Why Joe Flacco is NFL's most-blitzed QB
November, 13, 2013
By Jamison Hensley | ESPN.com
Doug Kapustin/Getty ImagesBaltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has faced an inordinate number of blitzes this season.OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has gone from the top of the football world to being the biggest target for NFL defenses.
The reigning Super Bowl MVP has been blitzed more than any quarterback this season. He has faced five or more rushers 145 times this season, an average of 16 per game.
Why do teams have no fear of coming after the Ravens? Flacco knows exactly why.
"Listen, teams are coming after us a little bit and we're kind of letting them," Flacco said Wednesday. "We're not really doing anything to combat it."
Blitzing should be a risk-reward proposition for defenses. When you send extra rushers, it should leave teams more vulnerable to big plays because they have to use single coverage on receivers.
Instead, blitzing has been a win-win scenario for Ravens' opponents this year. Flacco has been sacked 20 times when being blitzed, the most in the NFL. When Flacco has been able to throw the ball against the additional pressure, he has averaged 5.71 yards per attempt (34th in the league), which isn't making defenses pay for blitzing.
When Flacco has been under duress or hit, he is 27-of-66 (40.9 percent) for 290 yards. He's thrown two touchdowns and three interceptions for a 45.6 passer rating, which ranks 27th in the NFL. That passer rating is only better than two rookies (EJ Manuel and Geno Smith) and two other current starters (Chad Henne and Carson Palmer).
"We got to hit them with stuff that makes it hurt," Flacco said. "OK, you're going to put guys up in there and bring guys off the edge and you're going to play one-on-one coverage. We got to make it hurt. We just haven't been good enough to really have teams feel the effect or the negative effect of them doing it. It's kind of been pretty positive for them. That's why they continue to do it."
Flacco has been sacked 30 times in nine games. Only two other quarterbacks have been sacked more: Ryan Tannehill (37) and Ben Roethlisberger (35). Flacco is on pace to get sacked 53 times, which would be 13 more than any quarterback in team history.
Are the Ravens' problems in pass protection the result of poor communication or failing to hold their blocks?
"I don't know if communication is the right word, but it's being on the same page and picking up the pressures when they make them complicated for you," coach John Harbaugh said. "When they attack a protection where you can't pick everybody up, then we've got to get the ball out to the right guy and hopefully they're not covering that guy [and] there's room to throw it to that guy. That's not always the case, the ball's not always out. Other times, we've got to get the back to the right spot. Other times, we've got to get the line to the right spot. We're doing that many different times, but that's always a chess game in there."
Harbaugh added, "The more experienced lines are always going to do a little better with that. I look around the league and that's what I see. So we've got to keep building toward that. I know we can do it. We've got a good scheme, we've got smart guys. We have backs who are willing to pick guys up and stick their face in there and block people. That's something we've just got to keep working toward."
It has been a combination of problems in pass protection. There have been times when right tackle Michael Oher (team-leading five sacks allowed) has been beaten off the edge. And there have been too many instances of teams looping a defender or using a delayed blitz to get a free runner at Flacco by shooting a gap up the middle.
"You can't pinpoint every sack on the O-line," left tackle Eugene Monroe said. "It's an entire offensive effort in terms of how those happen. And the ones that we do have on the O-line? We'll make sure we get those corrected. It's an entire offensive effort in terms of keeping Joe clean. Whether it's him, whether it's us being in sync, whether it's guys being where they're supposed to be at the right time, there's a lot in play."
Flacco has never missed a game in his career, starting all 102 games. It's an impressive streak considering the amount of hits he's taken. He's been sacked a total of 204 times in 5 1/2 seasons.
It's gotten worse for Flacco recently. Even though he's said he's felt fresher this year than past ones, he's been sacked five times in three of his past four starts. It's become so bad that a reporter asked Flacco on Wednesday about how backup Tyrod Taylor would fare if he did get knocked out of a game.
"Obviously, we don't like him to get hit at all, and once in a while, he's going to get hit," right guard Marshal Yanda said. "But he's definitely a tough guy and he always gets right up and goes after it. But you can't always say that because, you never want it to happen, because sooner or later probably something bad is going to [happen] … you don't know but you want to protect him as best as we can."