Just How Bad Were Michael Vick and Joe Flacco on Thursday Night Football?
Thursday night’s game between the Ravens and Steelers had no shortage of drama, impactful plays, and questionable decisions.
There was a shortage of something though in Baltimore’s 23-20 win: quality quarterback play.
Joe Flacco and Michael Vick both struggled to move the ball through the air, and this is perhaps most evident in the fact that neither led the game in our Passing Net Expected Points metric, which measures the amount of points above or below expectation-level a team or player performs.
Ravens holder Sam Koch, who completed a pass for minus-three yards on a fake field goal that was worth -2.93 NEP.
Flacco ended the game with a Passing NEP of -8.02, which was still better than Vick’s -9.39.
The bizarreness does not stop there, as the two teams combined to complete 40 of their 60 pass attempts, good for a 66.67% completion percentage.
These 40 completions only gained 310 yards, though, for an average of 7.8 yards per completion that would make Alex Smith blush.
Couple the short passing with a ton of failed completions, nine total sacks, and two Flacco turnovers and it’s easy to see why the night produced -20.34 Passing NEP.
Here’s a closer look at Flacco and Vick’s nights (proceed with caution).
Making Weird History
Vick joined rare company in his first start since Week 12 of last season, when he quarterbacked the Jets to a 38-3 loss to the Bills.
The former top overall draft pick was 19-for-26 for 124 yards and a touchdown against Baltimore and was sacked 4 times for a loss of 28 yards.
In doing so, he became the 10th quarterback since 1960 to attempt at least 20 passes and complete at least 75% of them, while also averaging fewer than 5.0 yards per pass.
The list now also includes Vick, who was evidently given a very conservative gameplan on a short week while filling in for the injured Ben Roethlisberger.
One could make the case it was conservative to a fault, as Vick completed three passes on third down that were short of the sticks.
He also completed 10 passes that yielded negative expected points (“failed completions”), against just nine successful completions.
Between his failed completions, 7 incomplete passes, and 4 sacks, Vick had 21 negative plays on 30 passing plays, giving him a putrid 30.0% Success Rate.
The success rate in conjunction with the -0.31 NEP per pass play average puts Vick’s performance in contention for one of the worst games of the year (for quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts, the average Passing NEP per pass is 0.14, while the median success rate is 46.9%)
Vick’s inefficiency makes it even harder to understand why Pittsburgh put the ball in his hands on multiple short-yardage situations late in the game rather than handing off to Le'Veon Bell, who had posted a Rushing NEP total of 4.19.
Roethlisberger is expected to return in four to six weeks, though former NFL player and current analyst Anthony Becht (who suffered a similar injury) told CBS Sports Radio that the Steelers quarterback could be back in two weeks.
If Vick continues to play like he did against Baltimore, Roethlisberger’s return won’t be able to come soon enough for Steelers fans.
Not an Elite Night
Things did not go much better for Vick’s counterpart on Baltimore.
Despite an enticing matchup against a subpar Steelers defense, Flacco was 20-for-33, passing for 133 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He was also sacked 5 times for a loss of 21 yards and lost a fumble.
He gained just 4.4 net yards per passing play and posted a -0.21 Passing NEP per play.
Flacco also had three unsuccessful rushing attempts, costing his team an additional 5.17 expected points on the ground.
It would have been hard to predict the former Super Bowl champion would have such a bad night, given the opposition.
Flacco did come into the night ranked just 19th in Passing NEP per pass (0.04) among quarterbacks with at least 50 drop backs, but Pittsburgh’s defense was ranked 23rd in Adjusted Defensive Passng NEP per pass.
After Baltimore's second possession, it looked like Flacco would get the better of this matchup, as he went 4-for-4 while averaging 0.51 NEP per pass to lead a 75-yard touchdown drive.
This would not be the case, though, as the drive was a rare one in which Flacco had success.
On the next Ravens possession, Flacco was intercepted in Pittsburgh territory by Ross Cockrell, a play that cost Baltimore 5.78 expected points.
The Ravens would go three-and-out on their next two drives, and on their first possession of the second half, Flacco fumbled without being touched at the Ravens 15 to set up another Pittsburgh touchdown.
The turnovers (worth a combined -9.4 NEP) were the main difference between a subpar night and a terrible one, but Flacco also made a costly error late in the game, taking a sack on 4th-and-10 from the Baltimore 39 with 2:11 left and the Ravens trailing by three. Had Pittsburgh gotten a first down on the ensuing drive, it would have been the last play of the game for the Ravens offense.
The only positive thing for Baltimore, who had one timeout, was that the play was completed before the two-minute warning, allowing them to get the ball back after a missed field goal with sufficient time to drive for a tying score.
On that drive, Flacco completed passes of 17 and 20 yards on this drive to set up Justin Tucker’s game-tying field goal.
Overall, Flacco had 15 successful completions, 5 failed ones, 13 incomplete passes and 5 sacks, giving him a 39.5% Passing Success Rate.
Thanks to Vick, this was not the worst rate of the game, which pretty much sums up the level of quarterbacking we saw Thursday night.