BALTIMORE — A man in a purple Joe Flacco jersey shuffled toward an exit Sunday night at M&T Bank Stadium, pausing only to throw his cup of soda on the ground before he walked down the stairs.
Meanwhile, on the sideline, the real Flacco watched backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor jog onto the field with a little more than three minutes left in their 41-7 loss to the Patriots.
Flacco may be the reigning Super Bowl MVP, but he was the main culprit in Baltimore’s woefully inefficient offense Sunday. Under Flacco’s direction, the Ravens committed four turnovers in the team’s most lopsided defeat under sixth-year coach John Harbaugh.
“It’s disappointing,” Flacco said. “You know, we’re used to going out there and playing well when we need to when the playoffs are on the line. We came out today hungry and ready to go get ourselves into the playoffs or make that next step towards it, and we just didn’t do it.”
Flacco completed 22 of 38 passes for 260 yards, setting the franchise’s season record for completions (332) and attempts (564). But those feats can’t cloud the fact that Flacco, who signed a six-year, $120.6 million contract in the offseason, had one of his worst performances of the season.
Flacco threw two interceptions and several other near-interceptions against a banged-up Patriots secondary. He was also sacked four times, including once when he tripped over his own feet in the first quarter.
The 28-year-old quarterback wore a protective brace on his left knee after spraining his medial collateral ligament last week against the Lions. He insisted the knee didn’t influence his poor performance.
“I would have liked to have played better, but the brace had nothing to do with anything,” Flacco said. “My knee felt great.”
Harbaugh said he was proud of his quarterback for playing through the injury.
“I think he played well, as far as fought, battled in there,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know about the stats or any of the other stuff. I don’t have the barometer on that.”
Flacco started slow and never recovered as the Ravens fell into an early 14-0 hole. On his first pass attempt of the game, he had wide receiver Torrey Smith running free down the sideline between two defenders. But his throw, like many others Sunday, was off target and nearly intercepted.
That play set the tone for an abysmal first quarter in which Flacco completed one pass and the Ravens had 27 total yards.
“We just weren’t on the same page. It’s a collective group effort,” Smith said. “The team success on offense generally comes from what we do, us and Joe . . . Our offensive line’s fired up, they’re doing a great job as always. It’s on us to make those plays.”
Flacco was mostly immobile in the first half, which contributed to three first-half sacks, but he showed progress after halftime. The Ravens marched into Patriots territory on several occasions, but were twice stopped on fourth down. Flacco said the Patriots did a great job of minimizing big plays.
“They played a lot of zone, passing things off, and didn’t let us get any of the chunk shots on them,” he said. “The check-downs were there, but we just didn’t do it enough. We didn’t play well enough and convert first downs.”
The Ravens had one successful drive, when they drove 90 yards in nine plays and finished with a 1-yard run by Flacco. But even that drive was aided by a pass interference call that moved them onto New England’s doorstep.
When Flacco left the game, things went from bad to worse. In the game’s final minutes, Taylor mishandled a poor snap, which rolled into the end zone and was recovered by Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones for a touchdown. Flacco stood and watched from the sideline.
Was this just one of those nights where nothing went right?
“I mean, I guess you can say that,” a stone-faced Flacco said. “I don’t know if it’s nothing went right. I just think we didn’t play well enough.”