Browns vs. Ravens: How Joe Flacco Torched the Cleveland Secondary
Joe Flacco continues to get better and better.
Finishing the day 28-of-46, Flacco averaged 12.7 yards per completion and five different players caught at least two passes (three of whom caught six-plus). In short, the man was spreading the field all game long and it kept the Browns defense off balance.
And sure it's Cleveland, but Dick Jauron's defense is much better than they're given credit for after having forced eight turnovers through four games. Not to mention Baltimore's short week came after a Sunday night against the New England Patriots.
To that end, let's break down two of Flacco's more impressive tosses from his solid Week 4 performance.
Flacco to Torrey Smith For Six Points
On Baltimore's second possession, the Ravens drove down inside the Browns' red zone. Flacco uncharacteristically threw an interception, and it would have been easy for any quarterback to lose confidence when facing a sound defense.
But Flacco just kept playing and his only touchdown pass of the day was a beauty. On 2nd-and-goal from 18 yards out, Flacco dropped one in to Torrey Smith between three defenders for an early lead.
Here we see Cleveland come out in its 4-3 base with Cover 2 over the top.
As the play develops, the Browns neglect to blitz and stick with a Cover 2, hoping the linebacker will create a shell deep enough underneath.
The problem, however, is that Flacco wins a staring contest with Cleveland's outside 'backer and prevents him from totally rerouting Smith. Plus, the gap between the Cover 2 safeties is so wide that it puts the Browns' linebackers at a disadvantage.
Flacco then puts the rock just over the middle linebacker and between the safeties for a touchdown. This is the weakness in Cover 2 and Flacco made it look easy.
Flacco to Anquan Boldin's Outside Shoulder
Facing a 2nd-and-12 in the fourth quarter, the Ravens needed to keep moving the ball to milk some clock. The Browns had been hitting a better rhythm offensively and reducing time was going to provide Baltimore with a major advantage during the waning minutes.
Here, Cleveland presents man coverage on the outside and Flacco sees it from the beginning after briefly looking off the safety from helping over the top.
From this angle, you can see the initial separation Boldin gets with his feet that forces Cleveland's Dimitri Patterson to go more laterally. At the same time, Boldin is moving downfield and this allows Flacco that small amount of space needed to make the pass.
Because of the immediate separation at the snap, Patterson has no choice but to catch up and it prevents him from any chance at playing the ball. Flacco makes a perfect pass to Boldin's outside shoulder and Patterson never leaves the ground.
Baltimore then moves the chains and takes a bit more time off the clock, which significantly reduces Cleveland's final opportunity. Making these kinds of clutch passes more consistently is how impressively Flacco has developed.
Provided we continue to see this as the year progresses, the Ravens will roll to Super Bowl XLVII.
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