NFL

Defense bails out Flacco again

The NFL on FOX crew recaps the NFL Divisional Playoff action
The NFL on FOX crew recaps the NFL Divisional Playoff action
Share This Story

Jen Floyd Engel

Jen Floyd Engel, selected as the top columnist in the 2012 Associated Press Sports Editors annual contest, started working at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1997 and became a columnist in 2003 before joining FOXSports.com. Sports opinions? She's never short of them. And love her or hate her, she'll be just another one of the boys. Follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook.

MORE>>
 
   
 

BALTIMORE

His feisty tone and rambling respect talk were gone. Only his Fu Manchu remained late Sunday, a reminder of what had been his little defiant streak.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had wanted to be regarded as a grown-ass man, like Brady and Rodgers. What he has to settle for is being the luckiest SOB in football, getting partial credit for what is actually the big-boy work of his defensive teammates. The Ravens defense yet again did all the heavy lifting in a 20-13 victory against the Houston Texans in the divisional round and has them going to the AFC Championship Game in Foxboro.

If his aspirations were undeterred by this, Flacco at least had the good sense not to say so. He wisely had dropped his whine about "I'm sure if we win, I'll have nothing to do with why we won, not according to you guys" from last week.

What is funny is his prediction ended up being dead on. He had little to do with the W, though he did get the respect he demanded.

Thanks to Flacco, I respect this Ravens defense even more than before I landed in Baltimore.

I always knew this Ravens defense was good, always knew I was watching two of the best in the game in Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, always knew this was the nastiest of nasty. About midway through Sunday's second half, it hit me: The Ravens defense is actually underrated.

They have been so good for so long we had started to take them for granted. We forgot how hard it is to be good on defense in a league that punishes it and how much they are asked to do when scoring is a struggle for your offense. Lewis and Reed and Co. kept trotting back out there Sunday, getting turnovers and stops. And then three downs and a punt later, they did it again.

We forget because they are too polite to remind us.

"Like I told Joe, no one wins games by themselves," Lewis said afterward. "We are in this as a family; we are in this as a team. Nothing on the outside matters. What matters is what we think on the inside of the building and what we feel about him and the confidence we have in him."

Or as Ravens coach John Harbaugh said: "You win the game no matter what."

This is what coaches say when their quarterback play forces them to win ugly, or what the Harbaugh boys have to say about their quarterbacks. If the Harbaugh brothers had a side bet about who could go further with the worse QB, then John has a decided advantage against his brother, Jim, who coaches the 49ers.

Alex Smith at least showed signs of life in 49ers victory Saturday. Flacco looked like himself.

The defensive win looks funny to us. This NFL season saw Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and New Orleans' Drew Brees throw for crazy amounts of yards, and records being obliterated, and flags flying for pass interference and roughing and anything that even closely resembles good defense.

GOING TO WAR

The Ravens and Texans leave it all on the field while fighting for a spot in the AFC title game. VIEW PHOTOS

Some of this is the evolution of the league. And some is an evolution furthered by NFL rules.

Commissioner Roger Goodell was in Baltimore on Sunday answering questions about his favorite things to talk about — 18-game schedules (God no!) and officiating (his answer about possibly looking into full-time officials felt prescient watching a botched fumble call in the Giants-Packers game). He also was asked about the thing nobody likes to talk about: Why does the league hate defense?

He talked abstractly about finding a balance, but this is not happening. The touchdowns and records are good for business. And if anything, it should be a reminder of just how amazing what Baltimore has been able to accomplish, by not doing what everybody else is.

This is what provoked Flacco's complaint. "You guys want everybody to be Aaron Rodgers and be Tom Brady, but you guys realize those (teams) don't run the ball, right?" Flacco said during the week leading up to the game. "If you guys want an elite quarterback, you have to stop complaining when we go out there and throw the ball 60 times a game, because that's what elite quarterbacks do."

Flacco needs to stop worrying about comparisons to Brady and Rodgers and try to be Trent Dilfer.

STARGAZING

Everybody loves the NFL, even celebrities. See A-list actors and recording artists on the sidelines.

He may not have been a great quarterback but he was good enough and he had the courtesy to say thank you. Hauling around Flacco's butt has to be exhausting, and this Ravens defense does it with little complaint.

Did Houston's defense play a role in the Ravens' offensive struggles after the first quarter? Absolutely.

Wade Phillips, when not burdened by his head-coaching deficiencies, is a damn good defensive coordinator. And he had his Texans defense flying. But Flacco and Co. were up 17-3 and managed to allow this to become a game where they were battling until the final play.

There are two problems with the respect whine as far as I can tell.

1) It is so overdone. So you have to do it really well to stand out. And 2) It demands a big-time performance immediately after.

Flacco delivered on No. 1. Failed miserably at No. 2.

ROAD TO INDY

The Giants and Patriots will kick off Feb. 5 at 6:30 p.m. ET in Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI. Want more info?

Twice in the final minutes did Reed have to make plays in the end zone to preserve the lead.

"We feel like we're the big brother, so to speak, of the team," Reed said. "It's not always going to be a blowout or a shootout game. It's going to be hard fought."

As he talked, I noticed how his tightly cropped afro is now flecked with grey, a reminder of how long he has been doing this. Him and Lewis. Lewis resolutely stated plans to keep playing but Reed talked of "getting old. At one point, I won't be up here. You'll be interviewing another safety here in Baltimore."

Who knows how many more kicks at the can this Baltimore team will get? How many more championship chances this defense can give them?

So Flacco owes them to quit talking about respect and go earn it.

And Sunday against New England would be a good place to start.

Tagged: Packers, Patriots, 49ers, Ravens, Tom Brady, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco

More Stories From Jen Floyd Engel

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by


NFL Videos

Best Person in Sports: Keenan Lewis Posted: Jul 15, 2014
Saints CB Keenan Lewis hosts a back-to-school event, giving children medical ser...

NFL Roundtable: New York Jets Posted: Jul 14, 2014
They're a team with plenty to prove and a roster of players primed to get it don...

NFL Roundtable: Detroit Lions Posted: Jul 11, 2014
A team with so many weapons, is this the season that the Lions put together and ...