Reveling in the rain, Joe Flacco proves he's a tough mudder

BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Ravens talked about whether they needed to dial down the passing game as the heavy rain came down before the game.

"We decided it was the same game plan," coach John Harbaugh said. "You always feel that Joe [Flacco] gives you a bit of an advantage in the elements."

Throwing darts through the raindrops, the strong-armed Flacco once again proved to be a tough mudder in Sunday's 27-14 win over the Denver Broncos. He consistently put the ball on his targets' hands, completing 25 of 40 passes (62.5 percent) for one touchdown and a 91.4 passer rating.

While other phases struggled, Flacco carried Baltimore to the top of the AFC North standings, where the Ravens (2-1) are tied with the Bengals (2-1). The running game averaged 2.8 yards per carry. The defense had trouble getting off the field. The special teams had a punt and a field goal blocked.

Flacco continually pushed the ball downfield and stepped up at the most critical moment. On third-and-1 with 2 minutes, 45 seconds remaining, Flacco rolled to his right and beat Broncos safety Darian Stewart and linebacker Bradley Chubb to the outside. He dove forward in the wet grass for a 5-yard gain to seal the win.

When it rains, Flacco soars because of his mindset.

"I don’t pay any attention to it, and [offensive coordinator] Marty [Mornhinweg] doesn’t either," said Flacco, who had grass stains on both legs, his chest and even on top of his shoulder pads. "That’s what is great. [We went] out there and threw the ball all around the yard in the first half even though we were trying to establish [the run] and get some of those things done, too. I think in the pregame, you can overthink it, and what are you really going to do though? By the time the game comes around, you’re just trying to execute the play."

One of the big reasons why the Ravens drafted Flacco in the first round 11 years ago was his ability to throw in bad weather. During a cold and windy pre-draft workout, Flacco impressed Ravens officials when only five of his 150 passes hit the ground.

Flacco has been tested early this season and has come through sublimely. In rain games against the Bills and Broncos, Flacco has connected on 67.5 percent of his passes (50-of-74) for 513 yards. He has thrown four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 105.3 rating.

In those same games, the other quarterbacks (Nate Peterman, Josh Allen and Case Keenum) combined for a 49.3 completion rate (33-of-67 passing) for 243 yards. They've totaled no touchdowns and four interceptions for a 49.3 rating.

"A lot of teams would go away throwing the ball during rain like this," tight end Mark Andrews said. "It's Coach Marty having trust in [Flacco]. He's proven he can do it. And obviously, with his day today, it proves it again as well."

Flacco repeatedly put the ball where it needed to be. In the second quarter, Flacco dropped it in John Brown's outstretched arms for a 44-yard connection. In the third quarter, Flacco hit Andrews in stride for a 29-yard, over-the-shoulder catch.

"I think that’s always one of the things that when you take into account guys that are going to be on this team is the fact that you have to play in Cincinnati, you have to play in Cleveland, you have to play in Pittsburgh, and you have to play in Baltimore," Flacco said. "Grass fields, for the most part, and you can always be [dealing] with some weather, so you’ve got to be able to step up to the plate and do it, and it’s just part of playing football."

The Ravens next play the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night. Unfortunately for Flacco, the forecast at Heinz Field is just a 20 percent chance of rain.