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Flacco's improved play has been keyed by his feet

Most compliments of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco usually start and end with his strong right arm. However, Flacco’s feet are garnering plenty of praise these days.

Flacco’s ability to get out of the pocket and make throws – or at least avoid a sack - has been at the forefront of the quarterback’s improved form recently. In his past two games, Flacco has completed 41-of-61 passes for 524 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.  

“Joe has always been pretty mobile, but he has definitely taken that part of his game to another level,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He has made a bunch of plays on the run, both run and pass. They’ve been huge plays in the game. That’s a dimension that he has expanded upon that’s been really good for us.”

Over the last four games, Flacco has completed 12-of-17 passes for 108 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions while out of the pocket. His 107.0 quarterback rating in such situations is eight best in the NFL over that span. In comparison, he has a 71.8 quarterback rating while in the pocket over the past four games, which ranks 27th in the NFL.

“I probably have made a little more of a conscious effort to maybe do it a little bit quicker or maybe I’m getting through [progressions] quicker,” Flacco said. “I don’t know what it is. I think our line has done a good job of spreading guys out at times, so when we do get pressure, it’s not all four guys or it’s not guys from the outside and guys from the middle.  When we’ve had guys coming around the outside, I’ve had room to step up and escape here, or if I’ve had pressure up the middle, I’ve had room to escape outside. … And I think our receivers are getting better and better at getting open and really adjusting to me moving outside the pocket.“

Flacco already has 95 rushing yards this year, his highest total since his rookie season in 2008, and his 4.5 yards per carry average leads all Ravens with 10 or more carries. He picked up a key first down in the second quarter of last week’s victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, scrambling up the middle for nine yards on a third-and-8.

Other times, he’s used his legs to get out of trouble and make throws on the run. His 1-yard touchdown pass to Dallas Clark in the Nov.10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals was an example of that as he out-raced several defenders to the outside and then found his tight end in the back of the end zone.

Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith (Maryland) said that Flacco is much more athletic than people give him credit for. Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen, who will be chasing around Flacco Sunday, said his team is well aware of what the Ravens’ quarterback can do with his feet.

 “I wouldn’t put him up there with Aaron Rodgers, as far as he’s going to get outside the pocket,” Allen said. “I think his pocket presence is that of almost a [Drew] Brees or something like that where he moves himself within the pocket or will escape to get himself the ability to make a big play down the field. That’s what makes his successful. You see him do it time and time again.”

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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