Bengals have Ravens QB Joe Flacco’s number

The Bengals have Joe Flacco’s number, and it’s the most telling

one in the AFC North race.

Three games. Eight interceptions. Three Bengals wins.

The defending division champs had their way with Baltimore’s

quarterback again Sunday. He threw a career-high four interceptions

in Cincinnati’s 15-10 victory, a sign that there’s still one

daunting obstacle to the Ravens overtaking the Bengals for the AFC

North crown.

They know how to make Flacco look his worst.

”He has a lot of weapons, and we didn’t want to give him any

time to find them,” said linebacker Brandon Johnson, who had one

of the four interceptions.

The Bengals’ formula works.

In the last two years, Flacco has had some of his worst games

against Cincinnati (1-1). He has completed only 56 percent of his

passes with two touchdowns, eight interceptions and a minuscule

passer rating of 44.4 in their three games. He’s thrown 17

interceptions overall in the last two seasons, eight of them

against the Bengals.

He’s done much better against the two other division teams. His

passer rating against Pittsburgh is an above-average 93.4, and it’s

a superb 107.2 against Cleveland.

It’s stunning compared to what he’s done against everyone else.

As a second-year pro, he completed a franchise-record 63.1 percent

of his passes and set a Ravens record with his 88.9 passer rating

last year. In the last three games against Cincinnati, his passer

ratings have been 70.1, 48.3 and 23.8.

All three games against Cincinnati have followed the same

pattern: Take away the deep throw, force Flacco to dump off. Wait

for him to get frustrated and force one. Knock him down a lot,

too.

”We prefer a team to take check-down passes,” defensive tackle

Pat Sims said Monday. ”We don’t want to give them the long routes

and take the long shots. We give them the check-down passes, then

everybody just runs to the ball.”

Flacco didn’t complete a pass in the first quarter Sunday, the

first time he’d gone an entire quarter without a completion since

his rookie year. In the first half, he went 5 of 17 for 23 yards.

His completions went for 10, 6, 5, 1 and 1 yard.

The formula worked again.

The Ravens (1-1) tried to make their passing game more vertical,

signing receivers Anquan Boldin and Dante’ Stallworth in the

offseason. When Stallworth got hurt in preseason, they signed T.J.

Houshmandzadeh. On Sunday, Boldin caught five passes for only 35

yards – his longest went for 13 yards – and Houshmandzadeh didn’t

catch any of the six passes thrown his way.

The Bengals didn’t do anything different to get the same

result.

”It wasn’t going to be no trying to trick them,” safety Chris

Crocker said. ”We just lined up. What they saw is what they

got.”

Two of those three Bengals wins have come after emotional weeks

that left the defense inspired to beat the Ravens.

Last October, the wife of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer died

three days before a game in Baltimore. Zimmer and his family made

the trip, and the defense dedicated the game to them. A 17-14

victory put the Bengals in control of the division. Zimmer got the

game ball in a teary locker room afterward.

Last week, the defense was seething over its poor showing in a

38-24 loss at New England. No surprise that it was at its best

against the Ravens again.

”We knew this was a game we had to win,” Crocker said. ”This

was a big game. We really didn’t want to get behind the ball by

being 0-2.”