2. Flacco has taken plenty of heat for his inconsistent play this season, but his wide receivers and tight ends sure haven't done him many favors with all the dropped balls. That doesn't entirely explain his regression, but it has absolutely been a factor.

It’s obvious by now that the <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="ORSPT000161" title="Baltimore Ravens" href="/topic/sports/football/baltimore-ravens-ORSPT000161.topic">Ravens</a> made the right move in cutting <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PESPT000008626" title="Todd Heap" href="/topic/sports/football/todd-heap-PESPT000008626.topic">Todd Heap</a> and <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PESPT004702" title="Derrick Mason" href="/topic/sports/football/derrick-mason-PESPT004702.topic">Derrick Mason</a>. Heap has been injured for half the season with the <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="ORSPT000031" title="Arizona Cardinals" href="/topic/sports/football/arizona-cardinals-ORSPT000031.topic">Cardinals</a>, and Mason has been released by two teams and is now analyzing games for the <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="ORCRP000017509" title="NFL Network (tv network)" href="/topic/economy-business-finance/media-industry/television-industry/nfl-network-%28tv-network%29-ORCRP000017509.topic">NFL Network</a>, even though he'd clearly prefer to be playing.<br>
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But one of the tradeoffs in going with youth over experience has been the inconsistent hands of <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PESPT00008947" title="Ed Dickson" href="/topic/sports/football/ed-dickson-PESPT00008947.topic">Ed Dickson</a> and <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PESPT000009816" title="Torrey Smith" href="/topic/sports/football/torrey-smith-PESPT000009816.topic">Torrey Smith</a>. Both players have so much more speed and big-play ability than the men they replaced, but watching balls ricochet off their hands and facemask has been maddening at times. Dickson bobbled two passes Saturday that probably would have helped the Ravens maintain momentum and put the game away. Smith couldn't come up with a poorly thrown, but still catchable, third-down pass from Flacco in the fourth quarter.<br>
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And even though he didn't play against the <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="ORSPT000038" title="Cleveland Browns" href="/topic/sports/football/cleveland-browns-ORSPT000038.topic">Browns</a> and won't play next week against the <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="ORSPT000037" title="Cincinnati Bengals" href="/topic/sports/football/cincinnati-bengals-ORSPT000037.topic">Bengals</a>, it's fair to point out that <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PESPT00008942" title="Anquan Boldin" href="/topic/sports/football/anquan-boldin-PESPT00008942.topic">Anquan Boldin</a> has been dropping balls right and left this year. The only guy on offense who plays a bunch and has "great" hands is <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PESPT0012888" title="Dennis Pitta" href="/topic/sports/football/dennis-pitta-PESPT0012888.topic">Dennis Pitta</a>, and he's rarely the primary target.<br>
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Even if Flacco plays the best football of his career over the next month, you have to wonder whether a big drop is going to doom the offense down the road. Because every time it happens -- and it's happened a lot -- the Ravens have a habit of letting it stall their passing attack. It constantly affects Flacco's rhythm. You wish he were good enough to overcome it, but typically he's not.<br>
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"They beat themselves up a little bit, but, yeah, you say something to them," Flacco said when I asked him whether he gets on his receivers when they muff passes. "But everything is done. What are you going to do? I mean, the play’s already over. They already dropped the pass. There’s no real point in dwelling on it and getting upset about it. You’ve got to move on."

( MCT photo / December 24, 2011 )

It’s obvious by now that the Ravens made the right move in cutting Todd Heap and Derrick Mason. Heap has been injured for half the season with the Cardinals, and Mason has been released by two teams and is now analyzing games for the NFL Network, even though he'd clearly prefer to be playing.

But one of the tradeoffs in going with youth over experience has been the inconsistent hands of Ed Dickson and Torrey Smith. Both players have so much more speed and big-play ability than the men they replaced, but watching balls ricochet off their hands and facemask has been maddening at times. Dickson bobbled two passes Saturday that probably would have helped the Ravens maintain momentum and put the game away. Smith couldn't come up with a poorly thrown, but still catchable, third-down pass from Flacco in the fourth quarter.

And even though he didn't play against the Browns and won't play next week against the Bengals, it's fair to point out that Anquan Boldin has been dropping balls right and left this year. The only guy on offense who plays a bunch and has "great" hands is Dennis Pitta, and he's rarely the primary target.

Even if Flacco plays the best football of his career over the next month, you have to wonder whether a big drop is going to doom the offense down the road. Because every time it happens -- and it's happened a lot -- the Ravens have a habit of letting it stall their passing attack. It constantly affects Flacco's rhythm. You wish he were good enough to overcome it, but typically he's not.

"They beat themselves up a little bit, but, yeah, you say something to them," Flacco said when I asked him whether he gets on his receivers when they muff passes. "But everything is done. What are you going to do? I mean, the play’s already over. They already dropped the pass. There’s no real point in dwelling on it and getting upset about it. You’ve got to move on."

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