Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco addresses the New England Patriots media during his conference call on Wednesday, September 30, 2009.
Q: Can you talk about your progression as a team from last year to this year?
JF: Well, I think we worked out hard during the offseason to get to the point where we are now. We had a good preseason and we proved we can do some things well. We've just been fortunate to go out and practice hard during the week and come ready to play on Sundays. I think we're playing pretty well together as an offense. It always helps when it's your second year together; we have pretty much everybody back. We have a couple new guys on the line, but they're filling in and doing a great job. Any time you're in your second year on the offense, you're going to get better from the first year. I think that's what you're seeing right now. We're able to do a variety of things in the passing and the running game, and when you're able to do both it can be tough to defend if you're doing them well.
Q: You guys have always had a reputation for a being a tough team defensively, but how good does it feel to be able to help the defense out by putting up as many points as you have?
JF: Yeah, any time you're on the offensive side of the ball you want to put up points and kind of hold up your end of the bargain and prove your worth on the team, and I think that's what we're doing on offense. We want to prove that we belong on this team and we can help our team win. You know, that's our goal - to go out there and put points on the board each week and to win football games. I think the way we're playing together offensively and defensively, it's tough to beat us. And as long as we keep this up and understand what kind of hard work it takes to do that, then I think we'll be alright.
Q: What are the keys to being a good red zone offense?
JF: You've got be efficient, and when your chances come you have to take advantage of them. Things get tighter down there, so you have to get quicker, but you also have to make good decisions. If you don't get what you want, you have to be willing to check the ball down and move on to the next play. As long as you're smart with the football, you're going to get your shots down in the red zone and you just have to make sure you take advantage of them when they come to you.
Q: How has Kelley Washington been for you as a receiver this year?
JF: Kelley has been great, ever since he came here in the offseason and started helping us out. From the very beginning I figured he was going to be a big part of our offense this year. He's been doing a great job. He's a big guy that does a great job of catching the ball for us and getting open in little holes. I've loved him so far and we're going to keep getting him involved in the game and hoping that he does a good job.
Q: How much does it help to throw against your secondary in practice?
JF: Any time you go against our defense for the whole offseason and most of training camp, it prepares you for a long season. They give you a lot of different looks and they've got a lot of great players over on that side to really help you out. Any time we go up against the teams during the regular season, we feel like we're pretty prepared to see a lot of different looks, just because we've gone up against our defense. And you know, obviously like I said, they prepare you to play different ways just because what kind of caliber players we have on that side.
Q: What do you think it will do for your team's preparation as the season goes on to have played New England and San Diego on the road? How important do you think that is as the season goes along?
JF: In the NFL you're going to have to win tough games and the more experience you get in those tough games, the better you'll be when it really counts. I think we were a good team last year in those situations, but in the end we didn't win. I think the more games and the more experience we get in these types of games, the more we'll be prepared when it comes. San Diego was definitely a game like that and now coming up to your place is definitely going to be another game like that. I think we embrace playing on the road; we enjoy it. I think that kind of helps us out when we go on the road and play in somebody else's house.
Q: How have you profited from your experience last year, not just getting your feet wet but really getting throw into the breach and handling it the way you did. How do you think that has that improved your play this year?
JF: Yeah, I couldn't even begin to tell you. Nineteen games last year...to play 19 games was unlike anything I've ever experienced. What it's done for me this year is...I feel like I can't even explain it. If this was my fourth game ever, it would be a lot different than it is now, being my 23rd. Anytime you're thrown in there and asked to lead a team and score points and win games, your learning curve is going to speed up and you're going to become better quicker. Like I said last year when I came in, I had said I wanted to play from the beginning and I hoped I was fortunate enough to do that, and it ended up happening. All along I had said I wanted to play in the beginning for this reason. Not necessarily to play right away - I mean, obviously I wanted to play right away - but I figured it would help me out so much in my long term down the road in my career - second year, third year, fourth year. I'm just light years ahead of where I would have been if I was going into my fourth game right now.
Q: To what degree do you feel like you're a kindred spirit with Matt Ryan? Both of you have gone through similar experiences now with your clubs.
JF: Definitely. It's awesome to see another guy in the league going out there and having success. They just went up there and played you guys and they're doing well this year. Like I said, it's good to see your peers playing well. Anytime you can kind of relate to a guy just because you're kind of going through similar things, it's kind of good to see you're both adapting to the situations you're thrown into and making the most of them.
Q: Has Cam Cameron given you any more freedom or loosened the reigns any more than last year?
JF: I don't think he's given me any more freedom within our plays, but it definitely feels like we've opened up the offense a little bit, if that's what you want to call it. We're definitely...I think we've expanded our game a little bit and right now we're at least playing well in both areas of the game - the passing game and the running game. I don't know. I don't know. I guess Cam has opened it up a little bit if you want to say that. We played last year the way that we were supposed to play and the way that gave us the best shot of wining, and I think this year we're doing the same thing. If things have changed at all it's just because our offense as a whole has grown and we've become more comfortable with each other and more comfortable with the plays we're running. That's not just myself, that's our offensive line, that's our running backs, and that's our receivers, all understanding the offense better and therefore we're able to do more things in it.
Q: Any sense of satisfaction that your offense is getting some recognition, whereas the defense has always been the focus in Baltimore?
JF: I don't think recognition is a big thing for us. I think the biggest thing for us is that we're happy with ourselves that we're putting points on the board and we're holding up our end of the bargain. All the recognition that we need is from our defense and from our coaches and from the rest of the guys in the offensive room. As long as we have that and understand that, we understand that we're a team and playing together, then we're happy. We don't necessarily need the recognition. It's not not nice to get; It's nice to get every now and then. It doesn't mean anything if you don't go out there and do it week in and week out, and that's what we're planning to do.
Q: What was it like when you took your first NFL snap? Was it a concerted effort to make sure you didn't line up under guard?
JF: I don't know. I don't know if it was that bad. I always tell people nothing will ever be as bad as when I was a freshman in high school and got into a varsity game for the first time. I don't think any experience has ever been quite as bad as that for me, so I always kind of look back to that when I'm in a situation similar to that and kind of reflect on it and try to help myself out that way. So I don't think it was like that. I was excited, I was anxious, I was nervous - a lot of different feelings, but in the end I felt pretty comfortable and was pretty happy with the way everything turned out.
Q: Why was that varsity experience so bad?
JF: It wasn't that it was bad, I was just nervous. I got in and we were getting killed. We were playing against as bunch of guys that I had probably already played against in JV game or something like that, but just the magnitude of the whole thing, being a freshman and being basically a little kid. I don't think I'll ever be in that kind of position again. Like I said, I can deal with anything if I can deal with that. That's how I feel. Obviously I was able to deal with that and move past it, so I kind of reflect back on that whenever I'm starting to feel a little bit nervous or something like that.
Q: A few of us just talked to Robbie Agnone, who had some nice things to say about you. What are some things that we might not know about Robbie and what he can bring to the table?
JF: Robbie is a big, athletic guy who catches the ball great. He didn't play tight end in high school, but in college he did a great job. He was a basketball player in high school, so obviously he is a really good athlete. I think the biggest thing about him is that he's tried to improve his run blocking and make sure he can be a good blocker, not just pass catcher. The biggest thing about him though is like I said, he's a big kid; He's about 6'6", 260 some pounds and he can still run and catch the ball well. I think if he gets a shot, he'll do a good job because there's not going to be anyone on the team or elsewhere that works harder than he does. I think the coaches around there will see that.
Q: In looking at a guy like Mark Sanchez, are you reminded of what you went through in your first year and do you see him as being among those guys such as yourself and Matt Ryan who are maybe emerging as the new Vanguard of NFL quarterbacks?
JF: Obviously. They're doing a great job of winning games up there in New York and it looks like he's getting more and more comfortable each week and having a good time doing it. I wish him the best of luck and I definitely can remember and reflect back on last year when I see those guys winning games and stuff like that. But like I said, the most important thing is to win games and that's what they're doing right now, so best of luck to them. As long as they keep doing that, he'll have fun. And if they keep winning games, he'll be one of those quarterbacks that they talk about.
Q: Have you had him reach out to you at all?
JF: No. I haven't. I saw him when we played them in the preseason, but besides that I haven't talked to him. I don't really talk to anybody, so I'm not really a good example.
Q: The Patriots defense has been a lot stronger this year than many people had expected. When you look at them on film, what jumps out at you?
JF: They're a team that plays smart and they're where they're supposed to be. They do a good job. I think they have about six sacks in the first three games, and they do a good job of doing what they're supposed to do and run stopping and not letting you do too many things in the passing game that's going to hurt them. The biggest thing they've done so far in the first three games is they've not allowed a lot of plays to be run by the offenses, and that's a credit to both their defense and their offense. But they haven't allowed their opponents' offenses to be on the field that long and therefore they haven't really scored too much. Any time you can keep the offense off the field, it's going to obviously help you out because you're not going to be out there all game, and when you are out there you're going to have the energy to go out there and make sure you give it your all every play. One of the biggest things for us is going to be to make sure we convert on third downs and we try to keep ourselves on the field as long as possible, so we can get as many plays and give ourselves as many chances as we need.
Q: How much of a pain is Ed Reed in practice?
JF: Well, you know, right now I don't have to deal with him. That's Troy [Smith] and John [Beck] that have to deal with him right now on the scout team. But I've got tell you, during the summer and during training camp, you never know where he's going to be. He does really well around the ball. If he gets around the ball, he's going to go up and he's going to make the catch. And then once he makes the catch, it's very tough to tackle him. He's a great player and we have a lot of those guys on the other side of the ball, so it's fun to be with them every day.
Q: You're converting on 70 percent of the plays within the red zone this season. Do you think you can keep that percentage up against the Patriots?
JF: Definitely. I think we can keep that up against anybody that we're going to play and that's our goal - to get in the red zone and score touchdowns. Any time you're an offense and you're the quarterback of that offense, you believe you can do something like that. As long as we keep playing smart and not try to do too much, I think we're going to operate at a pretty successful rate. I don't know where that percentage will end up, but I like to believe it's going to be pretty darn good.