By Marc Narducci, The Philadelphia Inquirer –
PHILADELPHIA — Joe Flacco’s return home for the first time in a regular season NFL game turned into an afternoon of frustration for the Baltimore Ravens quarterback.
The fifth-year NFL veteran out of Audubon High in Camden County, N.J., completed just 22 of 42 passes for 232 yards, one touchdown and one interception in Sunday’s 24-23 loss to the Eagles in their home opener at Lincoln Financial Field.
A week ago, he earned a 128.4 passer rating after throwing for 299 yards and two touchdowns in a 44-13 win over Cincinnati. Against the Eagles on Sunday, Flacco’s passer rating fell to 66.8.
Even though he was only sacked twice against the Eagles, the 6-foot-6, 245-former University of Delaware standout faced constant pressure.
“Joe got hit a few times more than I would want him to get hit, but that’s a pretty good pass-rush team,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of the Eagles.
What made the afternoon even more disconcerting for Flacco is that he got off to such a solid start. The Ravens led 17-7 at halftime, and Flacco had completed 14 of 17 passes for 92 yards for one touchdown (to Jacoby Jones), no interceptions, and he had a 108.8 passer rating.
The second half?
“In the second half, they did a good job of not allowing us to get in rhythm,” said Flacco, who added that on the first play of the third quarter he took a hard shot to the ribs.
Flacco made one of his better throws in the fourth quarter when he found Jones in the corner of the end zone for a 25-yard completion. But the catch was nullified when Jones was called for offensive pass interference.
“Those guys were on us tight like that all game, and there was a lot of holding and grabbing going on out there, and I might sound like a little bit of a baby here, but for them to make that call I think was a little crazy,” Flacco said.
Jones said he tried to be his diplomatic best.
“In their eyes they saw it as pass interference. In my eyes it wasn’t but they have the flag,” Jones said.
The Ravens receiver then added, “Joe made a heck of a throw.”
The Ravens’ last drive ended when they missed on third and one and fourth-and-one from their own 46 on two incomplete passes, the second with 50 seconds left in the game.
On the final incompletion, Flacco overthrew Ray Rice.
“I wish I would have scrambled a little more on that play,” Flacco said, feeling he should have bought himself more time.
Flacco was far from sentimental in playing a game just a few miles from his South Jersey roots.
“No it is all a sideshow for those guys (friends and family) to enjoy,” he said.
This was nothing but a business trip.
“Coming here was like any other week, any other road game,” he said. “We’re trying to get a win and I am not really concerned about who we are playing or where we are playing.”
Another player making a homecoming was Ravens rookie Bernard Pierce, the running back from Temple who was a third-round draft choice. Pierce is Rice’s backup, so he isn’t going to see an abundance of playing time.
Against the Eagles, Pierce carried the ball three times for four yards. In two games has seven carries for 23 yards.
“It’s been a good learning experience for me and the playbook is much different from the Temple playbook,” Pierce said.