Joe Flacco completed an amazing postseason with the Super Bowl MVP award.
As usual, he was good when the offensive line provided Ample Time and Space (ATS). They did so on 18 of 35 drop backs (51%) Sunday. With ATS, Flacco was 12 of 18 for 165 yards, 2 TD/0 INT (9.2 YPP, matching his season average). It’s important to convert opportunities with ATS, but against one of the league’s best defenses, Flacco was outstanding without ATS.
Let’s review those 17 opportunities without ATS by play:
(Q1, 11:58) McDonald bulled Oher to get his hand in Flacco’s face, but Joe completed a 20-yard pass to Torrey Smith outside the right numbers.
(Q1, 10:56) Brooks beat Dickson to flush the pocket. Flacco rolled right then threw the ball well over the head of Torrey Smith double covered in the back of the end zone.
(Q1, 10:42) McKinney was bulled by Brooks for pressure as Flacco threw between the goalposts where it was brought down by Boldin for a touchdown.
(Q1, 3:54) Off play action with the line zone blocking to the right, Flacco rolled left, was knocked down by Aldon Smith, and delivered a 9-yard completion to Pitta on the left sideline.
(Q1, 1:34) Flacco delivered a slant that Boldin was unable to haul in on the right hash between Rogers and Whitner. The ball was out quickly, but the right side had given some ground and Flacco did not have room to step into the throw.
(Q1, 1:31) Oher was bulled by McDonald and Brooks, which flushed Flacco to the right, but Joe unloaded down the right sideline where Boldin outleaped Culliver for the football and a 30-yard completion.
(Q1, 1:06) Flacco escaped a sack from Aldon Smith to flip a short pass to Leach 9 yards behind the LoS. Had Leach known the pass was forward, he probably would have dropped it intentionally, but he recovered 6 yards to lose just 3.
(Q1, 0:17) McDonald bulled Oher for a 5-yard sack.
(Q2, 8:10) Sopoaga beat McKinney for pressure as Flacco threw left for Dickson for a gain of 14.
(Q2, 6:23) Rice picked up the blitzing Rogers and the ball was out quickly to Leach for a gain of 5 by the left sideline. This was a case where Flacco was not pressured when he threw, but the pocket would not have held up for 3 seconds.
(Q2, 3:17) Rogers again came unblocked off the left edge. Flacco released quickly, but over the head of Torrey Smith in the right corner of the end zone. I want to check the All-22 on this, but it did not appear Culliver ever found the football, so an in-bounds pass probably would have resulted in pass interference or a TD.
(Q2, 2:07) McDonald pushed back Yanda and Flacco delivered the slant a little high to Jones who was unable to hold on.
(Q3, 12:10) Sopoaga drove back Birk. The ball was out quickly to Smith, who was covered by Bowman, for a gain of 15 (10 + 5 YAC). The pocket would not have held up for 3 seconds. Birk was charged with a miss on this play.
(Q3, 6:27) McKinnie failed to block Brooks allowing a dangerous full-speed blind-side sack of Flacco. Joe held on to hold the damage to a loss of 8 that would force the Ravens to punt.
(Q4, 13:05) With the Ravens 3rd-and-goal from just outside the 1, Flacco was pressured by Brooks and McDonald, who beat Oher and Yanda off the right edge. Joe outraced them to the edge, waited for someone to break free, then finally threw the ball away and took a QH (high and well out of bounds) from Sopoaga.
(Q4, 9:51) Rice failed to pick up the blitzing Bowman, but immediately turned to receive Flacco’s pass as Joe took a big hit. Rice would weave for a 4-yard gain (-6 + 10 YAC).
(Q4, 7:14) The 49ers sent a 6-man run blitz on 3rd and inches from the Ravens 45. Flacco checked off at the LoS and lobbed the ball for Boldin covered by Rogers on the right sideline just as McDonald had backed up Yanda into his face. Boldin ripped the ball free from Rogers who never turned for the football, but had a hand in Boldin’s face and was pushing him backwards. For those complaining about the final 4th-and-5 call, this was at least as obvious a missed interference penalty. The 15-yard gain was perhaps the game’s biggest play and extended the drive that would result in a FG to put the Ravens up 5.
To summarize the results without ATS:
- He was 10 of 15 for 122 yards with 2 sacks for 13 yards
- He threw the ball away when that was the last option
- He didn’t throw an interception nor any balls that were close to interceptions
- He didn’t fumble when sacked by a free runner from the blind side
- He combined with Anquan “jaws of life” Boldin for 3 completions in 4 throws for 58 yards and a TD
- Including the sacks, he averaged 6.4 YPP without ATS which was 39 yards better than expectation for those throws based on season norms.
- For the playoffs, he threw 6 touchdowns and 0 interceptions without ATS
The Ravens’ starting linemen played all 68 snaps (excluding Tucker’s 8-yard run and Koch’s intentional safety).
McKinnie: Bryant had a big brain fart when he blocked inside rather than pick up Brooks on his sack (Q3, 6:27) He surrendered a pressure to Brooks on a bull (Q1, 10:42), failed to block Aldon Smith (Q1, 1:06) to allow a pressure, and was beaten inside by Sopoaga (Q1, 8:10) for another pressure. While he also accumulated 8 missed blocks, he and Osemele did a decent job picking up T-E stunts from the 49ers and Aldon Smith had a relatively quiet night (1 QH, 1 pressure). Scoring: 56 blocks, 8 missed, 3 pressures, 2/3 sack, 46 points (.68 per play). Considering the fact he was bailed out on 1/3 of a sack against the bonus for his work on Aldon Smith, that’s a C-.
Osemele: Against one of the league’s best defensive lines and with his primary assignment being Justin Smith, Kelechi turned in one of his finest scores of the season and was not party to a single negative event. His highlight blocks included:
- (Q2, 10:55) He drove Willis 5 yards back and turned him around in level 2
- (Q2, 8:40) He cut Sopoaga then let Rice hurdle him on a run middle for 7 yards
- (Q2, 5:16) He pancaked Sopoaga to lead Rice’s 5-yard run left.
- (Q3, 2:36) He drove Justin Smith far to the outside on Pierce’s 3-yard run.
- (Q4, 14:02) He pancaked Jean-Francois to lead Rice’s 4-yard run to set up 2nd-and-goal at the 1. Somehow Jean-Francois was credited with the tackle on that play, but he was flat on his back.
He would finish with 4 blocks in level 2 and 2 pancakes, but was not asked to pull. By the second half, Justin Smith was annoyed with his blocking to the whistle and he can be seen taking a swipe back (Q3, 11:40). That’s always a good sign to me that the offensive lineman isn’t just beating his opponent on individual plays, but wearing him down. Scoring: 64 blocks, 4 missed, 64 points (.94 per play). Osemele completed an outstanding postseason with his 2nd A+ (previous was Indy).
Birk: Matt also had his best score of the season with only 3 missed blocks and some decent run blocking. More impressive was the fact he didn’t give up significant push when pass blocking all game despite the fact the 49ers rushed 5 or more on 14 occasions. He had 8 blocks in level 2 and 2 pancakes. Scoring: 65 blocks, 3 missed, 65 points (.96 per play). That’s an A. His weekly scores since Osemele has been moved to guard are .85, .91, .93, .96. Especially considering the quality of competition, that’s a lot better than his regular season average of .83. I’d say playing with quality guards on each side has helped him tremendously and it also seems to have improved communication on the line as a whole.
Yanda: Marshal was challenged by McDonald, who twice bulled him for pressure (Q2, 2:07 and Q4, 7:14). I also charged him with a penetration when he blocked McDonald straight ahead while the rest of the line was zone blocking to the right (Q4, 9:18). That allowed NaVorro Bowman to penetrate to take down Rice for a loss of 3. He completed the season (18 games, 1,118 snaps) without being party to a single sack. He made 9 blocks in level 2, but had an atypical game with just 1 of 3 successful pulls. Scoring: 68 blocks, 3 missed, 1 penetration, 2.5 pressures, 54 points (.79 per play). C.
Oher: Michael had trouble with both Ray McDonald and Ahmad Brooks. McDonald bulled Oher for a sack (Q1, 0:17) and a pressure (Q1, 11:58). McDonald had Oher beaten outside on the play where McKinnie failed to block Brooks. I gave 2/3 of that sack to McKinnie and charged Oher with the equivalent of a pressure. The dynamic duo of Brooks and McDonald also combined to bull Oher for a flush that led to Brooks’ QH (Q1, 1:31) on Flacco’s 30-yard rolling toss to Boldin. I’d like to say he looked good as a run blocker, but he whiffed on the cat-quick Brooks on 4 separate occasions. Scoring: 56 blocks, 7 missed, 1.5 pressures, 1 QH, 1.33 sacks, 42 points (.62 per play). D.
- Most fans, and many players, like to call events in advance, but it can become formulaic. I’m as guilty anyone (2-0 vs. a LHP was an automatic “on the phone” for Chris Hoiles), but the distance from the goal line determines Maureen’s* call. Inside the 3-yard line she always wants to see a pass to the tackle eligible. The Ravens ran that play a couple of times to Jon Ogden and Haloti Ngata went out in the pattern approximately 4 times before he was injured on such a play vs. Denver in 2010.
- With the Ravens between the 5 and 20 yard line Maureen always calls “zipper”, a high pass between the hashes and over the heads of the defenders which the receiver must go up to bring down. Zipper (that’s what it was called in Billick’s offense, the Ravens may well call it something else now) has been a staple of the Ravens’ offense this postseason and they ran it on consecutive plays (beginning Q1, 10:46) to finish their first drive. From the San Francisco 18, Flacco overthrew Pitta who was well covered, but Brooks was offside. With the Ravens 5 wide and ball on the 13, Flacco then threw over Donte Whitner to the leaping Boldin for the lead they would never lose.
- What did Caldwell dream up for the first play after 2 weeks of preparation? The Ravens lined up with 3 receivers and 2 backs, but Rice motioned left out of the I, leaving Leach as the only back. Flacco then connected with Leach on the left hash for 8 yards (0 + 8 YAC). That was a look the Ravens had not shown all season. Not a game-changing play, but a completely new wrinkle.
- After reviewing Flacco’s performance, I don’t think it would have made sense to give Jacoby Jones the MVP, but he has been amazing this postseason. The 56-yard catch and run was just his 3rd most important of the postseason behind the 108-yard kickoff return and the Rocky Mountain Rainbow/F-bomb. Given the Ravens now possess the Lombardi trophy, the 70-yard TD at Denver is now at least on a qualitative par with the 90-yard blocked field goal and return by Washington/Mitchell as the most important play in team history. Does Jimmy Smith’s role in the 4th-and-5 incompletion to Crabtree also have a place with those? We’ll have at least a year to debate.
* Maureen – my girlfriend, who helps tremendously with these pieces