Joe Flacco is one of the NFL’s leaders in pass attempts and yards. The Ravens quarterback is also a leader in a category he would prefer to shed: fumbles.
Flacco has committed a league-high 11 fumbles this season, one more than the St. Louis Rams’ Sam Bradford and the Cleveland Browns’ Colt McCoy. His six lost fumbles rank second to Bradford’s seven.
Flacco, who was stripped by defensive end Jabaal Sheard and lost the ball in Sunday’s 24-10 victory over the Browns, hadn’t fumbled more than nine times or lost more than four in a single season in his career.
“I’m doing all I can to keep my hand on the ball and not let that stuff happen,” Flacco said Wednesday. “They got one on me on Sunday. I was trying to make a play. Yeah, preventing that one might just be, ‘Hey, we’re not going to convert this third down. Run it up there for a couple yards and let them punt.’ But there’s a fine line there. I could do a better job, and that’s something I’ll work on.”
However, unlike kick returner David Reed, who lost his job after losing two fumbles in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 13, Flacco is not working with running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery on ball security. Flacco said the issue boils down to being more cognizant of protecting the football.
“I’m not really fumbling when I’m running the ball or in the pocket, things like that,” he said. “I’ve just got to do a better job of keeping guys from swiping the ball.”
Flacco and the rest of the offense will meet an Indianapolis Colts defense Sunday that is tied for sixth in the AFC in caused fumbles with nine. Defensive end Dwight Freeney, who is tied for the team lead in sacks with 5½ and ranks second in forced fumbles with two, said trying to strip opposing quarterbacks is a high priority.
“It’s really just the way we’re kind of programmed, the way we go about it,” he said during a conference call with Baltimore media Wednesday. “It’s never just the sack. It’s the total package. It’s the caused fumble, the recovered fumble, try to score a touchdown, do it all yourself. That’s just kind of our mentality.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he wouldn’t be surprised if the Colts’ defensive players took aim at Flacco’s hand.
“That’s what you do. If there’s a history there, you go after the ball,” Harbaugh said. “They do that anyway. That’s what they’re taught to do. You can’t turn the ball over anywhere. I don’t care if it’s the quarterback, the running back, the wide receiver, the defense after making an interception, special teams. If you turn the ball over, you put the team at risk. The ball is the most important thing. The ball is gold. If we expect to win football games and move forward, we’re going to have to protect the football.”Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times