FOXBORO -- Last week the Ravens put their game against the Eagles in Joe Flacco's hands and lost. On a third-and-two, and with one of the best running backs in the NFL in Ray Rice in the backfield, Baltimore asked Flacco to pass for the game-saving first down. His throw went incomplete. On fourth down the Ravens lined up in a shotgun formation and put it on Flacco again. With pressure baring down on him, he flipped a pass too long for Rice and the game was over. Eagles won, 24-23.
The Ravens coaching staff reiterated its trust in its quarterback on Thursday.
"Joe Flacco Im going to have a ton of confidence in Joe," Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "It has nothing to do with lack of confidence in anyone else. I like our chances, and as you guys have seen with Joe Flacco, with his ability to get the ball to any of those other five receivers. And will we do that all the time? No, but in critical situations you are going to see that a lot.
Flacco carries a 60.8 percent completion percentage for his career. Last year that was down a bit to 57.6 percent. His career quarterback rating is 86.2 and his touchdown-to-interception ratio is slightly less than 2-1 (83 touchdowns to 47 picks). By the numbers, he's a middle-of-the-pack quarterback.
As last week showed, though, the Ravens trust him implicitly. And the Patriots believe he will cause them problems on Sunday night.
"He's always been a tough quarterback," Vince Wilfork said. "He's been playing very, very well this year. He's tough, physically. He's very physically tough, and mentally. He doesn't let much get to him, and that's a big time leader when you have a leader, especially the quarterback, who can be physically and mentally tough. It says a lot about that guy as an individual and as a player. He's definitely . . . he's playing lights out right now."
Flacco had a tough Week 2 in which he was 22-for-42 for 232 yards, a touchdown and an interception. In Week 1, he was, as Wilfork put it, lights out. Against the Bengals, Flacco was 21-for-29 for 299 yards and two touchdowns in a 44-13 win.
On Thursday it sounded like the Patriots were expecting the Flacco they saw in Week 1.
"Joe Flacco's a great player," said Chandler Jones. "I admire his game. I've been watching for a while because I've been watching my brother (Arthur) play for the Ravens. I'm real familiar with him and he's a great player."
While he may not have prolific passing numbers from week to week, Flacco will be the best and most experienced quarterback the Patriots have faced to this point in the season. He will likely be better than both Tennessee's Jake Locker and Arizona's Kevin Kolb, and will provide the Patriots with their biggest test this season.
He was a challenge last season in the AFC Championship Game. Had Ravens receiver Lee Evans held onto a fourth-quarter touchdown pass, Flacco would have been the hero and the Ravens would have likely gone to Super Bowl XLVI. Even without that completion, his numbers were good: 22-for-36, 306 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception.
As the Patriots prepare for Flacco this week, it sounds as though they're not thinking about his up-and-down career numbers, or his up-and-down start to this season. No, theirs is a selective memory where they hold onto the best of Flacco in the hopes that they're ready for it if it shows up on Sunday night.
"They're doing some amazing things," Wilfork said. "Defensively we have to be ready to bunker down and take everything that we're thrown out there because I'm they're going to give us everything they have."