It's a good thing Joe Flacco's a tough guy and has the frame of a tree trunk.
If that wasn't the case, the Ravens' quarterback might be receiving some heavy-duty medical treatment this week.
Flacco posted a decent enough stat line in the Ravens' win over the Texans on Sunday, going 20-of-33 for 305 yards with an interception and a rushing touchdown, but he also absorbed some huge hits.
Houston's talented, quick front-seven brought heavy pressure at Flacco, sacking him twice and delivering seven quarterback hits. They brought bodies off the edges and were in Flacco's face seemingly every time he dropped back to pass, especially in the first half.
If the Ravens want their starting quarterback to play a full 16-game season (plus playoffs), they know they'll need to make some adjustments.
"The thing that was a little disappointing was our pass protection," head coach John Harbaugh said yesterday. "I think Joe made some great throws, especially in that first drive, and he got hit every single time. And that's not good. I think it's a testament to Joe and his toughness and all that. We've seen it, but we don't want Joe getting hit like that.
"A couple times it was losing the one-on-one battle. A couple times we misidentified the protection because of some of the looks they gave us, maybe. But also, things that weren't that complicated, I think we can do a better. I think everyone would agree that we can do a better job that way. Now, at the end of the game we did a better job, but we don't need Joe getting hit like that."
Flacco has done a nice job this season of avoiding pressure long enough to get the ball away, and has even turned heavy pressure into positive gains on a few occasions by shrugging off a defender and hitting an open receiver or dumping the ball off to running back Ray Rice.
The Ravens' offensive line certainly deserves blame for the protection issues on Sunday, but you can't ignore the fact that Baltimore was facing a tough Houston defensive front. The Texans have turned around the NFL's worst passing defense from a year ago by getting strong play from guys like J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin, and at times, the Ravens had trouble matching up against the youthful quickness of a group which is now tied for third in the NFL with 17 sacks on the season.
"They had a whole front seven of first- and second-round picks - high first- and second-round picks," Harbaugh said. "I mean, that's a really talented front even without Mario Williams in there - really, really good players that want to be a real physical team - and they are."
The good news, as Harbaugh alluded to, is Flacco took far fewer hits in the second half Sunday night. The Ravens made some tweaks to their protection schemes at halftime, and as a result, their quarterback took less of a beating in the final 30 minutes.
"They did bring some things we didn't see," left tackle Bryant McKinnie said. "We had to make some adjustments in the second half. We came back. They're pretty quick."
The hope is that when the Ravens face other defenses with quality front-sevens - Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Cincinnati to name a few - they'll have learned from their mistakes. Who knows, maybe they'll get left guard Ben Grubbs (remember him?) back at some point, as well.