The Cleveland Browns were heading into week 13 with a rash of injuries on both sides of the ball, with the biggest concern being at the quarterback position.
The team signed Joe Flacco to the practice squad two weeks ago in an attempt to improve their depth in the quarterback room as well as to add an experienced “winner”. He has been showing a lot of success and promise throughout his first couple weeks of practice, and that certainly transitioned over to the field on gameday against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 13.
As soon as he took the field on the first drive, there was a weird sense of both anxiousness and comfortability. It was sort of unnerving to be starting another quarterback this season but having it be a Super Bowl-winning signal-caller like Joe Flacco made it feel a little better.
Stats: 6/10 - 84 yards - 1 touchdown
Flacco started hot in the first quarter, leading the team down the field with ease on the first couple of drives. He made a few beautiful throws in the process, highlighted by a perfectly timed and placed throw to Amari Cooper on a post route at the Rams’ 43-yard line.
He continued making accurate throws into tight windows, culminating with his 24-yard touchdown pass to Jerome Ford down the left sideline. The touchdown play was beautifully run and executed which allowed Ford to be wide-open downfield.
Stats: 5/11 - 72 yards
He continued to play well throughout the second quarter and displayed his above-average arm strength by throwing a nice deep ball down the right sideline to Elijah Moore that was eventually ruled as a completion because he was able to get a “butt cheek” down inbounds, according to the referee.
I love Elijah Moore’s ability to get open downfield.— Matt Wilson (@CoachWilson66) December 5, 2023
The CB had him blanketed at first, but Moore has the “wiggle” and acceleration to create a nice little cushion here for Flacco.#DawgPound #Browns
He also missed on another potential touchdown pass to Moore over the middle that he sailed a bit high at the six-yard line right before halftime.
Stats: 7/12 - 66 yards
The 3rd quarter was an uneventful one for the Cleveland offense as a whole, but Flacco had a few nice throws on the move here. He was fairly effective on boots and rollouts while being able to complete a couple of tough throws to receivers running in the opposite direction.
His best throw in the 3rd quarter was one of these types of completions that he zipped to David Bell for a nice first down at the 8:48 mark.
Stats: 5/11 - 32 yards - 1 touchdown - 1 interception
Flacco had a great drive to begin the 4th quarter, being able to complete easy throws to stay ahead of the sticks. In combination with a particularly effective run game, Cleveland was able to march down to LA’s 8-yard line. From there, Flacco was able to find a wide-open Harrison Bryant for a touchdown that brought the Browns to within a single point of the Rams. Unfortunately, Dustin Hopkins missed the game-tying extra point.
On the team's next drive, Joe Flacco underthrew a deep ball to Elijah Moore that was picked off by former Brown John Johnson III. This interception unfortunately put a halt to Cleveland’s comeback attempt and from there, the game quickly began get out of hand.
Overall, it was a terrific performance by Flacco besides the late-game interception. He consistently made throws that guys like Dorian Thompson-Robinson and P.J. Walker haven’t shown the ability to make as of yet. His arm strength and accuracy downfield gives the Browns access to an element of their offense that they’ve been struggling with since Deshaun Watson got hurt, which is a legitimate deep-ball passing attack.
He finished the game with an overall completion percentage of 52.3% and a PFF Grade of 61.5 which is slightly above average. Flacco also averaged 11 yards per completion on Sunday, which is higher than any other quarterback that has started for the Browns in 2023.
He provides the team with the ability to consistently threaten defenses with explosive passing plays and ensure that teams won’t be able to “live” in 7 and 8-man boxes.
His ability to move around the pocket was surprising as well. He looked smooth and comfortable when rolling out in play action as well as gliding around and away from pressure in the gun.
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