Have you ever wondered how Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has fared under fire? You know, numbers that back up or contradict what your own eyes told you whenever you watched him play every Sunday afternoon?
Thankfully, my friends over at Pro Football Focus now have a stat for just about everything you want to know.
On Thursday, PFF's Steve Palazzolo provided proof of how each AFC North quarterback has handled pressure since 2008, the first season they started watching game tape and tracking data. For some quarterbacks, there might be a small sample size, but Flacco has started 80 regular-season games since 2008, his rookie season.
One thing Palazzolo concluded was that Flacco was one of the NFL's worst against unblocked pressure, which you might have figured every time you watched blind-side blitzers bat the ball out of his hands. Flacco has completed just 42.1 percent of his passes on those plays with seven touchdowns, six interceptions and a 4.4 yards-per-attempt average. Only Ryan Fitzpatrick had a worse PFF grade in those situations.
“Perhaps it’s partially the offensive system focused on throwing the ball down the field or maybe it’s Flacco’s being handcuffed with regard to pre-snap audibles in his early years, but he’s certainly not at his best in the quick game throwing hot routes against unblocked blitzers,” Palazzolo wrote.
(Flacco throwing the ball down the field? That sounds like a perfect opportunity for one last shameless plug for my Sunday story on why Flacco has one of the NFL’s strongest arms ... !)
Another area where Flacco struggles is pressure from left tackle, which probably overlaps a fair amount with how he fared against unblocked pressure. And throughout Flacco's five-year career, he has seen more pressure given up by his left tackles than another other spot on the offensive line.
On the flip side, Flacco has fared well against pressure when it comes from up the middle. He has eight touchdown passes against four interceptions on those plays and has a positive PFF grade on pressure from left guard, center and right guard combined.
Of course, Flacco’s best showing on the chart was the line where they listed his numbers when he was not pressured at all. As we saw during the playoffs, Flacco can be extremely dangerous if he has time to make his throws, and his plus-95 PFF grade throughout his NFL career backs that up.