TALE OF THE TAPE: Bombs Awayyyyyy….Off Target

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After leading his team to a Super Bowl victory and signing a lucrative offseason contract, it’s no surprise that Joe Flacco’s play has been under the microscope this season. Has he has asserted himself as a leader of the team? Is living up to his status as one of the highest-paid signal-callers in the league? Can he elevate his struggling offense and overcome the complete lack of a running game to make another postseason push?

So far, Flacco has looked about the same as any other year. While that’s not completely unexpected – and considering that the Ravens have proved in the past they can win games despite Flacco’s up-and-down performances, it’s not the end of the world – it’s not ideal.

But there’s one aspect of Flacco’s game that just doesn’t seem right this year: the deep ball.

Last season, Flacco was dominant on passes over 20 yards, completing 28 attempts for 918 yards with nine touchdowns and zero interceptions.

This year? 10 completions with no touchdowns and three interceptions.

Not only has Flacco’s accuracy on passes downfield been wildly inconsistent, but his arm strength has seemingly taken a serious hit.

We first looked at Flacco’s accuracy on deep passes after the Pittsburgh game.

Let’s take a look at how Flacco struggled on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Much like the play in the link above, Flacco missed big time on an easy touchdown to Jacoby Jones. In fact this play is almost identical.

Flacco has Jones to his left, and the play is actually a flea flicker, which caught the Bengals defense off-guard.

After Flacco receives the ball back from running back Ray Rice, it looked like about as easy of a touchdown as he’ll get this season.

Flacco has the speedy Jones several yards past the Bengals defense, but soon after this point, Jones has to slow down his route because of another underthrown ball

Jones almost completely stops his route to try to come back to the ball, and luckily for the Ravens, Bengals safety Reggie Nelson mugged him (not unlike what happened in Pittsburgh, but this time it was called), which was the only thing that salvaged the play.

It was a windy day Sunday, and that could have been a factor. Still, Joe doesn’t get to use that excuse on this one. No NFL quarterback should underthrow a ball like that, especially with the clean pocket Flacco was given.

On another deep pass to Torrey Smith, Flacco’s inaccuracy and decision making got the best of him.

Smith lines up to Flacco’s right, with two Bengals defenders eyeing in on him.

Off the snap, Smith doesn’t get much separation, and at the point Flacco decides to throw to him, Marlon Brown and Jacoby Jones are both wide open.

Flacco takes the shot at the deep ball to Smith, and the only way of completing this pass would have been pinpoint accuracy.

Instead, Flacco throws a ball that trails off to the right, forcing Smith to redirect his route, leading to another incompletion.

It appeared that the play was designed to go to Smith from the start, but based on how blanketed he was in coverage, there really was no chance of completing the pass.

On a throw late in the fourth quarter, it looked like both Flacco and Smith were at fault on an incompletion.

Flacco has Smith lined up on his left running a deep post to the middle of the end zone.

With another clean pocket, Flacco gets the throw off in plenty of time for an open Smith.

Here’s a better look at the separation Smith has when the ball is in the air:

Ideally, Smith would carry his route toward the middle of the end zone and catch the pass in stride.

Instead, he had to slow down, swerved his route a few times, and ultimately the Bengals defenders caught up.

The ball landed just out of Smith’s reach, and the drop was a missed opportunity on Baltimore’s part to close out the game in the fourth quarter.

Flacco, Smith or the swirling winds? It’s hard to tell for certain, but all three likely contributed.

Based on Smith’s last-second indecision on his route, the ball was probably knuckling in the air, but we’ll never really know.

Did you notice a theme, though, in the three plays? Flacco had a clean pocket. He also had a clean pocket in the play against the Steelers that was highlighted. That’s a rarity this year, and those opportunities can’t slip away.

Flacco has just looked “off” in general the past few games, and he may be playing through an injury. If he isn’t hurt, that probably looks worse for him, as his accuracy on all throws has been as bad in recent games as at any other point in his career.

Clean pocket, fast receivers open downfield, no touchdowns. Flacco’s inability to capitalize on prime scoring opportunities has been an overwhelming weak point of Baltimore’s offense this year. With the struggles the offense has had to put points on the board, missing on easy scoring opportunities down the stretch could be the difference between the Ravens participating in the playoffs for the sixth straight year, and watching them from the couch.

12 Raves on “TALE OF THE TAPE: Bombs Awayyyyyy….Off Target

  1. CB on said:

    He says he isn’t hurt but i have been saying the same thing, that he is throwing like someone in pain. I think Juan is going to get him seriously injured. Joe was able to shine after the front office FINALLY forced Harbs to fire his friend. Then he brings in another friend who kills our RB and QB. Send Harbs packing along with Juan if he is that damn blindly loyal to friends.

  2. skaughtz on said:

    Improved offensive line play = improved quarterback and running back play. That all starts with axing Castillo. It’s that simple. Joe has gotten the snot beat out of him this year, and I don’t blame the guy for being off the mark at this point in the season. I think a couple of games of good offensive line play and you will see the rapport with the receivers return.

  3. PB on said:

    Great article as always. I really enjoy this every week. All the struggles this season on offense, the biggest disappointment has been Flacco’s inaccuracy on his deep throws, a staple through his first 5 years.

  4. Rumor Ray on said:

    LOL at the Flacco Haters and Doubter who question his arm and accuracy….. Gezzzzzz to think people wanted Troy Smith to start over Joe Flacco …. Thank the Football gods that someone got sick in preseason years ago !!!! Whew … SMH

  5. Bob on said:

    35 mph wind gust pushed a 30 – 40 yd field goal wide left for Nugent. I’ll give Flacco some slack on an 50 yard bomb coming up short.

  6. Big Perm on said:

    How about we talk about how clutch Joe was in overtime to put the team in field goal range?
    Or how about we talk about how accurate he was when he was moving out of the pocket?
    I could post a couple pictures of the great throw to Dallas Clark for the first TD or of the throw to Dickson on the sideline in overtime. Or even the laser that he delivered to Torrey for a TD. Maybe I’ll even put some arrows pointing to the ball and circles around the receivers.

    • g money on said:

      some people are just never happy. Joe is tough and he is clutch. I love that guy and am glad he is a raven. The lack of a run game has put him into a deep hole. Big perm, I think even if you did all of the above, a good portion of our fans still wouldn’t grasp it.

  7. D.Rudolph on said:

    The one thing you can not do in that situation, is overthrow the deep ball. The reason is that if its under thrown and the receiver comes back to it, you are most likely going to get the PI call, which is exactly what happen.
    if he over throws it there is not chance for the PI or the catch.
    Joe is being criticized for doing what he has always done. these performances are indicative of his abilities, but because he was the only viable option, and the ravens paid him as such, people are somehow surprised and disappointed in his performance. Joe is basically on a 2 year deal because of the cap hit. if he can’t step up his game and make do with the talent around him he won’t be a raven after next year.

  8. Kevin on said:

    Flacco has had deep ball innaccuracy all along….where you been.
    Since his rookie year he has been underthrowing the deep ball.
    Last year the Big Season saving Pass, The Rocky Mountain Rainbow, was under thrown, just Jacoby was so Wide open it didn’t matter.
    Also Joe appears to take too long to go through progressions (though to be fair the O-line hasn’t exactly given him time).
    Joe is at his best throwing the out pattern, and the seam to the TE.
    Just like Matt Ryan, he is an average QB that needs WR’s who get open, he will never throw a WR to open like a Manning or Brady or Brees can.
    Were it me in the O-coordinator job, I would design more crossing routes that get the WR’s open over the middle for him, and have the relief in the out pattern for his comfort.
    Then work his butt of on getting the Deep Balls ahead of the WR’s, let them run to it not slow down for it.

  9. Corey on said:

    The first example was very poorly thrown, but was thrown in the same direction that Nugent’s kick swung wildly left due to the wind- I’m not putting too much blame on Flacco for this. The second example states that “Flacco throws a ball that trails off to the right”- this is how Flacco WANTED to throw the ball. You could see immediately after the play that Flacco was looking at Torrey as he came back to the huddle and pointed his arm straight out, as if to say “take your route vertical so you can stack the defender.” An example of this (taking the route vertical) is the deep ball to Torrey for the Ravens first TD against Denver in the playoffs. Instead, Torrey took his route more to the middle of the field on this play (not blaming Torrey, just saying it was a miscommunication). Finally, I thought the third example was a well thrown ball that should have been a TD if not for a misplay by Torrey (likely due to wind). The analysis here contradicts itself- the ball was underthrown… but landed beyond the outstretched arms of Smith? I think it was a misplay due to wind that otherwise should have been a TD. Torrey’s reaction was telling as he lay face first on the ground for several seconds, seemingly disappointed in himself, as he was unable to come down with the decisive TD.

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