It came down to a matter of split seconds, but Joe Flacco got the ball out of his hands a little faster last season.
The Ravens quarterback, whose completion percentage, passing yards and passer rating all rose from 2011, on average released the ball 2.5 seconds after the snap in 2012, which was fifth-fastest among qualifying QBs according to Pro Football Focus. In 2011, Flacco ranked in the middle of the quarterback pack at 2.62 seconds.
That difference -- nearly an eighth of a second -- may not seem like much, but in some cases, it may have been the difference between a first-down pass and a defensive end crashing into Flacco. Or worse yet, a turnover.
Flacco, who is now in his sixth NFL season, released the football in less than 2.5 seconds on 54.5 percent of the passing plays (310 attempts) in 2012. In 2011, he released it in less than 2.5 seconds on 52.6 percent of the passing plays (303 attempts).
Pro Football Focus placed the blame for just two sacks on Flacco for not getting rid of the ball, which was down from four in 2011.
Honestly, the fact that Flacco got the ball out so quickly was actually a little surprising, as the Ravens were among the league-leaders in 20-plus-yard passing plays throughout the entire season. Not all of those big plays happened after Flacco waited a few seconds to chuck a deep ball down the field, but Cam Cameron's offense did have deep ties, literally, to Don Coryell's vertical passing attack.
His numbers on throws of 2.5 seconds or less weren't drastically different than in 2011. He had a 63.9 completion percentage with a 91.3 rating in 2012 compared to 64.7 percent and 90.2 in 2011.
But that quicker trigger seemed to pay off in the playoffs. Seven of his Flacco's record-tying 11 touchdowns passes, by my count, came on throws he made less than 2.5 seconds after the snap.