," Harbaugh said regarding Zbikowski. "Nothing was sideways. He ran north and south. I thought he was comfortable catching the ball. He was solid." … Harbaugh indicated that there's a possibility the team could look at inserting Oniel Cousins at right tackle with Marshal Yanda moving back to right guard in place of Chris Chester, but emphasized that Cousins would have to earn the job and that nothing is imminent as far as making a change..


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