Can Flacco carry the Ravens in ‘T-Sizzle’s’ absence?


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They play on the opposite side of the ball.

While quarterback Joe Flacco anchors the Ravens offense, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is one of the cornerstone pieces on one of the best defensive units in the NFL.

Flacco is far from perfect. His biggest problem is following up one solid performance with another. One week he’s torching the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football, and the following week, he looks confused and overmatched against an average Seattle Seahawks defense.

Because the Ravens defense has been so good for so long, Flacco’s accomplishments have sometimes gone under the radar.

Now, with the Ravens losing the reining NFL Defensive Player of the Year for perhaps the entire 2012 season, it’s hard to believe the defense won’t take a step back from its performance last season. To think the defense can replicate their dominant form without Suggs and his team-leading 14 sacks and seven forced fumbles missing from the lineup, is wishful thinking.

And, it’s no disrespect to Ray Lewis or Ed Reed, but let’s face it, with Lewis having just turned 37 and with Reed set to turn 34 on Sept. 11, Suggs was by far and away the most dominant and disruptive force on the Ravens defense. Considering Suggs would constantly draw double and sometimes even triple teams from opposing team’s offensive lines, just goes to show his impact on games went beyond the numbers.

That being said — without its best player — I expect the defense to take a step back from its No. 3 ranking last season.

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So, that leaves Flacco leading the offense into the end zone and racking up more points on the scoreboard to compensate for the expected dip in production from the defense.

Last season, for the most part, the passing game was pedestrian. The Ravens passing attack ranked 19th in the league, averaging a shade under 214 passing yards per game. As for Flacco himself, he was good, not great. After seeing his passing yards, touchdowns and quarterback rating increase in each of his first three seasons, Flacco took a step backwards in 2011.

In 2010, Flacco appeared to have turned a corner, completing 63.1 percent of his passes for 3,622 yards, 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while amassing a career-high 93.6 quarterback rating.

In 2011, however, Flacco completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,610 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, good for just an 80.9 quarterback rating, his lowest since his rookie year in 2008.

But it would be hard to solely put the blame on Flacco for his drop in production.

For starters, despite the drop in production, Flacco still did enough to lead the Ravens to their first division title since 2006, as the team went 12-4 and undefeated in divisional play.

Coincidentally, in 2010, the Ravens had the fewest number of drops with 14. However, last season, the Ravens had the fourth most number of drops with 30, according to STATS INC.

Flacco is the only signal-caller to win a postseason game in each of his first four seasons in the league.

As No. 5 gets ready to enter his fifth season in the Charm City, a more potent, high-powered offense would help take the pressure off of an aging defense that has battled to help the Ravens win so many games over the years.