As the Ravens moved into field-goal range Sunday, Joe Flacco was flushed out of the pocket yet again.
On a second-down play in overtime, Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko quickly beat right guard Marshal Yanda with a swim move and bore down on Flacco. The quarterback rolled to his right, where defensive end Carlos Dunlap slipped by right tackle Michael Oher and chased Flacco toward the sideline. As he scrambled, Flacco flung an accurate pass to tight end Ed Dickson for a critical first down.
Asked Monday about the play of his quarterback, coach John Harbaugh, while acknowledging that he can play better, pointed to that play and others Flacco made out of the pocket as a reason the Ravens won.
“We don’t win without Joe making tremendous plays,” Harbaugh said. “The fact that he’s made plays out of the pocket the last few weeks -- the plays he made to score the first touchdown and the plays he made in overtime -- there are no better plays being made outside the pocket than that. That’s something that Joe is doing really well.”
Flacco has already thrown 11 interceptions in nine games, one shy of his career high, and he has fumbled five times. His 77.3 passer rating is the lowest of his NFL career.
But when Flacco scrambled out of the pocket the past two weeks -- something that has been happening often -- he made opponents pay. According to ESPN, Flacco completed 70 percent of his passes outside of the pocket over that span while averaging 7.1 yards per attempt. His 123.3 passer rating on scramble plays ranked third in the league.
He also rushed four times for 29 yards the past two weeks.
Meanwhile, he had a 64.2 passer rating inside the pocket.
Flacco is usually at his best when the Ravens give him a clean pocket and time to find his receivers down the field. That hasn’t always happened in recent games. But Harbaugh said Flacco, who is more athletic than people give him credit for, deserves credit for making some plays on the move.
“He’s been moving around with his eyes downfield,” Harbaugh said. “Guys getting open, that’s been really big for us. That’s something that we haven’t done a lot of in the past, as far as our receivers doing a great job downfield. They’ve really improved on that, and Joe has made the most of that. That was the difference in the game [Sunday] in the end.”