After throwing two interceptions and fumbling once in Sunday's 22-20 loss to Jacksonville, Flacco has now turned the ball over 12 times in nine games, which are the fourth-most in the NFL this season. It also puts him on pace for the second-most turnovers (21) of his eight-year career.
"Maybe they weren't all bad decisions, but I would say that I've probably made more bad decisions, and that’s why there's a little bit more of them," Flacco said. "It comes down to gameday and reacting, playing within yourself. I probably haven’t done that as well as I have in the past."
Flacco takes the brunt of the blame for the turnovers, but there are three understandable reasons for the increased number of them this season:
Lack of weapons around him. Flacco has played all or parts of the first half of the season without his leading receiver (Steve Smith), most trusted target (Dennis Pitta), a first-round pick (Breshad Perriman) and starting left tackle (Eugene Monroe). It would be naive to think Flacco wouldn't be affected by these losses. Flacco has proven he can lead a team deep into the playoffs and even to a Super Bowl title when given the right supporting cast, but he will struggle when he lacks viable targets. His most turnovers in a season (24) came in 2013, when Baltimore traded Anquan Boldin in the offseason and lost Pitta to a hip injury for three-quarters of the season.
No help from the defense. There's increased pressure on Flacco because the defense has allowed 26.2 points per game (its most since 1996) and has forced five turnovers (on pace for the fewest in NFL history). That means the Ravens are relying on Flacco to score nearly every time he touches the ball and do so by going the length of the field. The defense also has the habit of giving up leads late in games, which puts Flacco in catch-up mode nearly every week. Flacco's three interceptions in the final three minutes of games lead the NFL.
A disappearing running game. Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman has a history of not committing to the run, and that has worked against Flacco this season. Trestman only called four run plays in the first half Sunday, and Baltimore has the eighth-fewest run attempts in the NFL. Defenses are going to key on the passing game, especially when Flacco was the Ravens' leading rusher in the first half Sunday. And it's simple mathematics that Flacco is going to turn the ball over more often when he has the ball in his hands for most of the game. He has thrown four interceptions on passes after reaching 30 attempts.
Flacco isn't known as a quarterback who is reckless with the ball. Last season, his 12 turnovers were tied for the 22nd-most in the league. In his eight seasons, he has delivered three or more turnovers nine times, including Sunday's controversial loss toe the Jaguars. The Ravens' record is 2-7 (.222) in those games.
"It’s never one thing," coach John Harbaugh said about the reason for the spike in Flacco's turnovers this season. "I don’t care what the play is, it’s never one thing. The quarterback usually gets most of the blame and most of the credit, and as it should be. Joe takes responsibility for pretty much everything, but most certainly that's part of it.”