Joe Flacco struggling against blitz
Even though Joe Flacco and the Ravens claimed their first victory of season, the Baltimore quarterback had one of the worst nights of his career.
One of the reasons Pittsburgh was so successful against Flacco was, more often than not, they blitzed him. There were 24 times in the game where a defensive back from Pittsburgh rushed the quarterback, and at times, more than one went after Flacco on the same play. This led to three of the Steelers’ sacks. When Flacco did get a pass off, he had an NFL passer rating of 44.5. When the Steelers didn’t blitz, Flacco had an NFL passer rating of 105.2—if anything, Pittsburgh didn’t blitz enough.
It was unusual for the Ravens to face a blitz on so many plays, but this season, it has become common for Flacco’s play to deteriorate when the defense sends unexpected pass rushers. Flacco has a PFF grade of +0.6 when not blitzed, and -10.1 when blitzed. He’s completed just 44.9 percent of his passes when blitzed, and has 5.0 yards per attempt on such plays—both third-lowest in the league. He’s either been sacked or thrown an interception on 13.7 percent of his dropbacks, eighth-most among starters. The Steelers weren’t the first team to find success blitzing Flacco this season; they were just the first team to try it on over 50 percent of his dropbacks.
This is especially odd, since Flacco thrived when blitzed in 2014. His PFF Grade was +11.8 when blitzed, and -2.5 when not blitzed. His NFL passer rating and touchdown-to-interception ratio were all nearly identical, regardless of whether Flacco was blitzed or not.
It wouldn’t be surprising if more teams follow the Steelers’ lead and make Flacco face a blitz. Six of the next seven teams on the Ravens’ schedule are teams that are in the top half of the league in how often they blitz. In order for Baltimore to put themselves back into playoff contention, they will need to figure out a way to manage the blitz—for Flacco’s sake, at least.