Quarterback Joe Flacco’s issues have been well-documented this season. But here is what should probably concern the Ravens the most about Flacco: Numbers indicate that he’s playing his worst football in the fourth quarter, a major problem considering all six of the Ravens’ games this season have come down to the end.
Flacco’s quarterback rating (62.8) and completion percentage (55.4) in the fourth are far lower than in any other quarter. He’s thrown his most interceptions (two) in the fourth quarter, and he’s also tossed just one fourth-quarter touchdown pass.
As the Ravens have found out in recent weeks, it’s tough to win close games late if you have an inconsistent running game and your quarterback isn’t at his best. I’m not making excuses for Flacco, who would benefit from better pass protection and a greater commitment to the running game. Franchise quarterbacks elevate the players around them, and Flacco hasn’t done that on a consistent basis. Still, you have to wonder if the beating he has taken in some of these games has worn on him and affected his performance in the fourth quarter.
Flacco looked as frustrated and confused as I’ve ever seen him following the loss to the Washington Redskins. He looked a little shell-shocked following last Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants, too. I’m not suggesting he’s hurt, but some of the hits he’s absorbed have had to take a toll.
Roster moves ahead: The Ravens went nearly a full month to start the regular season without having to make any moves to their active roster. However, coach John Harbaugh and his staff have had to make several roster decisions over the past couple of weeks to deal with a rash of injuries, and they’ll have many more to make in the days ahead.
Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, who is on the physically unable to perform list, will return to practice today, starting the three-week during which the Ravens will be able to evaluate him before deciding whether to add him to the active roster. Taliaferro hasn’t played in a game in well over a year, so I’d expect the team to use all the time they have before making a decision.
Running back isn’t a pressing need now, but it could become one if there’s an injury over the next couple of weeks. Taliaferro also is a potential solution to the team’s short-yardage woes.
Safety Matt Elam, who is on injured reserve, is eligible to resume practicing this week. However, he cannot play in a game until after Week 8. The Ravens held off on placing both Elam and defensive lineman Carl Davis on IR until after the final roster was set, which allows them to bring back one of those two players to the active roster.
By all accounts, Elam has progressed nicely in his rehab from summer knee surgery. With the team’s problems in the secondary and on special teams, Elam makes much more sense than Davis to return to the active roster. The Ravens are healthy and stout along the defensive line, so much so that rookie Willie Henry has been inactive for all six games. Davis would have a tough time cracking the team’s current defensive line rotation.
As for putting another guy such as Terrell Suggs or Elvis Dumervil on injured reserve and bringing them back later this season, it really doesn’t make sense. They’d be ineligible to return to game action until late December. That’s not enough time to justify using your one IR-return spot on that player.
Injury questions will dominate this week: Injuries again will be a popular storyline this week as the Ravens’ attempt to avoid their first four-game losing streak in the Harbaugh tenure.
Harbaugh already announced that right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and Suggs (torn left biceps) likely won’t play Sunday against the New York Jets. Dumervil (foot) is also not expected to be ready.
But given their activity level last week, the Ravens should get back starting offensive tackles Ronnie Stanley (foot) and Rick Wagner (thigh). Things are less certain with wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. (ankle), inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (hamstring) and kick returner Devin Hester Sr. (thigh), but it would appear that Smith might have the best chance to return from that group.
As for cornerback Jimmy Smith – whose status looms large given what happened when he left last Sunday’s game, and given the Ravens have to deal with Brandon Marshall this week – his situation isn’t as clear.
Smith has had at least one known concussion – he had a goal-line collision with Pittsburgh Steelers’ running back Le’Veon Bell in the Thanksgiving game in 2013 but didn’t miss a game – so you’d expect the Ravens to be extremely cautious this week.
Run defense leads NFL: After holding the Giants to 38 rushing yards last week, the Ravens now have the NFL’s top-ranked rushing defense. They are giving up just 69.7 yards per game on the ground. The Green Bay Packers rank second, as they’re allowing 72.4 rushing yards per game. The Ravens have finished the season with the NFL’s top-ranked rushing defense just once in franchise history. The 2000 Super Bowl champion team allowed 60.6 rushing yards per game.
Forsett update: Former Ravens running back Justin Forsett had a quiet debut for the Detroit Lions in their victory over the Los Angeles Rams Sunday. Forsett rushed five times for five total yards, and caught one pass for zero yards.
Ring on sale: Yet another Ravens’ Super Bowl ring is up for auction, this one belonging to offensive lineman Sammy Williams, a sixth-round pick in 1998 who played in one game for the Ravens in 2000 and then started seven games the following year. Williams’ 2000 ring is available through Goldin Auctions. The current high bid on the ring is $10,000.