Joe Flacco Making Plays With His Legs


Last week, Joe Flacco made it abundantly clear that he hates the wildcat.

But did he ever say he's against running the wildcat himself?

That may be a stretch, but Flacco certainly has shown a penchant for making plays with his legs this season. It's become a key part of the Ravens offense throughout the year, and is a reason why it's starting to pick up steam.

Flacco has done well making plays on the run both as a rusher and passer.

"Joe has always been pretty mobile, but he has definitely taken that part of his game to another level," Head Coach John Harbaugh said.

"He has made a bunch of plays on the run, both run and pass. They've been huge plays in the game. That's a dimension that he has expanded upon that's been really good for us."

Flacco has 95 yards rushing and is averaging a career-high 4.5 yards per carry. He's averaging 1.6 more yards per carry than running back Ray Rice and 1.5 more than Bernard Pierce.

In fact, Flacco is only 0.1 yards per carry behind Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson. Flacco is tied with Houston's Arian Foster and Chicago's Matt Forte.

Of course, comparing his stats to a running back's isn't exactly apples to apples, but it is striking to see how well Flacco is doing when he decides to take off with his long, lanky strides.

Flacco was facing a key third-and-8 from Pittsburgh's 26-yard line during the second quarter Thursday night against Pittsburgh. The Steelers did a nice job in coverage and had four receivers and Rice picked up.

Flacco started moving up in the pocket and cocked his arm once more, debating launching a pass. He then quickly pulled it down and took off. He outran Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons, then carried linebacker Jarvis Jones over the first-down marker.

Instead of potentially taking a sack or throwing the ball away, Flacco extended the drive, which ended with a field goal.

"I think Joe's more athletic than folks give him credit for," wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "You're not going to see him rush for 100 yards. It might not show up on the stat sheet but, if you watch him play, you can tell he's athletic. He makes a lot of plays for us with his feet."

Flacco said he doesn't ever purposely look to run.

"But I've probably made a little bit of a conscious effort to just be a little bit quicker, do some of those [running] things because it works, and it's a way to steal a couple yards and get some plays," Flacco said.

Flacco doesn't lock onto his receivers for as long as he used to, especially after taking a lot of sacks early in the season when the offensive line was struggling with pass protection. Flacco has adapted and helped his line out by moving around.

The quarterback did give his line kudus for spreading out defensive players to open running (or escape) lanes.

"I think those guys are just doing a good job of – even if guys are getting a half a body on them – staying with them and creating some space in there to move around and make some plays," Flacco said.

Being mobile isn't just about running either. It's also a penchant for completing passes on the run.

Against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 10, Flacco made a series of plays on the run, including a critical one in overtime.

Flacco opened the game with a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dallas Clark in the back of the end zone when he bought time running to the sideline. It looked as if Flacco was going to be sacked, but throwing across his body, he zipped a pass through traffic to Clark in the back of the end zone.

In overtime, Flacco eluded quick pressure from defensive tackle Domata Peko and defensive end Carlos Dunlap as he ran to the sideline. On the move, Flacco whipped a tight pass to tight end Ed Dickson for a big first down that set up kicker Justin Tucker's game-winning field goal.

"We don't win without Joe making tremendous plays," Harbaugh said after that game. "There are no better plays being made outside the pocket than that."

Flacco's opposition has taken notice, although they continue to not anticipate him taking off.

"I wouldn't so much say he's a runner," Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said. "I wouldn't put him up there with Aaron Rodgers, as far as he's going to get outside the pocket.

"I think his pocket presence is that of almost a [Drew] Brees or something like that where he moves himself within the pocket or will escape to get himself the ability to make a big play down the field. That's what makes him successful; you see him do it time and time again."

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