Charting the Quarterbacks, Week 1: Ravens-Broncos

 

It may be a bit of an ambitious project, but my goal for the 2013 season is to chart each quarterback’s throw from every game, break each throw down into separate categories so we get a better idea of what each offense likes to run and then pass the info along to you, the dear reader. PREDICTION: I will not likely be very excited to chart the eventual Blaine Gabbert-Brandon Weeden showdown we’ll probably get late in the season. Flacco vs. Peyton on the opening night of the season, on the other hand…muy, muy bueno.

So here’s how I’ll be breaking down the 2013 quarterbacks. For each pass, I’m going to mark whether the play included play-action, was a called screen, had the quarterback sprint out on a designed rollout or was a basic dropback pass with no notable deception involved. These are usually distinct types of plays, with the exception of the instances where the quarterback does a quick play-action fake and then tosses the ball out immediately to a wide receiver on a screen (like Peyton Manning’s seventh touchdown pass last night to Demaryius Thomas). Because the initial deception on the play is the fake to the running back, I am choosing to catalog those types of plays as “play-action” just for the sake of clarity.

Stats included with each type of play will be completions, attempts, yards, sacks, sack yards, touchdowns, interceptions and Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt (which is Net Yards per Attempt, only including a 20-yard bonus for each touchdown and a 45-yard penalty for each interception. For more info, see Pro Football Reference). I’m also chronicling quarterback runs and rushing yards on plays that were intended to be passes, all QB fumbles, any penalty yardage gained that doesn’t show up in the box score and then the number of clear drops by receivers and clear inaccurate passes thrown by the quarterback. Note the word “clear” in front of each of the last two items. I’m only marking an incompletion as a drop by a receiver if it is clearly his fault the pass was incompleted (the pass was accurate enough, no defender made the attempt of the catch exceedingly difficult, etc.) and I’m only marking a quarterback’s throw as inaccurate if it’s completely obvious that was the case – I’m not going to try to assign blame on incompletions caused by miscommunications because I have no idea who was supposed to run what on that particular play.

So with the preamble out of the way…FOOTBALL’S BACK FOOTBALL’S BACK FOOTBALL’S BACK YAY YAY YAY FOOTBALL’S BACK. Here’s how Flacco and Peyton did last night:

Baltimore Ravens

Joe Flacco: Week 1, at Denver.

Passing Breakdown

Comp. Att. Yards Sacks Sck Yards TDs INTs ANY/A
Dropback 27 50 350 4 27 1 2 4.69
Play-Action 4 8 3 0 0 1 0 2.88
Screen 3 4 9 0 0 0 0 2.25
Designed Rollout 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00
Total 34 62 362 4 27 2 2 4.32

Rushing/Miscellaneous Stats

Scrambles Yards Fumbles Penalties Drops Inaccurate throws
Dropback 0 0 1 1, 6 yards 6 5
Play-Action 0 0 0 0 0 2
Screen 0 0 0 0 0 1
Designed Rollout 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 0 0 1 1, 6 yards 6 8

Chris Harris made a great diving catch on Flacco’s first interception in the second quarter, but it was a ball Flacco never should have thrown in the first place because Harris had Brandon Stokley blanketed across the middle. Flacco’s other pick, the play for which Danny Trevathan will now be ridiculed for in perpetuity, was also an indefensible decision – on the other hand, it wasn’t Flacco’s fault that everybody in the stadium knew they were going to try a pick play for Ray Rice once they motioned him out wide into a stack formation. It’s entirely possible that Cam Cameron stole play-calling duties back from Jim Caldwell for that one.

Those two big mistakes aside, Flacco generally played like the above-average quarterback he is – note that by my count, he actually had a slightly lower percentage of throws marked as inaccurate compared to Peyton Manning (12.9% for Flacco vs. 14.3% for Forehead). The issue with the Ravens passing game last night was that the Broncos effectively shut down Ray Rice, who got held to 35 yards on 11 targets. With Anquan Boldin in San Francisco and Dennis Pitta rehabbing a fractured hip, Rice is now the Ravens’ clear best possession receiver (and probably their best receiver, period). If they’re unable to move the chains through the air with him, it’s unclear who they’ll be able to do it with. Torrey Smith is nobody’s idea of a move-the-chains receiver, Ed Dickson’s a blocking tight end, Dallas Clark had a fork egregiously sticking out of his back LAST season and Brandon Stokley has never been consistently effective when he hasn’t been catching passes from Peyton Manning. The Ravens will look a lot better next week when they’re back in their home confines, but someone other than Rice is going to have step forward as a dependable third-down target if Flacco’s going to be able to live up to that massive contract.

Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning: Week 1, vs. Baltimore.

Passing Breakdown

Comp. Att. Yards Sacks Sck Yards TDs INTs ANY/A
Dropback 17 25 254 1 6 3 0 11.85
Play-Action 8 15 200 2 11 3 0 14.65
Screen 1 1 6 0 0 0 0 6.00
Designed Rollout 1 1 2 0 0 1 0 22.00
Total 27 42 462 3 17 7 0 13.00

Rushing/Miscellaneous Stats

Scrambles Yards Fumbles Penalties Drops Inaccurate throws
Dropback 0 0 0 1, 5 yards 1 4
Play-Action 0 0 0 0 3 2
Screen 0 0 0 0 0 0
Designed Rollout 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 0 0 0 1, 5 yards 4 6

Look, I’m honestly not trying to be one of those snooty internet snobs who turns their nose up and says, “Seven touchdowns? Eh, I’ve seen him play better.” But, I swear, it really didn’t seem like Denver was especially in sync last night. Manning notably had a couple miscommunications with Eric Decker, who had a terrible night and had his one big play (a 27-yard pass play in the fourth quarter) marred by a fumble at the end of the run. Demaryius Thomas was obviously amazing after the catch, but he had more incompletions thrown his way (6) than successful catches (5). And like always, a Manning-led offense struggled to run the ball, failing to rack up more than three yards per carry on 28 attemtps (Haloti Ngata was far and away the best Ravens defender last night).

And yet at the end of the day, Manning has a share of the single-game touchdown record, bringing the list of passing records he doesn’t have at least a share of down to three. It looks pretty obvious that Wes Welker’s going to have a big season, likely at Decker’s expense – Manning was already looking for him as his main target through most of the first three quarters and that trend will probably only continue because, if you remember from his New England days, Welker is ALWAYS OPEN. Also, I wasn’t aware Julius Thomas existed before last evening, but if he’s able to perform anywhere close to the way he did last night, then it’s all over for Broncos opponents because the weak links in Manning’s receiving core last year were Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen. Giving him an actual functioning receiving tight end in addition to Welker, Demaryius and Decker is patently unfair.

One last note: I’m one of those people who picked Peyton for MVP before the season started, so obviously last night’s game makes me feel okay about that prediction, but let’s not go around thinking that every game’s going to be like this. Funky stuff always happens in the first couple games of the season when defenses are out of shape and completely out of gas in the second half. Having to play in mid-80 degree temperatures at mile-high altitude while facing a no-huddle offense is going to wear a team out in midseason, anyway – having to face those obstacles in the first game of the season meant Baltimore’s defenders would have all gladly forfeited the game with five minutes left in the third quarter if it meant they got oxygen. Remember that Tom Brady and Eli both threw for over 500 yards in the first couple weeks of the last two seasons. It doesn’t exactly diminish Peyton’s accomplishment last night – seven touchdowns are seven touchdowns. Just something keep in mind if you’re now starting to pencil him in for 6,000 yards and 80 touchdowns this year.

Player Who Was Better Than His Stats Would Indicate

Flacco. Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokley aren’t bad possession targets to throw to on third down…if the year’s 2004.

Player Who Was Worse Than His Stats Would Indicate

Torrey Smith. Four catches for 92 yards on eight targets (plus an additional six-yard DPI) sounds good in a vacuum, but the guy who has to be the Ravens #1 receiver going forward was nowhere to be seen when the game was crashing around the Ravens in the third quarter. His lone catch in the second half came with a little over seven minutes left and his team down 18 points.

Memorable Play of the Game That Ultimately Wasn’t Important

4th and 1 at BAL 29 (Shotgun) J.Flacco pass short right intended for R.Rice INTERCEPTED by D.Trevathan at BLT 30. D.Trevathan to BLT 1 for 29 yards. FUMBLES, ball out of bounds in End Zone, Touchback.

Welcome to the Leon Lett/DeSean Jackson All-Stars, Danny.

 

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