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Joe Flacco threw for 36 completions on 47 attempts, 381 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception.

Earlier in the year, I resigned myself to the belief that Joe Falcco is not a great quarterback. It’s not that I had held out hope for “x” years, trying to decide how good of a player he is; I just never thought about it. If forced, I probably would have said in years past, “he’s not that good.” But at some point this year, I consciously decided, “he’s not that good.” Flacco may reside somewhere around the median of all starters to the bottom, but he’s certainly not a quarterback that’s paid at a rate commensurate with his performance.

If you look at all quarterbacks with at least 300 attempts since 2008 (the year Flacco entered the league), he ranks 48th in yards pert attempt, right behind Kyle Orton and in front of Kevin Kolb, Geno Smith, and Shaun Hill.

When you’re comparable to Shaun Hill (nothing against Hill; I’ve never met him: no judge) in a statistic that is aimed at measuring the ability of a quarterback, you’re not one of the best quarterbacks; you can safely say that.

Flacco’s numbers from last week ran completely counter to the general opinion that I had conciously formed about his ability, and I wanted to know how he was able to achieve the numbers that he produced. For that reason, Joe Flacco is the subject of this week’s breakdown.

Week 13 NFL Breakdown

Dolphins: 0 Ravens: 0 (1st – 11:02 – 3rd and 3)

  • Isa Abdul-Quddus (the farthest outside defensive back to the field) bites on the run fake to the inside and allows Terrance West to out leverage him. Along with the fact that he looks to be in zone coverage and doesn’t have his attention fixed directly on the running back as he heads out of the backfield, the run action underneath causes Abdul-Quddus to lose West.

Dolphins: 0 Ravens: 7 (1st – 3:22 – 2nd and 10)

  • This is another play that seems like Abdul-Quddus could have made a better play. It seems like the Dolphins might be in a Cover-4 technique. If they are, this means that Abdul-Quddus is responsible for any vertical route past linebacker depth, which means that he is responsible for Dennis Pitta.
  • Pitta’s route could be designed to free up space over the middle: where he ultimately ends up. His initial stem is to the outside, which pushes Abdul-Quddus to the sideline and creates space over the middle for him to make the catch.
  • The other possibility for this route is that Pitta was required to read whether the defense left the middle of the field open or closed. If the defense left the middle of the field open (i.e. no safety in the middle of the field), Pitta, as he did, would run his route to the middle of the field; if the defense closed the middle of the field (i.e. safety present in the middle of the field), Pitta would run his route in the direction that his initial stem was directed.

Dolphins: 0 Ravens: 14 (2nd – 2:30 – 3rd and 7)

  • This is a good play by Flacco to be patient and wait for Pitta to be open. The Dolphins run a zone blitz and drop the right defensive end into coverage after he initially makes contact with the left tackle. The right defensive end drops into coverage right where Pitta crosses the field; if Flacco throws this pass a few moments earlier, the ball is batted down or, worse, intercepted.
  • If the Dolphins are again in a quarters concept in coverage, that would explain why Pitta goes untouched underneath; in Cover-4, a common way to defend the No. 1 receiver is for the defensive back to let him go free on any route that breaks immediately underneath; the receiver then becomes the responsibility of the underneath defender, in this case the defensive end that drops back in coverage.

Dolphins: 6 Ravens: 24 (4th – 13:11 – 1st and 10)

  • As they fall back in man-to-man coverage with a single high safety over the top as a safety valve, the Dolphin’s defensive backfield has what might be their worst blunder of the day.
  • I’m not sure if they are supposed to lineup like this, but it seems odd that the two defensive backs to the boundary side of the field would lineup side-to-side. The reason that it’s odd to lineup this way is because it allows the offense to run routes that can cause the defensive backs to run into each other, which is exactly what happens.
  • The No. 2 receiver to the boundary runs a hook route, and Breshad Perriman runs an underneath route that causes Tony Lippett (the defender responsible for Perriman) to run right into his teammate.
  • After he catches the ball, Perriman shows off the dynamic speed and athleticism that many fans have waited for as he makes his way into the end zone.

Now that I saw how each of Flacco’s touchdowns, his performance from the standpoint of his touchdown passes feels much more understandable. The Dolphins, who are a good team in coverage, happened to have some miscues, and Flacco was able to capitalize on them. This shouldn’t change anyone’s opinion about Flacco, and if anyone tries to tell you that it should, just show him or her the stat from the top of the article.

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