The Difference Between Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan


Oct 19, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) congratulates Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) after the Ravens beat the Falcons 29-7 at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Fans and the media alike billed Sunday’s game as Joe Flacco versus Matt Ryan first, Baltimore Ravens versus Atlanta Falcons second. The two quarterbacks have constantly been compared, with Ryan consistently garnering accolades, and Flacco consistently being divisive.

Sunday proved the Ravens were better than the Falcons. The battle between Flacco and Ryan, though, was decided long ago.

Let’s start with the obvious. Given a stationary target 10 yards away, Matt Ryan is the more accurate quarterback. With no pressure and wide open receivers, Matt Ryan is the superior quarterback. Unfortunately for Ryan, pressure and covered receivers is a way of life for NFL quarterbacks.

In the early part of his career, with a great offensive line and dominant receiving corps, Ryan was able to dominate statistically and win games. Now, Ryan struggles under constant duress, though he still has a better receiving corps than Flacco ever had.

No play better symbolizes what I’m talking about than Ryan’s ineptitude on a 4th-and-7 midway through the fourth quarter. Faced with pressure, Ryan tried to escape in the one direction no quarterback should ever go, backward. He ended up going down for a 12-yard loss. He looked lost, and that was a common occurrence in the face of the Ravens’ pass rush.

More from Baltimore Ravens

Flacco, on the other hand, was often under duress as well. Starting two rookies, one a late draft pick and the other undrafted, along the offensive line will cause that. Yet Flacco was sacked just once, consistently escaping pressure and extending plays. Flacco has shown an uncanny ability to uncork passes under pressure (though they are not always accurate). His superior arm strength and mental toughness, traits in which he rivals any NFL quarterback, help Flacco succeed where Ryan fails.

That’s why Flacco succeeds in the playoffs and Ryan doesn’t. Flacco is at his best when he is pressing, especially when the game is on the line. No moment is too big for him, nor any play. For every dumb mistake Flacco has made in small situations, he has made a big play in a big situation.

Ryan, on the other hand, is limited. When forced to press, his lesser (though still above-average) athletic ability and possibly even his mental toughness cause him to make mistakes constantly in the biggest situations.

One stat stands out. In five playoff games, Ryan has thrown seven interceptions. No wonder he has only gone 1-4 in the playoffs. Flacco, on the other hand, has thrown eight interceptions in 13 games. His record in the playoffs: 9-4.

Looking at these two quarterbacks resumes, one thing separates them more than stats ever could. Flacco has stepped up in the biggest situations. Ryan hasn’t.

The pundits can keep Ryan and his stats. As for me and the rest of Ravens Nation, we will take the quarterback with the ring.