At first glance, Joe Flacco's numbers from Thursday night were eye-popping, the kind of stats that make fantasy football players happy. He threw for 362 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in the 49-27 loss.
But it took him 62 passes -- he completed 34 of them -- to get there, and his 5.8 yards per attempt were about half as much as Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who got 100 more yards on 20 fewer attempts.
That’s not to say he played poorly. There was some good and there was some bad from Flacco as the game got out of hand. But surprisingly, the area with which the big-armed quarterback struggled the most was shorter passes.
According to Pro Football Focus, Flacco completed 20 of 31 attempts for 212 yards between the line of scrimmage and 10 yards downfield. Both interceptions were on short passes.
The first one was just a heck of a play by Broncos cornerback Chris Harris. He tracked slot receiver Brandon Stokley across the field before laying out to come up with a nice interception.
The second one wasn’t as dismissible. On one fourth-quarter play, Flacco flung a pass into the right flat to running back Ray Rice and got picked off by linebacker Danny Trevathan, who bailed the Ravens out by pulling a DeSean Jackson before crossing the goal line at the end of his interception return.
We can probably chalk some of the issues on shorter throws to a lack of familiarity with his new possession pass-catchers, guys like Stokley and tight end Dallas Clark. Ed Dickson has been around, but he also dropped a couple of passes.
Outside of hitting Rice on dump-offs, something he did eight times, and his first-quarter touchdown pass to fullback Vonta Leach, Flacco was often out of sync with his receivers underneath.
We shall see if the struggles continue, or if he and his receivers get on the same page with these higher-percentage passes.