Flacco has to find a way to beat the Cincinnati Bengals, who have caused him more trouble than any team in his career. The Bengals have roughed him up more than James Harrison and the Pittsburgh Steelers. They have frustrated him more often than Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
Marvin Lewis, the mastermind of the best defense in Ravens history 15 years ago, has gotten into the head of Flacco unlike any other team, and it's not even close. Flacco has thrown 13 touchdowns and 18 interceptions against the Bengals, which are startling numbers when compared to what he's done against the rival Steelers (17 touchdowns and six interceptions) and Patriots (seven touchdowns and four interceptions).
Flacco's 18 interceptions are more than twice as many he's thrown against any other team. His 69.6 passer rating against the Bengals is his worst among teams he's played more than three times.
Is there any such thing as teams having a player's number?
“I just buy into … ," offensive coordinator Marc Trestman said before changing his thought. "We try to come out here every day and get better and try to improve at our jobs. So, I don’t read into it or get into any of that stuff."
Flacco said the Bengals' success still comes down to the core philosophies: Stop the run and make a team one-dimensional. In the past in obvious passing situations, Cincinnati has brought enough pressure to get Flacco out of the pocket and on the move. Bengals cornerbacks press the Ravens' wide receivers, which doesn't give them a free release and knocks the timing off the passing game.
In the last three meetings with Cincinnati, Flacco is 0-3 with a 56.2-percent completion rate, throwing two touchdowns and six interceptions.
"Joe [Flacco] is a very, very good quarterback, and we’ve been fortunate," Lewis said. "And we just have to keep playing within ourselves and kind of stay to our technique and schemes and so forth.”
Last October, which was the last time these two teams played, Flacco threw two interceptions that resulted in 10 points in a three-point loss (27-24). He was almost picked off two more times.
So what do the Bengals do so differently than other teams?
"They don’t do anything different than anybody else does," coach John Harbaugh said. "They have their own unique style. They have their way of playing. I think they’re very aggressive in terms of their mentality. They’re an attacking, 4-3-type defense. So, it’s not anything that people don’t try to do, but they do it well.”
Flacco acknowledged that playing a team so often does present some challenges in terms of familiarity, but ...
"I don’t know if they know us well or not," said Flacco, who hasn't thrown more touchdowns than interceptions against Cincinnati since the 2012 season opener. "I don’t know if they have a good idea of how Marc [Trestman] is going to go out there and call a game. So, I don’t think you can look too [much] into that. Yes, look at tendencies and things like that – we do that. I’m sure they do that, but at the end of the day, you still can’t be afraid to do what you do well."