Flacco is more effective out of the pocket

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh stood up for Joe Flacco's play in the 20-17 overtime win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Flacco's numbers were hardly impressive. He threw for 140 yards, his lowest in a full game since the 2011 regular-season finale at Cincinnati. He also turned the ball over three times, including twice in the fourth quarter.

Still, in Harbaugh's eyes, Flacco made the plays when it counted.

"We don’t win without Joe making tremendous plays," he said. "The fact that he’s made plays out of the pocket the last few weeks -- the plays he made to score the first touchdown and the plays he made in overtime -- there are no better plays being made outside the pocket than that. That’s something that Joe is doing really well."

There's no disputing Harbaugh on that point. Flacco has been at his most effective lately when he's running for his life or scrambling, depending on your perspective.

Over the past two games, Flacco has completed 55.2 percent of his throws in the pocket while averaging 4.7 yards per attempt. He has thrown three touchdowns and three interceptions for a 64.2 passer rating (28th in the NFL).

When throwing outside the pocket over that span, he has connected on 70 percent of his passes while averaging 7.1 yards per attempt. He has thrown one touchdown and no interceptions for a 123.3 rating (third best in the league).

"He’s been moving around with his eyes downfield -- scramble plays -- [with] guys getting open; that’s been really big for us," Harbaugh said. "That’s something that we haven’t done a lot of in the past, as far as our receivers doing a great job downfield. They’ve really improved on that, and Joe has made the most of that. That was the difference in the game [Sunday] in the end.”

With the amount Flacco has been sacked this season -- the third-most in the NFL -- he'll likely be escaping the pocket a lot the rest of the season.