The Ravens' season-opening 23-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals was four quarters of the best and worst of Flacco. He continually found ways to torment, enthrall and bewilder the sellout crowd of 70,925 at M&T Bank Stadium.
Flacco can make throws only few can think about attempting, such as throwing across his body and hitting wide receiver Steve Smith on a fourth-quarter touchdown pass that went 58 yards in the air. He also can make bone-headed mistakes you'd expect out of rookie quarterbacks -- not a Super Bowl Most Valuable Player -- such as the time he ran out the clock at the end of the first half to squash any field-goal attempt.
His nickname should be changed from Joe Cool to Joe Cruel.
The emotional roller coaster with Flacco went until the final minute of the game. After the Bengals took back the lead on a 77-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green, Flacco went 8-of-10 for 65 yards to move the Ravens to within 16 yards of tying the game. But in what summed up the day for Flacco and the Ravens, he was unable to throw a pass on the team's final two offensive plays and got sacked twice.
"It was a bad day," said Flacco, who was 35-of-62 passing for 345 yards. "We got ourselves obviously in position to win the game, but we didn't necessarily play well enough to win it."
There's no question Flacco has all the physical tools you want in a quarterback. He proved that during the Ravens' Super Bowl run 19 months ago. Where he struggles at times is making the quick decisions and adjustments.
That was evident on the final play of the game, when Flacco saw the Bengals overload the right side of the line. The defense was sending three players (including blitzing safety Reggie Nelson), and the Ravens only had two blockers to pick them up.
Right tackle Rick Wagner said he should have done a better job of slowing down Nelson, but Flacco had to assume he'd have to get rid of the ball quickly. On fourth-and-9, the worst option was getting sacked and not making a desperation throw downfield. Still, that's exactly what happened.
"I knew I had Reggie coming off the right corner there, and I thought we'd hold him up a little bit," Flacco said. "I knew I had to make a play to get the first down and just couldn't do it."
All of the blame for the Ravens' first home loss to the Bengals in five years shouldn't be placed on Flacco. His receivers dropped seven passes. Running back Bernard Pierce fumbled at the Ravens' 20-yard line.
Flacco, though, remains the Ravens' barometer of success, and it's difficult for the team to overcome his repeated slow starts. He misfired 13 of his first 23 passes and threw for 78 yards in the first half.
To make matters worse, Flacco scrambled when there were only a few seconds left before halftime and ran out the clock to take away an opportunity for a 32-yard field goal.
"That was probably the stupidest play I've ever made in football," Flacco said. "I kind of just got caught up in the play and forgot about the situation. There's no excuse for it. It can't happen."
Flacco drew the ire of fans in the third quarter when he was intercepted just two plays after the Ravens blocked a field goal, then he was cheered like a hero after he converted a fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter by running the ball and taking a hard hit.
It's always up and down with Flacco in the regular season. The only consistent part of Flacco's game is his inconsistency.