Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had a fine season in 2010, passing for 3,622 yards and 25 touchdowns. He led the Ravens to another playoff win, but he literally caved under pressure in the 31-24 loss to the Steelers in the AFC divisional round. Flacco was sacked five times, lost a fumble and tossed an interception.
We know the Steelers like to blitz. Did other teams take the same aggressive approach against Flacco?
According to Pro Football Focus, Flacco dropped back to pass 618 times in 2010 (including playoffs). On those pass plays, Flacco was blitzed 306 times (49.5 percent). Only Oakland backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski was blitzed more frequently than Flacco. As a comparison, New England's Tom Brady, the 2010 NFL MVP, ranked 27th on the list as he was blitzed 200 times in 572 passing plays (35 percent).
During the 306 plays when Flacco was blitzed, the third-year quarterback completed 58.7 percent of his 276 pass attempts. His 3:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio when blitzed (12 touchdowns against four interceptions) trailed only Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.
These are some interesting stats to take note of, but they don't tell the whole story. They include plays in which his blockers picked up the blitz and Flacco had time to look for an open receiver.
Pro Football Focus also compiled stats for plays when blocking broke down and NFL quarterbacks were actually pressured, which gives a better indication of how they fared when operating in a dirty pocket. (Just to clarify, blitzes don't necessarily result in pressure, so that's why these two stats are different).
In 2010, Flacco was sacked on 24 percent of the plays -- 49 total times -- when he was pressured, according to Pro Football Focus. Only two quarterbacks, rookies Colt McCoy and Jimmy Clausen, took sacks more frequently. Flacco completed 46.9 percent of his throws under pressure, which put him 20th in that category, sandwiched between Brett Favre and Derek Anderson. In those situations, he threw five touchdowns and four interceptions.
Thought-provoking numbers, for sure, but I'll let you make your own judgments on what they mean for Flacco and the Ravens.