Playoff Joe Flacco: Fact or Fiction?


Dec 7, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) looks on during the second half against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Ravens won 28-13. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Rajon Rondo, a player who I’ve compared Joe Flacco to, is famed most of all for a special incarnation of himself known as “Playoff Rondo.” Playoff Rondo can take over games, scoring 40 points, passing 20 assists or grabbing 15 rebounds.

Joe Flacco has earned a similar moniker, as Playoff Flacco is a common topic. The thinking goes that Flacco is at his best in the playoffs. Is this true?

The truth is complicated.

Start with the pro argument. Flacco has played five straight absolutely lights out games in the playoffs, four during the 2012-13 Super Bowl run and the backbreaking loss in the 2011-12 AFC Championship Game. In that span, he has 13 touchdowns to just one interception. As all Ravens fans should know, he had an 11:0 touchdown to interception ratio in the Super Bowl run.

Now the cons. In his career, Flacco has compiled a 55.5 completion percentage in the playoffs, and even in the Super Bowl run, his completion percentage was just 57.9 percent.

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Further, he has some real clunkers on his playoffs resume. Three of the worst: 9-of-23 for 135 yards and no touchdowns; 13-of-30 for 141 yards and three interceptions; and 4-of-10 for 34 yards and an interception. Those are really some awful games.

Yet, those three games were all within Flacco’s first two years in the league. In fact, he has gotten better every year in terms of playoffs performance. By year, his passer ratings were: 2008, 50.8; 2009, 39.4; 2010, 90.0; 2011, 96.1; 2012, 117.2. That’s a positive trend.

The performances reflect the numbers. In his first two years in the league, Flacco was not asked to do much, as the Ravens focused on the ground game and stifling defense to win games in the playoffs.

His first quality start in the playoffs came in his sixth playoff start, a 2010 Wild Card tilt against the Kansas City Chiefs. Flacco followed that with two straight clunkers before his breakout performance in the 2011 AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots. That’s when Playoff Flacco was born.

Basically, the facts are this: Flacco was somewhere between average and awful through his first eight playoff starts, despite his overall winning record. In his past five, Flacco has been exceptional.

With that in mind, has Flacco turned the corner?

Yes, he has. In his first five playoff starts, Flacco threw six interceptions. In his last eight, Flacco has thrown two. There can be no question that Flacco has elevated his game in the playoffs as he developed as a quarterback.

A good performance from Flacco is no guarantee of victory, and Flacco won’t always put up great numbers in the Playoffs. But he knows what it takes to win, so the Ravens have to feel good about their quarterback and his track record in the biggest of situations.

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