Flacco's pocket presence.
I am no expert, and I do not know all of the ins and outs of coaching a quarterback. But it seems that there is an obvious area of slippage that stands out in Flacco's play. Flacco does not step up into the pocket as he has in years past. My best guess is that he has been coached by QB coach Jim Caldwell, who coached the position for Peyton Manning for years, to trust the pocket and to focus downfield. Here's the problem: Peyton is a lighting fast reader of defense who has run a pro-style offense forever. Flacc ran the no-huddle spread in college and does not necessarily have the reps at eyes-downfield, lateral movement, feel-for-pressure that this mindset requires. Instead, he has previously been sufficient to step into holes in the pass rush and go from there. I think that he should return to that scheme for the remainder of the season. Look at these examples that hurt the momentum:
The yellow bubble represents the lane that opened up in the pass rush. If Flacco could have stepped up into this hole, he would have been able to set his feet and make a solid pass. He could have even run for the first. Instead, he settled in his drop, and...
...the defender got through immediately in front of him while being pinned by Yanda, throwing off Flacco's focus and footwork. This caused the easy pass to Smith to go high. Punt.
...the defenders were able to squeeze pressure on him and throw his focus and footwork off. This was another high ball that would have been a nice completion.
On this pass, albeit hard to see because of the graphics, Flacco needed to react early to the break in protection by #99 Keisel (straight red arrow) to his left. He had two very good options. One would be to push up toward his right in the gaping hole that appeared in the rush. This would have bought him something but would be a moving option because of pressure. The other would have been to side shuffle Keisel, whom Flacc wound up escaping, to his left, setting up a recovery by Oher. Had he done this, he had some great options on that side of the field on this play. Pierce was a concession by the D, and a busted coverage left Q wide open down the left sideline. Look at this shot again without the colors to see the wide open spaces--
C'mon now. Notice Q up top turning the corner on a linebacker in coverage. He was wide. The play wound up being that interception that Flacco threw into triple coverage because he didn't see the safety staying home, sliding with him over the top of the play. He relied too heavily on his safety valve, Pitta, instead of properly reading the play. He was as frustrated as Ravens Nation, I'm sure.
This was a three-man rush. #96 Ziggy Hood had taken a crazy-wide angle and was beating protection IF facing a statue as QB. Joe had the chance to aggressively attack the right half of the field, wide open in the rush, and this would have allowed for Osemele to recover and bought him time. I've seen him do this in the past.
(Sidenote: notice the statline at the bottom. I will address this in another post, but I championed drafting Russell Wilson in the 2012 offseason, as a backup, and was ridiculed. Perhaps I'm not looking so ridiculous now as he has a higher QB rating, more TDs, and less INTs than our guy. )
Instead, he waited too long, and then kind of tripped as he tried to maneuver, which was too late because Hood was within striking distance. This play was a sack and it never should have been.
I am not a Flacco hater. I "Ride with 5." Yet, if my novice eyes can see this small readjustment that seemingly could help a lot of scenarios in his game, perhaps Coach Caldwell can, too. It makes all the sense in the world to stick to a paradigm, if the paradigm works. If it is not working, and the previous one had more success, is it not more sensible to press the reset button? Let 'im be more free to find his space back there. Our line is too patchwork to just let Joe stand and stare downfield.