The numbers that matter most in the NFL still lie in the win-loss columns, where the Ravens are again among the league’s best at 9-3. But when the team’s stats are sorted out, Baltimore looks like two entirely different teams. Or perhaps more accurately, the Ravens look like a team with two completely different quarterbacks.
At home, Joe Flacco boasts a quarterback rating of 100.7. Only six quarterbacks have a higher rating, and only two — Dallas’s Tony Romo and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford — have thrown for more yards at home.
On the road, though, Flacco's rating is only 70.2. Of the 33 quarterbacks who have started at least six games this season, Flacco is ranked No. 29 away from home. In his six road games, Flacco has thrown a total of four touchdowns. Only Miami’s Ryan Tannehill and Arizona’s Kevin Kolb have thrown fewer on the road this season — and Kolb hasn’t played since Oct. 14.
The Ravens will make the trek down Interstate 95 on Sunday, trying to make sure last weekend's loss to the Steelers is a mere hiccup on their schedule. Pittsburgh topped Baltimore with a last-second field goal, handing the Ravens their first loss at home in two years. Afterward, players delivered stock answers: putting the defeat behind them, the season is a long one, they’ll quickly turn their attention to the Redskins and quarterback Robert Griffin III.
“He’s a stud,” Ravens running back Ray Rice said, as he walked out of M&T Bank Stadium and tried to distance himself from the loss to the Steelers. “I liked the guy coming out of college, and he’s doing some things right now where he just doesn’t look like a rookie.”
Whether Baltimore can stop Griffin will largely depend on which Ravens team shows up at FedEx Field on Sunday. The disparity between Baltimore’s performances on the road and at home is as big as any in the NFL.
“Obviously, it’s not a simple thing. . . . It’s harder for us on the road, for some reason,” Ravens Coach John Harbaugh said recently.
It’s not just Flacco. The offensive line has allowed 18 sacks on the road — only Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers has been sacked more — compared with 11 at home. Rice has scored seven touchdowns at home and only one on the road. As a team, the Ravens are averaging 34 points at home, but scoring less than half that away from M&T Bank Stadium.
Still, the Ravens have won their past three road games (against San Diego, Pittsburgh and Cleveland) and are 4-2 this season outside of Baltimore. They entered their bye week in late October coming off a 43-13 loss at Houston and knew they were facing a problem.
“You say, ‘What can we improve on?’ ” offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said at the time. “Big picture, number one, play on the road like we play at home. The great thing for us as an offense, us as a team and for all the Raven fans, we know what this offense can be. We know what we want it to look like. We know what it feels like when it’s being executed because we see it at M&T [Bank] Stadium. Now the bottom line is you have to take it and carry it on the road.”
Audibles are an important component of the Baltimore offense, and coaches and players say it has been difficult at times to adjust to crowd noise on the road.
“Joe has to communicate with a lot of people,” Rice said. “We try to come up with little different things, little different signals. But we all got to be on the same page.”
Flacco again receives most of the attention in both wins and losses. He’s already the Ravens’ all-time leading passer and last year became the first starting quarterback to win a playoff game in each of his first four seasons. With the Ravens enjoying a two-game lead over the Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North, this year will likely mark a fifth trip to the playoffs.
Despite the Ravens’ successes this year, Flacco’s play again has been erratic. He has topped 300 yards four times this season; he has failed to throw for at least 200 yards on five occasions.
“Joe’s playing good football. He’s playing winning football. But he knows he can get better,” Harbaugh said Monday. “All of our guys can get better. Joe’s fighting and working to be the best player he can be. And we’re going to need him at his best now. This is the time when all of our guys need to step up and play their best.”