Flacco rebounded strongly

OWINGS MILLS – Joe Flacco looked confused, his timing and confidence suddenly disrupted and replaced by tunnel vision and errant throws. It was as if someone else was masquerading as the Baltimore Ravens' traditionally cautious, accurate quarterback during an epic, uncharacteristic meltdown against the Cincinnati Bengals earlier this season.

Flacco uncorked a career-high four interceptions during the 15-10 road loss as he threw off his back foot, threw into coverage and held onto the football too long while he awaited passing lanes to open against the Bengals' talented cornerback tandem of Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall. Since that eruption for Joe Cool, he's icy again. Since that game, Flacco is the second-ranked quarterback in the league with a 105.1 passer rating and 24 touchdowns and only four interceptions.

"During the first two games, he threw some picks that he wishes he could have back," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "That's everybody being on the same page. I think now he's seeing things a lot better. He's calm back there. "In the beginning of the season, he was trying to work out a lot of stuff. He saw what was wrong and he fixed it. I don't think he's had that many picks since that game. He's probably been the best quarterback in the NFL besides Tom Brady since that game."

Winning 10 of the past 13 games, Flacco has completed 64.9 percent of his throws during that span for 3,095 yards. Only New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady has topped those numbers with a 12-1 record, 66.4 percent accuracy, 29 touchdowns, two interceptions and a 112.1 passer rating. The primary differences in Flacco are his pocket composure, upgraded mechanics and being in sync with his new wide receivers. And Flacco has followed quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn's mantra about concentrating on ball security.

"He's being more aware of what's going on," wide receiver T.J. Houshamandzadeh said. "A lot of picks, we as receivers can prevent them. You always feel like you can make that play and fight for the ball more. He's done well." Overall this season, Flacco has completed 62.1 percent of his throws for 3,497 yards, 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions for a 94.6 passer rating despite being sacked 36 times. And his interception percentage is only 1.9 percent out of 470 throws.

"Joe's been good ball security here for three years," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "So, I don't think that there was any epiphany that now it's important. Obviously, that cost us in that game. Joe realizes that. I think it's one of Joe's strengths anyway." During the Ravens' last 29 regular-season wins, Flacco has 43 touchdowns and seven interceptions for a 103.2 quarterback rating. And Baltimore is 22-3 when Flacco produces at least a 95 rating and 12.1 when he's at 110.0 or better.

In nearly three full NFL seasons, Flacco has thrown only 33 interceptions. He has passed for 10,081 yards, 60 touchdowns and has an 88.2 passer rating. He's 117 passing yards shy of passing his career-high of 3,613 established last season and is on pace to break his own single-season record for quarterback rating, ahead of his 88.9 last year.

He's also on pace to break his career low for interceptions of 12 that he threw as a rookie and last year. What he hasn't done well, though, is beat the Bengals. The Ravens have lost their past three games to Cincinnati.

"There's always a motivation when you play a division team that is going to come in and give you a tough game," Flacco said. "And these guys have been giving us tough games ever since I've been here. In my rookie year, we beat them twice. But they've played us pretty well, and we haven't beaten them since my second year.

"They play really tough defense. They cover guys well. nd we've got to come ready to play this week. I think that's the motivation. It's just for us to go out there and play a really good game against what we believe is a good team. They're not going to lay down. So, we have to be ready to play a really good game." During the first meeting, Flacco completed only 17 of 39 passes for 154 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions for a 23.8 rating. It's not as if Flacco has been dwelling on that game, though.

"I haven't really been thinking about it for 12 weeks," Flacco said. "We put that behind us pretty quickly and moved on, and we've had a pretty good season."

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