When Joe Flacco's good, he's really, really good, but when he's bad... the Ravens lose.
The Baltimore Ravens' offense got off to a hot start this week against the Philadelphia Eagles and it looked very much as though they'd continue on the path they forged in their huge, Week 1 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
In the first half, Ravens' quarterback Joe Flacco completed 14 of his 17 pass attempts for 92 yards and a score. He connected with tight end Dennis Pitta four times on six targets for 20 yards, threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones and generally spread the ball around as quickly and effectively as he did last week.
Thanks to the Ravens' effective passing game, they led the Eagles at the half, 17-7. They never scored another touchdown and ultimately fell, 24-23.
In the second half of the game, Flacco practically disappeared, and with him went the entire Ravens offense. Though Flacco's second-half yardage wasn't terrible (140 yards), he completed only eight of his 25 attempts and threw an interception.
Pitta, again, was Flacco's biggest target, with nine second-half targets, but he pulled down just two of them, for 45 yards. The second-most targeted Raven was yet again running back Ray Rice, who was more effective as a receiver, with six total catches on 10 targets for 53 yards.
As a result, the Ravens had 179 yards of total offense in the first half and just 146 in the second. They relied on kicker Justin Tucker to earn them the nine points they put up in the final 30 minutes of regulation.
The major worry for the Ravens' offense is whether they'd have trouble following up their 37-point, 430-yard performance last week in this Sunday's outing against the Eagles.
Flacco has a history of week-by-week inconsistency and the hope was that he'd be able to break free of that pattern this season with more responsibility at the line, no-huddle play calling and a more cohesive cadre of weapons.
Though the Eagles posed a tough defensive threat, and they clearly tightened their game in the second half, Flacco lost sight of the quick passing that was supposed to take him to the next level this year.
Rice ended up being his safety valve yet again, and even that didn't work as hoped. Flacco completed just 60 percent of his throws Rice's way.
The run game behind Rice wasn't incredibly effective either. He rushed a total of 16 times for 99 yards, but 78 of those yards came on seven first-half carries. In the second half, Rice had just 21 yards on nine carries.
Clearly, the second half was very different from the first for Baltimore's offense this week, explaining their one-point loss. Flacco again overthrew receiver after receiver as his strong arm got the better of him.
Receivers struggled to get open and the run game didn't come together in the second half of the game, which also limited their passing opportunities.
The Ravens' offense simply needs to be more consistent regardless of strength of opponent. That's what will catapult them into the company of the NFL's elite units.
But when their quarterback looks more like Dr. Joe and Mr. Flacco, rather than the passer we saw last week, it's going to be hard to win games against upper-tier teams like the Eagles.
The Ravens cannot lean as heavily on their defense this year as they have in the past, which means that Flacco and the offense must consistently step it up. They did in Week 1, but against the Eagles, we saw two different Flaccos, two different halves of offense and thus, a Baltimore defeat.