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Joe Flacco is the real deal

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Neil Reynolds | 10:32 UK time, Tuesday, 15 September 2009

The soap opera has begun. The 2009 NFL season kicked off with the usual array of breathtaking performances, wild and wacky plays, controversy and injuries.

Opening weekend featured outstanding offensive performances and, surprisingly, one of the best displays was put together by the Baltimore Ravens - a team normally associated with a hard-hitting defence, with just enough attacking prowess to get by.

It could be a very different story this season if Joe Flacco continues to mature into a fine passer in his second year. He threw for 307 yards and three touchdowns during a 38-24 win over Kansas City and the Ravens gained 501 offensive yards.

I visited the Ravens' mini-camp in June and from talking to some guys I know who work on that team, they are expecting Flacco to come of age. I tend to agree with them after meeting him and watching him in action during practice.

Last year, Flacco had the same strong arm that he possesses today and the same bright future. But there were also times when he lost a little poise under pressure and occasions when he had the 'rabbit in the headlights' look going on.

Joe Flacco
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had an impressive season-opener against Kansas City

Flacco was also content to follow imposing linebacker Ray Lewis. Not this year. The 24-year-old has matured impressively, understands what it takes to succeed as an NFL quarterback on and off the field and has taken it upon himself to become a leader.

Succeeding at quarterback comes down to mental toughness - and I'm not just talking about knowing the plays. The very best quarterbacks thrive in pressure situations - they live for it.

Joe Montana oozed confidence with the game on the line - to the point where he spotted actor John Candy in the crowd just before leading the San Francisco 49ers on a game-winning drive late in Super Bowl XXIII - and Tom Brady was in his element as he led New England to a come-from-behind win against Buffalo on Monday.

Americans have a wonderful term to describe quarterbacks - they talk about "moxie". Montana had it by the bucket-load, the same goes for Brady. If Flacco continues to develop his moxie and leadership to go alongside his undoubted physical skills, he could enjoy a big season.

And if the Ravens boast a free-scoring attack to pair with their punishing defence, the rest of the NFL better look out.

Behind the scenes...

I certainly noticed the differences between television and radio broadcasts on Sunday night as we kicked off our coverage on 5 live sports extra.

For starters, jeans and a comfy t-shirt were the order of the day - no need to worry about suit and tie rotation with this gig. And after arriving at the studio, I got straight on with watching the early games being played around the NFL. I didn't need to have my face plastered with make-up.

I had an absolute blast working with Arlo White in London and Greg Brady at Giants Stadium in New Jersey.

In our studio, Arlo and I had the Giants-Redskins game on one monitor, our main game - San Francisco at Arizona - on another screen and a computer hook-up to all the statistics and storylines from Week 1. In other words, it was every NFL fan's dream.

And it was great to get so many texts and messages from our listeners. You can send us your thoughts during this week's show by joining our Facebook group. Keep them coming.

You can catch Neil commentating on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Buffalo Bills game this Sunday on BBC 5 live sports extra from 2100 BST (UK users only).


  • Comment number 1.

    Good analysis. To be fair though, the KC defense is really not a good barometer for how far Flacco has come.

  • Comment number 2.

    Good Analysis? Wha?

    Flacco comes of age - against Kansas City? And compared here to Joe Montana?

    Brady had fun last night - thanks to a stupid last minute Buffalo Bills fumble?

    The real coming of age class act Quarter Back performance was Drew Brees. Brilliant!

    Some selected QB Ratings from alst weekend:
    Drew Brees 137.0
    Brady 97.3
    Joe Flacco 95.8
    Eli Manning 93.5

    Better analysis next time please.....

  • Comment number 3.

    raineman14... that is a fair point. But I have said for a while I think Flacco will be good this year. What I have noticed most is a change in his demeanour and attitude. Word out of Baltimore is that he has matured rapidly over the past year and is oozing confidence.

    That has to help the Ravens this season. But yes, let's see what he does against the San Diego Chargers this weekend. That will certainly be a sterner test.

  • Comment number 4.

    Bhughes - Brady, Brees are Vets and dont need to come of age.

    He didnt actually directly compare Flacco to Montana because anyone can see thats just stupidty. He just used Montana as an example of someone who had confidence in his ability which all the great QB's have.

    I think Joe will have a good year leading our offense. In other games the passing attack will be toned down; Chargers this week for example. In games where the coaches feel we need to score a few more points and keep the tempo high Flacco will be allowed to be let loose. He has all the technical attributes to succeed and has the arm to go with it.

  • Comment number 5.

    Speaking of young upcoming Quarterbacks... keep your eye on for Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets. Judging by what I have heard he has potentially to be an absolute stud. I unfortunately didn't get to see that game due to the Colts being on the local broadcast but he put up some good numbers (especially some of his 3rd down conversions) and showed good poise against a highly rated Texans defense. I am sure he will face tougher test this seasons starting next week New England (although their defense was a little shaky last night) and the real test coming in week 3 against the Titans.

  • Comment number 6.

    I have a tendancy to be foolish at times... but not foolish enough to compare Joe Flacco to Joe Montana. I think you might have missed the point.

    Montana was used as an example of a quarterback with moxie and calmness under pressure.

    I would be brave enough to compare Tom Brady to Joe Montana... but not Flacco. Not for a good while yet!

  • Comment number 7.

    Flacco had a very good game but it could be the classic week one freak, Kansas were there for the taking without Cassell and the biggest worry for Baltimore is that they still conceded 24 points to a team with Brodie Croyle under centre, I had the Ravens defence down as waaaay better than that.

    The biggest worry in the league at the moment must be in Houston who absolutely stunk against the Jets, Schaub and Slaton were ordinary. Fair play to Sanchez and Rex Ryan though, the Jets look like they could hand out a few bloody noses this year.

  • Comment number 8.

    "The biggest worry for Baltimore is that they still conceded 24 points to a team with Brodie Croyle under centre, I had the Ravens defence down as waaaay better than that."

    1 blocked punt and 1 very short field (Cheifs started at the 5) skew those point stats a bit.
    3 sacks and a total of 188 yards (only 29 rushing yards) given up are probably a fairer reflection of how well the Ravens defense played.

  • Comment number 9.

    Big worries in the league... Don't forget to mention the Bears, Urlacher out for the season, their receiving corps isn't going to cut it not for this year a least. I think Olsen is going to be a good player but with Hester, Bennett and Clark (TE) as your major receivers you are probably to have some problems. Not forgetting the fact they are in a tough division with Green Bay and Minnesota.

  • Comment number 10.

    Neil, I think your point about Flacco having moxie and calmness is well taken. I am a Skins fan, living in DC and working in Baltimore, and the difference in expectation just because of the quarterback play is striking. Flacco gives off the feeling that he can win a game for you and put together a drive when you need it, as seen by the post the Mason. The Ravens weakness is corner play. I think that will be a big factor when they play more of a West Coast style offense

  • Comment number 11. are judging Brees based on his performance at home against the Lions D...Ha Ha....wake up call needed!!!!

  • Comment number 12.

    Flacco had a good day and is an improving QB, but as others have said, I wouldn't take performances against the Chiefs D literally - we gave up 400 yards a game last year and there's no solid signs that 2009 will be any better (where is Curry ? ? ?)

    Equally impressive were performances by Manning x 2, Ryan and Sanchez who all put up good numbers against solid D's.

    Brees is Brees, he has the talent and the weapons but at home to Detroit ?
    If he throws for 350 yards and 6 TDs at Lincoln Field this week I'll take it back

  • Comment number 13.

    Neil - as good as Flacco was and as well as Brees played, these performances were against the Chiefs and Lions respectively, teams that can expect to pick in the top five of next year's draft. Let's temper our enthusiasm for them until they meet some defenses with a little more talent, pass rush and a stronger secondary.

  • Comment number 14.

    Grizzly the Legend - Curry is in Seattle.

    And Brees is already a top five passer in the league, no questions. Last 3 seasons:

    Brees - 13,910 yards, 88 touchdowns
    P. Manning - 12,439 yards, 89 touchdowns
    Brady - 12,545 yards, 100 touchdowns (I've taken 2005-2007, even though 2007 is statistically an abberation and not the norm for brady's career)

    He's not talked about more because the Saints D has stunk it up so much over the past few years they couldn't either make or have a deep run in the playoffs.

  • Comment number 15.

    And here's a more meaningful stat

    Brady 3 superbowl rings
    Manning 1 superbowl ring
    Brees 0 superbowl rings

    Of course the reply to my comment will be that rings don't make a QB great. And that's true I guess. But I think Montana sleeps more soundly than Marino!!!!

  • Comment number 16.

    "Grizzly the Legend - Curry is in Seattle."

    Niners I think Grizzly is refering to the fact the Chiefs passed on Curry when every mock draft out there had Curry going to them.
    Jackson (DE) may help in the long run but Curry would have more impact now and will be the better player.


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