Baltimore Ravens 2013 Season Preview: Why the Long Ball Will Be Key
The Baltimore Ravens lived and died by the deep ball last season. Can’t complain when that wins you the Super Bowl.
The Ravens are not changing anything next season when it comes to the deep ball; they now have 120 million reasons to keep throwing it.
Joe Flacco’s new contract may seem ridiculous, but the Ravens are clearly putting their faith in Flacco’s arm.
Why are the Ravens receivers always open?
As a pessimist, you may be wonder about the two throws shown above. If not the throws, you certainly questioned the defensive backs.
What makes the Ravens deep ball so effective is that they have a successful running game.
Rice has eclipsed 250 attempts and 1,100 yards in each of the last four seasons. With such an incredible option on the ground, defenses are forced to stack the box.
When defenses stack the box, it opens up the entire field for Joe Flacco and the play action.
As you can see in the video, the entire offensive line moves right to sell the play action. Once the Bengals realize that Flacco still has the ball, it is far too late. The Ravens quarterback is able to use the extra few seconds to hit Torrey Smith in the back of the end zone.
Flacco is extremely successful when the Ravens are able to successfully run the ball.
Let’s take a look at last year’s playoffs.
The Ravens won the Super Bowl last year was because they got hot in the playoffs. The reason they caught fire? Joe Flacco’s arm.
According to ESPN, Flacco threw 11 TDs and zero interceptions in the playoffs, posting a 117.2 quarterback rating in the process. Those are elite stats.
In the Super Bowl, Flacco threw this 56-yard bomb to Jacoby Jones to go up 18 points in the first half. While it wasn’t the greatest throw, the play was still effective.
Flacco did the same thing in the AFC Divisional Round against the Denver Broncos. He heaved the ball more than 50 yards while stepping up in the pocket and avoiding pressure, to convert the clutch 70-yard touchdown.
Flacco’s game may not be pretty, but it sure is successful. As a team, you need to have an identity. The Ravens have clearly based theirs on the five-year pro out of Delaware.
The Ravens are all in with Flacco. If it wasn’t for his spectacular play in the playoffs, the Ravens wouldn’t have had a chance to win the Super Bowl.
Having said that, this strategy is extremely risky to live by over a 16-game regular season. Flacco has never thrown for more than 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. Harbaugh and the Ravens clearly need Flacco to become more consistent in the regular season.
The NFL has clearly transitioned to a passing league. You can’t be successful without a great passing game. The Minnesota Vikings were the only 2012 playoff team that was carried by a running back; Adrian Peterson ended up joining the prestigious 2,000-yard club last season.
Without the passing game, the Ravens are a shell of themselves. Ray Rice is a great running back, but he can’t carry the team. Harbaugh and the Ravens staff have clearly put their faith in Joe Flacco’s ability to throw the long ball, a trust that brought them last year’s Super Bowl.
If Flacco can continue to find success throwing the deep ball, the Ravens are a shoe-in for a deep run in next year's playoffs.
*All statistics courtesy of ESPN