OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- To beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Baltimore Ravens need to get pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, contain Antonio Brown and take advantage of their rival's 22nd-ranked run defense.
If you're playing the odds, the biggest key to downing the Steelers is quarterback Joe Flacco ending the NFL's longest current interception streak.
Simply put, the Ravens are 48-13 (.786) when Flacco doesn't throw an interception. Baltimore is 37-43 (.462) when he does get picked off.
"I am never happy that I throw them, but it is part of the game, and I’m going to do my best to limit them moving forward," Flacco said. "You have to understand it is going to happen, and if you don’t have a short memory as a quarterback, then you are in trouble and your team is in trouble."
Flacco has thrown an interception in nine straight games, which is the worst stretch of his 10-year career. No one else in the NFL currently has a streak longer than six games. The last game Flacco wasn't picked off was Nov. 20, 2016, in Dallas.
He has a long way to threaten any NFL records. The longest streak since the 1970 merger is 20 games by Joe Namath (1970-73), according to ESPN Stats & Information.
For the season, Flacco's four interceptions are tied for the second-most in the NFL. Only Browns rookie DeShone Kizer has more with seven.
"What do you want me to say? They are bad plays," Flacco said. "I do not care what the reason for it is. The result is not good for the team, and it falls on my shoulders and that is the end of it."
Interceptions have become an increasing problem for Flacco. Since he was the Super Bowl MVP in 2012, he has thrown the third-most interceptions (65) in the NFL. Only Eli Manning (75) and Philip Rivers (67) have been picked off more.
This year, Flacco is averaging an interception every 17 pass attempts. Not all of the picks can be blamed on Flacco. Last week in London, one interception was the result of Jeremy Maclin not holding onto the pass and the other was a great play by Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said there hasn't been a trend to the interceptions.
"That’s kind of the way it always works," Harbaugh said. "The trend is we have to clean that up -- the interceptions, turnovers, penalties -- anything like that is something that’s going to hinder your opportunity to do well on offense. That’s all what we’re working really hard at.”
Flacco owns the NFL's second-to-last passer rating at 65.2, ahead of only Kizer. This rough start shouldn't be a surprise after Flacco's unusual summer.
A lower back injury sidelined him for all of training camp and the preseason. He only returned to practice eight days before the season opener.
In many ways, Flacco is in training camp or preseason mode for the first four weeks of the regular season.
“That’s a good observation," Harbaugh said. "I think it’d be on your part, if that’s what you think is possibly at stake here... You should probably write that. It’s a fair opinion. It doesn’t really matter to me right now, because you can’t go back and replay it. We just have to go out and have a great practice today. Joe needs to get where he feels like he wants to be. He’s very capable of doing that. He’s a veteran, he’s an accomplished player in this league, and he’s had great success. I believe in him and let’s roll."
Flacco doesn't feel like he's in catch-up mode heading into Sunday's game against the Steelers and the No. 2 pass defense in the NFL.
"It definitely feels like Week 4," Flacco said. "When you get into these games and you are winning football games, you are living through that joyous moment after a football game, and you are living through the downer of getting rolled over like we did. You know that you are right in the middle of football season and you are right where you want to be."