Stats show Pennington sizzles at the start

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
DAVIE, Fla. -- The biggest advantage the Miami Dolphins have over the Baltimore Ravens is at quarterback.

Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington has won in the playoffs before. He was a league MVP candidate. He finished second in the NFL with a 97.4 passer rating.

Joe Flacco is a rookie, and although he has had an impressive inaugural season, the pressure is about to get heavier.

A statistical evaluation of Pennington and Flacco, however, shows the rookie has been holding his own in the fourth quarter. Flacco's completion percentage is a tad lower than Pennington's, but his passer rating actually goes up compared to the first three quarters.

Pennington's passer rating plummets nearly 19 points in the fourth quarter, throwing as many touchdown passes as interceptions.

But the veteran is stunningly efficient early in a game. His great starts have a tendency to overcome any fadeout.

Here are some interesting Pennington stats from his second Comeback Player of the Year season:

  • Pennington was sharpest through his first 10 attempts of a game with a gaudy 115.8 passer rating. He gained 1,386 of his yards and threw nine touchdowns without an interception.

  • Seventeen of his 38 throws of 20-plus yards came on his first 10 attempts of a game.

  • Attempts 11 through 20 dipped to a 92.2 passer rating, and attempts 21 through 30 dropped to a 79.4 passer rating.

  • When breaking down the field into quarters, Pennington's passer rating was 113.1 when inside his own 20-yard line.

  • Pennington had a 102.2 passer rating in the first half with an amazing 13 touchdowns and three interceptions. His passer rating was 92.5 in the second half.

  • His passer rating was 62.2 in the last two minutes of a half. He was 31 of 52 for 330 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions.

Also fascinating about Pennington's stats is that he was better when down on the scoreboard:

  • When behind, Pennington completed 67.5 percent of his passes for 1,608 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions for a 102.2 rating.

  • With the lead, Pennington completed 64.9 percent for 1,380 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for an 82.7 rating.