Joe Flacco probably won’t play more than a series against the New Orleans Saints Thursday, if he plays at all. He has earned the rest, playing some of his best football in three wins over the San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins.
The raw numbers are impressive: 29-for-45 (64.4 percent completion percentage), 345 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. That added up to a 102.5 passer rating. Impressive.
Fans and analysts learned quite a bit about Flacco and his role in Gary Kubiak‘s new offense, just from the three games that Flacco played.
First of all, the Ravens are going to attack the middle of the field. Of Flacco’s 45 throws, 26 were over the middle (stats from Pro Football Focus, subscription needed). And that’s good news, as Flacco was 21-for-25 on those throws for 236 yards, a remarkably efficient clip. Guys like Steve Smith and Dennis Pitta are going to benefit from those throws.
Interestingly, Flacco rarely threw the deep ball, as the Ravens stretched the field horizontally rather than vertically. Flacco threw just seven passes beyond ten yards down field, instead opting for quick throws to more consistently pick up yardage.
Best of all, Flacco excelled in the face of pressure. Thirteen of Flacco’s drop backs were pressured, and he went 6-for-11 for 85 yards on those drop backs, as well as two sacks. Those are solid numbers for a quarterback dealing with pressure. Further, Flacco excelled against the blitz (and his line did well blocking it), as he went 9-for-12 for 123 yards and a touchdown when blitzed. That’s a 135.1 passer rating in the face of blitzes.
Flacco’s calm in the face of pressure was most on display against Washington, where despite a fierce pass rush, Flacco efficiently and accurately picked apart the defense.
Really, what Flacco is displaying is what he can do with adequate blocking and some weapons to work with, not to mention better play calling.
But, there are some weaknesses that still remain. Flacco is of course inconsistent, as he struggled early in the Dallas game. Slow stretches like that will still happen with Flacco, but that’s true for almost every quarterback.
Further, Flacco at times held the ball too long. On one sack, Flacco held the ball for close to five seconds before caving to pressure. He never seemed to look to escape the pocket and throw the ball away.
All in all, Flacco deserves high marks for his excellent performance, as does Kubiak and quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison. He has broken some bad habits in the face of pressure and looks as sharp as he ever has.