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How to beat the Ravens: Force Flacco to throw interceptions

It’s hard to say exactly why Joe Flacco typically has his worst games against the Bengals, but it’s good news for anyone hoping to see a victory on the road this week for Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

There’s still six games left to play for the Bengals in the 2016 NFL season. But, it sure feels like this week could be the Bengals’ last opportunity to salvage their season. If the Bengals manage to pull out a win in Baltimore this week, the must-win situations will continue. They will be required to beat the Steelers in Week 15 and the Ravens in Week 17 if they want to make the playoffs. But, none of that will matter if they fall three and a half games behind the Ravens and Steelers with five games left to play.

That’s why it’s so important for the Bengals to find a way to secure their fourth win of the season this week. Luckily, they’re up against the Baltimore Ravens. More specifically, they’re up against Joe Flacco, who has struggled mightily throughout his career playing against the Bengals.

Since being drafted by the Ravens in 2008, Flacco has thrown 19 interceptions and only 15 touchdowns when facing the Bengals. Throughout his career as a whole, he has generally been on the right side of the touchdown/interception ratio (172 touchdowns and 111 interceptions). But, for whatever reason, he doesn’t seem to be able to consistently perform well against the Bengals. That’s not to say he hasn’t had good games, but they’ve been few and far between.

In the 15 games between the Bengals and Ravens during his career, he has only posted a quarterback rating over 71.0 five times. Four of those five games came within the first four years of his career. The lowest of these high marks (92.4) came in a Week 3 28-24 loss to the Bengals last year, the only high mark (relatively speaking) he has achieved since 2013. In that game, he did throw for 362 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw a costly interception in the second quarter that allowed the Bengals to take a 14-0 lead, which they maintained until midway through the third quarter.

With that information, it probably isn’t a shock that the Bengals haven’t lost to the Ravens since November 10, 2013. Flacco posted a poor quarterback rating in that game (60.0), but poor game management by the Bengals essentially handed the game away. The Bengals won their previous matchup with the Ravens, also a game in which Flacco posted a poor quarterback rating (61.5).

Considering everything, it shouldn’t be difficult to figure out where the Bengals need to attack if they want to come up with a win in Baltimore this week. Flacco has thrown the ninth most interceptions in the NFL so far (nine) on top of only the 25th most touchdowns (10) and is currently posting one of the lowest seasonal quarterback ratings among all starting quarterbacks (80.0).

Certain player matchups will be all the more critical this week for the Bengals on defense. But, there is a clear cut and easy to understand strategy for forcing mistakes from the Ravens this week. If the Bengals want to maintain any level of hope for the season at this point, they need to attack Flacco quickly and frequently.

There are multiple ways to force Flacco into poor decisions and unfavorable situations this week. First of all, he has been notably poor when under pressure this season, so an effective pass rush led by Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins should help tremendously. Furthermore, he does have a pair of home run hitting wide receivers in Mike Wallace and Steve Smith Sr., so maintaining coverage on those two long enough to allow the pass rush to get to Flacco and force either a checkdown or a bad pass will pay dividends.